The Future Of Music: Where It Is Today & Where It’s Going In The Next Decade

Streaming is recorded music’s dominant force, the power of which grows each year. I guess Apple’s Steve Jobs was wrong when he notoriously (and somewhat arrogantly) proclaimed, “The subscription model of buying music is bankrupt” and can’t be saved even by “the Second Coming.” Well, in the words of a Grinch-refuting Dr. Seuss (a very different kind of genius) “it came just the same.” Streaming now accounts for 80% of U.S. recorded music revenues. Consumers figured out that the difference between Steve Jobs’ version of music “ownership” (downloads) and “rental” (streaming) doesn’t really matter in a world in which we can now access 60 million songs ad-free for less than $10 per month. Let’s do the maths. That privilege would cost you $60 million in Jobs’ download only world. 

As Goldman Sachs underscores, music’s new “good old days” will accelerate in the years ahead – more than doubling overall recorded music revenues in the next 10 years. Revenue drivers include not only increasing streaming and globalisation, but also new technologies and form factors. Our new AI-driven home assistants – friends like Alexa and Siri – make our enjoyment easier and easier. We can sit on our couches and simply call out for the music we want. Another quietly massive new force – wearables – accelerates things further. Earbuds alone already drive billions upon billions of dollars. Apple just reported revenues of $10.1 billion from its wearables unit, with AirPod sales leading the way. Bose Audio Sunglasses are another new form factor that points the way. 

The music industry’s overall growth is not all about technology though. Thankfully, there’s a human factor. We don’t just live on facedown digital days after all. We increasingly understand – especially digital native Gen X & Y’ers – that live experiences increasingly matter. Real music-induced rubbing of shoulders (need to keep this PG-13 rated after all) are inherently more lasting than virtual experiences (and there’s still time to take a FOMO-producing “selfie”!). That’s why the world of live music grows so rapidly too. Pricewaterhouse Coppers predicts live music to reach $31 billion worldwide in just two years. Technology can further enhance and expand – and need not overwhelm – live experiences of course. Check out Cages in Los Angeles’s downtown arts district if you want your mind blown by the most compelling live musical experience today.

So put down your VR headgear, smart augmented reality glasses, and best friend mobile phone – and get out into the real (yes, the actual tangible offline world) world of music, in whatever flavour you like. Hey, you can still wear your AirPods.

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