The story of music in 2020 was one that is both challenging and encouraging. The live music side of our business was essentially shuttered, causing massive hardship for so many of our music community colleagues. We were all gratified that Congress finally passed critical #SaveOurStages legislation — a music community effort we proudly joined and supported — but we recognize that short-term relief is no panacea. We all seek a better 2021 where we can safely enjoy our favorite band playing a live show.
A positive development for our community was the full-fledged embrace of streaming by millions of fans. Despite the larger societal and economic uncertainty, streaming music, both in the volume of songs streamed and the number of fans paying for a subscription, continued to grow in the United States. That happened, first and foremost, because of the creative genius of so many artists and songwriters who wrote and performed amazing music amidst a pandemic that shuttered so much of our life. It also happened, in part, because digital streaming services relentlessly innovated to offer new value to both fans and music creators. What follows are a few of the examples of the innovative products and experiences offered by Amazon, Apple Music, Pandora, Spotify and YouTube.
10 Music Innovations of the Year
In 2020, music streaming services continued to relentlessly innovate and develop new products and experiences for fans and artists. Here are 10 innovations that helped stream music forward.
Save Our Stages Fest.
YouTube partnered with NIVA for the Save Our Stages Fest (#SOSFEST), which was livestreamed over three days with all original performances and raised more than $1.8M to support independent venues. Read more
Analytics for Artists.
YouTube also launched a new tool to give artists the most comprehensive and complete view of their audience, global reach and performance across YouTube. Read more
Spotify worked to raise the profile of unknown and emerging artists to an expanding audience by making deliberate moves in top playlists, like Chill Vibes, to place lesser-known artists alongside some of the biggest names in music. Read more
COVID-19 Music Relief Project.
Spotify also partnered with 20 verified organizations that offered financial relief to those in the music community most in need — matching donations dollar for dollar, and launched Artist Fundraising Pick enabling artists to raise money directly from fans. Read more
Curated Station Modes.
Pandora gave fans even more control over their listening experience by offering selectable and thematic sub-stations curated by their favorite athletes, activists, icons, and other custom communities. Read more
Virtual Concert Series.
Pandora elevated artist connections, even without the ability to tour, through virtual concerts, including virtual meet and greets, artist Q&As, exclusive merchandise, live chat, and brand partnerships. Read more
Apple Music Radio.
Apple launched two new global radio stations (Apple Music Hits and Apple Music Country) and rebranded their flagship global radio station to Apple Music 1, reaching over 165 countries, offering more in-depth artist interviews, global exclusives, and premiers that foster culture-moving, news-making music moments. Read more
Apple Music TV.
Apple also launched a 24-hour stream of music videos offering specially curated video blocks, live shows and events, chart countdowns, and even exclusive new premiers. Read more
Amazon Music HD.
Amazon partnered with Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group to exclusively remaster and deliver thousands of songs and albums to Ultra High Definition, or the highest quality streaming audio available, and remix music in 3D Audio formats including Dolby Atmos and Sony 360RA, offering a truly immersive listening experience. Read more
Amazon created a catalog exploration program that provides listeners with a monthly curated playlist of a beloved artist and encourages music fans to rediscover great music. Read more
I wrote this Medium post while listening to a playlist featuring:
- “Long Violent History” — Tyler Childers
- “Gaslighter” — The Chicks
- “Blinding Lights” — The Weeknd
- “Now I’m In It” — Haim
- “The Bones” — Maren Morris
- “Physical” — Dua Lipa
- “the last great American dynasty” — Taylor Swift
- “The Bigger Picture” — Lil Baby
- “What Have I Done To Help” — Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit
- “Underdog” — Alicia Keys
- “Sweeter” — Leon Bridges (feat. Terrace Martin)
- “Simmer” — Hayley Williams
- “I Know the End” — Phoebe Bridgers
- “Black Like Me” — Mickey Guyton
- “Before You Go” — Lewis Capaldi