The music business is an incredibly dynamic and ever-changing industry. The past 20 years have brought some drastic transformations to the industry, including the genesis of the internet, the rise of music piracy, the downfall of CDs and physical music consumption, the emergence of music streaming platforms, the birth and expansion of music distributors, and the domination of AI.
Navigating such a high-paced and unpredictable environment might be challenging for artists, especially for independent musicians like yourself. In this article, we’ll give you tips on how to better adapt to the treadmill full of changes you might encounter throughout your career in the music industry.
The current changes in the music industry
While a lot has happened in the world of music over the last two decades, 2023 was the year of radical developments that caused much turmoil in the music industry.
Layoffs here, layoffs there, layoffs everywhere
One could feel the bittersweet taste of layoffs throughout the whole of 2023. The year started with thousands of layoffs at Google, Spotify, and Amazon. It continued with more employees involuntarily leaving the staff of Tidal, Meta, Instagram, Amazon Music, TikTok Music, Discord, SoundCloud, and Bandcamp. Additionally, 2024 has started on a similar foot, with both Apple and YouTube confirming significant layoffs.
While layoffs do not directly affect artists and creatives, they can considerably impact the internal operations of companies, which can have further implications for artist development, promotion, and communication.
Is the end of Bandcamp coming?
The news about Bandcamp has completely shaken up the music world towards the end of the last year. Only a year and a half after Epic Games acquired Bandcamp, it was up for sale again. Shortly after, the beloved online audio distribution platform was sold to a music licensing company called Songtradr, with almost 50% of the Bandcamp staff losing their job.
A new threshold of minimum streams introduced by Spotify
Up until the beginning of 2024, a track needed to be played for more than 30 seconds to trigger a royalty payment for an artist on Spotify. This rule has now changed, with the platform introducing a new threshold of minimum annual streams before a track starts generating royalties. And what’s the actual threshold? 1,000 annual streams!
Reportedly, Spotify aims to demonetize all tracks earning less than $0.05 monthly. Although such tracks make up only 0,5% of music on the platform, their royalties still cost the company tens of millions of dollars a year. According to Spotify, the money spared this way will be shifted to the ‘legitimate working’ artists and rights holders over the next five years.
As you can imagine, the new minimum threshold has been met with wide criticism from the music community — primarily as it once again benefits the more prominent and successful artists while harming smaller creatives and those who are at the beginning of their musical journey. Are you curious to learn about further changes implemented by Spotify this year? Dive deep into the topic in our recent blog article!
AI rules the world
While AI innovations have been in development for many years, 2023 was the year when they truly emerged. ChatGPT, the chatbot initially released by OpenAI at the end of 2022, has been credited with kicking off the global AI boom. Ever since then, many other AI-powered tools have been created and launched. The AI-producing, mastering, and voice-cloning inventions have entirely transformed the music industry and opened up the much-needed conversation about legal protections against AI.
The first country to come up with legislation around AI was the U.S., which introduced the AI Bill of Rights back in 2022. The AI Bill serves as a set of principles to ensure more transparency behind the development of AI tools and thus protect people’s privacy and civil rights. In June 2023, the European Union proposed the AI Act, the first EU regulation on artificial intelligence that has yet to be enacted.
However, the newly introduced rules and regulations have yet to keep up with the pace of the development of AI. We can, therefore, expect that 2024 will bring on more changes in the respective field — hopefully, with more to come in protecting artists’ copyrights and privacy. Are you interested in the latest developments in AI? Check out our articles on the rise of AI voice cloning or the best AI-driven mastering tools for musicians!
How can an independent artist adapt to the changes in the music industry?
The music industry has been very unpredictable and will likely continue to be so in the future. Therefore, we have made a list of practical ways you can adapt to the ongoing changes in the music industry and progress in your music career.
1. Stay informed.
Knowledge is a hidden power when facing changes in the music industry (or any other industry, to be honest). Only this way can you make informed decisions about your career and take steps to help you succeed and progress in your music journey. You can learn about the shifts in listener behavior, up-and-coming trends in music, transformations in the most influential music companies (particularly streaming services), or new technological developments.
Staying informed and educated about ongoing changes in the music business can feel overwhelming, especially when you don’t know what sources to turn to and rely on. If you’re looking for a great music news source, we recommend looking into Music Digital News, Music Business Worldwide, or our very own iMusician Blog. There, you can also dive deeper into how to release, distribute, and promote your music in current times!
If you’re more into podcasts than reading articles, we suggest you check out the New Music Business with Ari Herstand, NPR’s All Songs Considered, or The Profitable Musician Show.
