[Editors Note: This blog was written by Rich Nardo. Rich is a freelance writer and editor, and is the co-founder of 24West a full-service creative agency focusing on music and tech
As we’ve all grown accustomed to over the past decade, the music industry we will come to know over the next 300 some odd days will look very different than the year we just bid farewell to. That’s not to say you should abandon that focus on building your Spotify numbers or that Facebook Live, Snapchat and Instagram stories should be removed from your marketing agenda, but a lot of what will likely become essential to an innovative and successful marketing campaign for independent artists this year probably wasn’t particularly of importance for you when you were putting out music or going on tour in 2016.
As we move into 2017, here are a few things that artists should be aware of and, when budget or personal connections allow, incorporate into their next release.
360 Video | Virtual Reality
Those of you who have released music videos over the past six months have probably noticed that they don’t get quite as much mileage as they used to. Many of the top-tier press outlets are starting to shy away from ‘premiering’ or posting new music videos if it is not also the first listen for a new track. This is due in large part to the fact that in the current “discover-via-streaming” world of music consumption, very few people that you would consider ravenous seekers of new music are sitting down to watch anything other than dog videos as they scroll through their social media feeds. Instead, they want new music that they can listen to while they’re doing other things.
While this will likely continue, the next phase in having a visual component to your music is poised to hit the internet hard in the form of more ‘experiential’ videos. At the base level, we are already beginning to see 360 video creep more into use. Over the next few months, we will likely see those artists with a bit more of a budget start delving into the world of virtual reality to add another level for fan’s to enjoy their projects.
I imagine that at some point in the relatively near future we will get our first multimedia release where an artist creates an entire album where listeners are able to take a virtual reality journey set to each song, creating a ‘concept album’ of sorts.
More Applications Built on the Spotify Platform
One of the biggest trends of 2016 was the importance of growing your presence on Spotify. According a report by Nielsen music, streaming has become the number one way in which people consume music, accounting for about 38% of the market in the United States. That number increased by about 76% from 2015, passing digital downloads for the first time ever. With Apple apparently undertaking an aggressive plan to terminate music downloads in the iTunes store over the next two years, that seems to be a trend we should get used to. While Apple Music is growing quickly in this arena, Spotify still rules the roost with over 40% of the streaming market.
Most people in the music industry have already accepted that fact and shifted focus to upping streams as opposed to downloads in their marketing efforts. In 2016, this was accomplished by official Spotify playlsting, as well as, by getting your music on playlists by unofficial tastemakers such as brands, blogs and individuals with large followings.
These will remain essential to growing streaming numbers, but in 2017 we will see more applications built directly on the Spotify platform that will become essential to increasing plays. Right now Cymbal.fm is the best of these services, at least in my experience. But I personally know of several competitors in that world with plans to enter the market over the next few months, each of which have several points of separation that will appeal to different sects of music fans. I tend to view Spotify playlistings much in the capacity of the “new blogosphere” for music discovery.
My feeling is that these new services are set to become a crowd sourced variation on the way we traditionally view radio.
RFID & Beacon Technology
This is another technology that has, with larger artists, already started making headway. A lot of festivals and arena tours are already using RFID (radio frequency identification) and Beacon technology to incentivize fan purchases and form other initiatives with sponsors. I’m hearing a lot of buzz that this technology will start to trickle down to smaller venues in 2017, creating new revenue sources for the promoter/venue and bands alike.
Another aspect of this technology is adding an interactive or gaming component to the live music experience. Particularly in the electronic music world, I’m very intrigued to see how artists do so this year.
(It’s Not Digital but…) Cassettes Will Replace Vinyl As The Most Popular Physical Product
I know this article is supposed to be digital based, but I feel as though this is a point worth mentioning for up-and-coming artists. Yes, vinyl is beautiful and it sounds great, but it’s expensive. Often way too costly to be worthwhile for an independent artist doing a small run for a tour. In 2017, I believe we’ll see cassettes overtake vinyl as the most popular physical product at merch tables for artists on tour. It’s way cheaper and faster to create and it still holds a particular sense of nostalgia for fans, harkening back to the ‘good old days’ of music.
Truth is, a large portion of those people that are buying vinyl aren’t listening to it anyway. They just want a keepsake from one of their favorite bands to display in their home, and to offer support to the artists they love. Cassettes are a cheaper, more convenient way to satisfy those desires for both the artist and the fan.