It doesn’t matter if you’re an aspiring artist, a budding producer or an eager engineer, sometimes anticipating the constantly evolving trends of the industry is just as vital as the music itself. The trick isn’t always to religiously follow these tendencies — but to use the knowledge to your advantage when developing a future strategy and staying one step ahead of your competition.
- 1 Most Protest Music Since 2016
- 2 Album Bundles Make Sales Numbers Meaningless
- 3 Female Rappers Continue Their Takeover
- 4 Livestreaming Concerts Become A Trendy Technique
- 5 Busy First Quarter For Music’s Biggest Stars
Here are the 5 Music Trends That Will Overtake The Music Industry In 2020
Most Protest Music Since 2016
A polarizing president sparks polarizing music and Donald Trump is as controversial as they come. His highly-maligned run for the Oval Office in 2016 coupled with a shocking election victory inspired artists across all genres to deliver some of the most politically-charged music in recent memory.
YG’s “FDT (F*** Donald Trump)” was among the most iconic of the protests — a rally-cry heard from Compton to Congress that showcased the state of frustration and hopelessness shared by many minorities in America. The blunt and bare-knuckled nature of the track even drove the Secret Service to the rapper’s front door; a move that perfectly encapsulated the never-ending clash between politics and music of that year.
The Music Industry vs. Donald Trump: Round 2
Fast-forward to 2020 and Trump remains in the news for all of the wrong reasons. Whether it’s impeachment, a potential war with Iran or his latest incoherent Twitter rant, the outrage towards the commander in chief has reached a boiling point.
With another exhausting election on the horizon, I expect many musicians to use their platforms to clash with Trump once more — using scathing songs and statement albums to air out their grievances on the current political climate. We might be embarking on a new decade, but the passionate political commentary that defined the latter half of the 2010s is destined to linger over 2020 even more.
Album Bundles Make Sales Numbers Meaningless
Chart battles dominated headlines last year, but none were more significant than DJ Khaled’s temper tantrum towards Tyler, the Creator and Billboard in June. After his album Father of Asahd failed to secure the top spot on the organization’s top 200 albums chart, Khaled threatened to sue, claiming 100,000 album sales from an energy drink bundle were unfairly disqualified, resulting in Tyler, the Creator’s Igor debuting at No. 1 instead.
While Igor was benefitting from its own merchandise bundles, Billboard claimed Khaled’s bundles were encouraging unauthorized bulk sales, resulting in the rejection. Khaled eventually got his wish a week later, but the controversy created a new set of questions concerning how to properly count bundles and streams in an evolving music landscape.
What’s An Album Sale In The Streaming Era?
Album bundles are nothing new in the music industry, but the reliance on this loophole to boost your spot on the charts has never been greater. Billboard continues to use a ratio when counting streams towards an album sale (1,250 for paid streams and 3,750 for free streams) and this disparity causes labels to do everything in their power to sell physical copies and downloads to make a substantial impact on the charts.
I feel like packaging a project in a bundle reduces the value behind a sales number, and with nearly 80 percent of the U.S. market now opting for streaming, the weight of a counted album sale appears to be in the wrong place. Billboard has revised its bundling rules starting this year, claiming that a sold bundle can now only be counted as an album sale if all items in the bundle are available for purchase on that same website, but look for this to be a recurring practice — and controversial topic — throughout 2020.
Female Rappers Continue Their Takeover
2019 officially began a dramatic cultural shift as female emcees reclaimed the throne as mainstream forces in the music industry. Megan Thee Stallion’s catchy “Hot Girl Summer” phrase became a phenomenon that extended far into the winter months — an uplifting hashtag that encouraged as much self-confidence as it did, as Megan puts it, “having a good ass time.”
Megan’s meteoric rise was shared by a surge of up-and-coming female talent, each with their own unique style and sound that appealed to nearly every corner of hip hop. The influx of emerging stars didn’t go unnoticed, as last year “yielded the highest total of women rappers making their mark on the Billboard Hot 100 this decade.”
The Future Is Female
If you thought last year was a fluke, you’re truly underestimating the capabilities of the new crop of female rappers bursting onto the scene. Cardi B and Megan’s current chokehold on the charts aside, emcees like Rico Nasty and Kamaiyah are poised to drop breakout projects in 2020 that have the potential to catapult them into stardom.
My hidden gem this year, however, is Philadelphia-native Tierra Whack, whose electrifying lyrical abilities have garnered a cult following who are patiently waiting for the follow-up to her brief 2018 offering, Whack World. While many eyes will be on the impending releases of hip hop veterans Kendrick Lamar, Drake and J Cole this year, don’t forget about the female rappers who will look to match these legends not only in quality — but in impact as well.
Livestreaming Concerts Become A Trendy Technique
We live in an era where quality music alone won’t get you recognized. The gatekeepers that used to curate artists for your listening pleasure have been replaced by streaming services and algorithm-generated playlists. Musicians are forced to push their creative capabilities to the limit in order to stand out amongst the masses.
In February of 2019, EDM producer Marshmello threw every conventional approach to performances out the window, hosting a groundbreaking live concert inside the popular video game “Fortnite.” The historic event amassed 10.7 million viewers — over 25 times as many people who attended Woodstock in 1969 — and opened the door for more innovative media crossovers heading into the next decade.
Virtual Viewership Is Music’s New Frontier
The success of Marshmello’s virtual concert sheds a spotlight on the potential for premiering music outside of a live venue or streaming platform. Virtual viewership is through the roof — whether it be through livestreams of Coachella acts, YouTube debuts of songs or partnerships with video games — and the possibilities are endless for those looking to capitalize on this craze.
I predict individual concert livestreams to blossom into a popular method this year for artists showcasing their music to a larger audience who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend. According to Vimeo, 67 percent of viewers are more likely to buy a ticket to a concert after watching a live video of that event or a similar one, further highlighting the valuable opportunities this practice could present in 2020 and beyond.
Busy First Quarter For Music’s Biggest Stars
Despite a few scattered features and the occasional single, 2019 was a quiet year for some of the music’s premier artists. Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Rihanna, Frank Ocean, Adele and other industry titans have been sticking to the shadows, stealthily recording projects that are rumored to be on the verge of dropping as soon as this year.
Even if only half of the reported albums eventually see the light of day, 2020 is still set up to be a banner year for music. Justin Bieber has already kicked off the year with a bang, dropping a chart-topping track and announcing a new project set to be unleashed within the next few months, his first since 2015’s Purpose.
Who Will Drop The First Classic Of The Decade?
The transition into a new decade feels like the start of another crucial chapter in music history. Many music fans concluded last year by celebrating the 2010s as if they were locking that period of time in a vault and wiping the slate clean. 2020 represents a fresh start and a prime opportunity for artists to create a name for themselves or add to their legacy.
I predict the first quarter of 2020 to be extremely chaotic as musicians fight for space to release iconic albums. The title of “First Classic of the Decade” is up for grabs and I expect many stars to strive for that meaningful addition to their resume. The ultimate winner in all this? Music junkies like you and me who will get to experience incredible content nearly every week.
From sonic shifts to technological innovations, 2020 promises to both be a year of intense change and renewed fads. It’s impossible to perfectly predict what the future holds, but using our prior knowledge of music culture and the world around us, we can begin to see the vision of where the industry is headed.
What music trends do YOU expect to shake up the music industry this year?