Here we are again at the end of another year and it’s time to gaze into the crystal ball to see what 2015 might have in store for the music business. I hit on about half of my predictions last year, with most of the others still pending as the story lines developed slower than anticipated. Here are 10 music business predictions for the upcoming year.
1. Apple launches a new music service. Beats Music doesn’t have a huge number of subscribers so it can be retired without fear of killing a well-liked brand. In its place Apple will launch a new on-demand streaming service that’s cheaper than the competition and features high resolution audio.
2. High resolution audio becomes a standard streaming feature.TIDAL and Deezer set the precedent, and soon all streaming services will offer at least one tier of hi-res audio. Of course, the definition of high resolution will continue to be a moving target, as some services equate the term with CD quality while others offer higher sampling rates and/or 24 bit depth.
3. The digital pie gets larger. As consumers become more comfortable with on-demand streaming, larger numbers of them register for the various platforms. More of them than ever are willing to pay for their service of choice than ever before.
4. Downloads continue to slide. Downloads fall below $1 billion in total revenue as music consumers find that having access to millions of songs is a lot better than owning just a few.
5. Vinyl soars again. Once only a blip on the radar of the industry, vinyl sales continue to grow to the point where they make a very small but significant contribution to the bottom line of many record labels. For the first time in 40 years, new vinyl production gear is produced to meet the demand.
6. Artists find the right villain. Numerous artists see the various streaming platforms as the ones responsible for their tiny royalty payments, but many begin to see the light that it’s really the record label middle man that enjoys the majority of that income. As a result, artist’s attorneys negotiate new agreements with record labels to make the split a bit more equitable, but the record labels still continue to be favored.
8. Spotify and Pandora take a hit. With the new entrants from Google and Apple in the marketplace, the growth of both Spotify and Pandora is stunted. Pandora is especially hurt, as consumers find they’d much rather pay for on-demand streaming than just a digital radio.
9. Revenue from traditional music distribution channels decays, but still continues to roll. Terrestrial radio still plays a major role in breaking acts, and listenership remains high despite the increase in streaming music consumption. Likewise, CD sales continue to fall, but at a slower pace than predicted. They’ll die eventually – it just won’t be this year.
10. The next new trend in music finally surfaces. The charts have been dominated by EDM-flavored dance music and country music for too long as consumers begin to tire of the genres. A new trend emerges that sets the music world on its ear. This is one that I predicted last year, but missed on. Hopefully it was just a year too early.
These predictions are some educated guesses about what may happen in the coming year, but if history tells us anything, it’s that there’s always something unexpected that will change everything. A year is a long time and a trend that begins the year aiming one way can completely change its course by year’s end.
That’s what makes these predictions so much fun. You never know what’s waiting around the next month’s bend. I can’t wait until this time next year to see which ones actually came to pass.
– Bobby Owsinski is the author is 24 books on recording, music, the music business and social media. Read excerpts at bobbyowsinski.com