Ten music tech PR takeaways from SXSW 2023
Here are our ten key insights on music tech PR, drawn from the many and varied discussions at SXSW 2023.
AI may be a tool of empowerment for musicians
There is concern about the impact of generative AI in replacing the creative process – with commercial applications of AI music for gaming and incidental music making many wonder where lines will be drawn in the future. But there are also strong supportive voices that recognise that AI can also have an empowering role for artists. It can be used for learning, and it can allow musicians to riff on ideas.
Music discovery needs to catch up with music creation
The levels of new music creation are startling - over 100,000 music files are delivered to digital service providers per day. Just 4% of these are from major labels, and nearly half of all existing music has been published since 2020. The problem is that the music discovery platforms are yet to catch up with the creation platforms. The fact that a small number of platforms control consumption is bad for both consumers and artists – the process needs AI assistance and niche genre expertise to aid fairer and easier music discovery.
Short form video music discovery is feeding the DSPs
Apple Music and Spotify are poised to receive traffic from short-form video music discovery. 29% of listeners today discover music via short form video clips. 35% of those are more likely to use Spotify, while 43% are more likely to use Apple Music. This journey is amplified by synch placements on TV – Kate Bush’s Running up that Hill has become the 19th most streamed song, and a massive 2.3million fan creations that used the track on TikTok followed.
Artists begin to recognise that their content is not finite
Artists are beginning to understand that their content is fluid rather than finite. They can engage with their communities by collaborating with other musicians on music creation and offering fans opportunities to remix their tracks. Channels like BandLab are opening up these opportunities, allowing bands to cultivate bottom-up communities, instead of top-down.
Artists need to do more to engage their superfans
There was much talk about superfans at SXSW – music listeners who spend above average time and money on music. The music industry needs to differentiate between the casual listener and superfan to provide them with new opportunities to spend. Gen-Z wants more merch – they are three times more likely to buy vinyl, and yet 50% don’t own a record player. There are more platforms than ever to find a niche where you can monetise fans, be it Patreon, Tiktok, BandLab or Only Fans. So, go where your fans are, and engage with them in meaningful ways. Remember, music is not the product – it’s the service. The artist is the product.
The public continues to be confused by NFTs
NFTs have been pointed to as a key way to engage superfans. However, awareness and understanding are still not there. Two thirds of the US general population say they are aware of NFTs – but only four out of ten can correctly define them. The top three perceptions of NFTs among the public are that the don’t understand the hype; they find the concept too confusing; and they feel as though NFT buyers are only in it for the money. The NFT types that consumers are most interested in are digital artwork or NFTs related to music – or those related to video games. Millennials are most optimistic about NFTs – they are 34% more likely than average to agree they’re excited about owning an NFT in future.
Use the metaverse to provide more than is possible IRL
87% of Gen-Z are virtual gamers, so virtual worlds represent a new opportunity for artists to communicate with fans. We need to make virtual worlds matter by providing something different to the real world. This might mean getting 100,000 people in one room, or offering people from small towns the opportunity to see artists that won’t be touring near them. In the years since Covid, virtual concert fatigue has set in, so artists need to move forward by introducing narratives alongside live music – again, giving something that can’t be experienced in real life.
Authenticity is key for artists partnering with brands in the metaverse
There are many new opportunities for artists to create relationships with brands in virtual worlds, but authenticity is key. Artists must remain in control of their fandom, rather than handing that control over to brands - the virtual worlds are simply new tools that will allow artists to leverage fandom.
The artist experience must improve in the virtual world
Artists and brands are increasingly focusing on creating musical experiences that have the feel of real live music, ones that shift and change as people move around within these worlds. But more than this, the experience for the artist must improve, with better lifelike feedback from the audience to the artist, creating a loop so they can feed off their energy.
There are issues that still need to be dealt with
The metaverse is still a wild west and many difficult issues remain unsolved: Privacy issues; online harms and mental health of fans are concerns for any musical artist engaging in the metaverse. There are also broader questions such as: which country’s laws are applicable in the virtual world, and what country do taxes need to be paid to?