Earlier today I offered up a few big names in the music industry who’ve seen better years than 2013. Now it’s time to outline three of the biggest winners.
There were certainly other success stories in the music business over the past year, but these three struck me as being particularly notable:
As discussed in my previous post, 2013 was supposed to be the Year of Gaga. It wasn’t. Instead, three other pop divas stole the spotlight—first Miley Cyrus, then Lorde, and, most boldly of all, Beyoncé.
That’s not to discredit the cleverness of Cyrus and her team in hijacking the VMAs, not to mention the national discourse on popular music. And it’s no knock on Lorde, who came from nowhere (rather, New Zealand) to deliver music that seems to have made people truly excited about, well, music.
But the surprise launch of Beyoncé’s self-titled album is perhaps most revolutionary not for what it did, but for what it didn’t do. Mrs. Carter is one of the biggest pop stars on the planet, signed to one of its more storied labels. Yet she didn’t make use of any of the perks of such an arrangement—the “machine” we’re told is so necessary. There was no radio promotion, no single, no advance press of any kind.
“The fact that nearly 900,000 customers were willing to pay full price to buy this album is testament to the passionate dedication of Beyoncé’s legions of fans,” one veteran entertainment attorney told me. “Most artists have to pre-sell or hype albums by giving away singles on various websites, or streaming the album.”
The result: an opening week total that was more than Gaga’s and Katy Perry’s, combined. Is her success replicable? Probably not. Would it have worked for someone else? Perhaps five or ten other stars. And it’s worth noting that the album, only available as an iTunes download for its first week, was pirated extensively. But having the gumption to take such a risk? That’s what it takes to run the world.
The first six months of 2013 saw 50 billion audio and video streams, a 24% increase over the same period last year, according to a Nielsen report. Meanwhile, a study by Siemer & Associates revealed that industrywide streaming revenue increased by 40%, to $1.1 billion, in 2012.
That’s bad news for MP3s—indeed, individual track sales slipped industrywide in the first half of the year. The trend should continue in 2014, and the beneficiaries are the likes of Spotify, Pandora, Songza, Rdio and iHeartRadio. Who emerges from this crowded field is another question.
The streaming revolution is also bad news for piracy. The aforementioned services have made the user experience so easy that downloading illegally—or legally—is comparatively cumbersome and undesirable (unless, of course, it’s an album like Beyoncé’s that is only available as a digital file).
Streaming services and rights holders still have plenty to sort out, but if and when they do, music could be well on its way to solving one of its biggest problems.
Electronic Dance Music has been heating up—and has perhaps been overheated—for a couple of years now. One need only take a glance at the nightly grosses for some of the world’s highest-paid DJs, many of whom often pull in six figures for a single performance.
It’s a frothy market that is spilling over to some names that might be familiar to hip-hop fans: Lil Jon, Jermaine Dupri and Questlove of the Roots, to name a few. These turntablists can easily earn $20,000-$40,000 per night to spin at clubs looking for a different flavor of music than the ever-present EDM.
“A lot of these EDM dudes have their sets already recorded,” explained Dupri, who DJs about 100 shows per year. “So they don’t really be doing nothing when they get on the stage, they’re just faking the knobs and putting their hands in the air.”
Look for more veteran hip-hop producers like Dupri—and perhaps even bigger names, like Timbaland and Swizz Beatz—to augment their income in a similar fashion during the new year.
A continuation from this post