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Trends in Music to Know as an Artist

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Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

“How does a trend in music even affect me?” you might ask. “I’m an independent artist!” From dance crazes like the Charleston and the Twist to apps like Spotify and TikTok, the music trend has been around before Edison even invented the wax cylinder.

Being ahead of music trends often is a matter of luck, circumstance, and happy accident; most of us respond to trends rather than instigate them. While being perceived as a trend-chaser can be hazardous to your music career, there are many who have flourished in the wake of trends. Many bands were able to ride the wave of the Beatles’ success by wearing matching outfits and playing rock n’ roll. After Nirvana broke, being loud and melodic became de rigueur and many popular artists jumped on the trending sound.

While it’s most important to focus on making the best music you can make regardless of what’s going on in the larger music landscape, being aware of current trends in music keeps you connected to the world around you and is imperative if you are making pop music.

Understanding the changing music landscape

Being aware of a music trend means not just paying attention to what genres are most popular but also what technologies are being used, what formats are selling the most, and which apps are creating viral moments for music. When you are aware of what is going on, you can respond to it; your response might be a reaction against, a reaction for, or neutral, but without awareness you won’t even know to respond.

A trend in music, like bedroom pop, can catapult a previously unknown artist from obscurity to fame. While this doesn’t always translate into long-term success, it certainly doesn’t hurt either. For example, several artists for whom MySpace was crucial in the beginning of their careers are still recording and performing — Adele, Arctic Monkeys, Panic! At The Disco, and Sean Kingston, to name but a few.

Streaming dominance

Streaming has become the primary way most people listen to music. It is estimated that in 2023, the worldwide streaming market will reach a revenue of $25.84 billion. In addition, streaming platform apps besides Spotify are growing as consumers are starting to demand better-sounding files and better pay for artists. Services like Qobuz that offer high resolution files have lowered their prices to reach the average listener.

While it is difficult to make money from streaming due to the questionable royalty practices and rates of the big streaming companies, it is still possible for independent artists to reach listeners on platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, and YouTube. The sheer volume of subscribers and convenience of use make streaming services a solid option for introducing people to your music; it can be helpful to think of streaming as a marketing expense and less of a revenue stream, however upside down that might seem.

The resurgence of vinyl

Vinyl records have been making a comeback since the mid 2000s. Last year, vinyl sales overtook that of CDs for the first time since the ’80s, earning $1.2 billion vs. CDs $483 million. The myriad of reasons for the increase in vinyl record sales — nostalgia, the joy of owning a physical object, sound quality — mean that vinyl as a format and music trend is not going away any time soon.

While there are still delays in vinyl manufacturing due to high demand and the scarcity of vinyl presses, it still can be beneficial to both indie and established artists to release their projects on vinyl. Vinyl records have a high profit margin and the market for them continues to grow. If you can afford to make them, vinyl records have a certain cachet of legitimacy and can set you apart from other acts that may not have them available for sale.

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The role of social media

When we examine a current trend in music, it usually involves social media and especially TikTok. The amount of people posting videos and music on TikTok means there is much opportunity for artists to get involved and make their music available for use. TikTok’s ability to make anything go viral has leveled the playing field for indie artists to compete against pop stars like Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo.

Instagram is another platform where music can be presented in videos up to 60 minutes long and in shorter form on Stories; the multimedia configuration of Instagram makes it suitable for marketing your music.

It can be difficult to engage followers on social media these days. Even a music trend competes for attention in the algorithm, especially with corporations paying big money for advertising. But a combination of consistent creative and engaging posts, two-way interaction with fans, connecting with followers, and advertising can pay great dividends. It’s helpful to know the intricacies of each app and study others who are successful on there to maximize your own chances of building a fanbase.

Genre blending and innovation

One current trend in music especially prevalent on Soundcloud is genre-mixing and the creation of microgenres. Drift phonk, amapiano, slowcore, and Eurodance are just some of hybrids that have popped up. The good news about creating your own microgenre is that inventing your own niche means that you can dominate it instantly; the drawback is that narrowly defined genres usually have a limited shelf-life.

The plethora of music available to the average consumer now means that listeners are searching for exciting and unusual sounds more than ever before. The use of modern classical music on social media and especially in YouTube videos is an actual current music trend. Some of this music sounds very much like the European classical music of the 17th and 18th centuries; some of it is more experimental and ambient. The bottom line is that whatever challenging and exciting sounds you are motivated to record, there is probably room for it on a playlist somewhere.

Sustainability in music production

Live music touring has long been a source of carbon emissions. In this time of climate change where the trend in music is to become more eco-friendly, established musicians are becoming aware of their carbon footprint and, with the help of organizations like REVERB, taking steps to make their live concerts and entire tours eco-friendlier.

As an independent artist, it can be challenging to know where your efforts to be eco-friendly might pay off, and sometimes you’re not in the financial position to make the green choice. It’s important to remember that activism is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor; “do what you can” is the key. If you can afford to take steps in an eco-friendly direction, there are plenty of small actions you can take — including singing and writing songs to change people’s minds! Take one step at a time and remember that activism can take many forms.

The Musician's Guide to Vinyl

Chris Huff

About Chris Huff

Chris Huff has been a professional singer, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and producer for over 25 years. He has worked as a sideman with Peter Yarrow (Peter, Paul, and Mary), Echo and the Bunnymen, Chuck Hammer (David Bowie, Lou Reed), and Tom Kitt (Broadway composer of Next To Normal). Chris also wrote liner notes for David Bowie’s Live And Well CD, and his full-length album, 'bout Time is available on iTunes.

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