Music in 2021

Music for this generation and how to create relevant content for them.

Growing up in the 90s, I was an MTV kid.

Growing up in the 90s, I was an MTV kid. Music videos were a way to learn about new artists, what they look like, how they move, what they might be like in person. Who could forget discovering their favourite teenage song, on television? I watched endless hours on American Top 10 (Casey Kasem!), various MTV original programming like Yo! MTV Raps, Headbangers Ball, Beavis and Butthead. As free to air TV were getting privatised in Indonesia, the main TV station RCTI played music videos on rotation as daytime programming filler. These were days where all the music videos were (Official), and thanks to music videos, I definitely had some grunge cut off jeans & flannel outfits mercifully lost in time.

Last year the classic Fleetwood Mac hit 'Dreams' went to the top of viral charts, thanks to a TikTok clip. I don't know if I ever watched the original 'Dreams' music video, but I cannot recall any visuals. What I can recall is that doggface208's look on his skateboard as he cruised down the street, drinking Ocean Spray cranberry juice, after his truck broke down. Ocean Spray later bought him a new truck filled with Ocean Spray. doggface208 gained millions of followers on TikTok and is now a star on the platform. 

Artists do their best to control their image and the visualisation of their work. From album artworks and concert posters to band photos and merch design. For a long time, it's possible to control how songs are used against moving images via strictly controlled synchronisation licenses. Today, it is very difficult, if not impossible to retain such control.

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For millions of music fans today, the phenomenon that is TikTok means the visual identity of songs new and old, is now dependent on the platform. Whatever challenge, viral trend, or one-off video the algorithm decides to push forward, the internet will form an aggregate of visual imagery of each song. Thousands of TikTok videos can be generated hours within a new song's release. Each fan may not see the same visuals and compilation of challenges as one another, but they will mostly like to remember the same 15s clip of each hit song of the day. What works best is usually a dance or challenge that is very eye-catching but simple enough that anyone can dance along to it

In 2020, TikTok was the most downloaded app of the year.

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Artists have also taken up live streaming on Twitch, Live Now, and other similar platforms. Since most concerts and all music festivals in the world have been canceled in 2020 and most likely this year too, performing artists of all genres had to adapt their craft to virtual stages. These are not all basic bedroom studio streams. Some of these virtual concerts like Dua Lipa's Thanksgiving concert and Kiss's New Year's Eve show cost millions to put together.

Many forward-thinking artists and managers have capitalised on digital transformation opportunities. At Collab Asia, we've worked on a lot of promotion campaigns with artists such as Dua Lipa, Justin Bieber, Roddy Rich, and lots more. There is an established understanding in the music industry that getting a song to trend on TikTok will lead to streams on Spotify, the main way of making money off music in 2020. Since touring is not possible this year, or even in 2021, we have seen a massive jump in the number of campaigns on TikTok, Instagram, or YouTube to promote new music.

Even more interesting is that lately, labels are focusing on a country by country focus for promotion, as what trends per country or language on social media platforms differ, as do the Viral 50 charts for every country on Spotify, which has become a focus for a recent promotion. Label managers believe this will lead to crossover success, not to radio stations, but to more playlists with bigger following.

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I do get a lot of flak from more traditional industry types. It's usually along the lines of "it's a fad, it won't last" type of snarky comment. The simple fact is that people are consuming more than even in 2021. Yes, most of it is legacy catalog music, but also new music. There isn't really any other way to promote new music right now. It used to be a lot of touring, a lot of interviews, some radio, some 'digital promo'. Now, it's ALL digital promo. As some artists adapt fast to this new mode of promotion, I would wager they continue with as much emphasis on online promotion even after the show business gets back into full swing.

If you're interested to hear more about online music promotion, please contact me at

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