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OK, BOOMER: WHAT REALLY MATTERED IN 2019


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In 2017-18, SoundCloud emerged as the discovery platform, inevitably becoming a hotbed for talent and creating a culture/genre of its own. While artists still develop their craft and fanbases within SoundCloud, the gold rush to find SoundCloud artists is not as frenzied as it once was. This year, TikTok has become the app for breaking talent. User-generated content rules in 2019, as fans create their own silly, entertaining and sometimes genius videos within the platform, and use whatever song they please as their soundtrack. Becoming a meme or creating a viral dance for a track is now more important than a big sync or placement.

The result of TikTok’s appeal to Gen-Z is directly affecting DSPs, playlists, charts and A&R. It also now has a culture/genre of its own and has been the catalyst for igniting careers and bidding wars, along with giving new life to old songs. Lil Nas X, Y2K, Arizona Zervas and Ant Saunders jumpstarted their careers via the platform, leading to substantial major-label deals.

 

Metric-mania
Adding fuel to the inferno of virality is data—everyone sees the same numbers now. As was the case with the Zervas/Saunders signing frenzy, deals are accelerated in the new market. Sharp rises in views, streams and plays lead all players down the same path to talent.

The New A&Rs
Creative executives (or their teams of Internet-savvy youngsters) aren’t the only ones following data religiously. Curators/editors at Spotify are ON IT—and they have flexed their A&R muscle this year. Their job is to find new songs and artists that resonate, and, as shown with “ROXANNE,” “Yellow Hearts” and Trevor Daniel’s “Falling,” when these editors take action on a track that is bubbling elsewhere (TikTok) or within the platform, the outcome can be life-changing and career-altering in the best possible way.

Rap Still Reigns
Have you looked at Apple Music lately? Do you know any songs by Youngboy Never Broke Again? Familiar with DaBaby? Rod Wave? Melly, Polo G, Roddy Ricch? If this is a foreign language to you, then you’ve got some studying to do—because this is what the kids are really listening to. 

Distro Derby
As technology makes it easier to record, upload and stream/sell music, distribution has become more important than ever. A DIY revolution has triggered companies like The Orchard, Caroline, AWAL, STEM, EMPIRE, ADA and Ingrooves to cast wide nets and offer “label services” to entry-level and up-and-coming acts, serving as a minor-league system for talent—and increasing marketshare in the process.

Music Goes Hollywood
The demand for music content is stronger than ever. Major docs hit Netflix, Showtime and HBO, and music films dominated the box office. Among the major figures with content released this year: Beyoncé, Travis Scott, Motley Crue, Clarence Avant, Taylor Swift (concert), Motown, Bob Dylan, Springsteen on Broadway, Clive Davis and many more. Music films like Bohemian Rhapsody, A Star Is Born and Rocketman had big box-office success and major soundtracks that sustained in 2019. Even TV competition shows beefed up their music content with The Masked Singer, Songland and Rhythm & Flow. Whether it’s via film/TV, social media or new platforms, content is king, and music is very much in demand. Already rumored for next year is another Taylor/Netflix collab and a Billie Eilish doc hitting Apple TV+.

The Demise of iTunes
Once the savior of the music industry, the digital single and album hub is still breathing, but struggling to keep up with streaming. Album bundling and D2C offers aren’t helping either.

Global Gains
K-Pop and Latin music have risen to become the most promising global genres and markets. Multiple K-Pop acts had #1 debuts in 2019, while Latin stars Rosalía, J Balvin, Bad Bunny and Ozuna, among others, maintain dominance through video and streaming. Making their success in the U.S. even more incredible, their songs are not in English. Collabs with English-speaking stars like Drake, Justin Bieber and Halsey feature those acts singing in a foreign language. K-Pop and Latin artists are creating a thriving global, urban sound, inspired by hip-hop culture. The biggest K-Pop acts have designated rappers, with more and more rap featured in their pop tracks.

Self-Promotion isn’t Shameless
What do Taylor Swift and DaBaby have in common? They are masters of self-promotion, hustle and engagement. Yes, even superstars like Taylor have to promote their own products—and she works her ass off doing so. Not a week went by this year when Swift didn’t make headlines. DaBaby, meanwhile, has blossomed into a full-blown entertainer in 2019. His performances and visuals showcase hard work, creativity and flat-out commitment to stardom. Swift and DaBaby have put in the work and are reaping the benefits.

Haters = Fans
Drake, Taylor, Kanye, Post Malone, 6ix9ine, XXXTentacion, Chris Brown. Reaching polarizing-figure status or getting “canceled” only brings more interest to the product. Every hater is keeping up, and more importantly, listening.

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