This week you could possibly read that the Swedish pop star Zara Larsson had made a seven-figure amount on online merch on the platform Roblox. She commented that “it’s perfect, more environmentally friendly, and a new way to make money. Imagine how many flights it would take to reach four million people? Or how many trucks it would take to bring a pink lake house with me everywhere? And then having a couple of hundred people on a payroll, who also need accommodation and food and somewhere to sleep. Going online saves so much in carbon emissions." She stated to BBC.
She started on Roblox during the pandemic in May and held a virtual concert for 1.6 million people in Roblox but the money comes from her selling merch to avatars in the game. You can buy sunglasses and shirts and other stuff to dress your avatar with.
Even though Zara Larsson is happy I can see a lot of trouble with this scenario, and she is probably digging a grave for other artists. The wet dream for the music industry is to have a career with artists that are no trouble. The biggest problem with the music industry is that you are working with humans and that you are depending on creativity from them. The Holy Grail is, of course, if you can eliminate even the creators and the artist, take away even the smallest amount they get to make your own profit.
The next step here is of course to replace Zara as a real artist with a digital one. Yes, the industry tried it before with Gorillaz, The Archies, and many more. Back then though they had a hard time going live. If we replace live with the major part online that issue is gone. The second problem for the Gorillaz was the problem with the artists then came with the animators. Suddenly they wanted more money and so on. That can now be eliminated with kinda cheap software or even cheap labor in India or Asia. Then Gorillaz songs that were made by real artists like Damon Albarn from Blur can soon be replaced with songs made from AI computers.
Then what? Then we don’t need Zara Larsson or her songwriters. It’s a totally digital product that a company can totally own and decide what should happen to them. Of course, the big market is online platforms like Roblox but ABBA just showed us what you can do with 3d technology so this will be easy to get it done with a totally animated product even with real concerts.
Maybe you are terrified by this? Is crappy music just flooding with no real artists with nothing behind it? Don’t be, it has already happened, it was called the 90’s where we got euro disco. Almost the same, the only difference is we used real people that are not hard to replace anyway.
Will it kill the music industry and just launch it into what the games have done to the movie industry? I don’t think so. In the end, if you go to trends there is a rule. A trend always comes with an anti-trend. The AI systems will have trouble keeping up with smart, emotional lyrics. Political lyrics will also be a big problem. To copy a band like Rage Against The Machine will be hard. Here they also serve a lifestyle and beliefs. They can mimic this of course, but into the core as a human can do it. Too much online stuff and you will see a trend with downscaled singers and songwriters in small bars and intimate venues.
Then we come to the environment thing. When Napster started, many artists claimed they just put it out digitally to save the environment. Research showed though that a CD even with its plastic and other bad stuff was more environmentally friendly than the download on Napster. The only time it was more environmentally friendly with the download was if you just listened to the CD one time. As soon you listened to it twice it had beat the download. The reason for this was that to search for your track there were several servers around the world that started up and consuming energy to you provide you with your search results so taking all in the CD was more environmentally friendly even though it consumed energy when it was played and manufactured, but it was very small in compared to all that energy used by those servers that made the search.
I don’t know if we have come longer now with the server technology when we search for things on Spotify or YouTube. I guess not, since now we have at least a hundred times more data to get through on each search. What I do know is that electricity will be the big thing in the future along with the environment. And it might be that the environment-friendly online thing might be much more damaged than the real concert since I just saw tests, where a concert hall was heated up by the energy of the moving audience so more things like that might make it much more environmentally friendly than any online concert.
What we might look for in the future is a singer/songwriter with a political message. The rest of the industry will just be mumbling rap from a 3d animated manga figure with no cause.
Editor’s Note: Peter Åstedt has been working in the music industry for over 30 years. He has started record labels, distribution systems, and publishing companies. Peter also runs several major showcase festivals and is an advisor for INES and co-founder of MusicHelp/Discover Sensation. He has worked with the Top Ten most streamed songs and had music on both the Olympics and Super Bowl. Peter has currently taken up the seat of Station Manager of Cashbox Radio, working with MD, PD and station owner, Sandy Graham. In 2021, he worked as the European Consultant for Heal the Earth – An Earth Day Celebration. His latest venture is a new Showcase Festival in Sweden, Future Echoes futureechoes.se/. As well, Peter is Co-Founder and Editor of the newly launched Record World International.