"we're on the cusp of a new golden age in music" - spotify and youtube sound off about music in 2017
This article originally appeared in The Sounding Off Issue, no. 350, Winter 2017.
Lyor Cohen, YouTube's Global Head of Music
You know what I miss? Celebrations. I'm not talking about personal ones; I manage to make plenty of those. I'm talking about the times when peers would celebrate each other's successes.
Around 30 years ago, I spent a lot of time on the Lower East Side of Manhattan with people who cared about hip-hop. Into early mornings, we went deep at the 10th Street Bathhouse, Save the Robots, Time Cafe, Indochine. Artists, managers, labels, business people.
It didn't matter which stripes you wore because we were all in it together. Society and the music business at large misunderstood rap, and that bonded us together. Any time someone made it, that was a success for us all because it was a recognition of our collective triumph.When did that stop? Why did we stop celebrating each other?
Much has changed in the industry since then and it's been a challenge for many. The internet arrived. The world changed. And music changed with it. Consolidation happened and now we have fewer upstarts.
"We're on the cusp of a new golden age in music. But to really activate the new golden age, we need to have each other's backs. We need to see the bigger picture. To remember that we're in this music business together."
Sometimes there's even this feeling that to succeed you need to see someone else fail. But it's not a zero sum game.
We're on the cusp of a new golden age in music. The industry is growing thanks to subscriptions and advertising. Artists can create, speak their mind, find fans, and make money along the way. Fans in every corner of the world can listen to an incredibly diverse range of music like never before and follow their favourite artists every step of the way.
But to really activate the new golden age, we need to have each other's backs. We need to see the bigger picture. To remember that we're in this music business together. We do it because we love the magic of bringing something new into the world that's never been heard before, we love fans who sing along to every word, and we love the excitement of a new track taking off and an artist being born.
We need to continue to look for true artistry. We need more creative impresarios like Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss of A&M. Even in this time of consolidation we need to find a place for bold ideas and big risks.
This isn't an elegy to times past. I'm a huge optimist, and I truly believe the music industry is having a renaissance. But we'll only get there if we remember to take a breath, take chances, and support each other.
Austin Daboh, Senior Editor UK, Spotify
As a fan of music, I love that fact Spotify has created a 'middle class' of young artists that can exist and thrive without the support of a traditional label deal or gatekeepers. Previously you had the haves and have nots – you were either a signed artist attempting to have chart hits and earning dough, or you were in a weird limbo with an underground following but no mainstream support to monetise into a sustainable career.
In 2018 we'll see the continued rise of the 'unsigned giants' gatecrashing the charts and racking up millions of streams based on schoolyard hype and playlist support alone. Birmingham rapper MIST is a great example of this.