With the final days of 2019 comes the finale to a revolutionary decade that disrupted the music industry.
A bit of cultural context: The decade kicked off in January 2010 with a rising Lady Gaga dominating the global charts with her breakout track, “Bad Romance,” Taylor Swift taking home the GRAMMY for Album Of The Year for Fearless and a (very) young Justin Bieber breaking into the mainstream with early single, “Baby.” Later in the year, Apple would release its first-ever iPad and Instagram would debut in the world. Other major developments would follow later in the decade: Spotify launches in the U.S. in 2011; and Apple Music and YouTube Music hit the scene, while Jay-Z acquires and rebrands Tidal, the latter three milestones all happening in 2015.
As music and technology evolved in parallel at lightning speed, the music industry paradigm of yesteryear began to shift. Social media, which would soon allow a direct line of communication between artist and fan, broke down walls. Music fans, once fed a top-down stream of culture and content, became the tastemakers. And the music industry as a whole largely pivoted from a sales-based business model to a streaming-heavy consumption model.
As the decade comes to a close and enters a new era, The Recording Academy reflects on 10 moments and developments that forever changed the music landscape for the listener, the artist and the biz itself in the 2010s.
The Rise Of Streaming Services
Nowadays, music fans are accustomed to having complete on-demand access to millions of songs at the convenient touch of a button. That’s all thanks to major streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube Music, Tidal and Amazon Music, which have collectively helped shift the consumption of music from ownership-focused to access-based via subscription models.
Read: Who Ruled Music Streaming In 2019?
Today, streaming accounts for approximately 80 percent of the music industry’s revenue. Culturally, playlists are now a primary source for new-music discovery, becoming powerful launch pads for artists and labels and largely replacing traditional tastemakers and gatekeepers like radio and music blogs. As well, major streaming services have helped discover and proliferate niche genres and global sounds. Chances are you’ll still discover your next favorite artist, album and song on a streaming service 10 years from now.
Hip-Hop Reigns Supreme
The 2010s saw hip-hop reach a new level. Trap, a rap subgenre popularized in the early 2000s and rooted in the American South, reached mainstream crossover success when artists like Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry integrated the sound into their pop-centric music. The genre also birthed today’s leading rap stars and producers, including Future, Migos, Gucci Mane, Sonny Digital, Metro Boomin and Mike WiLL Made-It.
Most recently, the so-called “SoundCloud rap” explosion has launched the careers of bona fide stars like Post Malone, Lil Pump, Trippie Redd, Lil Tecca and Rico Nasty. By 2018, the scene achieved its first chart-topping album via the late South Florida rapper XXXTentacion, who’s second artist album, ?, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart in the U.S. last March. Chicago SoundCloud rapper Juice WRLD, who died earlier this month, continued the streak when his second album, Death Race For Love, topped the Billboard 200 chart this past March.
Read: Find Out Who’s Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards
Bolstered by the rise of streaming—Chance The Rapper‘s 2016 mixtape, Coloring Book, became the first streaming-only album to reach the Billboard 200 charts and win a GRAMMY—hip-hop and R&B surpassed rock as the most popular genre in the U.S. for the first time ever in 2017. What lies ahead for the genre is both a mystery and a wide-open opportunity.
The Latin Music Explosion
Where the 2000s popularized regional and niche sounds like bachata and banda, the 2010s saw Latin music skew toward urban and contemporary styles, setting the stage for urbano, the umbrella term encompassing genres like reggaeton, Latin trap, dembow and more, to reach critical mass.
The decade’s Latin music victor is the undeniably catchy, omnipresent international breakout hit “Despacito” from Luis Fonsi featuring Daddy Yankee. Released in January 2017, the track, which claims the top spot for the most-streamed music video of all time, set off the so-called “Despacito effect,” a music industry phenomenon that consequently ushered in an avalanche of Spanish-language hits and mainstream pop crossovers. The international success of the Spanish-language track ultimately helped break down cultural and language barriers across the global pop spectrum.
Read: Los Angeles’ First Permanent Latin Music Gallery Launches At GRAMMY Museum
K-pop, Afrobeats And The Globalization Of Pop
One of the most notable changes in the pop landscape this decade comes in a rainbow array of languages and cultures: the globalization of pop, led by the international sounds of K-pop from Korea and Afrobeats from West Africa and the wider diaspora.
