The music trends in 2020 left a lot to be desired. The music and live events industries were hit hard in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Concerts, tours, festivals, and a host of other live events were either stopped or revamped to account for the lockdowns and travel restrictions implemented across the world.
But as an industry reliant on performances to generate revenue and fuel livelihoods, it was only a matter of time before we started seeing some innovation come out of a bleak situation. Despite limitations imposed by the pandemic, there were some bright spots in the music industry in 2020, from quarantine album releases from the likes of Fiona Apple, Jessie Ware, Megan Thee Stallion, and BTS, to a viral battle of the icons with Verzuz.
As we kick off a new year, there is a lot to look forward to in music in 2021. We’ve compiled a list of some of the top trends to look out for in music this year.
Music Trend #1 – Live Music Returns With A Twist
The biggest challenge that the music industry faced in 2020 was the discontinuation of live events as lockdown measures forced concert venues to shut down and tours to be postponed. In 2021, vaccines permitting, artists are looking forward to getting back on the road to resume live performances.
Many artists, including The Weeknd, Justin Beiber, and Harry Styles, have already announced tour dates for 2021.
Despite the industry’s eagerness to get back to performing, don’t expect live events to resume at maximum capacity. Live events will likely have stringent requirements around the number of concert-goers allowed in a venue. Moreover, premium experiences – like artist meet and greets – are also likely to be limited initially.
To make up for elements of the live experience that may not be possible right away, we’ll likely see what we’ll call hybrid events as a music trend in 2021. In a hybrid live event, fans will be able to experience a concert in person and online. Making use of the technology we’ve all grown accustomed to during the pandemic, like Zoom, Patreon, and even OnlyFans, artists can offer fans access to exclusive content for a fee. Rather than in-person meet-and-greets, for example, paid virtual meet-and-greets on Zoom can help artists bridge the gap between the traditional concert experience while acknowledging our current limitations due to the pandemic.
Music Trend #2 – Music and Gaming Collabs Fill the Void As In-Person Events Remain On Hold
Speaking of changes to live events, in 2020, we saw many artists turn to gaming partnerships to deliver live performances for some of the hottest games. Travis Scott broke records last April when he put on a series of shows inside the popular game, Fortnite. More than 45 million people watch Scott’s virtual performance over the 5 in-game shows.
With the popularity of gaming, the massive reach of gaming services like Twitch, and uncertainty around when and how live events will return, we expect to see a surge in artist partnerships in the gaming industry as the next big gaming and music trends.
However, the question that remains for the industry in 2021 is how artists can continue to stand out and make noise with in-game performances as the concept goes mainstream.
Music Trend #3 Social Listening Finds Its Audience
Social listening is not an entirely new category. Social listening has emerged in recent years, with startups hoping to tackle the challenge of listening to music streaming services with your friends, even when you are apart. For those unfamiliar with social listening or how it works, the concept is simple. Users can create a listening session with a group of friends. As a user plays a song (typically in a collaborated playlist), everyone in the listening session can hear the song being played in real-time. It’s the digital equivalent of listening to the radio with your friends. Except, you and your friends are the DJs, and you can listen without being in the same location.
Spotify – the biggest player in the music streaming space – has even jumped on board the social listening train, launching a beta version of its group listening feature last year. With more than 144 million paid subscribers on its platform, Spotify will likely give the social listening market a big boost this year. With the pandemic forcing us all apart for the unforeseeable future, social listening is a music trend that we’ll keep our eye on in 2021.
Music Trend #4 – Moods Overtake Genres As Playlists Become the New Radio
Are genres officially dead? It’s hard to say, though there has been a lot written about its so-called death for years. Nonetheless, we expect the music trend of genres to become mostly a non-factor for the music industry in 2021 as musicians flirt with musical styles that cross multiple genres. Consumers have also been shying away from identifying with any one genre (even though hip-hop and rock continue to be the most popular music genres). Instead, consumers are much more focused on how the music makes them feel.
This change is significant, especially as it pertains to playlists in 2021. Over the last few years, playlists have grown in popularity. To the dismay of many artists, it’s now a playlist world with playlist curators like Spotify holding all the chips. The music industry’s move away from genres in favor of “moods.” That means that curators, artists, and fans have an opportunity to be exposed to new music that they may have otherwise missed by sticking with a particular genre.
Music Trend #5 – The Rise of Social Music
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s been the value of having and maintaining human connection – regardless of whether we are together physically. Even though music is inherently social, the music industry hasn’t done a very good job of evolving the music experience for the digital age. Instead, most music fans are limited to either in-person connections through music or else make do with fragmented online forums. The pandemic, however, highlighted the need for social music in the digital.
In 2021, we can expect to see many new social music trends emerge in the industry. Here at TAMBER, we’ve talked about how we are hard at work developing our own social music app where music fans connect with people who share their music interests. You can also expect to see more online music communities emerge to serve different music industry segments. For example, apps that help independent artists find people to collaborate with or communities geared towards providing direct engagement between artists and fans. Finally, expect to see a rise in direct-to-fan merchandising and apps that allow you to support your favorite artists directly with “tips.”
We don’t know what 2021 has in store for us all. At TAMBER, we’re excited about all the things we have planned for 2021 and can’t wait to take you all on this journey with us. Following an unprecedented year of sadness, confusion, and uncertainty, it feels nice to start the new year off optimistically. Even with all of the questions in music still left to be answered this year like, “when will live events resume,” “how will the music industry transform in response to the pandemic,” and “will Rihanna finally release a new album this year” – there is so much for to be hopeful for and to look forward to in 2021.