There have been few events, if any, in living memory that have been as disruptive and volatile as the global coronavirus pandemic. However, this rapidly changing environment can yield new opportunities for the music industry. As the world gradually starts opening up again, here are some of the key areas that are worth the attention of the sync sector:
- Live Streamed Performances
- Independent Artists
- Nostalgic Catalogue
- SVOD’s Acceleration
- The Return of Sports
- Interactive Synchronisation
As we mentioned in our crisis article, innovation and adaptability are key aspects of coming out on top of a crisis. The world has changed significantly and hopefully, these areas will inspire some ideas to help weather the storm.
Live Streamed Performances
The most notable and immediate casualty in the entertainment industry has been the live music sector, which effectively shut down overnight. Although the direct experience of live music could not possibly be replicated in the digital realm, it hasn’t stopped the rise of quarantine concerts. The demand for live music remains, and there are even plans for artists to begin charging fans to access these live streams, something that may not have occurred so quickly without the influence of a global lockdown.
If quarantine concerts become monetised through advertising, well-placed synchronisations could become a great tool for new artist discovery.
Where audiences grow, advertisers are sure to follow. If quarantine concerts become monetised through advertising, well-placed synchronisations could become a great tool for new artist discovery. For example, a popular artist receives a large viewership for their live performance. Synching a related but lesser-known artist to an advert within this video exposes their music to an audience that may be more likely to engage with them and the ad. As live music is increasingly consumed as a form of visual media, there are surely more opportunities within this space that were certainly not as prevalent before.
This crisis has had a significant effect on the supply chain of major labels. Artists signed to these labels are typically involved in a larger interdependent process where they collaborate with other songwriters, artists and studios. However, working from home isn’t quite as straightforward, especially as research has shown collaboration across virtual platforms leads to less participation and satisfaction. Furthermore, recording is a process that requires a performer to be present on-site at a studio unless they have their own recording equipment, which even then could be insufficient if they are living in a loud and unsuitable home recording environment.
As releases from signed and established artists get put on hold, independent artists who self-produce and manage their own productions can fill the supply void.
Although there have been some impressive individually driven lockdown albums (thank you Charli XCX), many productions and releases are being put on hold. This could especially be the case for recording artists that are part of groups or artists that need to record instruments in a studio, for example, string orchestras. However, as releases from signed and established artists get put on hold, independent artists who self-produce and manage their own productions can fill the supply void.
This could give music supervisors an opportunity to discover brand new artists and potentially give them a platform via sync that may have otherwise gone to a signed artist, furthering the rapid growth of the independent artist segment, which is already the fastest-growing segment in the music industry.
The pandemic has been an incredibly difficult and stressful time for many, with unemployment rates soaring, the global death toll rising, and people generally feeling anxious and uncertain about the future. One of the most profound effects of this is a loss of sense of purpose. However, studies have found that the feeling of nostalgia has an existential function that can increase a sense of meaning in life. And nothing evokes a sense of nostalgia quite like music.
It makes sense that streams of catalogue hits have increased during the pandemic as a source of psychological comfort for consumers, and companies and brands are starting to capitalise on this. Take this recent Walmart commercial, for example, which uses David Bowie’s “Heroes”, a popular classic that has particular poignancy when paying tribute to frontline workers.
There is a high incentive for advertising companies to license nostalgic catalogue songs and recordings, giving catalogue-rich rights holders leverage to negotiate more favourable deals.
Nostalgia has significant commercial value as research shows it helps make consumers more willing to make purchases. There is a high incentive for advertising companies to license nostalgic catalogue songs and recordings, giving catalogue-rich rights holders leverage to negotiate more favourable deals.
A lot of consumers listen to music on their daily commute, something which, for now, no longer exists for most people. As a result, there has been a decrease in the amount of music consumed in transit and music is competing for attention more than it ever has with film, television and video games.
Nothing quite encapsulates this like the growth of streaming video on demand (SVOD). However, the film industry, like the live music sector, has seen its operations immediately shut down by the pandemic. The production of major film and television programmes has been significantly disrupted, with many projects put on hold or cancelled altogether. Other significant challenges remain, particularly with regards to box office revenues, which are predicted to plunge by more than 50% in 2020.