While modern K-pop dates back to the ’90s, the genre reached true international scale in 2012 with the arrival of Psy‘s breakthrough viral hit, “Gangnam Style.” The track’s official music video would eventually become the first video ever to reach 1 billion views on YouTube, once standing as the most-viewed clip on the video-sharing platform.
Psy and “Gangnam Style” set the stage for the K-Pop explosion in the U.S. and across the globe: BLACKPINK became the first K-pop girl group to perform at Coachella in 2019 and BTS became the first K-pop act to top the Billboard 200 chart via their 2018 album, Love Yourself: Tear.
Read: Why is K-pop’s popularity exploding in the United States?
Currently, Afrobeats is the next international sound sweeping pop music. Major stars like Kanye West and Rick Ross have all collaborated with Afrobeats acts. Drake‘s 2016 international hit “One Dance,” once the most-streamed song on Spotify, featured Nigerian Afrobeats artist Wizkid, who would go on to sign with RCA Records in what became the biggest record deal ever for an African artist. This past July, Beyoncé released The Lion King: The Gift, the soundtrack album to the 2019 Lion King remake, which featured African and Afrobeats artists like Wizkid, Burna Boy, Mr Eazi and many others. With major labels like Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group betting on Afrobeats, all eyes are now on Africa.
Social Media Makes Impact
With nine out of 10 regular social media users partaking in music- or artist-related activities on social apps and 63 percent of users employing social media technology to discover new artists, social media’s massive impact on the music industry is virtually immeasurable.
Most notably, social media has broken down the walls once separating artists from listeners. Musicians can now use multiple social media avenues to directly communicate with fans, and vice versa, creating a “bond” between the two parties like never before. On a business front, social media has changed the A&R and music discovery game forever: Shawn Mendes blew up on Vine, Tori Kelly built her career off YouTube videos and Cardi B was an Instagram star before she was a chart-topping rapper.
Read: Lil Nas X’s No. 1 Run Began With TikTok, Now The Music Industry Is Taking Notice
Social media marketing, led by memes, social media challenges, viral songs and dance challenges, is the next wave for the music industry. Today, the video-sharing social network TikTok, which introduced Lil Nas X and his viral hit, “Old Town Road,” to the world is being touted as the future of the biz.
Beyoncé And The “Surprise Album” Formula
Nine Inch Nails‘ immersive marketing campaign for Year Zero and Radiohead‘s pay-what-you-want model for In Rainbows may have shocked the music industry, but Beyoncé completely subverted the system when she surprise-dropped her self-titled album in December 2013. The 23-time GRAMMY champ dropped Beyoncé, marketed as a “visual album” comprising 17 videos to coincide with the project’s 14 tracks, with zero advance notice, skipping the months-long marketing and promotional campaigns that have become the industry standard for artists of pop-star stature.
Read: J Balvin & Bad Bunny Drop Surprise Album ‘Oasis,’ Release Sensual Single “Que Pretendes
The unconventional formula worked: Beyoncé debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart in the U.S. and once stood as the fastest-selling album ever on the iTunes Store. The success behind the album’s surprise-drop approach sparked an industry trend, and newfound marketing tactic, that saw everyone from J Balvin and Bad Bunny to little sister Solange following in Beyoncé’s gold-dusted footsteps.
Music Festival Inc.
Music festivals have been a part of American music history since the days of Woodstock and Monterey Pop Festival in the late ’60s. Over the past decade, however, the culture and business of music festivals have developed from a DIY approach to a fully fledged industry. In 2017, Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, which celebrated its 20-year anniversary this past April, became the first reoccurring festival franchise to gross more than $100 million, with a total gross of $114.6 million that year. Goldenvoice, the organizers behind Coachella, also holds the overall record for all-time top festival gross for its 2016 event Desert Trip, which brought in a record-breaking $160 million in 2016.
