Over the past several weeks, I’ve been talking with some of our in-house experts here at MAX about their thoughts on the state of music in 2022. To wrap up this series, I’d like to further explore what I thought were some of the most compelling predictions (and give some of my own predictions) about music/marketing/social/tech in 2022.
Marketing Manager @ MAX
How it Started
The inspiration for this series came when I was looking back over how the pandemic affected live events, shutting down concerts, forcing people to find new ways to enjoy live entertainment (and brands to rethink music sponsorship). Prior to the pandemic, brands knew how to sponsor an arena, artist, tour, or festival. Then, suddenly, brands had to learn how to get involved in a now-thriving livestream space in a way that would benefit both brand and artist. MAX has always powered these mutually beneficial brand x artist partnerships and our position at the intersection of music, tech, and marketing allowed us to help brands navigate this new space.
Over time, new tech was developed (including our SET Livestream platform, that I legitimately love watching concerts on) and brands, artists, and producers spent enough time in the livestream world to get better at it. Most importantly, though, people started to become comfortable with this tech. Virtual events that were mostly used only in the business setting became part of everyday life. Zoom became a verb (and then a meme). People began to embrace livestream concerts, even in the earlier days when production tech hadn’t caught up yet. Now, instead of (often) poorly executed, one-way video performances, we’ve seen that livestreams can be beautifully produced, interactive experiences.
Now, we’re coming out of the more restrictive aspects of the pandemic. We’ll definitely still be dealing with it for a while, but many places are lifting mandates and starting to get back to a place that I won’t call normalcy (at least not in pre-2020 terms of normalcy), but we are definitely going to see a strong resurgence of live music.
One of the things on my mind going into 2022 is the question of whether this “return to normal” will mean that we will all go back to live music and that’ll be all we care about? Or is there a new appetite for what we’ve been doing over the past couple of years in terms of virtual experiences?
Hybrid: More Than Fuel-Efficient Cars
Rosemary Waldrip, SVP of Marketing at MAX, predicted that changing preferences and behaviors will lead to an increase in demand for hybrid experiences. One of the benefits of livestream concerts (when done right) is that fans can connect directly with the artist and actually interact with them during the performance. People crave interaction and connection (which, coincidentally, is the main goal we’ve pursued when developing our SET suite of artist tools). When we look at the things that live experiences provide (unfiltered, physicality, excitement) and the things that digital experiences do well (ease of interaction and connection), it becomes apparent that for artists, simply creating content isn’t enough. Artists need to create connective and interactive experiences and live will need to evolve into a hybrid experience where people can both enjoy a show and interact with the artist.
I’m a gamer, so I tend to see things through that lens (and we talked some with Jeff Rosenfeld, Sr. VP Of Product And Technology at MAX about this too). When I think about what draws people to watch livestreams/gamers on Twitch, the truly entertaining part is seeing the actual person and their reactions while they’re gaming. I don’t know that people would pay as much attention to video game streams if it was just the game without a human face present, and the ability to comment, ask questions, and interact with the gamer as they play. The human connection is what makes it compelling, and this goes for artists too. Whether performing via livestream or in-person, there needs to be human connection and interaction, which can be achieved through hybrid experiences.
Health of Live Music Industry
I didn’t get to sit down for a full interview with him, but I did get to talk with Maxwell Zotz, Head of Music & Senior Director, Artist Relations at MAX, about what we’re seeing in the live music arena now. By many accounts, live music is doing well (Live Nation reporting best ticketing quarter ever, tours selling out immediately, indicating an incredible demand for live music), but there are a couple other signals we’re seeing about the health of the live music industry.
In some places, 40% or more of ticket holders aren’t actually showing up to concerts. To me, this indicates that people are excited about going to see live music (or maybe just have a sense of nostalgia for what used to be) but don’t have the motivation to actually go to the shows. Or maybe preferences have changed and people realize that they actually enjoy spending time at home and would prefer a livestream from the comfort of their couch.
