CALL IT A RIOT, revolution, or regime change — the music business today looks nothing like what came before it. Thanks to the fierce pace of tech advancement and the insatiability of young, internet-grown audiences, the multibillion-dollar global industry is an entrepreneur’s playground. Record-label bosses share a throne with engineers and algorithms; artists and songwriters are wresting real control of their empires for the first time.
“Hail to the artists, because they’re winning,” music mogul Jimmy Iovine mused, prophetically, in 2019. Only two years later, it’s not just artists wielding new power: Under the peculiar shadow of the pandemic year, the music business — sputtering in a worldwide concert shutdown — has also been forced to forge new revenue streams, fumble about in a digital Wild West, and tear down even more of its legacy hierarchy to make room for upstart outsiders. So what will albums’ creation, release, and consumption look like in the wake of all this sea change? What are the whirlwind innovations to come, and the treacherous pitfalls to avoid, in the next five, 10, 50 years of music? From AI artists and bedroom beatmaking to cryptocurrency concert tickets and virtual-reality festivals, here are the next great waves poised to overtake the strange, twisty business of hit-making. Welcome to the future of music issue. Read it here, or pick it up in print.