Music: an ever-changing sonic art form and industry whose capability of sitting still is similar to that of a bloodhound which smells a nearby fox.
And as music moves on from the artistically stellar and increasingly technological 2016, here are four predictions foreseeable in the new year.
1) Streaming will only increase its reign as No. 1 method of music consumption
Songs streamed in 2014: 78.6 billion.
In 2015: 142.8 billion.
In 2016: 251.9 billion.
Notice a pattern? Every year, the number of songs streamed through services like Spotify and Apple Music has exploded upwards, culminating in 2016 which was also the first year than on-demand music streaming (Spotify, etc.) beat out total digital sales (iTunes, etc.).
While worldwide artists have racked up a large percentage of these plays, smaller, local bands have also taken advantage of streaming platforms to release their music to larger audiences. Steen Beck of the Austin, TX group Lantic says, “Streaming platforms have been absolutely essential to our growth. Without SoundCloud, Band Camp, Spotify, YouTube, etc., we wouldn’t have nearly as much rapport with our fans as we do.”
And with non-music companies like Sprint seeing the value of partnering with streaming services, don’t expect streaming to slow.
2) Vinyl sales continue to grow
While digital album sales declined, 2016 saw the eleventh straight year of increasing vinyl sales. Over 13 million records were sold, an 8 percent increase to the nearly 12 million sold in 2015, with rock the most popular vinyl genre of 2016, making up 68 percent of sales.
Vinyl hasn’t looked backwards in eleven years. It won’t start doing so now.
3) Artists take more and more creative measures when releasing their albums
The accompanying visual album of Beyoncé’s Lemonade.
The precursory visual album Endless to Frank Ocean’s true LP release Blonde.
The “VIEWS” building projections across worldwide metropolitan hubs for Drake’s Views.
The swarm of chaos leading up to Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo.
The common theme here? None of these adhered to the old release structure (radio singles followed by the album) or the new out-of-the-blue “drop it” method (first popularized by Beyoncé herself), but instead used accompanying media and unorthodox marketing to make their splashes.
Lemonade was not only an album but also a short film, promotionally appearing on HBO. Blonde utilized Ocean’s mythic hiatus, pleasantly shocking fans with its release the day after Endless. Views was marketed like a tentpole movie, complete with commercials and the above mentioned projections. The Life of Pablo exploited its many name changes, West’s frenzied Twitter feed AND a nationwide live stream of its debut play-through that involved a blacked-out MacBook, an aux cord and Madison Square Garden.
All were commercial mega-hits, so look for big name artists to continue pushing the boundaries of what a “release” really means.
4) At least one highly anticipated collab album will drop
Yes, this one is more of a hope, but it’s not completely fleeting.
In the past year some massive dual-artist albums have been teased.
Rumors have long swirled about a Kendrick Lamar/J.Cole project, with sources even claiming music has already been laid down for it.
Drake was by far the biggest artist of 2016 and will only wish to continue building his goliath brand. Collaborating on albums with other world stars Kanye West and Taylor Swift would be surest way to stay atop the industry’s hill, especially after the imminent release of his newest project More Life.
Though nothing is definite, one should like the odds of a big duo album coming in 2017.