The barrier to entry for live music has increased, meaning that not every artist who wants to tour can tour. Between supply chain issues, a shortage of tour buses, labor crunch limiting the number of available technicians, and other expenses, the cost of touring has gone up significantly.
Pre-pandemic, the lifeblood of artists’ personal revenue was touring, so when the costs of touring increase, which artists will still be able to do it? Touring might be too expensive for all but the biggest names. Over the last year, the number of artists producing content doubled. This means that there are a whole lot of new musicians making the live music landscape even more competitive. I believe that long-term appetite for live music will still be there, but there’s a lot of room to grow and mature in the livestream space.
The Metaverse & Brands
In talking with Steve Fullbright, President and COO at MAX, one of the things that resonated with me was the parallel between Second Life and the Metaverse. We’ve seen all of the brands jumping to own a piece of the metaverse, and messaging from Meta saying that soon, all meetings will be held in metaverse, but Steve told a cautionary tale about businesses spending a ton of money and time building a virtual space that just completely flopped. For businesses, I don’t think that people will care a whole lot about any particular brand in the metaverse, but live shopping experiences where an avatar could test out products might be intriguing for people. For brand promotion, brands need to understand that there won’t be much space for a while. The people currently occupying this space are mostly gamers, a lot of them underage, and it’ll be a tough space for brands to find value for a while. In short, do your due diligence to understand how your target audience will be utilizing the metaverse, find ways to integrate naturally in the space, but don’t feel rushed to invest heavily just yet.
Gaming & Music
Steve also believes that the Microsoft acquisition of Activision Blizzard signals that the metaverse will be anchored in gaming and entertainment focused spaces and I completely agree. Like I said before, I’m a gamer. I’ve run an esports organization with a few friends and I play Roblox and Fortnite with my son. I’ve attended a lot of live virtual events already within the gaming sphere (my son loved the Ariana Grande virtual show). The events where attendance was high were definitely cool, novel experiences, but more importantly, they were interactive in more than one way. There was one virtual concert that had an obstacle course around a virtual stage that you could go play on during the show. The music was recorded (not live), but it was still a fully interactive experience and I had a blast with my son.
Another big reason that these types of virtual music events work is because they took place in this space filled with people who were already big fans of Roblox and Fortnite–people who are already kind of living in this pre-metaverse. These virtual universes already exist and people are participating in them in ways that go beyond the traditional ideas of gaming. It’s not always a combative environment you’re interacting with. There are a bunch of creative environments, like Fortnite City where you can go around and “get ingredients” to “make a recipe.” You don’t win anything, you just do it–and there are thousands of people, kids all over the world, participating in this silly task. Microsoft has the right idea: any kind of major adoption of the metaverse will take place in entertainment spaces.
The Metaverse & Music
Music will continue to be an afterthought in the metaverse until we find a way to have live performances from actual artists (not avatars). In a perfect world, a series of 360 cameras could allow you to “attend” a live show and actually interact with your surroundings at a concert or festival and always have the best view of your favorite artist. When VR capabilities get here, and also allow for that hybrid interactive connection, that will take live music to the next level in the virtual space.
Sean Hozumi, Co-Founder and Sr. Director of Advertising Operations at MAX, had a lot of great points about the impact of privacy and policy changes on artists and brands, but to me, the most compelling thing he talked about was testing various platforms to see what works for your brand instead of jumping on the latest trend. It’s tempting to “chase the fad” (I have friends who said Snapchat was dead a couple years ago, people say Facebook is no longer relevant, now people are saying Instagram is losing relevancy), but when we look at performance metrics, Reels often outperforms TikTok. Facebook is still the driving force for brand engagement. YouTube has the highest views for short form content. There’s no denying that there has been some crazy growth with TikTok, but from a performance standpoint, you have to test and see what performs best with your target audience. Don’t go all-in on any one platform. Test every platform and see what works for your brand. Adjust your mix to lean into ones that are most effective and constantly test and rotate out secondary platforms, tweaking content and watching to see if your audience shifts to a new platform.
