These days future of the audio industry comes up for discussion often. The first thing that comes to the mind of most is streaming. We even get specialized discussions such as the pros and cons of services like Spotify and Soundcloud. But, is streaming the only thing we need to take a look at here?
Actually, the development of streaming as such is certainly an important and complex subject in itself. But, it is not the only one that is gaining in importance. Nor is it the only facet that is driving the future of the audio industry. Audio media like vinyl records and cassettes are having a resurgence. Online media is stressing the importance of elements like commercial music and music advertising. And then there are podcasts the relatively new category of content that is breaking new grounds.
But, then, there is a broader aspect to this question. As the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences (CRAS) points out, “most people that desire to enter the Audio Industry mistakenly only refer to it as the Music Industry. While the “music” side of the Industry is the goal, the truth is that the Music Industry “lives” inside the Audio Industry.”
This means that the developments in the music industry are driving the developments on the technical, ‘hardware’ side of the audio industry. New modern technologies are coming up on a daily basis.
Giving a general outlook on the future of the audio industry, Kurt Kaufer of the Forbes Agency Council and audio advertising specialist notes that “more than 20 years in the audio advertising space has taught us that we have to stay flexible and be open to change, and 2020 has certainly been a masterclass in how to pivot and adapt.”
This post has been updated in September 2021.
How will the audio industry evolve – general aspects
Michael Mignano, CEO, and Co-founder of Anchor is of the opinion that we’ve already reached the brink of a cultural shift where everyone is creating and consuming content all the time. This is one of his key predictions on the future of the audio industry. “You see so many services with videos, photos, and even text that provide a way for people not only to create and consume content but to interact with it (and each other).” This is done on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube. Other mediums have become democratized where anyone can create their own platform for writing, photos, or video. On the other hand, audio has historically remained out of the loop in terms of engagement and democratization.”
According to him, audio is actually the most flexible medium for content. “It’s fast, it’s easy to multitask. It’s engaging without being so distracting that you have to stop whatever you’re doing to enjoy it. Podcasts, which were once a subculture, now reach as many people in the U.S. monthly as Twitter does (around 67 million, to be exact). This is still a burgeoning industry, but it’s growing fast, and audiences are looking for ways to express their thoughts on what they’re listening to – not to mention getting involved by becoming creators on their own, and ultimately making money from their work” (above).
New findings from Edison Research’s Share of Ear study found that digital channels are capturing a growing share of attention in audio media. While traditional radio still reaches 98% of the U.S. audience, time spent has decreased significantly as more than 30% of listeners now eschew AM/FM in favor of streaming services and satellite radio. This is especially true among younger audiences, as 42% of people aged 18–34 do not listen to AM/FM at all in a given day and their time spent with AM/FM fell by 40% compared to 2014.
The future of audio industry – expert predictions
In his predictions of what the future holds for the audio industry, Kurt Kaufer (above), concentrates on the following.
Radio listenership will rebound – As the Covid-19 recedes, people will be shopping more in retail stores and will start returning to official workplaces. “With that, media planners should not only recognize that listener behaviors are nearly back to pre-pandemic levels, but understand the opportunity and ensure they are budgeting their media mix accordingly.”
The growing importance of podcasts – “Brands will start to see podcast hosts as less niche and monolithic in their reach and more so as larger influencers that can reach and engage audiences across a wide variety of social and content platforms in addition to podcasts. As a form of personality-driven media, podcasts are able to engage with listeners in a more authentic way. At the same time, more entertainers, athletes, politicians, and celebrities will launch a new podcast in 2021 than ever before.”
Amazon, Apple, Pandora, and Spotify will continue to try to acquire top talent and networks in the battle of who can draw the most ears. 2020 was the year of Spotify ramping up its podcast efforts. But, competitors like Amazon, Apple, Pandora, and SiriusXM will step up as well.
Advertising dollars in podcasts will finally surpass the $1 billion mark. According to a July 2020 study from eMarketer, “By the end of 2020, podcast ad spending in the U.S. will reach $782 million, up 10.4% from last year, giving it a 21% share of the U.S. digital radio ad market. And in 2021, spending will jump nearly 45% to $1.13 billion.” As podcast listenership has soared in recent years, ad dollars will continue to follow suit.
Trends in the music industry according to experts
So what does the future of the music industry bring as far as new trends are concerned? Victrola, one of the oldest audio equipment specialists has its own take on the forthcoming trends in the music industry as one of the key elements in the business of audio. “As we set to enter 2021, there’s one thing this year has taught us about the future of music in the digital age: nothing is for certain.”
“For years, fans have waited for their favorite artists to drop their latest album. Also, they wait for the announcement of a multi-city tour. Large-crowd venues are still up in the air as a possibility. So, social media’s popularity, with video streaming and sharing capabilities, has provided the opportunity for musicians and their fans to connect in real-time through live streams. “
Advances in social media can greatly lend to how technology has changed music as fans of today look to connect with musicians on a personal level in addition to a musical one through a variety of platforms. The ability of artists who can do both plays a significant part in their success (above).
Their list of forthcoming trends includes the following:
- Further rise of indie artists;
- Visual albums and music documentaries;
- Algorithm-Based Music Recommendations;
- Alternative Revenue Streams for Musicians;
- Movie and TV Soundtrack Breakout Artists;
- Music Genre Crossover;
- Genre-Less Playlists;
- Return to Live Music.
From Victrola’s list, algorithm-based music recommendations seem to currently have the most impact.
“In today’s world, we’re able to get digital music on-demand through all of our electronic devices. For every music app, audio streaming service, and online search we engage with, data is collected. Based on it, we’re recommended new options based on our listening history. You can instruct the artificial intelligence device to play you a song, album, or playlist. This can be done according to your mood, time of day. Or this can be determined by other artists you’ve listened to before.”
What will new technologies bring to the audio industry?
IBC media organization looks at the technology aspects of audio development. New techniques for capturing and delivering audio will be part of even more immersive experiences. Innovations in audio technology are working to close this gap between location, what we see and what we hear.
“From 360-degree film and virtual reality, to live events, home cinemas, and headphones, we are witnessing the start of an audio revolution.” An audio revolution that is changing the future of how we hear and listen.
For its part, events management company GES points out some of the current developments in audio technology:
- Electronics are getting more efficient;
- Recording and producing audio Consoles are getting smaller;
- Powered speakers are gaining in popularity;
- Effects units are playing a bigger part in the creative process;
- Digital audio-transport technology continues to grow;
- Network control is now virtually in everybody’s palm of their hand;
- New technology allows audio engineers to design their audio systems.
- The audio technology is more and more becoming wireless.
Getting involved in the music industry
What do all these developments, trends, and predictions tell us? It becomes quite obvious that the future of the audio industry is much brighter. Also, that there is ample space for further growth. It is one of the rarer branches that had an upward trend even during the pandemic. Part of the reasons lay in its adaptability to the conditions and further diversification.
But what does that mean for those involved in the industry? Also, for those that need audio and music industry services?
The fast pace of development and sophistication of the technology will more and more demand enlisting the services of audio and music professionals. It could be audio technicians and engineers, voice recording artists, video production, or post-production professionals.
In each of those cases, expertise and experience will play a key role. Particularly in the possible preparation of audio/music material that you need. The competitiveness of the audio/music industry will not allow cutting corners.
But how can you get a quality audio/music product? The one that will at the same time fit within what is the future of the audio industry? Of course, without making any such investment excessive? The answer may lay in enlisting the services of freelance professionals.
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