5 Takeaways From Music Matters 2022: TikTok, Web3 and an ‘Emerging’ Subscription Market

SINGAPORE — Web3, crypto, the return to live, fresh starts, the end of the traditional power bases, and music. Always music.

Music professionals from around the globe gathered in Singapore late last month for the All That Matters conference to understand and untangle the new industry. Singapore, the constantly-evolving city state, and its towering new Hilton Hotel, were apt hosts for an industry that’s in full pursuit of its digital future.

Music Matters, one of five streams under the All That Matters banner, returned as an in-person event for the first time this decade, the past two editions were held virtually due to the pandemic.

When attendees hit the confab Sept. 26-28, the one constant from the daytime panels and Q&As was change. Billboard selected five notable takeaways from this year’s program:

Are We Back Post-COVID?

Yes-ish. As markets stagger their reopening, including in China and Japan, the answer isn’t so simple. “Yes and no,” explained Robb Harker, CEO of Supermodified Agency. “It’s not what it was before.” There is a flip side. “Japan, Indonesia, Thailand and Korea are stronger than pre-pandemic,” he continued, noting the pandemic has “sped things up,” as live events look to Web3 to engage with audiences. In recent years, local DJs and artists have soaked up those opportunities to connect with and entertain audiences, with international acts absence from the touring and club scene.

“It’s a good question,” Adam Wilkes, president & CEO, AEG Asia Pacific AEG said during in a Sept. 28 Q&A with Billboard’s international editor Alexei Barrionuevo. “We’re back-ish…it’s there but not everywhere. Some of the countries are still closed, some are open, there are different policies. We’re mostly back, we’re just trying to figure out what the new version of back is.”

“Yes-ish” is considerably better than “no-ish.”


TikTok Is Ticking Its Boxes

YouTube’s global head of music Lyor Cohen, a former keynote speaker at Music Matters, recently gave the music industry 6 billion reasons to cheer. YouTube, he said in September, had paid $6 billion to the music industry in the year to June 2022, a year-on-year increase of $2 billion. “We want our twin engine of ads and subscriptions to be the No. 1 contributor of revenue to the industry by 2025,” he enthused.

TikTok, a business that just several years ago was an outlier, before licensing arrangements, led by Ole Obermann, global head of music, changed its status. TikTok’s videos might be brief, but the streaming app is keen to make mountains of revenue for its content partners. “TikTok is only three or four years old, depending on which country you’re in,” he said. “YouTube and Spotify, they’ve been around for 12, 15 years or whatever. If you look at where we are now in terms of impact and revenue paid out, relative to where they were when they were three or four years old, I think we’re actually ahead. But, we’re still figuring out our business models, we’re only live with our premium service in three markets, give us another 5, 10 years and I think we’ll be having a similar conversation.”


The Big Short

Short-form videos are all the buzz, though not every artist is keen to participate. Halsey broke ranks earlier this year when she complained that record labels were forcing artists to create viral TikTok moments to promote their music. Social media mulled it over. Obermann had a message for those artists struggling under the weight of constantly having to create. “I understand that,” he noted. “There’s so many places where artists interact with their fans now. It’s more than a full time job trying to keep up with that. But I also think there’s a bit of a misunderstanding of what it means to be active on TikTok. You can be really active… because you’re posting three videos a day, or you can be active because your song is having a moment on TikTok.”

He continued, “every artist, every creator has to find their sweet spot with what they want their profile on TikTok to be, and not everyone is going to want to be a really active video poster. Most artists, all artists, should have a verified profile. We should be talking to these artists, our music teams around the world, working with artists to figure out how to get your music more of a presence on TikTok. It is such a big and vibrant way for music to travel.”

The Metaverse Isn’t Here Yet

For all the talk, the hype and the hullabaloo of the “Big M” – the Metaverse – it hasn’t fully arrived. “It’s being built. It doesn’t exist just yet,” explained Universal Music Group executive vp Olivier Robert-Murphy. The U.K.-based executive walked guests through that work-in-progress, and shared some tips on how to play in that space. Creators are the celebrities in this brave new world, gaming is still the “on ramp” (though music is getting there), and brands are keen to get involved – though the one-size-fits-all approach won’t work.


Emerging Power

The establishment, your time is up. Music from South Korea, Puerto Rico and Colombia is on the rise on Spotify, which now boasts 433 million listeners across 183 markets. And as new export markets emerge, global music exports for the U.S. and U.K. have decreased.

Those are some of the insights from Spotify’s global head of editorial Sullina Ong who, during an on-stage Q&A, shared some eye-popping numbers, and the context behind the shift in tastes.

Streaming is now a global sport. On Spotify, K-pop generates more than 9 billion monthly streams, more than half of these coming from outside of the Asia-Pacific regions.

More and more global artists are breaking in so-called trigger cities in the Philippines and Indonesia. And the shift will be complete soon. Emerging markets are expected to represent the majority of music subscribers by 2026, Ong explains.

Produced by Branded, the 17th edition of All That Matters boasted 180 speakers and 38 bands.

Lars Brandle