How Technology is Reviving the Global Music Business

Growing global access to Internet, penetration of smartphones, and the maturity of 5G technology are putting more music in the hands of people around the world

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As the first three weeks in 2019 come to a close, executives, managers, labels, and artists alike are excited to see the next year of the global music business unfold. The driver of this bright future isn’t just the growing importance of music in global culture, but the technological penetration of emerging technologies that are allowing individuals around the world to hold in the palm of their hand a catalog of music that is over 40 million-plus songs strong.

This is quite remarkable if you think about how far the music business has come since the drop of CD sales that sparked a global recession of the business in the early 2000s.

Technological variables such as growing global access to Internet, the penetration and adoption of smartphones, along with the maturity of 5G technology, is putting more music in the hands of people around the world. Maturing technology is also lowering the technological barrier for music consumption, particularly in growing territories like China and India, ultimately fueling the resurgence of the global music business, which in 2018 saw significant overall industry growth. Album equivalent audio consumption was up 23 per cent over 2017, driven by a 49 per cent increase in on-demand audio song streams compared to 2017, according to the 2018 Nielsen Music report.

Streaming rules

As it stands, streaming continues to be the biggest contributor to the global recorded-music business. Estimates suggest that streaming paid out $9.6 billion into artist and labels in 2018, making up more than 50 per cent of the global trade’s total revenues. Meanwhile, worldwide users of paid-for subscription music-streaming accounts could top 225 million in 2019, which would be up from 176 million in 2018.

This increase in subscribers is not only opening up new opportunities for breaking and discovering emerging artists, but rekindling the fire for old catalog songs. For instance, this Christmas, Mariah Carey’s song from 1994, “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” broke the all-time single-day streaming record on Spotify with 10,819,009 streams on December 24, according to the streaming service’s official global charts.

None of this would be made possible without the right technological barriers being lowered. As prices of smartphones go down, more than 40 per cent of the worldwide population is projected to own a smartphone by 2021. This will ultimately allow more app downloads of the major streaming services, only increasing the amount of listening, discovery, and consumption of both new and old music.

Rise in global listening

This increase in subscribers and global listening has also pushed other areas of the global music business to grow as well. One of the biggest beneficiaries has been the worldwide touring industry, which according to Pollstar, saw a record-setting $10.4 billion spent across 152.1 million tickets.

Not only are artists able to more strategically tour with the help of big data and analytics informing them of their fan pools, but curated playlists and better artist discovery experiences are allowing fans to find new music and new artists.

Technology is creating a new ecosystem of discovery that is reshaping almost every facet of the music business. Soon, the depression of music sales that has defined the last 10 plus years of the music business will be a thing of the past, as companies and artists alike transform to entities that work alongside technologies to create a new level of reach and influence globally.