In search of the musical game-changers of 2014

“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.” So said John Cage, one of the most ground-breaking composers of the 20th Century.

The nascent sonic signature of 2014 begins to chime. Predictions about what this year in music will hold are reverberating across the ether with everyone from Forbes, NME and the BBC sticking their musical necks out to tag the next big thing.

The proliferation of producer-artistes, collaborations and duos and solo acts – as opposed to bands may well be a reflection of how economic and structural changes within the industry are impacting on practice. The sages of sound keep telling us that we’ve only just begun when it comes to the impact that technology will have on the way we engage with music. So what will the real music industry game-changers of 2014 be and can we possibly predict their impact until some time into the future?

For example how will hit-predicting computer software impact on niche music?

Streaming seems to be overtaking downloading – but did we anticipate the rise and rise of vinyl – now at its most popular for 15 years.

Here are the hub we’re watching closely. Our Joining the Dots project has been set up specifically to identify, incubate and fund new ways of working.

And in terms of funding new releases crowd-funding organisations like Kickstarter are leap-frogging orthodox labels by helping new artists raise their own capital and connect with fans at the same time. In 2012, Amanda Palmer, rallied 25,000 backers to support her album, book, and tour. Not everyone was happy about her success but she subsequently debuted in the Billboard top 10.

Although the subscription model is not an entirely new idea. Mozart and Beethoven survived on support from not just from large patrons, but by soliciting money from smaller patrons – sound familiar?

And what about how and who makes music? Gavin Sharp of Manchester music venue Band on the Wall believes the game-changer in music may be how the expectations and abilities of today’s digital natives will impact on how they engage with music when they are older.

We’re seeing old models and music formats rapidly being replaced by new ways of working as well as completely new systems. Not only because we are all closet revolutionaries but because necessity is the mother of invention.

From the dawn of popular music, bands have morphed and adapted to match economic and creative imperatives. Bebop groups sprung up in the 1940s replacing big bands because of a wartime dearth of musicians. Jug or skiffle bands played at “rent parties” where a band playing at someone’s house was paid from the proceedings of the hat being passed around. Today’s take on finding new venues includes grassroots promoters like Gig in Your House and Sofar Sounds putting on house gigs. And on a bigger scale, the hugely successful National Theatre Live project – beams the best of its theatre productions via satellite to audiences at 250 cinemas across the UK.
It’s an inclusive model that freelance producer Andy Ellis thinks should be exploited in music.

Joining the Dots also wants to find game-changing ideas which exploit digital technology to encourage music fans to spend more when they are at the gig. Amazon has already done their own version of this by encouraging existing customers to spend more when they are on site with their cunning use of data to create their ‛Frequently bought together’ and ‛Customers who bought this item also bought’ features. Amazon generates about 20 per cent more revenue this way!

So the ideas that get funding from Joining the Dots could be more reinvention of the wheel than virgin game-changer. In total we’ll be awarding bursaries of up to £10,000 plus expert support to six game-changing music industry ideas. If you’ve got one find out more here about the project and why you should apply.

I’ll leave the last word to William Arthur Ward; “If you can imagine it, you can create it. If you can dream it, you can become it.”

* “The Future of Music” image courtesy of Galia Durant of Psapp. See her fantastical predictions here.

* Main image courtesy of House of Hiss.