With cinemas closed, many films are skipping theatrical releases altogether and going straight to digital. This has helped to accelerate the growth of SVOD adoption worldwide.
With cinemas closed, many films are skipping theatrical releases altogether and going straight to digital. This has helped to accelerate the growth of SVOD adoption worldwide, with Disney+ seeing a 4.5 million increase in users over April, and Netflix adding 15.8 million subscribers in Q1, more than double the 7.2 million that they expected. This puts more emphasis on deals with streaming services, with Beyoncé’s $60 million Netflix deal last year demonstrating just how much these platforms have to offer.
Having written about Netflix’s content budget prior to the crisis, it will be interesting to see how their strategy might change in light of recent events. If production costs increase due to stricter health regulation, could there be less experimentation and heavier bets on established narratives? For instance, The Witcher proved to be a huge success, partly because of its popularity as a video game. Whilst it’s hard to tell at this stage, it’s clear that SVOD growth and engagement is accelerating. This should definitely be considered as sync departments look to licence not just music, but audiovisual assets in this new landscape.
The Return of Sports
Live sports have also been significantly disrupted as a result of the pandemic. The shutdown of sporting events, like live music, has been almost immediate and with it, a massive amount of advertising revenue and performance royalties have been lost. The postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games is probably the most high profile and costly example of this, with many expressing doubt as to whether it will be able to go ahead, even for the rescheduled dates in 2021.
This may seem bleak but there could be great opportunities on the horizon as the demand for sports reaches an all-time high. The return of the Bundesliga scored record TV ratings in Germany and beyond, and the NFL Draft saw a record viewership of 55 million over 3 days. This also demonstrates the potential opportunities for music as the NFL Draft included a variety of polished home performances to make the at-home format more exciting.
Perhaps there are ways yet to be explored for music to compliment closed door events and make them a more entertaining experience for audiences across the world.
Although it seems the widespread resumption of sports will take place behind closed doors, resulting in a diminished entertainment experience, these events still have the potential to deliver huge audiences. Music synched to advertisements across these events will still create a platform for any artist to promote their music and increase their fanbase. But perhaps there are ways yet to be explored for music to compliment closed door events and make them a more entertaining experience for audiences across the world.
The video game industry is poised to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic as well as it could have hoped for. MIDiA Research outlines many favourable factors related to the production and consumption of games that tie into this. For example, game production can be largely carried out remotely with the right technology, and gaming can be a facilitator of digital socialisation in a time of lockdown and isolation, and can also easily engage users in long sessions. Most importantly for the sync sector and the music industry is the potential for interactive entertainment events.
Most importantly for the sync sector and the music industry is the potential for interactive entertainment events.
The development of live entertainment within video games was seen in February 2019 with the collaboration between Fortnite and the artist Marshmello, an event which attracted over 10 million attendees. During the pandemic, Fortnite created a more ambitious and stunning in-game concert with rapper Travis Scott, which was viewed by almost 30 million unique players, and is approaching 50 million YouTube views at the time of writing.
A key difference between these events is that the latter has been created under the lockdown conditions of the pandemic, meaning that developers were reportedly able to programme the animations from home. The infrastructure and huge audience that a game like Fortnite provides makes it a great example of the opportunities that can exist for sync in substitution for the decline in film and television programming, especially in a world that has been socially transformed.
However, a key factor holding this back from becoming the norm is the skills shortage of key roles across the video game industry. It’s no surprise, therefore, that we’re seeing the likes of Sony Music and TikTok recruiting for teams of professionals “dedicated to reimagining music through immersive media”. In a future of augmented and virtual reality, the music industry would do well to not be outpaced by the technological developments in interactive entertainment.
Like the rest of the world, the majority of the entertainment industry has been stunned by the scale of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Synchronisation, with its interrelated operations across many divisions of entertainment and media, is able to offer a glimpse as to how the music industry can capitalise on the engaged audiences that exist in other forms of entertainment.
There are without a doubt challenges to be addressed, but this situation has revealed opportunities that may have otherwise remained hidden. Although 2020 is going to be a rough year, there’s still plenty of positivity to find when looking to the future.