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Trends From 2021 That Will Define The Music Industry in 2022

  • 2022-01-08
  • Thomas Wahl

Trends From 2021 That Will Define The Music Industry in 2022

The music industry is constantly evolving, and new trends emerge every year. The 2020s have been a significant decade for the music industry. Artists like Taylor Swift, Drake, Ed Sheeran, and more have shaped the landscape of popular music.
But what will 2022 bring? We have taken a closer look at the 2021 MRC Data Year-end Report. Their excellent report showcases several big-picture trends that will shape 2022.

Generational Trends

According to the report, Gen Z mostly leads all generations in weekly music listening on streaming services. However, Millennials have the highest listener count in certain territories such as the U.K and Latin America, among others; but boomers (aged 67-97) take Japan with their high CD sales and low percentage of listeners - 34%.

Infographic - Who is using Streaming Services - Source MCR Data

Catalog Music Takes The Lead - Fans Reconnect With Old Favourites

Streaming of new music has declined in volume year-over-year, and Catalog increased its share of total listening from 2020 to 74% by 2021. This is an acceleration of a trend that picked up steam during the first waves for COVID-19 lockdowns, as music fans turned to old favorites for nostalgia listening or were introduced to them through playlists, TikTok videos, and other discovery vehicles.

Infographic - Catalog vs Current music consumption - Source MCR Data

The catalog over current music consumption also affects independent artists and labels alike. Of the 10 most popular albums being streamed in 2021, nine are pre-2020 releases - Queen's Greatest Hits taking the lead with 971,000 equivalent album units earned. Still, despite streaming making it easier for new and established artists to find success away from major labels, only two out of ten 2019 release albums made this list; that doesn't mean there isn't any hope though! Many independents made a significant impact in 2021 across multiple genres.

Radio's Shift

Despite the pandemic's initial impact on in-car radio listening, total listenership for music seems to have remained steady. Satellite and streaming live broadcast radio compensate for AM/FM radio listeners who are not engaging with their radios as often because of the pandemic.

Podcasts Keep Growing

The rate of Americans listening to podcasts has gone up over the past year. Indeed, podcast listenership is growing just as fast as music and engagement with sports at its current growth rate. In addition, millions of U.S consumers are picking up this hobby following the 2020 lockdowns when commuting was interrupted.

Streaming Reaches 20 Billion Weekly Audio Streams

Streaming has been reaching new maturity levels in user adoption, with U.S. on-demand audio streams surpassing the 20 billion weekly milestone for the first time this year. Yet, users seem to have a broader range of musical tastes, which may help explain why 2021's and 2020's most consumed songs are streamed less than other chart-toppers from recent years.

Guitar-Fueled Hits Lead Rock's Resurgence

The guitar has mainly been a secondary instrument in recent years compared to other popular trends. But it's not about to take a backseat any time soon! The Washington Post declared it dead in 2017, but guitars are making a resurgence thanks to the revival of late '90s rock and early 2000s pop-punk among Gen Z listeners. This is because those sounds have become trendy again, as many recently rediscovered those eras for the first time!

According to the MCR data, leading this trend was Olivia Rodrigo, whose hits "Good 4 U" (No. 1 peak) and "Brutal" (No. 12 peak) bore a plugged-in sound that harkens back to MTV's heyday. Other notable hits to feature prominent use of guitar on the Hot 100 this year: The Kid LAROI's "Without You" (No. 8 peak), Billie Eilish's "Happier Than Ever" (No. 11 peak) and THE ANXIETY: Willow & Tyler Cole's "Meet Me at Our Spot" (No. 21 peak) and Willow's "transparentsoul," featuring Travis Barker (No. 76 peak).

The Vinyl Revival Continues

Ten years ago, vinyl was on the verge of becoming obsolete. The format accounted for less than 2% of physical albums as CD sales were at their peak in the early 2000s before streaming became popular. However, in 2021 vinyl continued its popularity streak with over 51% growth this year alone.

You can download the complete 2021 MRC Data Year-end Report here.

Category: Digital Music Distribution Trends