5 Music Predictions for 2021

2020: it’s been a year. We’ve gone from music festivals to online concerts, and consistent album releases to a borderline hiatus. Artists are learning to navigate this new, digital music world, and I think they’ve set up 2021 for what could be some impressive options. As always, these potential feats come with their risks, but I don’t think this newfound digital music world is going to go away anytime soon.

Here are my predictions for music in 2021:

Music in Digital Fitness Will Continue Its Growth, Despite A COVID Vaccine, and Instructors Have Adopted Their Role As the New Radio DJs

Since the closing of gyms due to the pandemic, people have found their own ways to workout at home. People are taking more walks than they ever have; trying a Zoom group workout; and, quite especially, gravitating towards the flood of fitness apps right at their fingertips. 

During the pandemic alone, the number of health and fitness app downloads has globally increased by 46%, as has the number of daily active users. Some in-person fitness programs have added alternative options for their users. ClassPass, a company that gives members the ability to take fitness classes from different venues, began offering livestream and on-demand classes during the pandemic. 81% of members participated in these online classes.

Beyond that, instructors are becoming DJs. Instructors curate their classes towards their clients, and offer introduction to new song releases and remixes, even during a digital age when the music production world has slowed down a bit. Labels are paying attention and have considered fitness as the new music distribution channel for years.

So, do I think digital fitness will cease or slow after a vaccine? No, I don’t. People will likely think twice about going to a gym. There was a time we wiped sweat and grime off equipment, well, because it was gross. Now, we will do it so we don’t get sick and infect others. A survey by Mindbody reported that participants said they will still take virtual classes, even after gyms reopen. Feed.fm’s own research also supports that 70% of respondents are working out more at home post-COVID than pre-COVID. It’s been a pretty revolutionary year for the digital fitness world. Peloton is now even rumored to be one of the top music players and actually eating some market share from Spotify, Apple and the other top music streaming services. 

Live Streaming Is Here to Stay

It goes without saying that this year, live music took a brutal hit. Concerts were cancelled, and we really weren’t certain when live music would return. But artists found alternatives, making concerts more accessible for even more people. Livestream music has let listeners turn their own homes into personal concert venues. Friends can connect virtually and stream concerts together. 

Artists have been able to collaborate more easily, and have even been able to interact directly with fans through Q&As, storytelling, and virtual meet-and-greets. Some virtual concerts even feature songs that have yet to be released. Artists have been able to give back through these events, donating proceeds of earnings to charities from educational programs to COVID-19 relief efforts.

Digital live music has given artists the opportunity to connect with audiences that haven’t previously been in the venue. In doing so, they’ve pushed their reach even further. I think this is just the beginning for digital live music. Direct-to-fan engagement through digital channels will become the norm for artists’ marketing strategies, with or without a label.

Live Music Will Come Back, But It Will Be Different

We’ve already seen live music come back, but it’s not going to be crowds of people spilling their beer all over each other. Concerts have already restarted, in forms of drive-in concerts from your car, and pop-up shows featured on roofs

There have to be precautions taken, but I think these events are doable. People can drive into an outdoor venue, socially-distance their cars, and listen to live music comfortably. Musicians are curating their spaces towards what concerts look like during a pandemic–– and it’s working.

Yes, eventually people forget even the worst of times.  The vaccine will succeed and memories of the pandemic will fade.  People will eventually come back to venues to watch live music in droves – but the question is when will that happen? My guess is that it things will come back during festival season in 2022 and fans will go bonkers. Perhaps it will be the Roaring 20s all over again, but this time the Roaring 2020s. In the interim, let’s hope venues can figure out a way to make ends meet while audiences remain at home.

An Increase in the Sale of Publishing Catalogs

In an attempt to pull in more money, musicians have begun selling their song catalogs. When their catalogs are sold, they typically lose their ongoing income and royalty rights to each song. One particularly notable catalog sale was that of The Beatles when Michael Jackson outbid Paul McCartney.  Fortunately, in 2017 after a 50 year fight, McCartney was able to reclaim ownership rights in a private transaction with Sony ATV.

