By Srishti Das, Mayuyuka Kaunda, Akriti and Akhila Shakar
The music industry in 2024 is poised for a transformative journey as it embraces the convergence of diverse cultural influences, breaking down traditional barriers between different scenes and subcultures. In our first-ever series of predictions, we have broken down our predictions into two sections:
- Top-level industry based
- Scene based
On top of that, we highlighted a few ideas we thought should be given extra attention this year. Our predictions spotlight the rise of cross-cultural collaborations, Pop stars evolving beyond scene constraints, the blending of music cultures, and the revival of Folk elements through innovative sampling. Tyla, a South African breakout star, embodies this trend, seamlessly blending R&B and Pop with Amapiano influences, signalling a new era of global appeal. The shift towards scene-based identity sees the emergence of cultural umbrellas, uniting diverse scenes under shared affinities, as observed in the unifying force of Punjabi music in India. Streaming platforms act as modern gatekeepers, empowering emerging artists to assert creative agency through sampling, fostering inclusivity, and challenging industry norms. The rise of community acts and alternative spaces emphasises inclusivity and control over narratives, with inclusion riders promoting diversity in event lineups.
In scene-based predictions, Amapiano's evolution explores new subgenres, while Afrobeats adopts more EDM elements. Government policies and infrastructural development impact music scenes globally, exemplified by the lifting of bans on cross-collaborations in India and Pakistan. Challenges and opportunities in emerging markets involve bridging the gap between affordability and artist compensation, requiring collaboration with telecommunication providers and policymakers.
We further dive into the essence of exported scenes, which require the balancing of global appeal with cultural authenticity. In 2024, the dynamic music industry fosters collaboration, innovation and inclusivity, shaping a harmonious space where creativity knows no bounds.
Part 1: INDUSTRY BASED TRENDS
- The Stars Of The Future Are Embracing Nuance
As the global cultural world collapses into one, albeit fragmented space, artists who are able to absorb a range of influences into their personas stand to become figureheads. The new age of Pop stardom promises genre-agnostic acts and scenes, by extension. To mitigate the challenges of geographical distance and cultural differences, bridging these gaps requires strategic initiatives and innovative approaches to facilitate meaningful musical exchanges. South Africa’s latest breakout star, Tyla, perfectly epitomises how a new generation of stars can embrace the complexities of trying to appeal to a global audience from an emerging market. The Johannesburg native, who also has the backing of Africa Creative Agency, Wasserman Group and Flourish And Multiply, primarily straddles between R&B and Pop but separates herself from the crowd through subtle infusions of amapiano.
Without limiting herself to mere sonic influence, she taps into the choreography, slang and aesthetics of the subgenre. By proudly carrying her unique identity on her shoulders and displaying her authentic personality, Tyla is both relatable at home and an intriguing person to get to know abroad. In fact, the conversation around her accent has brought up many conversations about her ethnicity, making fans outside South Africa find ways to relate to her even more. Carefully packaging her musicality, fashion sense, and character for a globalised audience, she’s evolving into the perfect poster child for blending the homegrown and international.
The collaboration with Travis Scott on the “Water” remix was a signal towards an understanding of leveraging cross-pollination to enter a new market. We can expect more such crossovers in her other areas of interest as she cements her place as a mainstream act - expect fashion ambassadorships, brand deals in the vein of Flyana Boss (looking at you water brands) and all sorts of remixes that tap into the world of dance culture something similar to JLo’s Venus endorsement and partnership from way back in the day. These approaches would work separately, of course, but as a whole, they represent a star growing with no limitations to explorations of genre, locale or art form. The new age star will embody the intertwined world of their generation whilst proudly promoting their uniqueness. This intertwined nature should extend to the figures behind the scenes - these stars will glow through the diversity of cogs in the machine behind them - like Tyla’s being guided by Epic, an Africa-aligned boutique agency, renowned American firm and management team.
