Alan Cross’s 10 predictions for the world of music in 2024 – National

As we get closer to the one-quarter mark of the 21st century, it may seem that things are changing faster than ever before, especially in the areas of culture and media. I deal with music for a living and even I can’t keep up with everything that’s going on. But I think I can see things clearly enough to make some predictions and observations for music in 2024.

1. Music will become even more fragmented

In the olden days, we got all our music in measured doses by record labels, radio, music magazines, record stores and video channels. Today, everything ever recorded is available to us all the time. There’s no one place — like the radio or MuchMusic — where we all go to hear/see the artists that everyone is talking about. Consensus on what’s “good” and who’s “big” has completely broken down. There’s no centre to music anymore. With the exception of a few acts, “big” has never been smaller.

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Few acts unite us as they once did. There was a time when we all ran to the record store to get that one album everyone was talking about. We handed over cold, hard cash, making a financial investment in the artist. Today, there’s so much music to choose from for zero cash layout. We spend all our time idly hitting the “skip” button. We’re all overwhelmed. Music has become devalued. Today’s stars are smaller than those from days of yore.

By way of proof, American radio chart analyst Guy Zapoleon pointed out that 2023 had fewer “consensus hits” — songs that were featured on at least 50 per cent of America’s top 40 stations — than any previous year. How many? Just 18, down from 28 in 2020.

Meanwhile, there seems to be a growing disenchantment with current music. About 75 per cent of all music consumed today is older than two years. That’s not going to change.

2. The algorithms will continue to distort music

Recommendation algorithms used to be essential for working our way through music discovery. Now, though, they seem to be pushing us to things that are easily monetized instead of fulfilling our needs. If you feel that you’re being served up material that you don’t care about, you’re not alone.

Meanwhile, bot farms, fake streams, poor enforcement/moderation and AI clones are just going to make things even more confusing and frustrating.

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3. TikTok could be even more of a game-changer in 2024

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TikTok has been one of the world’s most popular apps for a couple of years now. The company realizes that continued growth will depend on deeper integration of licensed music into the platform. Once it has TikTok Music, its streaming service, up and running in more countries, watch for some seismic changes in how the industry reacts.

4. Music streamers will have to consolidate — eventually

I’ve been premature with this prediction before, but it’s got to happen sometime. Right now, there are too many platforms chasing subscribers for a rapidly maturing business model. Why did Spotify CEO Daniel Ek announce major layoffs just before Christmas? Because he and his board see rough times ahead. Spotify is going into lean-and-mean mode. Meanwhile, all streamers remain hamstrung by the licensing deals under which they must work. As soon as more money comes in, more money goes out in lockstep. There’s no opportunity for efficiencies and synergies that will increase margins.

Spotify has a market cap of almost US$40 billion and has the reserves to continue to play the long game. Apple Music will survive, thanks to the fact that the parent company is worth over US$3 trillion. Anything Alphabet does (YouTube, YouTube Music) is also safe. Amazon Music has Jeff Bezos. But what about Tidal, Qobuz, Deezer, Napster and everyone else? How long can they stay independent?

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5. The language of popular music will continue to evolve

It used to be that if you wanted a global hit, you had to sing in English. Not anymore. Thanks to the widespread availability of cheap streaming music, songs are free to flow anywhere they want. Latin music has exploded. K-pop is everywhere. It’s only a matter of time before we see global hits emerging from India, China and Africa.

6. The AI-and-music panic will subside

Right now, everyone sees AI as a threat to humanity in music. But we’ve seen this movie before with the rise of synthesizers (“They’re killing jobs for musicians!”), drum machines (“Human drummers will become extinct!”) and sampling (“All music will end up just being recycled bits!”). It’ll take a few more years to sort out all the legalities and ethics of this new technology, but we’ll soon wonder how we all did without AI. Just like we did with synths, drum machines and sampling.

7. We will lose more beloved musicians

With so many of our legends in their 70s and 80s, it’s just a matter of time. Prepare yourself.

8. We will finally have music that sounds as good as what we had in the ’70s

A couple of generations have grown up on the inferior audio quality of MP3s and their ilk. Convenient and portable, yes. Good-sounding audio? No. But with the rise of new tech (Dolby ATMOS, Sony 360, Apple Spatial Audio, Hi-Res Audio) we’re approaching an era where music will not only sound better than MP3s and other compressed formats but better than CDs. A few things still need to be worked out (proper decoding hardware on phones, more bandwidth to allow for wireless listening), but we’ve turned a corner when it comes to getting back to proper high-fidelity music.

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9. We may finally say enough is enough to high ticket prices

Acts have been pushing hard to see how much fans are willing to pay to see a show. So far, though, fans haven’t reached the breaking point. Funflation — the idea of spending more and more money on fun things because the world seems so crazy that going to a gig is one way of coping with one existential crisis after another — can’t go on indefinitely. Once artists and promoters start seeing rows and rows of empty seats, they’ll know that we’ve reached our limit.

10. The Taylor Swift/Travis Kelce thing will end badly

Talk about a marketing powerhouse. Kelce was already a star when he crossed paths with Tay-Tay, so when their relationship became public, they became a Richard Burton-Liz Taylor-style phenomenon.

Their tryst has been a win-win for everyone, including the NFL, which has seen ratings in certain demos skyrocket. A sizable portion of the population is invested in the couple, but for the story to be complete, it has to end with a tragic breakup. More than one person has written that if the Kansas City Chiefs tank down the stretch and into the playoffs, Swift will be made into a scapegoat by Chiefs fans for causing such a distraction. I’ve already seen her referred to as “Yoko” a number of times. But just think of the songs she will get out of it!

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That may end up being the start of the Tay-Tay backlash. You can’t become as ubiquitous as Taylor Swift is now forever. At some point, people will begin to tire of hearing and reading about her every day. It won’t be the end of her, however. She’s proven far too savvy when it comes to managing her career and she’ll survive any downturn. But Taylormania as we know it right now will subside. That’ll be a nice break.

Alan Cross is a broadcaster with Q107 and 102.1 the Edge and a commentator for Global News.

Subscribe to Alan’s Ongoing History of New Music Podcast now on Apple Podcast or Google Play

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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