Right now, the value of catalog sales are higher than ever they’ve been, which is mostly due to low interest rates and a strong market of bidders. Because of these low interest rates, buyers are able to find cheap debt financing to buy catalogs. However, that has driven prices up prompting some notable sales. Bob Dylan recently sold his entire catalog to Universal for between $300 to $400 million. Stevie Nicks sold 80% of her rights, as well.

As musicians find it more difficult to make money (especially, it seems, those later in their careers), they’re turning to catalog sales. I think we’ll continue to see an increase in these sales from private equity and other buyers who can use leverage to make large acquisitions.

Artists Have Either Disappeared, Or Used Quarantine to Their Advantage

It seems that artists have gone either one way or the other during the pandemic: heads in the sand, or intensely focused on songwriting and figuring out ways to make it out of the pandemic successfully, as an artist. 

Some artists have really felt the hit of the pandemic due to their inability to perform live , in-person concerts, while others (most notably Taylor Swift) have really used this quarantined time to their advantage. Swift published two albums during the pandemic, folklore and evermore, turning her home into a music studio. She worked with Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner over FaceTime, and went on to record a special with them for Disney+. Both albums resulted in enormous success, with folklore spending six weeks as #1 on the Billboard 200.

It’s promising and inspiring to see how artists can tackle both songwriting and the digital music world amidst a pandemic. But it does involve a surge of productivity, and a commitment to it, at that. Let’s hope that musicians that have given up on their artistic careers to get through COVID will be able to return to doing what they and their fans love.

Most of us agree that 2020 was a year that we want to forget.  But it did pave the way for new digital communication from the comforts of one’s home.  This may be a revolutionary first we’ve seen of music in a digital age, but it isn’t the last. Artists have leveled up their innovation, and recognized that not everyone is going to be comfortable with going back to in-person events, even in a vaccinated world. 2020 has laid the groundwork for future digital music revolution, and 2021 will hopefully lead us back to normalcy, perhaps a new normalcy.

8 Reasons Why Startup Founders Think Like Skateboarders

Thought I should try to document the hours of time and multiple bruises associated with learning a basic skateboard sequence of dropping in and then executing a rock-to-fakie.

Posted by Jeff Yasuda on Sunday, September 22, 2019

As the age-old saying goes, practice makes perfect, right? In basketball, you might practice shooting hoops again and again with the dream of becoming Steph Curry, hitting three-pointers from any range. In golf, hours at the driving range will hopefully improve your inside-out swing, groove muscle-memory and lower your handicap. Mainstream sports are engulfed in the idea of refining and perfecting these fundamentals. 

However, all of this is quite different in the newest sport (or perhaps anti-sport) added to the Olympics: Skateboarding. Skateboarders (aka skaters) need not only have the fundamentals: leg strength, sense of timing, coordination, stamina and incredible balance, but they also need a repertoire of tricks and most importantly, the perseverance to execute.

Skateboard pros aren’t pros just because they can flawlessly execute fundamentals. They aren’t just really good at doing one thing like a 3-pointer. They are pros because they’re learning more movements or tricks, trying them out and, eventually, executing them seamlessly, often in sequence. Skateboarders not only have this constant need to keep redefining their style, but also a drive to learn something new. They need to learn something bigger, faster and more technical to stay at the top. In many cases, the more difficult or scarier, the better. It is a drive to try new things in order to get better… all of the time.

It’s a process of continuous improvement.

It takes a combination of preparation and trial error. You have to prepare yourself well by creating goals, researching, seeking guidance, and envisioning yourself accomplishing this trick. Finally, you just try it and see what happens.  

It’s extremely rare that you nail a trick the first time. Usually, you make several attempts, fail multiple times, learn, try again and sometimes you injure yourself forcing you to take a break from the entire process.. But that’s the cycle: you fail, you learn, you fail again, until you get better, and most importantly, you stay persistent. It’s all trial and error until there’s a small break-through, that bit of learning that gets you to the next step. Watch this amazing video of how this skater tried and tried and tried to land this crazy trick.

For startup entrepreneurs, this cycle probably sounds familiar. I’ve realized that this slow, gradual and often painful process of learning a new trick is a lot like running a young company. It’s all about failing, getting back up, brushing yourself off, and continuing to try until you execute. As someone who has been skateboarding since I was a kid, I believe the parallels are incredibly similar. Let’s get into the mind of a skater and perhaps it can help us become better entrepreneurs.

