The ideas below came to me in a dream. Some of them seem a little unusual—I should probably apologize for that. I had a couple glasses of a very fine Barolo from the Monforte region of northern Italy before falling asleep, so maybe that played a factor. But I’m determined to share what I heard exactly as it was told to me in my sleep.
Ten years from now. . .
1. A major Silicon Valley company will announce that it has created the ‘next Beethoven’ with quantum computing technology.
2. A legitimate musical counterculture will arise, with a cadre of new artists achieving superstar status while rejecting the roles of influencer and content provider. The motto “music comes first” will be a key part of their marketing message. The movement will have a name, but that word doesn’t exist yet.
3. YouTube fans will fondly recall the days when they only had to sit through two short commercials before watching a music video.
4. Web platforms will have destroyed record labels—which will no longer play a meaningful role in building the careers of new artists.
5. A reality TV show will launch a very popular song competition. But only children under the age of 8 will be allowed to vote. The success of the show will create a popular new genre known as TDM (Toddler Dance Music). It will even get its own Grammy category.
6. Musicians will find ways to capture 80-90% of the revenue from their music. This is already happening at Bandcamp, but the trend will spread rapidly. A whole host of other platforms will emerge that give most of the money to the artist and only keep a small percentage for themselves.
7. AI-driven Robots will increasingly replace DJs at dance clubs. Club owners will insist that the algorithm is better at pleasing customers than a human being.
8. The President of the United States will launch a curated playlist on a major music platform. At first music industry insiders will ridicule it, but change their tune after 40 million people sign up as subscribers. All proceeds will go to support animal rights organizations.
9. A song composed entirely by artificial intelligence will reach the number one spot on the Billboard chart. The music video (also AI-created) will be a major contributor to its success.
10. Trombone sales will skyrocket after the instrument is implicated in a high-profile celebrity scandal.
11. Before a hot new album by a major star is released, each track will be auctioned off as a separate non-fungible token. A prominent hedge fund manager who is famous for his large portfolio of music NFTs will become personal financial advisor to many leading rappers and pop stars. His nickname on Wall Street will be DJ Blockchain.
12. Individuals who can identify rising talent will set up their web channels, and fill the role once played by the A&R department at a record label. But there’s one big difference: they can do everything themselves without a huge corporation behind them. If these talent scouts have a web channel with a few million subscribers, they will have more clout than Sony (which, by the way, currently has a pathetic 40 thousand subscribers to its YouTube channel) or most other labels. They can sign artists, showcase them online, and build their audience—acting as sole operators, but with the influence of a big business.
13. A hit song by a K-Pop band will still be in the top 40 after four years.
14. Streamed music events will generate more income than live concerts.
15. The only child of the CEO of Google/Alphabet will date a musician with no discernible talent, but who now suddenly shows up everywhere on search engine results and even wins a prominent music industry award.
16. Spotify threatens to delist every track that doesn’t get at least one thousand streams per year, unless the artist pays a stiff annual fee.
17. Record labels won’t disappear, but will live mostly off the income from their publishing catalogs (which they are in a mad frenzy to acquire right now) and the old music in their archives. They will start to fear impending copyright expirations that threaten much of their cash flow, and try (unsuccessfully) to get legislators to extend IP protection for music.
18. The most discussed movie soundtrack of the year will feature complete silence—except for 12 seconds of music at a dramatic point in the story.
19. New music industry power players will emerge in Asia and other non English-speaking regions. New York, London, and Los Angeles will still be centers of activity, but hardly as dominant as they once were. The savvier music companies will be in a mad scramble to expand their presence in Seoul, Kinshasa, Jakarta, etc.
20. The TV audience for the Grammy Awards will fall to a new low. Instead, the music event with the highest TV ratings that year will be a live broadcast of the 90th birthday concert of a famous rock/pop star.