In addition to big payouts for festival producers and headlining artists alike, festivals have also become a creative playground for ambitious acts. Coachella alone has been the home to many milestone moments and industry-wide trends and developments over the past decade, including multiple band reunions (OutKast, Guns N’ Roses, N.W.A); the genesis of the booming hologram concert industry; and Beyoncé’s game-changing Homecoming headlining performance in 2018. Today, festivals worldwide serve as a breeding ground for artistic ambition and a launch pad for the new, now and next in music technology.
“Hamilton” And The Mainstreaming of Jukebox Musicals
On paper, “Hamilton” reads like an unlikely premise: a hip-hop Broadway musical based on the life of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. What unfolded was an even unlikelier run: 11 Tony Awards, a Broadway box office record and a Pulitzer Prize(!). Since its original off-Broadway debut in New York City in 2015, “Hamilton” has been unstoppable. The show’s multiplatinum-certified original Broadway cast recording, released by Atlantic Records in September 2015, went on to peak at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart and topped the Top Rap Albums chart. It also took home a GRAMMY for Best Musical Theater Album for 2015, while the show’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, received the President’s Merit Award from the Latin Recording Academy in 2017. Elsewhere, The Hamilton Mixtape, a 2016 follow-up mixtape album featuring original and deleted songs from the musical, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart.
Read: How Hip-Hop & “Hamilton” Are Transforming An 8th Grade History Class
The breakout success of “Hamilton” has since launched Broadway culture and musicals into the global mainstream unlike any other production before it, shining a new light on the art form and introducing a younger generation to the medium. Its lasting legacy has also initiated a wave of jukebox musicals, pop-music-inspired shows and productions, with everyone from The Temptations (“Ain’t Too Proud“) to Tina Turner (“Tina: The Musical“) receiving the Broadway treatment.
EDM Conquers The Global Dance Floor
In the 2010s, EDM went mainstream. Beloved pop icons crossed onto the dance floor via full-on dance-pop collaborations: Rihanna featuring Calvin Harris, Jack Ü (Diplo x Skrillex) with Justin Bieber, Steve Aoki and One Direction‘s Louis Tomlinson. Even Britney Spears dabbled in dubstep on her 2011 No. 1 pop hit “Hold It Against Me.”
This decade also saw EDM fully infiltrating the GRAMMYs. In the same year dubstep wunderkind Skrillex swept the dance/electronic category in 2012, Canadian electronic artist/producer deadmau5 and French dance legend David Guetta joined Chris Brown, Lil Wayne and Foo Fighters onstage for a televised cross-genre performance. Two years later, in 2014, French electronic icons Daft Punk would win big at the GRAMMYs for their 2013 album Random Access Memories, which took home major awards, including Album Of The Year and Record Of The Year for lead single “Get Lucky.”
Watch: Daft Punk, Pharrell Williams win Album Of The Year
Today, EDM artists are among the highest-paid musicians across the board—Calvin Harris ($38.5 million), Marshmello ($40 million) and The Chainsmokers ($46 million) raked in big bucks in 2019 alone—and continue to headline international festivals like Coachella, Lollapalooza and Glastonbury. What was once an underground subculture is now the soundtrack to the future.
The Convergence Of Gaming And Music
Counting more than 2 billion gamers around the world and with the potential to become a $300 billion industry by 2025, today’s video game market is thriving. It’s no surprise, then, that the music industry wants in on the action. While video games and music have gone hand in hand since the days of “Super Mario Bros.” in the mid-’80s, the convergence of the two worlds hit its peak in the 2010s. These days, the music biz is leaning heavily into the gaming industry to unlock new revenue streams, reach new listeners and bolster marketing campaigns.
Video games have always provided a healthy income for major artists via licensing deals: Famously, Aerosmith made more money from their 2008 video game, “Guitar Hero: Aerosmith,” than from any of their albums. Still, the current wave of video game and music crossovers takes the approach to the next level via virtual concerts. This past February, superstar producer/DJ Marshmello performed an exclusive in-game “concert” in “Fortnite,” a massively popular online video game, that attracted more than 10.7 million people. A clip of the performance has since garnered +45 million views on YouTube. Following the concert, Marshmello released Marshmello Fortnite Extended Set, a DJ mix album based on the virtual performance, which topped Billboard’s Top Dance/Electronic Albums chart in the U.S. With video games and music now at the forefront of pop culture, the two industries will continue to push into the future together.
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