13 January 2021

PHMG Picks: Lucy Drennan on our predictions for the music industry in 2021

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Last year, we were inspired by the way artists adapted to an altered landscape, and excited by the shape of thing to come.

Judging by what we’ve seen from the BBC Sound of 2021 and the best New Artist Nominees at the 2021 Grammy’s, there’s plenty to look forward to. As the year gets into full swing, myself and the Composition team have made our predictions on the year ahead for the global music industry.


The rise of the live stream

Through the challenges of 2020, the spirit of performance was kept alive by artists who – cut off from their most reliable and lucrative form of income, turned to streaming – connecting digitally with their audiences across the gulf of the pandemic. Necessity has always been the mother of invention, as throughout history, inventors and musicians alike have explored techniques and demonstrated real innovation in reaction to their circumstances. In this case, these developments are set to have a lasting legacy on the industry.

While many of us are dreaming of the day we’re back at a festival, or in the atmospheric embrace of our favourite indoor venues, streaming has made gigs more accessible to all by removing the confines of physical space, while expanding artist reach. From Instagram Live and Twitch sets, to the on-demand revival of the concert DVD, and even tour stops on Fortnite – the burgeoning virtual concert industry is driving new kinds of engagement. We predict it won’t be too long before we see the emergence of a streaming platform in the vein of Spotify or Apple Music, but dedicated to live performances.

With last year’s necessary rise of virtual concerts, live-streaming is fast becoming the future of music performance. – Jonny Swailses, Music Supervisor

Jonny’s industry accolades include a position as a live-in Assistant Sound Engineer at Chapel Studios, working on projects from bands such as The Wytches, Spring King and Crippled Black Phoenix. His experience also encompasses radio presenting, radio advertising, podcast music, audio-visual postproduction, live sound engineering, and composition and production – as well as Brand-Sound-Tracks™ for high-profile clients such as Ocado and JLab Audio.


Situational influences

In 2020, behaviours changed significantly for both creators and consumers of music, introducing new contexts for recording and listening that are set to shape the sound of 2021 and beyond. Artists across all genres quickly adapted to an altered creative landscape – and as many return to the humble home or makeshift studio, this situational change is heavily reflected both in the end result and the way it’s received. Smaller teams, a stripped back approach, and almost infinite time for self-reflection logically leads artists towards more emotive timbre and lyrical content – so it seems safe to say we’ll hear a lot of acoustic elements, and a continued rise in popularity of Billie Eilish-esque minimalistic dark-pop.

As for how this affects audiences, think about the difference in how we listen through headphones while commuting or sat at our office desks, compared to how we listen in the comfort and privacy of our bedrooms.

Music will continue to reflect our situation. We’ll see more artists working from their homes, and tracks created with listening at home in mind. This will lead to a rise in authentic, DIY sound as opposed to the high-level productions designed to be played at festivals and in clubs. – Louis Hurndall, Composer

A renowned hip-hop and electro record producer, Louis has worked with artists such as Sway, Akon, Wiz Khalifa, Wretch 32, Joe Budden and Ironik – with whom he reached #5 on the UK Singles Chart.


Genre merging

The largest positive we can take from the upheaval of the past year is the rapid democratisation of music – or in other words, people are listening more and in a variety of different ways, exposing themselves to all kinds of new influences from new and faraway places. This has led to an increase in experimental genre crossover – something Lil Nas X helped pave the way for in 2019 with his incredibly successful rap/country track, ‘Old Town Road.’ The proof is in the pudding – or in this case, the Spotify algorithm. In their 2020 Wrapped results, the ubiquitous streaming giant showed our listening patterns were more diverse than ever before. This led Shiva Rajaraman – Spotify’s VP of Product – to tell Paper Magazine about his vision for a genre-less world where preferences are replaced by ritual, and playlist content is tailored to mood.

Whether this is a positive or negative change is up for debate – but it’s certainly something we’ll be keeping a keen eye on as we move further into this new decade.

As music becomes yet more saturated and accessible, we’ll see even more crossover of genres – so the likes of country-rap and electro-fold will continue to grow. – Mary Miller, Composer

A prolific musician, Mary has played a wealth of venues including The O2 Academy and The Philharmonic, and was recently featured on the  BBC Introducing Mixtape, curated by 6Music’s Tom Robinson.


Influencing our music

As composers, we’re consciously and subconsciously influenced by music industry trends – and as we look forward to creating more unique tracks to capture the individuality of our clients, we’re most excited to explore the possibilities of a more emotive approach led by genre crossover. By taking disparate but complimentary influences from the entire musical spectrum, we’ll be digging even deeper into the unique personality of each brand we write for – defining the sound of countless companies, all over the world.

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