- Rise of Cultural Umbrellas
A profound shift is underway as traditional genre classifications are yielding a more nuanced scene-based approach. Artists and audiences alike are increasingly drawn to scenes as the primary unit of musical identity, challenging the once-rigid constraints of genres and embracing a more fluid and interconnected sonic landscape. This paradigm shift will give rise to the emergence of cultural umbrellas in 2024, where diverse musical scenes will find common ground under shared cultural affinities, transcending geographical and genre boundaries. This evolution signifies a departure from the notion of genres as strict descriptors of sound, allowing for a more dynamic and collaborative exploration of musical expression. The idea of good music just being categorised as “good music” is slowly becoming more prevalent, along with this push to get rid of rigid structures and unwanted herd-mentality-based practices and identities.
In India, at the forefront of this transformative movement is the unifying force of Punjabi music, which serves as a blueprint for the consolidation of diverse scenes under a shared cultural umbrella. The infectious beats and vibrant energy inherent in the Punjabi sound act as a rallying point, attracting artists from various backgrounds who find common creative ground in the celebration of this cultural heritage. The consolidation of scenes under cultural umbrellas is emblematic of a global recognition of shared cultural affinities, fostering collaboration, understanding, and appreciation.
Whilst the consolidation of music scenes under cultural umbrellas presents exciting opportunities for cross-cultural collaboration and artistic exploration, challenges emerge in striking the delicate balance between unity and diversity. Preserving the authenticity of each cultural scene becomes paramount to ensure that the unique essence of diverse backgrounds is not diluted. In this transformative era, where scenes are consolidating under cultural umbrellas, the music industry is experiencing a renaissance, offering artists unparalleled freedom to explore the boundless possibilities of a global and interconnected musical landscape. Hence, it is more than important now that scenes aren’t merely used as trendy topics or just forced into scenarios in order to capture that market. The inclusion has to be natural and genuine for a much wider-ranging effect.
- Oldschool is Newschool
The role of streaming platforms has moved into shaping the discovery of new sounds and propelling the rise of emerging artists. Streaming services serve as the modern-day gatekeepers of musical exploration, offering listeners a vast, curated (algorithmically and hand-picked) space where genres blend seamlessly, and diverse sounds coalesce. For emerging artists, this digital landscape is a fertile ground for innovation and self-expression, catalysing a shift in how they drive and define their own music scenes.
One notable avenue through which emerging artists assert their creative agency is the art of sampling and merging new sounds with old ones. The ease of access to an extensive library of music on streaming platforms empowers Artists to traverse genres, eras, and cultures, effortlessly incorporating elements from the past into their contemporary compositions. Here, sampling becomes a dynamic tool, a means through which emerging talents can experiment with sounds, creating a distinctive sonic identity that transcends conventional genre boundaries. Further, developments in online resources such as Splice and other platforms that already include cleared samples are helping Artists and Producers experiment with new sounds without having to look into the business aspect of things. Many producers are also compiling their sounds and selling them as production packs filled with samples and sounds that are, upon payment, absolutely free and clear to use for the purchaser.
Moreover, this practice of sampling and merging sounds is not merely a creative endeavour; it is a mechanism by which emerging artists are able to bring back music from their heritage and cultural pasts, carve their niche and drive the formation of new music scenes. By blending the old with the new, Artists assert their autonomy, fashioning a unique sonic signature that captures the attention of audiences attuned to boundary-defying music. In turn, streaming platforms act as amplifiers, propelling these novel sounds into the spotlight and catalysing the formation of dedicated communities around these emerging artists.
In this era of musical autonomy, emerging artists are not only driving their own scenes but are also redefining the narrative of what constitutes the ‘mainstream’. The music industry overall is moving at a speedy pace to catch up with this expansion. Through the fusion of diverse influences and the strategic use of sampling, these artists are challenging the conventional hierarchy within the industry, emphasising the democratisation of creativity and the dismantling of traditional barriers to entry.
