Like you, Omicron got me down. Just when we thought it was getting better, COVID-19 wobbles its tips into a new configuration and suddenly December 2021 felt like March 2020. But maybe we should have seen this coming. This pandemic mirrors many of the things that happened with the great 1918-20 pandemic flu. If this continues, we should see a significant recovery by spring.
This is my first forecast for 2022. Here are a few other things I forecast for the year ahead.
1. TikTok is becoming even more of a monster when it comes to music
After TikTok signed licensing deals with the music industry, the platform – now the third largest social media network in the world – became a huge source of income for labels and artists. We have already seen dozens of cast members blown up this way, including Olivia Rodrigo, Doja Cat, and Megan Thee Stallion. And success can come out of nowhere. Vancouver’s Mother Mother has a song called “Burning Pile,” which was the sixth most popular alternative / rock TikTok track in the universe in 2021. They released this song in 2008.
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In the past 12 months, 430 songs have surpassed a billion views in the last year, three times as many as in 2020. Over 175 songs were charted on the Billboard Hot 100, twice as many as last year. Expect a similar jump in 2022. With 755 million monthly users, many of whom are searching for music, weird and wonderful things can happen. What that can be is still open.
2. The vinyl shortage will continue and open the doors to a CD revival
I can’t remember the last time I bought a CD because if I buy something, it’s vinyl. But thanks to global production problems and material shortages, orders for new vinyl are more difficult to fulfill and prices have skyrocketed. This is a long way to go, admittedly, but could the record industry return to CD as a physical alternative to vinyl? Maybe – at least until the vinyl supply chain works by itself. An interesting note: The CD was first presented to the world at the end of 1982, so this year marks the 40th anniversary of the format. It just calls out for some kind of remembrance, doesn’t it?
3. We will be so sick of the pandemic that concert goers will explode next summer
We saw signs of this last summer in some parts of the world with overcrowded arenas, stadiums and festivals. But then Delta struck, causing a huge increase in ticket holder no-shows (40 percent in the US, up to 50 percent in the UK). But once winter is over, booster shots are given and new treatments appear (yay, Pfizer COVID pill!), People will again be flocking to live music events. And please don’t even bring up the idea of another variation to mess up our lives.
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4. Speaking of concerts, some old favorites will be on tour again
What do Paul McCartney, AC / DC, Iron Maiden, The Who, Bon Jovi, Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac, Ozzy Osbourne, U2, Aerosmith and the Red Hot Chili Peppers have in common? Nobody has gone on tour since the Covid 19 hit. And do you blame them? Many of these performers are in their late 60s and early 70s and have had sex and drug lives and likely have underlying medical conditions of some kind. No wonder they stayed home. But that should end in mid-2022.
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5. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are being integrated more closely into music
People have been predicting a new metaverse of music for years, but technology is starting to catch up with the promise. Yes, other acts will continue to be virtual in environments like Fourteen daysbut that’s just the beginning. As Facebook moves towards the meta, coupled with the introduction of a mixed reality headset from Apple sometime in 2022, music will be one of the entry drugs into the early forms of the metaverse.
6. More heritage artists will sell their catalogs
Why did Bruce Springsteen sell his life’s work to Sony? Tax purposes. Sure, he could have collected regular royalties for the rest of his life, but under U.S. tax rules, that money is treated as regular income, which means it’s taxed at a very high rate, maybe up to 50 percent. Take all of that money upfront and it will be considered a capital gain. The tax rate for this is around 20 percent. Any questions?
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There is still a lot of money in circulation for such purchases. Sting’s name was mentioned a lot. Bob Seger too. Gene Simmons of KISS told me he was open to the idea as long as the price was right. And as long as the return on those song catalogs outperforms the rate of inflation, it remains a solid long-term strategy.
7. Speaking of heritage artists selling their catalogs …
Companies like Primary Wave and Hipgnosis have spent billions of dollars buying song catalogs. Now comes the hard part: you need to get your money back. The only way to do that is to keep this music alive longer than it would otherwise. Expect much more of this boomer-made rock to appear in popular culture everywhere, from product licensing to TV show and movie placement to merchandising. Another way to make money is to get younger artists to cover these songs. So don’t be surprised if you hear a lot of new versions of old songs.
8. The dominance of streaming will continue – but not in the way you might think
Canadians now reliably stream more than two billion songs a week with on-demand audio streams, up nearly 13 percent compared to 2020. Older folks who grew up with physical media are slowly coming into play, especially when they realize how easy it is is instant access to virtually every song ever recorded, from anywhere. And they don’t want the new stuff either. While the world’s Drakes and The Weeknds get all the press for being in the Spotify Top 200, 66 percent of all streams are songs that are over 18 months old. This is where the real growth lies. Watch out for streamers who are spreading older music more and more.
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9. Paying streaming royalties will slowly change for artists
The catchphrase is “artist-centered license fees”. This is a process where, when you have a subscription to a music streaming service, your monthly fee goes to the artists you listen to. This is how Spotify and Apple Music work now. At the end of each month, they look at which artists had the highest percentage of streams and distribute the revenue based on those percentages. That means the money you pay most likely won’t go to the artists you actually heard. The superstars always get great while niche artists get hurt. But now that SoundCloud and Tidal are moving into artist-centric headspace, there could be a shift to this new and fairer form of artist compensation.
10. More NFTs are coming
I do not get it. It seems like everyone wants a piece of this trend, but I’ll be fine, thank you. If you’re into that sort of thing, don’t be surprised to find sites like Bandcamp jumping into the game.
11. Spotify becomes the world’s king of podcast distribution
Apple practically invented the podcast game more than a decade and a half ago. But in its quest to bring everything audio-related to everyone, Spotify has caught up with Apple and has come first in some areas. The company takes podcasts so seriously that it has a new campus in downtown Los Angeles, internally called Pod City, which includes 18 podcast studios and a performance stage. Your move, Apple.
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