Friday 5: How the music industry’s leading the way in 2021

Imagine if you couldn’t drink water for an entire year. Sure, you’re given some government-sanctioned droplets in the summer, and you looked at photos of a Chilly’s Bottle on the internet, but other than that? You’re parched.

That’s the music industry in 2021. Having somehow survived the advent of streaming, its main source of income — that being live shows — was taken away by the pandemic. Despite this, it’s still found ways to engage, entertain and provide new ways to present what is, for all intents and purposes, a product you can get for free.

1. Weezer started selling packets of moustaches

Why should you care?

The nineties alt-rock legends performed a live stream at the Walt Disney Concert Hall last weekend, backed by an orchestra. The gig was only viewable three times across Friday and Saturday, and integrated a ‘merchandise booth’ within the viewing platform, alongside a chat function. The path to purchase was right there, as if you were hanging round the bar at the back of the concert hall.

That’s nothing new. Floridian metal band Trivium, who call themselves the ‘Kings of Streaming’, did a similar thing last year. But for an act like Weezer, with an older demographic, this shows a willingness to a) reach out and relate to a younger audience, and b) drag their old-school fans kicking and screaming into slicker, more modern ways of doing stuff.

Merchandise included replicas of vocalist Rivers Cuomo’s wholly inappropriate moustache, art prints, stress toys and tubs of slime. Beats a t-shirt.

2. Be a guinea pig

Why should you care?

The Brit Awards are back at London’s O2 Arena next month, with a real audience of actual humans. 4,000 attendees will make their way to the former Millenium Dome, sans masks or social distancing.

It’s part of the government’s Events Research Programme, which is testing the waters regarding how venues can open safely. Those attending — 2,500 of whom are London’s key workers — are required to provide a negative lateral flow test beforehand, along with their Test and Trace details.

It’s a massive undertaking and, fingers crossed, it’ll help inform some kind of roadmap to recovery for grassroots gigs, conferences, conventions and so on.

3. Musicians have transcended Zoom lag

Why should you care?

More than a year into the pandemic, tech can still be a nightmare. Even Metallica, the biggest heavy metal band on the planet, struggled to communicate remotely due to lag-related issues.

However, there’s a new piece of kit being trialled called Aloha — it’s a pocket-sized gadget that cuts latency from 600 milliseconds to just 20. Basically, you won’t notice a delay at all.

It’s a triumph for locked-down musicians, but could open up so many opportunities when ‘normal’ life resumes. Knowing someone is available for your event, in the comfort of their own home and without any noticeable lag, gives promoters and organisers the chance to curate lineups and panels beyond the usual physical constructs. It also means Metallica might take less than eight years to make another album.

4. Be the storm in the teacup

Why should you care?

Up-and-coming country rap star Lil Nas X caused a bit of a ruckus a few weeks back. It started with the video for his single ‘Montero (Call Me By Your Name)’, in which he lap-danced for Satan. He also collaborated with creative agency MSCHF, on a limited edition of 666 Nike Air Max sneakers containing actual human blood, which the sports brand has since put a stop to.

Now, Nas X has released a batch of t-shirts playing off the controversy, in cahoots with online clothing store Pizzaslime. It’s a masterclass in winding people up and turning the heads of people who usually wouldn’t care. Like BrewDog, but more blasphemous.

5. But cause a stir for the right reasons

Why should you care?

It ain’t easy being NFTeasy, and K-pop boy band A.C.E found out the hard way. Non-fungible tokens have really taken off over the past couple of months, and keen to get a slice of the virtual pie, A.C.E announced they’d be launching their own NFT trading cards.

The news went down like a bread balloon. Many of A.C.E’s fans are younger, Gen-Z listeners, typically more environmentally conscious and willing to put their money where their hearts are. Pointing out that the band have previously gone to lengths to promote an eco-friendly image, they weren’t too keen on the environmental impacts of NFTs (which require much more energy to transact than ‘normal’ money). Whoops.

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