🔵 2024: more time creating music, less time listening to music
Some learnings from MIDiA's "The algorithm is not listening" webinar
This afternoon I tuned into MIDiA's webinar "The algorithm is not listening", which featured its predictions for 2024 across various industries. The whole event should still be online to watch here (and if it isn't, I will update the link on our web version once it is).
Whilst the webinar looked at a broad spectrum of topics including audiobooks and streaming TV, I wanted to zoom in on the music predictions, as I feel what was said adds even more dimension to my comments in Tuesday's edition regarding the decline of Spotify's editorial stronghold, not to mention other points I have made of late about the decline of social media.
Let's start on the latter first. MIDiA's term for the state of the likes of X/Twitter, Instagram and Facebook was "The Threataverse". In short, these platforms are becoming highly polarised hellscapes to most, and they simply don't hold much appeal any more. If it isn’t the genuinely depressing state of X, full of extreme views, it is a burgeoning sense that even the likes of Instagram aren’t proving rewarding any more. Anecdotally, most people I know simply feel exhausted by all of it, and are generally paring back usage.
That being the case, it is no surprise that artists are also seeking out new community spaces they have more control over, and which can sit entirely apart from this mix of tedium and hate speech. Discord has been the prime beneficiary where music artists are concerned, though personally I still feel it is far from the perfect solution. A competitor appearing would certainly be welcome, one that more explicitly plays to the dimensions around music, but which also just contains a better user interface where conversations can be revisited hours later and picked up on (i.e. more like Reddit’s threaded approach to conversation).
Alongside this social insight however was another trend. Consider this slide I screen-grabbed from the presentation:
As you can see, in Q2 2022 to the same period 2023, time spent on the creation of music rose 42%, but time spent actually listening to music dropped 13%.
This underlines the degree to which the differences between audience and creator are diminishing - converging even. Here at Motive Unknown we have witnessed firsthand how these trends have changed; working with clients like Plugin Boutique it is clear to see how the whole music creation space is continuing to grow after an explosive uptick fuelled by lockdown during the Covid years.
What we are seeing then, is a change wherein music fans want to spend more time creating music, or collaborating with others on creating it. As all time is finite, something has to give, and it would appear actually listening to the music is one of the larger casualties.
To me, this explains why TikTok is swallowing the music space right now. Not only is it fuelling discovery, it is providing the platform tools that allow music fans to create and interact with music too. Savvy artists are posting songs with whole verses left out for fans to jump in and collaborate with. In some instances, fans aren't even waiting for the invitation, jumping in to add to songs when the artist has only posted a small snippet.
Ultimately then, we are at a point where the tools for music creation are allowing even fairly inexperienced fans to create competent contributions, be that their own music (explaining the constant growth of songs uploaded to DSPs), or remixes and versions of bigger artists' works. An example would be that you don’t even need to be able to sing now; I could wail a song, wobbly notes and all, and have AI deliver back a note-perfect rendition in a rich, soulful female vocal. It really is that easy. Worth mentioning too is that these remixes are often being shared on those gated communities talked about above - this all connects up.
I suspect in time we will see a different type of artist coming to the fore (if we’ve not already, think Kenny Beats or Pink Pantheress); one who is far less bothered by fans remixing works, getting involved on songs and generally interacting more with their work.
Most artists I come across take an understandable view that their music is something they've spent a long time on, and is therefore art to be respected and enjoyed as the composer intended. However in future one might argue that the artists who catch heat in generating large communities will be the ones who allow fans more access to their work, giving them free reign to interact with it and create new works from it.
This, I feel, reveals the Achilles Heel of Spotify, and indeed all DSPs. They simply lack the dimension, especially in the interactive space, to be much more than a 'dumb pipe' for audio. They are one-way consumption points, with no interactive qualities whatsoever.
It also highlights the schism that looms for the influx of all this newly created music and where it gets hosted. The largest label on the planet, Universal, has made its intentions clear: it sees a two-tier world in which the ‘premium’ music is treated very differently to the ‘DIY’ music, even if there’s a reality, proven by artists like Lil Nas X, that many an artist has transcended from the latter to the former.
By creating that two-tier approach, however, the music industry runs a risk of creating a split landscape, with ‘DIY’ artists existing elsewhere. However, it only takes a few of those to blow up, and suddenly the ‘premium’ world of Spotify and co. looks out of touch and old. At that point, it might well face an existential threat.
I doubt very much that 2024 will deliver answers to all these developments. The change will be a long, slow process as ever. Equally, I wonder if fans might simply tire of the abundance of music and seek out those more qualitative, selective spaces that don’t throw 200 songs at you, but instead cherry pick a limited few.
One thing I do feel is certain, however, is that the golden age of streaming might be peaking, and it remains unclear as to exactly what comes next.
Have a great evening,
🎶 listening to “Typical American” by The Goats. I was chatting about the album this is from (Tricks of the Shade) with friends over the weekend, and how it’s a slept-on classic (to the point where you can expect to see it written about in Missed Listens). Sadly the political relevance is almost greater now than when it was released.
📖 (still) reading The Long Player Vol. 2, by Aly Gilani. This is the second volume of Aly compiling his writing (normally posted on Instagram) of the music he’s playing that day. The end result is a zine you can pick up, open to any page and find inspiration in. I love it, and hope he keeps doing this every year. They’re a delight. UPDATE: I also forgot to mention that all proceeds from sales go to War Child, so grab a copy now!