- The lag time between release and chart spots will increase
Almost all discovery of music, at least at scale, has exclusively become social first. Fewer listeners are finding their next favourite song/artist on an editorial playlist, with editors finding less and less space on the homepage of DSPs for showcasing human curation (this Bloomberg report goes into detail on why). 2024 will see more Tik Tok/Reel-led hits that later cascade into chart hits. This is no new trend. That said, artists and labels have harnessed the power of short format video in driving discovery, in many cases months or years after the original release. In 2023, Obsessed by Riar Saab and Abhijay Sharma broke into national charts after actor Vicky Kaushal included the track in his reel. The song hit charts around June 2023, almost nine months after its release. January 2024 is seeing the rise of ‘Maharani’ by Karun, Lambo Drive, Arpit Bala & Revo Lekhak. This track is rising up the charts 23 months after its original release, sitting at #22 on Spotify’s Global Viral 50.
This track blew up after gaming and meme pages started using the song on reels. This brings us to the second part of this prediction - tracks blowing up on social media will be less ‘by chance’ and more intentional. We can expect music marketeers to tap into engaged non-music communities like gaming, comedy etc. to give new life to catalogue content. This is all in all good news because this reduces dependency on traditional gatekeepers and increases the time and marketing avenues available to a song from weeks to months (and in many cases years).
- Rise of Community Acts and Alternative Space Creation/Business Models
With the rise of community artists, alternative spaces will rise in the coming year. As we’ve seen with the LGBTQIA+ community, it’s quite common to see artists preferring to work within alternative art spaces, art galleries, non-traditional performance venues and public spaces. These artists are moving away from traditional venues primarily due to nightclubs and bars being inaccessible, unsafe for many marginalised communities and catering to a specific set of people who can afford expensive tickets that are heavily focused on bar sales over the message and vision of the artist. Within the music industry, there have always been gatekeepers, and the real question is, how do we keep the gatekeepers out and bring fresh perspectives into the industry?
This is where the need for inclusion riders and alternative spaces and business models arises from - the need to take control of the narrative and build your own community based on your own rules and principles. Step one is opening up access to opportunities because even with the presence of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion sensitivity programs, the industry has taken these programs as a mere marketing strategy or a checklist rather than focusing on effecting actual change. There is a need to assess the specific ways that your creative community can be more diverse and open and the role that you can play in pushing it in that direction — either by stepping up or taking a step back. Think about who you uplift and why.
Another way to propel this would be introducing inclusion or equity riders - provisions in an artist's contract that stipulate that a certain level of diversity is met on an event lineup. DJ/producer Om Unit implemented an inclusion rider in May 2021, calling for Promoters to book at least one person or persons who would be defined as being a member of an under-represented group(s) in electronic music playing on the same stage or bigger (or minimum 20% of the artists, whichever is greater). The term “‘under-represented group(s)’ means people who identify themselves as women, non-binary, Black, Indigenous, people of colour, disabled, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Queer, or any combination of these identifying terms as defined by their own choice or description.”
Last year, Park Min-jun, aka Aoora, one of the most popular South Korean artists, also performed in various malls across the Indian subcontinent, from Chandigarh to Mumbai, engaging and performing for his Indian K-Pop fans and also releasing the K-pop version of late musician Bappi Lahiri's cult song “Jimmy Jimmy.” Korean-American artist Eric Nam, who went independent after his contract with CJ ENM, Stone Music, expired at the end of 2020, also performs for fans in malls and follows with heartfelt meet & greets. Malls are accessible and convenient spaces for fans to engage with their favourite artists, and I think this is an ingenious idea for real community building. We’ll see more of this in 2024 as the trend has caught on with Tamil Diaspora rapper SVDP, who recently posted a part of his music video, further explaining how he has set out to challenge traditional music business models, possibly hinting at web3 replacing DSPs and outdated music models.
