The Winners and Losers of the Music Industry | What has changed?

In the past 10 years, the way we consume music has changed drastically, yet musicians are still trying to promote themselves using the exact same techniques. Whatever your role in the music industry, it’s key you adapt with the times with the aim to get music placed where people are actually listening. In order for you to gain the most success in your music career, it’s essential you’re following the consumer statistics, watching out for new platforms and testing every new promotional technique you can. This blog post is going to break down the recent changes and explain how you can use them to your advantage, rather than complaining and feeling stuck.

Having worked in the music industry for multiple years, we’ve seen the major changes that have impacted musician’s lives, income and success. The consumption of music is nothing like it used to be, so our promotional methods shouldn’t be either.

Spotify Killed the Radiostar

The main change in the music industry, which is having huge impact, is how people are consuming their music. A recent study showed that in 2018, 55% of people listen to new music via video stream, 23% with paid subscriptions and 22% using free audio streaming. With consumption of music so different to what it was, the aim should be to focus on these new platforms where your audience will be. The Mid-Year Music Report revealed that in the first half of 2018, Americans streamed 403 billion songs, via video and audio services. That’s nearly 100 billion songs more than what they streamed during the whole of 2015, when streaming accounted for as much as half of US music revenue. Statistics don’t lie, and you can’t get around them, so instead you should be using this to your advantage and see streaming as a greater chance of success rather than a step back.

Going Viral Without A Promotor

Alongside streaming is the growth in social media. Close to half the world’s population (3.03 billion people) are on some type of social media, that means your music is able to have a potential reach of half of the world with a click of a button, and the best part is, it’s free. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are free platforms for musicians to promote their music to as big an audience as they can draw in. 15 years ago, Facebook wasn’t even launched, meaning artists had to push their music using traditional promotional techniques such as sending their CDs to radio stations or magazine editors. Now, there are multiple social media platforms, with many features that can help in promoting your music e.g. Instagram Stories, Facebook Live and IGTV, which we’ll go into more detail later. People complain about the amount of social media platforms there are, how often they change and how sometimes you have to have a budget to get in front of the right audience but be thankful we have these free platforms in the first place, as you can’t complain about something that’s being given to you for free.

Instagram stories music promotion

Making Money Unsigned

Everyone is now able to get their music out there due to low cost distribution and again social media. With distribution dirt cheap or even free, any artist can have their music uploaded to streaming services, which was never before possible. Artists that wanted their music recorded and listened to use to have to have money, which quite often meant a large label behind them. Now, anyone can have their music online, giving all artists a chance of success. With it being easier to distribute music and streaming becoming more popular, this means revenue for artists is a lot higher too, with 2017 seeing music sales rise by 8.1 percent to $17.3 billion. For example, American singer-songwriter Vérité has made a living off of Spotify streams, stating, “the ability to make a living somewhere between starving artist and international pop/rock/other star has never been more within reach.” We’re in an era where unsigned artists don’t need to be doing stadium tours, be signed to a major label or have money constantly pumped into advertising, but instead can upload a track to multiple platforms and the money can start coming in.

Mix and Master From your Bedroom

Not only is the distribution low cost, but so is the digital production. Digital audio software such as Logic Pro, offers artists a complete professional recording studio from the comfort of their home. With time and effort, an artist can record and produce their own music, rather than needing a large budget to secure recording time, a producer, mixer etc. YouTube offers tutorials for everything an artist needs, allowing anyone to produce as much music as they can on a budget. There’s a massive rise in artists showing the world that a tune created on GarageBand can be just as popular as a studio produced, high budget track so why not be the next bedroom big name?

Say Goodbye to Ticket Touts

Streaming services have not only helped with revenue, but also live music sales, with Spotify generating $40+m in ticket sales in 2017. Global concert sales have hit a record high in the first half of 2018, with so many platforms offering the opportunity for artist to list their gig dates, popular platforms such as Spotify, Facebook and Google work in favour of the artist, leading to live music sales growth. Google recently released a new list of changing rules for websites that resell tickets, transforming the way tickets are sold, improving the experience for both the musicians and the fans, and YouTube partnered with Ticketmaster to sell concert tickets on artist’s video pages so all these platforms are working to your advantage.