📺 watching the demo of the Rabbit R1 AI hardware device. Regrettably named (certainly for those of us in the UK - and don’t Google it!), but a potentially game-changing AI device. The $199 price point has me sold - take my money!
Stories from the Music Industry
Global on-demand audio streams reached the 4 trillion mark for the first time ever in a single year in 2023
Of those 1.1 billion album-sale-equivalent (TAC) units in the US in 2023, 796.8 million, or 72.6%, were registered by ‘Catalog music’. This means that ‘Current’ Music’s share of Total Album Consumption in the United States in 2023 was 27.4%, or 300.4 million TAC units. While the popularity of ‘Current’ music rose 10.9% in the US in 2023, the popularity of ‘Catalog’ music grew 13.2%, according to Luminate’s report (see below). Luminate defines ‘Current’ as anything released in the 18 months prior to it getting streamed/downloaded/purchased. Anything older than 18 months when it’s streamed/downloaded/purchased is defined as ‘Catalog’.
👆🏻Hot take: I feel the headline stat is hiding all manner of more concerning insights here. Certainly the “catalogue vs frontline” listens is just one of them.
“The next focus of our strategy will be to grow the pie for all artists, by strengthening the artist-fan relationship through superfan experiences and products. We are already in advanced discussions with our platform partners regarding this phase and will have more to announce in the coming months.”
👆🏻Hot take: I could rant for ages about this. Universal’s repeated hammering of the “artist-centric” phrase feels like a desperate attempt to make that sentiment a reality among prospective artists, and equally this sudden realisation that superfans can be super-served etc just feels ludicrous. Topspin was telling Universal this what, thirteen years ago?!
ByteDance confirmed today that TikTok Music, the separate premium music streaming service that it’s currently focused on rolling out globally, will not be affected by Resso’s exit from India. TikTok Music is available in five markets: Australia, Singapore, Mexico, Brazil and Indonesia.
👆🏻Hot take: this is less about Resso and more about the Indian government’s war on Chinese-owned apps (and TikTok in particular). Curious whether TikTok Music might actually get a launch again here.
The No AI FRAUD Act establishes “an intellectual property right that every individual holds over their own likeness and voice, allows individuals to seek monetary damages for harmful, unauthorized uses of their likeness or voice,” and “guards against sexually exploitative deepfakes and child sexual abuse material,” according to a statement from Rep. Dean.
👆🏻Hot take: this is positive to see, but the real question is whether the entirely deadlocked US Govt will actually pass this act into law.
Stories from the Broader World of Tech:
The announcement came the same day as the live-streaming company Twitch, a subsidiary of the e-commerce giant, disclosed that it would lay off about 35% of its workforce, or 500 employees. Amazon last year cut more than 27,000 jobs as part of a wave of US tech layoffs, drawing a sharp line under the industry’s recruitment spree during the pandemic.
👆🏻Hot take: I find it concerning this new trend of big tech companies having successful years, then promptly laying off huge volumes of staff. The message that sends to people working in this sector has to be troubling. Equally, this doesn’t ring much confidence around Twitch, which feels about three moves away from losing its market entirely to YouTube.
Through the new models, chatbot agents could be developed with their own personalities or themes, including models for salary negotiating, creating lesson plans and developing recipes. In a blogpost announcing the launch, OpenAI said more than 3m custom versions of ChatGPT have already been created. It also said it plans to highlight useful GPT tools within the store every week.
👆🏻Hot take: I’ve enjoyed browsing these, but my primary issue with the custom GPTs is that they’re really just a focused version of the main product. You cannot limit it to only learn from data you supply, for example. That makes all of them a little underwhelming on a certain level.
Need something else to read? Here you go:
Seeing everything the show has to offer is nearly impossible, but we’re trying anyway
👆🏻Hot take: a great summary of some genuinely pretty cool new tech from CES. That interactive music channel is definitely one to keep an eye out for. And that rabbit - mentioned above.
Short answer: Yes. And that’s not the only benefit of this simple technique.
👆🏻Hot take: having trouble sleeping? Here you go.
Who am I and who are Motive Unknown?
I’m Darren and I’m the MD of Motive Unknown. I started the company back in 2011. Since then we’ve grown to a team of 20, representing some 25 indie labels in the marketing strategy space, as well as working with artists directly.
Our artist clients cover anything from top-tier pop (Spice Girls, Robbie Williams) through hip hop (Run The Jewels, Dessa), electronic (Underworld, Moby) and more. Our label clients take in Dirty Hit (The 1975, Beabadoobee) Partisan Records (IDLES, Fontaines DC), Domino Records (Arctic Monkeys, Wet Leg), Warp Records (Aphex Twin, Danny Brown), LuckyMe (Baauer, Hudson Mohawke), and Lex Records (MF DOOM, Eyedress) among others.
Recent recorded music clients to join the family include Because Music (Christine & The Queens, Shygirl), Dangerbird (Grandaddy, Slothrust) and London Records (Bananarama, Sugababes).
In addition to our recorded music division, we also have a hugely successful growth marketing division which has a strong focus on the music creation space. Our clients in this space include Beatport, Plugin Boutique, Loopmasters, UJAM, RoEx, Krotos, Rhodes and more.
Want to chat? Just hit reply to this email.
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