2020, to put it mildly, was not a good year for the music industry. Many facets of the music industry were hit particularly hard. Most strikingly, revenue from live music plunged by 75%. For many artists whose primary source of revenue is from performing live, 2020 was a particularly brutal year. For many musicians, who were already struggling to make a living wage, 2020 was a major setback.
My personal income from both performing live and from online sales all took a major hit in 2020. My income from performing live went to zero for most of the year, due to local lockdowns and regulations imposed due to Covid. My income from internet sales of music business related products, which I’ve used to supplement my income for over a decade, also declined pretty sharply in 2020. This downturn was primarily due to the overall downturn of the economy at large and the fact that the music industry and musicians, who are my primary demographic, were hit particularly hard economically due to the pandemic.
The only revenue stream that I saw an increase in, over 2019, was licensing and publishing revenue. 2020 was one of the best years I’ve had in licensing in several years. I signed five new publishing and licensing deals for multiple songs in 2020 and earned consistent revenue from sync and performance royalties throughout the year. I’ve never been happier to be a musician involved in sync than in 2020.
Although 2020 was a monumentally difficult year for the music industry, and how quickly things will rebound remains to be seen, there is reason for long term optimism. Goldman Sachs’s new “Music in the Air” report forecasts that, long term, the music industry is expected to grow in several key areas.
Revenue from streaming is expected to increase by 18% over the next decade. In terms of live music, 79% of music fans have indicated they will return to seeing live music events within four months of restrictions on public gatherings being lifted. 74% of people polled also say they will continue to watch live stream concerts post-pandemic.
“According to researchers, the pandemic will “accelerate the shift” from offline to online music, prompt more “reliance on social media and streaming for music discovery and promotion,” and up direct-to-consumer efforts in merchandising and live-streaming.” According to the “Music In The Air” study, “While user time spent may shift away from music streaming to other forms of entertainment in the short term, overall we believe the industry’s long-term growth outlook is intact, driven by the secular growth of paid streaming, growing demand for music content and live events, new licensing opportunities (e.g. TikTok), and positive regulatory developments,” the report finds.”
The forecast is for the music industry at large to hit $142 billion in revenue by 2030, up 84% from $77 billion in 2019.
Music publishing revenue actually increased 3.5% in 2020 over 2019 and is expected to continue to grow in 2021 and beyond.
So, while 2020 was undeniably a really difficult year for the music industry and for most musicians, there are reasons to be cautiously optimistic about the future. Music isn’t going anywhere and one day, in the hopefully not too distant future, this pandemic and its negative impact on the music industry will be in the rear-view mirror.
In the meantime, my humble opinion is that musicians should double down on what’s still working. Focus on things like licensing and publishing, that for the most part, have not been negatively impacted by the pandemic. Work on growing your catalog and repertoire and build connections and plant seeds now, so that you’ll see things come into fruition in the next few years.
2020 sucked for musicians, there’s no way to sugar coat it. According to a recent study conducted by Encore Musicians, 64% of musicians are considering quitting music altogether. I get it. We all have financial needs and making money from music is challenging even in the best of times, let alone during a pandemic.
With that said, we won’t be going through this situation forever. As my research points to, long term forecasts for the music industry are optimistic about the future of the industry. If you can get through this, undeniably rough patch, there are better days ahead.
This too shall pass.
How were you impacted as a musician in 2020? What lessons have you learned? Were you able to find any silver linings? How optimistic are you about 2021 and going forward as a musician? I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments, the good, bad and the ugly.
The blog of musician and thinker of deep thoughts, Aaron Davison.