Stage One: Creating Goals

Set a goal for yourself. It can be daunting to reach that goal. It puts you out of your comfort zone, knowing that hard work, injury, and failure all lie ahead. For me, in skateboarding, my most recent goal was a rock-to-fakie. I shared my video earlier in this post

Brainstorm a plan for this goal and something to work on every day. Your goal’s practice should be a “non-negotiable” part of your day. Diligence and perseverance become your greatest allies. Breaking it down into small steps can help make the goal less daunting.

Stage Two: Research

It’s always important to learn more about your craft and the goal you’re trying to reach. Sisters often watch and learn from other skaters to see what they did and get inspired. Read about what other people have done and how you can play off of their strengths and weaknesses. Learn about the difficulty level and the risks that you would be taking. It’s important to expose yourself to examples of the skills you’re trying to accomplish. Questions are just as important in order to become proficient in a skill. 

Stage Three: Seek Help

If you can get someone to help you, do it. The skate culture is very much about helping learn a new trick and supporting them in the process. You can always benefit from the skillset of someone else. It’ll help accelerate the learning process. An article in the Harvard Business Review suggests finding someone who would be able to notice changes in your progress and give you candid feedback can drastically speed up learning. You need to be humble enough to know when you are beat and need help, but also confident enough to know when your own ideas may be better. Entrepreneurs often can benefit from a founder group or formal advisors who can help provide guidance. An important part of skate culture is to sit around and cheer your fellow skaters on when they are trying to nail a trick. No self-respecting skater would ever admit openly admit this, but yes, it’s a bit like a support group and it works.

Stage Four: Visualize Success

I would often watch other skaters over again and try to imagine myself landing the trick. Where would I place my feet? Where would I land? Pro skater Killian Martin from Spain often discusses visualizing executing a trick like a film in his mind. Check out this CNN Interview.

But the science goes deeper.

Saurabh Vyas, a bioengineering graduate student from Stanford, conducted a study on the motor cortex using monkeys. The monkeys mentally practiced moving a cursor across a screen not physically. The researchers changed the biometric so that brain signals used to move the cursor up now moved it in a different direction. Vyas found that the monkeys adapted successfully. When it came time for the monkeys to execute their tasks physically, they were again successful even when obstacles were presented.

Vyas elaborates saying that when you think about an action you’re about to execute, your neurons are already operating before you even make that first move. Practicing a skill in your mind may help increase the success of your results when you actually come to execute. Vyas believes you still have to physically practice, but setting yourself up mentally by running through what you’re attempting to do may really benefit you. From Tony Hawk to Rodney Mullen, visualization has been important as skaters try increasingly difficult tricks.

Stage Five: Execute

You’ve got to just try the trick and see if you can do it. “No language was ever learned without speaking. No success was ever built without risk and the willingness to fail.” You aren’t going to wake up one day and automatically have a skill down pat. It takes practice, time, and the bravery to put yourself out there. The concept of a developing a MVP is precisely analogous. The product is not going to be perfect, but at some point, every good entrepreneur and skater needs to get beyond just the research and theoretical stage and actually execute the vision. And yes, it can be scary.

Stage Six: Fail and Try Again

After you try it, you’re probably going to fail. I can’t tell you how many times I fell while practicing various tricks. But your focus shouldn’t be on the fact that you failed, it should be on what you learned from failing. If I had given up over every scraped knee and elbow, sprained ankle and broken tailbone, I would have never landed the trick.  

19 out of 20 startups fail. So, to succeed, you need to try something at least 20 times. All it takes is one win, to get to the next stage in your company’s development. If I had given up after a customer loss, investor rejection, or any of the myriad of “no’s” that form the basis of my entrepreneurial existence, I would not have been able to build our business.

Stage Seven: Practice makes Progress

Then it’s all about repetition and trying out new things. Practice. Try out different approaches. Find the method that works best for you so you can accomplish your goal. There’s an idea of a form of practice called “deliberate practice.” It means that you’re not just practicing to practice. You’re practicing with some sort of objective in mind. You should have a goal for each time you go out for a session. Often times, the goal of practicing or trying different approaches is to gain a small insight that would increase your chances of success the next time. The goal is progress, not perfection.

