Next to “Why can’t I find podcasts of your Ongoing History of New Music show anywhere?”, the most common question I get is “What’s next for music?” I know the answer to the former, but as for the latter question, you got me.predict the future of music even a year out, I’d
If anyone could accurately and consistently predict where music was going in the next year or two, they’d be insanely rich. But because music–the industry, the artists and the public–is filled with strange attractors and black swans, figuring out where things are going is hard. Really hard.
Let’s rewind 15 years to late 1995. The alt-rock of the Lollapalooza Generation was still dominant although there was the unsettling sense that the party had begun to wind down following the death of Kurt Cobain. Meanwhile, the coke-and-smack fueled orgy powered the glorious Britpop scene continued unabated, although the cracks will start showing within six months.
From that perspective, no one could have predicted the rise of the Boy Band Era (Backstreet, *NSYC, etc.), the coming tsunami of female pop (Spice Girls, Britney and the rest of them), the misstep of nü-metal or the rise in popularity of indie rock. Add in the effect of the Internet (hello, Napster!), the iPod, MP3s, EDM, YouTube, streaming and Facebook and the trajectory of music sped off in a million different vectors at once.
So what makes anyone think they can predict where music will be in 2030? That’s what David Emergy tries to suss out with this bit of prognostication.
Flying cars, hoverboards, and self-drying jackets — predicting the future is hard.
However, if we’re just to focus on music right now, it’s a fascinating time. Certain things are falling into place, which means that the path is maybe—just maybe—becoming clearer for the minute. At least, that is, in terms of how technology is influencing the way people listen to music.
We are obviously at a point now where legal, on-demand access to almost all music is a reality—whether through streaming services like Spotify or Apple Music, or YouTube (which we might want to count as a streaming service as well, though I don’t think anyone actually uses it in quite the same fashion). In some ways, streaming is still a comparatively niche business, but from where I’m sitting—as someone working in the music industry—at some point in the last 12 months it went from an underground niche to an overground one.