23 Predictions for The Music Business in 2023
So this is PURELY my personal speculation — and quite off the cuff. I could be wildly wrong about all of this. Some of these predictions are pretty safe, some are spicy. So enjoy my shoot-from-the-hip predictions.
Table of Contents
1. Building True Fans and Super Fans Will Be Key
I will keep talking about building true fans and super fans this until I'm blue in the face.
To build a thriving music career, you need to be focused less on having a LOT of fans and more on having INVESTED fans. I call this David's Hierarchy of Leads. It's how you should be making most of your money – from your most dedicated fans. Streaming services pay jack and tours (while great for building fans) have a high operating cost. Focus on bringing in money from those that will have the highest lifetime value for you.
To learn how artists in small niches are making money using this model, check out this case study from Lords of the Trident
2. Content-Creator Artists Will Thrive
A lot of the predictions I'm making here today are kinda related to this. I think musicians who create media beyond just music will have a great year. People want to build a parasocial relationship with you. If you're showing up not just in their music app, but also on their feeds, on YouTube, etc, they will be way more invested in you. Creating content – both short and long – is one of the few ways to level up people into true fans and superfans.
3. Artists that Embrace Business and PR Skills Will Thrive
Most artists overlook basic business skills. Being able to write copy is huge. As a content creator (even if you ONLY create music and none of the extra stuff), you're running a business and need to effectively communicate, inspire, and get people to take action.
And not just with fans, but with people in the business. You gotta be able to show you mean business to others like curators, bloggers, radio programmers, mangers, booking people, etc.
4. AI-Generated, Personalized Playlists Will be More Valuable than Large Editorial Playlists
We've seen things going this direction for a while. I think it will continue in this direction through 2023. Sure, getting on big playlists is great (and I'm not saying you shouldn't promote to playlists), but the long-term goal should be getting your music to become evergreen.
If you can train the algorithms to who your fans are, you will be recommended in radio, “daily mixes,” etc FOREVER.
Plus, I'd wager that people listen to their personalized/generated playlists more often than the editorial ones.
5. Consistency in Releases Will be King
I've talked about why singles are probably the right move for you. But let's talk about why singles are powerful: consistency.
First, people's listening habits have changed. If you're not being consistent, people are going to stop being as invested in what you're doing. Having new music come out on a schedule keeps people invested. Plus you actually have something newsworthy to share on a regular basis.
Secondly, the more prolific you are, the better you will train the Spotify and Apple Music algorithms. You can get a big batch of listeners heading over to your profile once a month.
6. The “Mega Single” Will be a New Trend
Because people are more invested in SONGS than albums these days, I think artists will realize that people want to get more deeply invested in that song. So capitalize on the moment of when people care. If you release an acoustic version/video, behind the scenes content, story behind the song, alongside or shortly after, that gives the people who want to go deeper a chance to do so.
I'm predicting some people will even drop a “single” on the streaming platforms with up to three-five versions from day one: the standard one, the acoustic version, a remix, and maybe a live recording. It depends on your brand and style. Basically a mini-EP for the song.
7. Artists Who Put All Their Stock into Social Platforms Will Get Burned
I have a gut feeling that a lot of people are gonna get burned by social media this year. Meta will do something to the IG algorithm, TikTok might get in legal trouble, etc. I'm not exactly sure what, but I have a feeling there will be SOMETHING that makes people frustrated that they can't reach their fans anymore.
Case in point on why you're just renting attention from those platforms: how a lot of users left Twitter after Musk took over. I'm not necessarily predicting the death of Twitter, but it's a great example of why you should be cautious about trusting platforms to be around forever.
Start diversifying your connection to fans now — multiple platforms, an email list you own, etc.
8. Artists Will Embrace Direct Support from Fans Even More
2023 will be a continuation of the trend we've seen the past few years. I think we'll see artists get even more savvy about how they get fans to support them. Thriving artists will level up their offerings, their communication for getting people invested and willing to support. It will just generally be more normal and accepted to ask for direct support.
9. Major-Label Artists Will Embrace Elements of the Independent Business Model
I think 2023 is the year that we'll see the big names embrace things like memberships, bonus content, etc. It's simply easy money for them.
For instance if Taylor Swift launched a Patreon, literally every Swifty you see on Twitter would join instantly.
10. Groups of Artists Will Create Networks or Organizations for Cross-Promotion/Cross-Monetization
One of the interesting things I've seen in the video game streaming world is the concept of organizations. It's not really a team per se, but a network/group of creators that cross promote, do events, and share in some of the overhead of managing sponsorships, etc.
