Portrait of smiling young Asian woman with eyes closed enjoying music over headphones and using smartphone, relaxing on the balcony against sunlight.

Music trends coming in 2021

Entertainment as we know it has changed drastically over the last year.  With the pandemic, many forms of entertainment needed to find a way to engage fans online, especially as in-person concerts and meet-and-greets were put on hold indefinitely.  The landscape of music in particular has been changing for a while, moving from primarily physical sales to streaming platforms and awareness through social media. As we are getting out of the lockdown in the United Kingdom, live music events are restarting and pubs like The Rocksteady are also resuming their live music events.

The developments in technology have also drastically changed how music reaches its audience, with algorithms on various platforms curating playlists and recommendations for hundreds of millions of users. These developments, along with so many others, have contributed to the changing trends that we expect to continue to see in 2021.  Here are a few of the highlights:

Genre-less playlists: With the rise of streaming platforms and social media, the presence of siloed listeners to various genres is declining.  Because there is so much variety available at the fingertips of users, they are more adventurous in exploring different genres.  With all genres of music being present in the same marketplace, this cross-pollination of audiences has expanded the reach of individual artists.

Singles instead of Albums: Because the music industry no longer relies on the distribution of a physical product (CD or Vinyl) artists can now continue to stay relevant without having to produce a full body of music.  This allows artists to put out music more frequently and reduces the cost of introducing new artists, as a whole album is not necessary to bring a new artist to the spotlight.  A great example is Olivia Rodrigo, whose single “Driver’s License” broke multiple records. 

Fan-Based economy: Social media has always been a powerful vehicle for musicians to connect with their fans, and this was especially true in 2020 when concerts and tours came to a screeching halt. Social media was the way for artists to stay relevant and continue to engage with fans so they would not lose interest.  The band BTS has paved the way for this landscape, with their fan army demonstrating how powerful having a motivated and dedicated fanbase can change the game, and how social media and online content can build a strong foundation for an artist without the extra facilities that a label might think is necessary. 

Indie artists: As the engagement between artist and fans becomes more and more direct through social media, artists no longer seek out a major label for their “big break”.  Now, all it takes is a viral moment on social media.  In this way, indie artists can grow their fan base by capturing their attention and then uploading their own content to an Instagram or Youtube page.  This also encourages major labels to follow this strategy, giving their artists more of a voice and creativity so the connection with fans is more organic, and therefore more successful. 

Live Events: With the complete stop of live events in 2020, fans are itching for the return of live events in 2021.  Entertainers need to get more creative with these events, offering drive-in events or live streams.  With a year of being at home, fans would eagerly look forward to these kinds of adaptations.  How exactly this will pan out is yet to be seen, but there is energy building up – a big opportunity for those looking to take advantage.  If the roaring 20s are any indication, there is a large burst of energy that is on its way after this pandemic.  

Music and live entertainment are constantly evolving, and this pandemic forced the industry to accelerate that change. As things slowly start to open up,  it will be interesting to see how fans consume media and attempt to make up for a year of lost experiences as fast as possible, and how artists and their companies will work to keep up.