Part 2: SCENE-BASED TRENDS
- Amapiano's Evolution
In 2024, new subgenres are expected to emerge and push the boundaries of South Africa's musical landscape. Amapiano, itself an iteration, has several subsets such as Sgija, Private School and Bacardi (which Tyla tapped into for Water). So what lies beyond Amapiano, as it continues to peak and leaves room for different expressions? With 3 Step (or Three-Step) gaining a rise in reputation, will it usher in a new phase of South African dance? Well, its rolling percussion and shuffling shakers mean it's a shoo-in for dancefloors across the world - the universal language of dance is a dependable one to communicate through!
- Afrobeats Beyond Peak
Similar to Amapiano, Afrobeats seems to be reaching its zenith, at least in the commercial sense. In fact, the re-energisation of Afrobeats over the last couple of years is arguably a result of its adoption of Amapiano elements. Fusion has always been at the heart of the genre’s growth, and what has kept it alive, so it’ll be exciting to see where the sound goes next. If there’s anything to make of Ayra Starr’s recent features - high octane collabs NEIKED and David Guetta, more prominent infusions of EDM are the direction Afrobeats is going. There’s also the possibility of the rise of India’piano - and sonic offshoots of this marriage - that sees Afrofusion blended with South Asian aesthetics.
For a more homegrown effort, the re-emergence of the alté blueprint may map the way forward for Afrobeats. This is through the exciting mesh of styles umbrellaed under the term Afrobounce, an iteration of Jersey Bounce that incorporates localised chants and rhythms.
Whether both Afrobeats and Amapaiano look inwards or outwards for their expansion, the dance floor still seems to be primarily where the future of Africa’s most recent breakout genres are set to reinvent themselves.
- The Growing Importance of Government Policy and Infrastructural Development
The consequences of the Mahraganat ban are examined, shedding light on how this restriction influenced musical expression in the affected regions. Even after this, Mahraganat continues to grow popular in North Africa. Similarly, India & Pakistan have a legacy of iconic cross-collaborations right from the 80s until there was a ban on Pakistani artists in music & film for almost seven years due to the Uri Terror Attack in 2016. In October 2023, the ban on Pakistani artists performing in India was lifted by the Bombay High Court, which observed that it was a backward step in promoting cultural harmony, unity, and peace. Sadly, Arts, Culture and Sports have had to bear the brunt of the political unrest between India & Pakistan over the last decade, but as they say, the people always prevail and power to the people.
For Egypt, there is a looming threat similar to that in Nigeria, where artists have consistently looked abroad for opportunities due to a lack of them locally. As a result, the golden era of Afrobeats saw many artists leaving to find their success and future partnerships outside their primary market. For Pakistan, there is an opportunity for the local government to create new policies that enable the development of local scenes and infrastructure, while India remains its largest consumption ground. Good music transcends borders and all political nuances and is seen as an impact of Pasoori. As a result, when local scenes flourish, only then can the music industry thrive. No doubt, Pakistan has exceptional talent within their music scenes, but it still needs corporate and public investments to rely on to reach a global audience.
Things to think about:
- Value Growth in Emerging Markets
In the midst of the Music Industry's global expansion, a critical examination of value growth in emerging markets unveils both opportunities and challenges. The overall surge in music consumption is undeniable, propelled by the digital age's accessibility and widespread connectivity. However, a significant hurdle arises as the adoption of streaming and subscription services encounters barriers in certain emerging markets. Factors such as a low willingness to pay for music services or the prohibitive cost of data in these regions contribute to a slower-than-anticipated growth in the value of the music industry.
While streaming platforms have become the primary conduits for music discovery and consumption in many parts of the world, the prevalence of free, ad-supported models often outweighs the subscription-based alternatives in emerging markets. The challenge lies in striking a balance between providing affordable access to music for diverse audiences and ensuring fair compensation for artists. This dilemma underscores the need for innovative strategies that address the unique economic landscapes of these regions, ensuring that both creators and consumers benefit from the evolving music ecosystem. Another issue is that free subscriptions with ads do not offer lossless or high-quality MP3 playback. Although it is not much of a consideration for the casual listener, it can have a tendency to make the quality of music slightly subpar.
