Totally Unguaranteed Predictions for the World of Music in 2018

For my mom, the best time to buy all the supermarket tabloids is right about now when each of their psychics predict what is to come in 2018. I’m no psychic, but I can make a few educated guess about what the next 12 months will bring for the world of music. No guarantees, though, capice?

Rock music will experience something of a comeback in popular culture.

Rock has fallen behind hip-hop and rap as the prime musical driver in culture. I can’t ever see it return to its number one position, but the weirder life gets under Donald Trump, Brexit, North Korea, Iran, China, terrorism and all their other things plaguing the planet, Generations Y and Z will continue to move away from pop towards more aggressive music. Compare the nature of pop music during the Obama era to what’s coming out now. The music is slower, grim, minor key and a light-year away from what was being made during the Obama era.

But rock fans will still be slow adopters of streaming.

Streaming technology is shiny and new, something that young people are far more likely to adopt than older music fans. And because young people are into rap, hip-hop, R&B and pop, those genres dominate streaming. But like I said above, young people inevitably get old and see their musical tastes change. If even a small percentage of them decide that they want to rock things up as they age, that will begin to change the streaming charts. The question is, of course, how much of Generation Z will age into this part of their lives.

The trade in vinyl will continue to increase for the 11th year in a row.

The last I heard, vinyl sales were up only 2% in the US. Here in Canada, though, the year-over-year increase was around 23%–and that doesn’t include the trade in used records at both stores and record shows. The UK also saw, er, record sales numbers in 2017. A fad? Nope. It’s a long-term trend.

People will continue to buy fewer CDs.

Duh. If we extrapolate 2017 sales declines, the number of units purchased in Canada will dip below 10 million. I also predict a US SoundScan week when the number one album will sell less than 20,000 copies.

Hi-Res Audio will continue to become more popular.

There’s a slow but steady swing towards audio that sounds better. Who wants shitty-sounding MP3s anymore when you can stream Hi-Res stuff from your favourite streaming services? A lot of people, I hope. Deezer, Tidal and Quboz are already playing this game. Good.

Apple will launch some sort of major offensive against Spotify.

Apple is the number two music streaming by some margin, mainly because Apple Music doesn’t offer a free tier. They need to do something to close the gap and to keep Amazon and Google from eating their lunch. Hi-Res Audio, anyone?

Google will finally figure out a streaming strategy.

Lessee, we got Google Play Music, YouTube Red, YouTube Music–what am I missing? Anyway, all of these services, currently operating independently, will be completely consolidated in 2018 under the leadership of Lyor Cohen. As to whether he gets it right, that’s another matter.

Meanwhile, Spotify will finally go public.

Daniel Ek’s company has lost hundreds of millions of dollars playing the long game, but with new licensing agreements in place (and some lawsuits still need to be settled), this will be the year that the company has its IPO. What will that mean besides a huge infusion of capital and Wall Street’s interest in the business of music? We’ll see.

Smart speakers will become THE thing to buy.

Have you tried one? Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty cool.

Radio will finally realize that new stars are being minted online and through streaming and not through the old ways.

The star-making machinery behind the popular song has shifted.  Hey, radio: It’s time to shift away from your old research/chart ways into seeing what people are actually listening to. Or haven’t you heard of Chance the Rapper or Logic or Daniel Caesar?

There will be a major shitstorm once the reality of the end of net neutrality sets in.

Once America rises that the power to shape the Internet has been given to the ISPs, the people will rise up. “Wait. I have to pay extra for social media and music streaming? WTF with that?” It probably won’t do any good, but it’ll fill the news cycle for a while.

The #MeToo campaign will spread deeper into the music industry.

Speaking of shitstorms, look out.

At least one major rock star will die.

Again, duh. But who? Last year wasn’t quite as shocking as 2016, but none of our musical heroes are getting any younger so it’s just a matter of time. Who’s got who in the dead pool?  Hint: Never, ever pick Keith Richards.

There will be a breakout podcast from Canada.

Podcasting is on a role. It’s just a matter of time before the next big international hit comes from Canada. I vote for my Ongoing History programs.

The classic Smashing Pumpkins lineup will reunite and tour…

But not until the fall–unless some festivals come around with some big bags of money.

…but Oasis will not.

Not until 2019. That’ll mark the 25th anniversary of the release of Definitely Maybe and when they’ll be eligible for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

There will be at least two terror attacks on concert events somewhere in the world.

I hate to even think about that. Let’s be careful out there, okay?

There will definitely be a new Tool album.

I can just feel it. But then again…

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

One thought on “Totally Unguaranteed Predictions for the World of Music in 2018

  • January 2, 2018 at 10:27 am

    Love these predictions Alan. They all make sense or at least too funny not to mention. 😉


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