Alan Cross: 11 predictions for music in 2022

Alan Cross predicts that TikTok will become even more of a monster when it comes to music in 2022. © Xinhua via ZUMA Press

Like you, Omicron has bummed me out. Just as we thought things were getting better, COVID-19 wiggles its spikes into a new configuration and suddenly December 2021 felt a lot like March 2020. But maybe we should have seen this coming. This pandemic mirrors many of the things that happened with the great influenza pandemic in 1918-20. If this continues to hold true, then we should see a major recovery by the spring.

That’s my first prediction for 2022. Here are a few other things that I predict for the coming year.

1. TikTok will become even more of a monster when it comes to music

Once TikTok struck licensing deals with the recorded music industry, the platform — now the third-largest social media network on the planet — became a huge source of revenue for labels and artists. We’ve already seen dozens of performers who blew 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” that was the sixth most-popular alternative/rock TikTok track in the universe in 2021. They released that song in 2008.

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Over the last 12 months, 430 songs surpassed more than a billion views last year, three times as many as in 2020. Over 175 songs charted on the Billboard Hot 100, double that of the previous year. Expect a similar jump in 2022. When you have 755 million monthly users, many of which are looking for music, weird and wonderful things can happen. What those things may be are still TBD.

2. The vinyl shortage will continue, opening the doors to a revival of the CD

I can’t remember the last time I bought a compact disc because if I’m buying anything it’s vinyl. But thanks to worldwide production issues and material shortages, orders for new vinyl have been harder to fill and prices have skyrocketed. This admittedly is a long shot, but might the recorded industry return to the CD as a physical alternative to vinyl? Maybe — at least until the vinyl supply chain works itself out. An interesting note: The CD was first introduced to the world in late 1982, so this year marks the format’s 40th anniversary. That just screams some kind of commemoration, doesn’t it?

3. We’ll be so sick of the pandemic that concert attendance will explode next summer

We saw indications of this in some parts of the world this past summer with packed arenas, stadiums, and festivals. But then Delta hit, leading to a huge jump in ticketholder no-shows (40 per cent in the U.S., up to 50 per cent in the U.K.). But once winter passes, booster shots are administered, and new treatments appear (yay, Pfizer COVID pill!), people will once again attend live music events in droves. And please don’t even bring up the idea of yet another variant to mess with our lives.

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4. Speaking of concerts, some old favourites will be back on the road

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? None have toured since COVID-19 hit. And do you blame them? Many of these performers are in their late 60s and early 70s, and having lived lives full of sex and drugs, probably have some kind of underlying conditions. No wonder they’ve been staying home. That, however, will come to an end by mid-2022.

5. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) will see more integration with music

People have been predicting a new metaverse of music for years, but the technology is starting to catch up to the promise. Yes, more acts will continue to perform virtually in environments like Fortnite, but that’s only the beginning. As Facebook moves towards being Meta coupled with the arrival of a mixed reality headset from Apple sometime in 2022, music will be one of the gateway drugs into whatever early forms the metaverse will take.

6. More heritage artists will sell their catalogues

Why did Bruce Springsteen sell his life’s work to Sony? Tax purposes. Sure, he could have collected regular royalty cheques for the rest of his life, but under U.S. tax rules, that money is treated as regular income, meaning that it’s taxed at a very high rate, perhaps as high as 50 per cent. Take all that money up front and it’s considered capital gains. The tax rate for that is around 20 per cent. Any questions?

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There’s still a lot of money sloshing around for these sorts of purchases. Sting’s name has been mentioned a lot. Bob Seger, too. Gene Simmons of KISS told me he’s open to the idea as long as the price is right. And as long as the rate of return on these song catalogues exceeds that of the rate of inflation, it remains a solid long-term strategy.

7. Speaking of heritage artists selling their catalogues…

Companies like Primary Wave and Hipgnosis have shelled out billions of dollars to buy song catalogues. Now comes the hard part: They have to make their money back. That can only be done by keeping this music alive for longer than it otherwise would have. Expect to see a lot more of this Boomer-created rock appear everywhere in popular culture, from product licensing to placement in TV shows and movies to merchandising. Another way to generate cash is to entice younger artists to cover these songs, so don’t be surprised if you start hearing plenty of new versions of old songs.

8. Streaming’s dominance will continue — but not as you might think

Canadians are reliably streaming more than two billion songs a week now with on-demand audio streams ahead by nearly 13 per cent over 2020. Older folk who grew up with physical media are slowly getting into the game, especially when they realize how easy it is to instantly access virtually every song ever recorded from wherever they are. And they don’t want the new stuff, either. While the Drakes and The Weeknds of the world get all the press for being in the Spotify Top 200, the truth is 66 per cent of all streams are of songs more than 18 months old. That’s where the real growth lies. Watch for streamers to push older music more and more.

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9. Streaming royalty payments will slowly change for artists

The buzz phrase is “artist-centric royalty payments.” This is a process whereby if you have a subscription to a streaming music service, your monthly fee will go to the artists you listen to. That’s how Spotify and Apple Music work now. At the end of each month, they look at which artists had the biggest percentage of streams and distribute revenue based on those percentages. That means the money you pay most likely doesn’t go to the artists you actually listened to. The superstars keep getting more super while niche artists get hurt. But now that SoundCloud and Tidal are getting into the artist-centric headspace, there could be a shift to this new and more fair form of artist remuneration.

10. More NFTs are coming

I don’t get it. It seems that everyone wants a piece of this trend, but I’ll pass, thank you. If you’re into this sort of thing, don’t be surprised to see sites like Bandcamp get into the game.

11. Spotify will become the worldwide king for podcast distribution

Apple practically invented the podcast game more than a decade-and-a-half ago. But in its quest to be all things audio to everyone, Spotify has caught up to Apple, and in some territories, moved into first place. The company is so serious about podcasts, it has a new campus in downtown Los Angeles internally called “Pod City” that features 18 podcast studios and a performance stage. Your move, Apple.


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