The slow adoption of paid subscriptions can be attributed to various factors, including economic disparities, differing cultural attitudes towards paying for digital content and the relative affordability of alternative entertainment options. Recognising these challenges, the industry must engage in proactive measures to surmount these obstacles and unlock the untapped potential of emerging markets.
To catalyse sustainable growth, the music industry must collaborate with telecommunication providers, policymakers and technology innovators to devise solutions that make music streaming more accessible and affordable. This might involve partnerships that bundle music streaming services with existing telecommunication packages (such as Audopmack x MTN Nigeria or Jio merging its mobile offerings by acquiring Saavn in 2018) or the development of localised pricing models that align with the economic capacities of these markets. Bridging the gap between affordability and artist compensation is then imperative towards fostering a vibrant and inclusive global music landscape.
Furthermore, initiatives focusing on music education and awareness can play a pivotal role in driving value growth. Cultivating an understanding of the value chain among consumers not only enhances the perceived worth of music but also encourages the willingness to contribute to the sustainability of the industry. Such educational efforts can contribute to shifting cultural attitudes towards music consumption and build a foundation for a more robust and equitable ecosystem in emerging markets.
- The Essence of Exported Scenes
Maintaining authenticity becomes a paramount concern as scenes are exported globally. Preserving the essence of each culture while embracing global influences is crucial to ensure that exported scenes remain true to their roots. As Amapiano, Afrobeats and Reggaeton continue to captivate global audiences, questions arise about the potential influence of American music trends on these genres. Balancing global appeal with cultural authenticity becomes essential for the continued success of these musical movements.
This requires more nascent scenes to have a tailored approach to how they package themselves for each new region they interact with rather than complete overhauls. This is clear in how Afrobeats has adapted its entry into the US market over time - the early days employed adopting American sounds, then eventually including verses from American artists, and now we’ve reached a stage where American artists like Gunna are adapting their styles to the sound of Afrobeats. This evolving relationship requires more than studio decisions, and more of these conversations have to become market related. Happily, a new generation of tastemakers - from journalists to A&Rs - is rising as emerging scenes reach new ears across shores. These figures will play a role in ensuring that the stories being told and their presentation do justice to the sounds they illustrate. It may also be wise to formally pair these influential people with actors like social media commentators and independent documenters of culture so the ears and eyes of the streets have a direct line to the boardroom.
Concluding our outlook for 2024, the music industry stands at the threshold of a transformative journey, embracing a convergence of diverse cultural influences that breaks down traditional barriers, paving the way for global collaboration. The forecast anticipates a surge in cross-cultural collaborations, propelling genre-agnostic Pop stars and facilitating the fusion of music cultures. Artists like Tyla, Rema, King, Eric Nam, etc., have been chosen by their communities to represent them on a global stage. 2024 will be the start of an era focused on nuanced marketing and artist development. Artists are freer than ever before to draw their own path, whether independently or in the hands of a powerhouse.
Noteworthy trends emphasise the significance of cultural umbrellas, uniting diverse scenes under shared affinities. Streaming platforms emerge as modern gatekeepers, granting emerging artists the agency to challenge industry norms through sampling and self-expression. Scene-based predictions delve into the evolution of Amapiano, Afrobeats, and the impact of government policies, revealing the delicate balance between unity and diversity.
Inclusivity takes centre stage, with the ascent of community acts and alternative spaces championing control over narratives and genuine diversity. As exported scenes navigate the global stage, preserving authenticity amid global influences becomes paramount, ensuring that the essence of each culture remains intact. The music industry of 2024 is a vibrant mosaic of collaboration, innovation, and inclusivity. Artists break free from traditional constraints, celebrating tradition while embracing forward-thinking approaches. As we step into this future, the forecast inspires anticipation for a musical landscape reflecting the rich tapestry of global creativity. The stage is set for a journey where artists, united by diversity, continue to shape a harmonious and limitless world of music.