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TikTok, Fragmentation, and the Future of the Music Industry

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Read the complete transcript of this clip:

Tim Westergren: There are two parallel industries happening at the same time. There's the incumbent one, which is the music industry of popular artists and large fan bases, which is the industry of music. And there's a new one that's coming along that involves millions of musicians and people coming in through TikTok, et cetera. And these are musicians who are not interested in the old model--namely, all my music's available for free on large platforms that make all the money and I make nothing, or I forfeit my future to get signed to some kind of central distributor or a marketer. It's a different approach. And I think that we're going to see that population of artists overtake the artists iof prior years. And I think it's not going to look like it did in the past where it's big tentpole events, big promotions and high production costs, high production diet, those will exist.

I think I'm going to be dwarfed by this population that are coming on and doing things in smaller ways. And I think once that audience of musicians gets its hands on an effective marketing tool--which so far it hasn't--it's going to just go through the roof. And the industry five years from now will not look like it does today. And that, to me, is the most fascinating part of what's happening with online streaming, 'cause it's put tools in the hands of musicians that can go it alone. They haven't had an audience yet, but when you solve that, it's going to be something else.

Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen: And as you say, I look back on the evolution of the music industry, and this began, certainly, long before the pandemic, long before even Pandora or Spotify. If you go back, the mid-1980s was the last era where the blockbuster ruled everything. And we've had blips in between now and then with Beyonce and Coldplay and some of the artists that John mentioned, but the music industry as a whole--and I know we're focusing on music here, and that's partially because of who's on the panel--but the word has always been fragmentation, but that fragmentation has been producing things like BandCamp and SoundCloud where musicians are figuring out ways to monetize and connect with audiences that have never existed before.

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