It's pretty common for artists to have their friends that they regularly collaborate and do shows with, but I think we might see this taken to another level this year. Something more than a loose friendship where you do stuff together, but something a little less than starting a label. More of a strategic alliance of independent creators. Not sure exactly what it will look like, but I think something like that will become more common this year.
11. DIY Shows Will Become More of a Thing
I think artists (and artist networks) will get better at taking the initiative of putting together shows themselves. Even if it's working with your local city to throw a block party, putting together a show in someone's backyard that's a little step up from a typical house show.
Basically what I'm getting at is that artists who want opportunities will have to make them themselves and get creative on making them happen, just like my friends, Bad Bad Hats.
12. Brands Will Increasingly Partner with Musicians as “Micro-Influencers”
You know how fashion influencers take sponsorship in exchange for posting about a product? I think we'll see more of that in 2023 but with indie artists.
Brands realize that normal people trust “microinfluencers” more than the massive accounts. It feels more like your friend is sharing about it.
I know my friends The Talbott Brothers have partnered with brands like Buckle and Pinhook Bourbon before. And it works because their personal style is very comparable with Buckle, and their fans know they are big fans of bourbon.
13. Spotify and Apple Music Will Try to Release Their Own Versions of Membership Platforms
Streaming platforms exist to make money. That means a) keeping people from switching platforms and b) extracting money from users.
Imagine Spotify launches their own membership platform that's managed from Spotify for Artists and they take 5% of all the proceeds. That's money for them and keeps you and your fans locked in to the platform.
We saw something similar happen with Apple adding memberships to their podcasting platform a while back, and I don't know why they WOULDN'T do the same with Apple Music.
14. Atmos/Immersive Audio Will Fizzle Out
This is probably wishful thinking on my part, but I think the bubble will die out except in niche cases. It's really not that big of a thing for people outside of the enthusiast circles. People listen in their car, on smart speakers, or just on their laptop. People who write the checks to make the projects happen will realize it's not worth the extra cost.
15. Stories/Branding Will be a Big Selling Point for Artists
This goes along with everything I preach about building true fans. The way to get there is craft a story about who you are and what you stand for. What's the common thread in your music? What do you make people feel? What do people walk away feeling?
16. Fans Will be Willing to Pay a Premium for Experiences and Other Special Things
People want to support you. Just give them a reason to splurge on you. Think about experiences that are unique, memorable. What this looks like is totally depends on what your brand is.
17. Email/Text Will Still Be Better Than Social Media for Getting Fans to Take Action
It's notoriously hard to get people to take action while scrolling on social feeds. Email and text marketing are still better at getting over the hurdles to action.
Plus your contact lists lets you target the fans that are more likely to take action. Your casual fans that won't buy aren't gonna be on your email list anyway.
18. Labels Will Mainly Sign Artists That Have Already Built a Business Machine
I always laugh when I hear “oh such and such A&R person found this singer on TikTok singing in their bedroom.” Mayyyyybe once and a while that happens, but the reality is that labels are businesses. They want to see that an artist has a good thing going already. Then they can just come in and use their resources to turn it up to 11.
19. NFTs Will Continue to be a Bust for Artists
20. Artists that Show Personality Will Build Followings
People don't connect with boring and sanitized versions of others. Embrace who you are. Show personality. It's ok to be a little polarizing. Your people will find you.
21. YouTube will be a Better Platform to Invest Effort In for Long-Term Than TikTok or IG
As I've noted before, YouTube is where a LOT of music discovery happens – even for people who primarily use Spotify or Apple Music.
The thing about YouTube that I like over the long-term is that it's evergreen content. It will be findable and suggested for YEARS to come. I get recommended content from artists from over 10 years ago.
The shelf life of an IG reel or TikTok video is basically nothing in comparison. Still make those for fun, but realize that it's short-term.
22. Niche and Hybrid Genres Will Be More Normal/Accepted
Genre delineations have been fading away for a while now, but even more so this year. Basically make whatever you want to make. There's probably a bunch of people out there that have a similar weird mixture of influences as you that will vibe it.
23. People Will Gravitate Away from Large-Scale Social Platforms and Toward Micro-Communities
I'm not saying that social media platforms will die – I just think they will fill a different need. I think people are wanting authenticity and connection and smaller circles. If you can figure out how to tap into that need as you're building a community of true fans and superfans, you'll be in good shape.
Twitter is in a weird spot right now, and a lot of users have gone over to Mastadon, which has different servers for different interests, locations, etc. Same thing with the rise of Discord. People join Discord servers for the same reason.
Ok there it is. 23 shot-from-the-hip predictions about the music business in 2023. I'd love to hear your thoughts on what you think I'm right about and what I'm wrong about!