2. Embrace music streaming platforms.
The current music streaming industry is not ideal, especially for independent or relatively small artists and creators. Music royalties are far from what an artist should generate for their streams. Meanwhile, streaming platforms, such as Spotify, Apple Music, or Amazon Music, visibly favor commercially successful and prominent musicians.
The exposure, however, that one can get through streaming services is invaluable. What’s therefore important is to leverage these platforms to increase your visibility and build a loyal and sustainable fanbase. To do so, you should consider getting your songs included in relevant playlists, opting for social media advertising, encouraging fans to follow you, and making use of the platform’s analytics tools to better understand your audience and their listening habits.
3. Focus on building a loyal fanbase.
While many artists in the industry are chasing after followers, likes, and shares, only a few consider the importance of building a loyal fanbase. Nowadays, crafting a sense of community is incredibly important. As humans, we love building valuable relationships, whether online or offline, and being part of a particular community often makes us feel emotionally charged and connected.
Instead of constantly striving to increase your following, start by investing in connecting with your current fans. Engage with them on social media through captivating content, live streams, or gigs. Respond to their DMs and messages, create unique offers, celebrate and thank them for their ongoing support, and simply make them feel they are part of something special.
While increasing your fanbase is relevant to making progress in your career, forming a loyal and sustainable audience is what will help your music journey in the long run. You should also remember that word-of-mouth is unbelievably powerful — once you’ve built a committed community of fans, it is easier for them to make others fall in love with your music as well.
4. Diversify your income streams.
We’ve already mentioned that the current music streaming business is highly unsustainable and unjust to small and independent artists. Building your total income purely on music streaming royalties and sales is risky and often impossible.
Further activities and endeavors can serve as additional revenue streams, including merchandising, live performances, sync licensing, producing, songwriting, composing for other artists, or even crowdfunding. Remember that the opportunities to generate revenue may change over time, and it’s therefore essential to continuously nurture and improve your music skills and knowledge. You can never know when they might come in handy!
5. Maintain your digital presence.
The level of digitalization is constantly advancing, and the digital world has become an inevitable part of our lives. For artists, this means they need to foster their digital presence. Having a strong online presence is crucial to the success of any creative in current times.
Social media is no longer just an option but a necessity, and artists need to approach their socials with strategy and consistency. In fact, social media often plays a crucial role in getting discovered (particularly in the case of TikTok); therefore, it is worth putting in the effort. As mentioned in the article, one must keep informed about current trends and create aligned social content.
A functional website or artist page is a must, too, as they often take a representative, informative, and connecting role, sending your fans to your socials, streaming platforms, merch stores, and more.
If you’re looking for ways to build an artist page, check out our blog article on why and how to build an artist website. Additionally, if you’re looking for an easy, affordable, yet professional tool to create your artist website, we have you covered, too! With iMusician’s Artist Pages, you can create a professional web presence in just seconds — without the hassle of building an artist website from scratch!
Eager to take your artist brand to the next level?
6. Collaborate and network with fellow music professionals.
Networking and collaborating with fellow artists and other industry professionals is crucial in many different ways. It may help you improve your music skills, elevate your creativity, reach and attract new audiences (vital for cross-promotion), and gain new perspectives and opportunities.
If you’re new at networking, start by joining various music communities. There, you can quickly come across like-minded individuals with the same interests and goals or get in touch with people who are more experienced than you and can refer you to someone they know would be interested.
DMing people is also a great way to connect with people. If this is something you don’t have much experience with, remember that the worst thing that can happen is getting no response. If things work out, however, you may get a fresh opportunity to meet someone new in the business, create music with them, and potentially form a long-lasting professional relationship.
Conclusion: Stay agile and be ready to leave your comfort zone.
The thing about changes is that they tend to be uncomfortable. Practical tips like staying informed, engaging with your audience, and maintaining your online presence may effectively help you keep up with the ongoing changes or prevent yourself from being potentially affected by them. However, sometimes, a change might be sudden and radical, and you might feel overwhelmed and lost, looking for a quick way to gain control over the situation.
While it might sound strange and may not be a solution for everyone, sometimes, the best way to face an uncomfortable situation is to do something uncomfortable, too. Being able to leave your comfort zone and staying agile is essential in any creative industry, where trends shift and new developments occur regularly.
This doesn’t mean that you need to transform your artistry and switch to different styles and genres, but you need to be open to experimenting with your sound and taking up opportunities you wouldn’t usually consider. This all might feel challenging, but, hey, overcoming a challenge will make you stronger and take your career to the next level.
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