Here’s a great (and long) video done at the VMWare Conference featuring two of the greatest skaters of all time that I mentioned earler: Rodney Mullen and Tony Hawk that reviews many of the concepts that I review in the post…

Stage Eight: Success

Finally, you get that first win. You land the tick for the first time. Congratulations! You should be proud of yourself. However, can you repeat it? How can you still improve? How do you execute this in a way that you have a repeatable process?   

I remember the first time, we thought we had achieved product market fit. We found our first paying customer and landed our first annual contract. It was a celebration. However, it was short-lived as we went out to try to repeat that win with other customers in the sector. We found tremendous difficulty and ended up, as you can imagine, trying a different approach. I’m glad to say that after several trial-and-error processes, we eventually did find product market fit and scale our business.

These eight stages of learning a skateboard trick are analogous to being an entrepreneur. With any skater, or entrepreneur for that matter, a mix of perseverance, smarts, practice, and execution can lead to success. You may not be able to successfully create a business on your first shot, but if you repeat the process and learn from your mistakes, you can win. Congrats, you landed your first “trick” and even better, you may have created a repeatable business.

Funk 101

There are a number of reasons why I love funk, but to boil it down: funk is all about the groove – a highly rhythmic experience where each musician needs to think about their specific part and most importantly, how it fits within the broader context of the song. The guitarist may be doing something different from what the keyboardist and bassist is playing. The kick drum might be locked in with the bass while the overall rhythm is different from the guitar strumming. Each musician has a role – they need to find and stay in their lane or “pocket” – so that they properly fit with what the rest of the band is doing. Finally, adding a hooky melody and horn section over the rhythmic section requires a deep understanding of finding your place in a band.

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Top 10 Music Moments of 2019

Another year has come and gone with music events making history. Some predictions from my post from last year were correct: new highs in streaming, the growth of podcasting and music “excitement” in the fitness world, but I totally missed on others – wearables didn’t grow as fast as I expected. Nonetheless, here’s a list of what I feel are the top ten moments in the music business in 2019. The list is primarily in chronological order with some general trends at the end.

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Venture Capital in the Fitness Space: A Candid Chat with CEO & Founder Jeff Yasuda

Jeff Yasuda founded Feed.fm alongside Eric Lambrecht and Lauren Pufpaf, with the belief that music integration and licensing should be easy for any business, whether digital or brick-and-mortar. Early adopters like American Eagle Outfitters, Anheuser-Busch, and other consumer marketing companies found a legal and efficient way for customers to stream music within their online environments.

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Learnings from Six Weeks without Booze

There’s nothing like a bad hangover to motivate you to stop drinking. We’ve all said it before in those moments: “I’ll never drink again.” Yet, eventually you start feeling better, forget the terrible feeling, reach for that glass of vino and the cycle begins again… (more…)

4 Research-Backed Ways to Improve Your Work-Life Balance and Fire Up Your Creativity at Work

I recently read an article in The New York Times that discussed the importance of work-life balance and it struck a chord with me. Hat tip to @mikasalmi for the heads up. The article elaborated on the idea that we live in this “always-on” environment.

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2018: Most Notable Moments in the Business of Music

With each passing year, it seems the events in the music sector become more and more notable. 2018 was a year with several significant events in the music industry. It’s been out with the old and in with the new, with changes in archaic music licensing schemas to music streaming taking center stage in several arenas.

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Re-wiring Your Brain for the Better? Meet Neuroplasticity

There are a lot of stellar aspects that come with running a company. I spend my time pursuing an idea that I’m passionate about. I get to work with some amazing people. I also get to meet other great founders who figure out clever ways to tackle numerous challenges.

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Intermittent Fasting: A Possible Means for Kicking Cancer, Weight Loss, Mental Clarity, and Efficiency

It’s no secret that becoming health-focused has hit this century like a tidal wave. There’s a surplus of apps focused on health and fitness, and a limitless amount of articles and books on topics like feeling like you’re in your twenties again.

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