Steve Gordon, entertainment lawyer for digital music entrepreneurs and author of the book The Future of the Music Business, shared his predictions about what the next five years will look like for the music industry with Billboard last week.
In his guest post, Gordon predicts that although opportunities for exposure are increasing and technological platforms are expanding, celebrity artists, signed acts and entrepreneurs will most benefit.
Gordon sees the biggest opportunity for revenue being live performances. In recent years, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, and U2 went on tours that have grossed over $100 million. “The big money will still flow almost exclusively to the best-known acts,” he suggests. These big artists will continue to gain more money and exposure from branding opportunities and partnerships.
Predicting live music as a primary form of revenue isn’t necessarily a novel approach. However, the music industry’s sales income has declined by 65% since Napster’s inception in 1999. Profits from streaming services like Spotify and Pandora have stalled the sharp decline. Nevertheless, Gordon doesn’t believe the recording industry will ever recover due to the ease of piracy and the increase of young people who are now accustomed to getting music for free.
Gordon argues that artists signed to big record labels will have an advantage over ones who self-publish, using platforms like CDBaby and TuneCore. This is because record labels pay for recording costs, produce high quality music videos, give artists monetary advances, and book shows and promotions for them. Trent Reznor made the same conclusion with his latest album after putting out music as an independent artist.
For aspiring artists, the takeaway of Gordon’s post is to try and get signed with a label. That could very well mean building a strong network of fans via social media to demonstrate your audience appeal. It also could mean rethinking the traditional business model to one where live performances and special products take the place of music sales as chief revenue sources.
Gordon’s predictions take a contrasting tone to Taylor Swift’s views on the future of music published earlier this year. She makes the argument that there’s always room for artists who make meaningful connections with their fans.
That being said, take predictions about the future of anything in the media world — especially music — with a grain of salt. It is, and will likely always be, about what moves people… no matter how many are listening.