The crisis may accelerate underlying trends in the music industry. These are based on the importance of streaming to the industry, which has grown from 9% to 47% of total industry revenues in just six years.
Record labels have increased their valuations in recent years, attributed largely to the growth in consumers using paid streaming services, and several are now preparing to go public.
As consumption has grown, spending habits have changed. While some consumers take on more subscription services at home, others have opted out of subscriptions under financial pressure. Services with a dual business model are able to retain their customer relationship through the crisis, churning into a free-to-consumer, ad-funded model until the economy recovers. As consumption patterns have shifted to in-home during the crisis, device- and platform-agnostic services have been able to follow listeners.
Maintaining adaptable monetization strategies may open new avenues for the industry to work with other sectors in the future. For example, gaming and TV integrate songs, compositions and musical scores into their content – but these synchronization revenues currently account for only 2% of recorded music revenue. The business frameworks for synchronization deals are currently underdeveloped, so there is an opportunity for growth – even if it is a long way from reaching a comparable share of revenue to streaming.
China provides an indication of how flexibility could work in practice. During the coronavirus crisis, music streaming platforms there introduced tipping as a new way for consumers to support artists. In the future, platforms could take a cut of these payments, thereby developing a new revenue flow built on streaming.
As music consumption is increasingly digital, there is a growing role for third-party platforms in shaping music distribution, discovery and consumer behaviour. During the pandemic, Fortnite hosted a live rap concert that attracted almost 30 million live viewers, underlining the potential for cross-industry partnerships to engage users and promote artists in a new way. It is likely that rights owners and distributors will continue to adopt similar approaches going forward.
Furthermore, it suggests that the industry is thinking about ways to do this without relying entirely on streaming and physical performances. Streaming may be highly effective in reaching consumers, but it leaves rights holders more reliant on third-party platforms, but a quirk in the streaming business model showcases how the relationship with these providers may change in the future. In general, platforms pay rights holders a minimum proportion of revenue from subscriptions – for Spotify, around 65% – with additional compensation determined by number of streams.