NME Didn’t Stop Printing for No Reason

The transformation from paper to digital isn’t just a change we’ve seen in music but seems to be one of the most drastic within the music industry. With NME closing their print edition after 66 years, it was clear that the music industry no longer loved print like it did. The transformation to digital was huge, for years blogs dominated the music space on the internet. This took years for business models to change, with outlets such as Complex succeeding in the digital space because they created a model that made money off the web, unlike other areas that stuck to their old model, not diverting away from print. This is a similar issue again as this digital age is forever changing but not everyone can keep up. There are endless amounts of music blogs, just search the term ‘music news’ or ‘music reviews’ on Google and you’ll be there for days, but no one really knows what the next wave will be, that’s why it’s key you keep yourself up to date with this complicated evolution. With streaming services rocketing up, blogs have had to start creating playlists. With video streaming becoming so popular, blogs have begun to produce YouTube content to reach a larger audience. NME stated that as they are now only digital, they have to change their strategy to be profitable, with editor Charlotte Gunn saying, “As part of its strategy, NME will also look to incorporate sponsored and native content, start live events and expand their ticket offering”. But not everyone is adjusting with the times and those who don’t, will be left behind.


An individual that has started to hack this complicated, ever changing industry is Carl Hitchborn, CEO of High Time Records. Many of you won’t know who he is, maybe because he spent his early life as a baker, but now Hitchborn is the CEO of artist management house, record company, music publisher, merchandise, branding hub and independent concert promoter, High Time, best known for their success with The Hunna.

Hitchborn’s story is pretty crazy, but very representative of how the music industry now works, by being creative in this digital age. In an interview with Music Business Worldwide, Carl explained how he went about promoting The Hunna: “I went to Virgin, Lloyds and Barclays, got three new credit cards – £5,000 on each one. We made a 45-second sizzle video for no money, then in September/October 2014, we literally spent the entire £15,000 in seven days on social media marketing. And then it went boom.”

Basically, Hitchborn put a large budget behind Facebook advertising until you couldn’t ignore The Hunna anymore. Carl took everything he learnt from the bread making business and applied it to the music industry using 3 simple rules:

  1. Make sure the product is better than anyone else’s
  2. Don’t scrimp on the deal you cut your supplies, or it will impact their loyalty and motivation
  3. Target your marketing to your key captive clientele

The Hunna are currently sat at over 80 million Spotify streams, 307k Facebook likes and 77.4k Instagram followers. You can’t argue with that.

Carl Hitchborn is just one example of someone changing with the times in the music industry and proof that it’s necessary for success.

Start Dominating the Industry Today

You must use these changes to your advantage. I wouldn’t even call them changes, but more improvements to the music industry, offering all artists a fairer chance of success. Below is breaking down the main changes to the industry we discussed prior and looking into what you can do to take on these changes head first, pushing your music to the top.

Social Media

Let’s start with social media. As we’ve mentioned, social media is constantly changing, and although complicated, its complexity works to your advantage if you stay up to date. With Facebook’s new algorithm introduced in early 2018, which prioritises posts which create a meaningful conversation and display it to those who interact with you most, most people see Facebook as a lost cause for promoting their music – wrong. By creating a content strategy, pumping money into Facebook advertising like Carl Hitchborn and following an ongoing theme, Facebook is the perfect platform to get your music in front of the right people. The constant changes also mean that if you are on top of things, you can steam ahead of the other artists stuck in the past.

Alongside Facebook promotion is Instagram, who have recently introduced many features specifically beneficial for musicians. Firstly, we have IGTV, the new Instagram feature and app, which allows long-form videos. Tech experts are estimating IGTV to be a dominant player in the social media industry, meaning if you as an artist jump on this before others, you’ll be ahead of the game. You can create content for your existing followers, have your music video uploaded directly onto the platform and also look at influencer marketing, which we will discuss further below. Another feature recently introduced that’ll benefit musicians is allowing soundtracks on Instagram stories. You simply pick a song to play before you record a video and you can drag and drop the track onto your story like the sticker feature. This will allow fans to sing along to their favourite bands, have it in the background or simply promote the track as a sticker, giving artists immediate promotion.

You can read more on how to promote your music using social media here –

Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing was unheard of just 10 years ago, now results of a national survey show 70% of millennial consumers are influenced by recommendations they see on socials. Influencer marketing is a phenomenon of modern marketing and should be a major focus point for the music industry, like it is for every other industry currently. 74% of people trust social networks to guide them to purchase decisions, so if you’re not working with influencers, you could be losing out to your competition.

Instagram currently leads as a global platform for influencer marketing, soon followed by YouTube, so these are the current focus platforms. With influencer marketing for musicians, you need to focus on what your product is, the music, and how influencers can promote it in a casual but effective manner. YouTubers are constantly on the lookout for non-copyright music, similar to Instagram stars with the new copyright rules, so simply message these influencers offering your music and whitelisting their channel. They’ll be getting something out of it, as much as you are. However, many influencers will be looking for payment, so set aside a budget, as it’s definitely worth it to get your music in front of a wider audience.


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