Artists & Fan Relationships
When I talked with Jeff Rosenfeld, Sr. VP of Product and Technology at MAX, a lot of the focus was on artists’ (and other content creators’) growing frustration with social platforms. I’ve seen a lot of this lately (and especially on TikTok) where artists’ videos are taken down or accounts are frozen for reasons they don’t understand (and that the platforms are not taking the time to explain). Or, they can’t get their content in front of their own fans and followers. One TikTok artist I follow who creates parody music in response to news/politics (and who has millions of followers) recently released an album. When he posted to promote his album, his views plummeted. Suddenly, he couldn’t get his content in front of his viewers unless he paid TikTok to show his videos to his own followers.
In response to this, I see artists trying to push people over to Instagram from TikTok, or TikTok from Facebook, or Snapchat from Instagram, but the real problem isn’t one platform or another. The real problem is that artists are relying on publishers/platforms to push content to their audiences. Increasingly, artists are having to pay these platforms in order to show their content to their fans–fans who have already “opted in” for the artists’ content. Self promotion gets punished.
This is why it’s so important that artists develop a direct relationship with fans and own that relationship, rather than relying on social platforms. By this point, most artists are familiar with the 1000 true fans model of success. In today’s world of relationship building, that model has been supplanted by the 100 true fans model. Owning, fostering, and nurturing a direct relationship with your fans is powerful. Social media is good for awareness and engagement, but should just be the starting point that drives people to a space that you own.
Brands & Relationships
I talked with Matt Henderson, SVP, Business Development at MAX, about having direct relationships with people in the changing landscape of privacy from a brand perspective. In addition to new privacy regulations, changing consumer preferences are shaping the way brands can reach people. Platforms and publishers are proactively changing their privacy practices in order to accommodate younger users who are cautious about what they are willing to accept in terms of data privacy, often leaving brands struggling to find new ways to reach their target audience.
On top of that, fluctuating prices and product offerings, the growing number of platforms, changes in data measurability, unpredictable algorithms, etc., all mean that it’ll be more important than ever for brands to have direct relationships with customers. Owning that data will allow brands to adapt to changing preferences (and the changing legal and economic environment). There will always be a need to spend marketing money on awareness, but from a brand standpoint, it’ll be vital that brands own their relationships (and the first party data that comes with those relationships) in order to efficiently use their marketing dollars.
I didn’t get a chance to sit down with our founder and CEO, Nathan Hanks, for a full interview (yet), but a couple things that were on his mind (and that we hope to dig into with him later) is that this year, there’s the potential that we’ll see a GRAMMY nominated song from a TikTok artist and an increase in fan club NFTs. I’m tempted to rant about my thoughts of NFTs, crypto, and blockchain and how all that will impact music, marketing, and tech…but I think I’ll save that for when I get to pick Nathan’s brain a little more on these topics.
How It’s Going
After an eye opening series of interviews, my big takeaways going forward in 2022 are:
Connection & interaction are key. Use Hybrid experiences to get there.
Own your relationship with fans/consumers (artists and brands).
Don’t chase fads.
Thank you to all of our MAX experts for taking the time to talk to me about their predictions on the State of Music (and marketing/tech/social) in 2022. This was a really fun series to do. I look forward to reading all of these in 2023 and judging everyone on how accurate they were. (kidding, of course!)
My name is Craig Rector and I'm a Marketing Manager here at MAX. I’ve been a MAXer since 2017 and my focus is on the brand marketing side of our business. I'm an early adopter tech nerd, avid gamer, retired musician (Craig Alan), and a complete kid at heart. I'm in charge of our weekly newsletter, the MAXtape (which you should totally sign up for), and I can never decide whether I want a beard or not, so I’m in a constant cycle of growing it out then cutting it off!