What happened to the minidisc? How many festivals are there in Spain? Does everything sound the same? The music, with all its edges, has changed so much in the last 20 years that these questions hardly remain on the surface of a sector that has seen stars, companies and formats die on the way, but has managed to resist.

The fireproof artists and the new phenomena

A few months before triggering the birth of Google Images with her Versace dress at the Grammys, Jennifer Lopez winked optimistically at the dreaded ‘2000 effect’ in the video clip of Waiting for Tonight. And as he predicted, the drama was soon behind: the year of the triple 0 began dancing to the rhythm of the New Yorker –number one in Los 40 in Spain– and from Smooth by Santana -leader of the Billboard chart-. In the following months we heard, among others, Christina Aguilera, Destiny’s Child, Enrique Iglesias, Madonna, Britney Spears, Bryan Adams, Mónica Naranjo, Alejandro Sanz, La Oreja de Van Gogh and Estopa. Almost all of them – Free Britney! – are still in great shape.

Nobody can last so long “without working it out”, he explains. Oscar Garcia Blesa. Professional in the music industry for more than 25 years, he has worked in companies such as Warner, RCA, Napster o Mow Management and knows the sector very well. For him “it takes a combination of talent, a bit of luck and, above all, a lot of work” to stay in the front line. Some of that will have had Taylor Swift, the best-selling artist in 2019 around the world with a record, Lover, in which he stripped all his fireworks. Y Billie Eilish, one of the recent compositional, sound and aesthetic phenomena, whose theme Bad Guy was the most listened to.

There are more portents, each one in his own, of the last years, as Ed Sheeran, K-pop, trap and reggaeton, Rosalía it is included, OT, which has been enjoying a second life since 2017. The shape must also be looked at: what Radiohead will launch In Rainbows on the internet in 2007 asking ‘the will’ of his followers or that Beyoncé and Jay-Z to close the Louvre from Paris to rub shoulders with the Gioconda in apeshit in 2018 it is part of History. The second most listened song last year, by the way, was Old Town Road, de Lil Nas X, which went viral on TikTok. The new times. Finally, in these two decades We said goodbye to Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Bowie, Antonio Vega, Aute, Prince … There are no stars in the sky that much.

Destiny’s Child and Alejandro Sanz pose at the 2002 Grammys.

Consumption is in ‘streaming’, the topics are shortened

The music does not stop sounding, but the way of consuming it “has completely changed,” says García Blesa. And the streaming win. 89% of respondents in the Music Listening Report 2019 of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) said to use this service; And it is not just a matter of young people: the group in which it has grown the most in one year has been 35 to 64 years (+ 8%). Pop is the most popular thing in the world, but hip hop and rap are mentioned four times more among 16-24 year olds. The value gap, yes, it is present: only 26% say they pay and in our country music videos only reported 13.9% of revenue for the industry in the first half of that year.

They are heard, on average, 18 hours a week of music (19.8 in Spain); there are 52 songs of three minutes a day. Precisely, 3.30 minutes is the average duration of the US Billboard Hot 100 in 2018, 20 seconds less than in 2013; duration has been dropping since the 90s, according to the Quartz publication, which states that this has to do with the platforms always paying the same to the artist. The British Ostereo seal, for its part, blames the user’s lower attention span. Regarding the content per se, thedembow or the triplet (Slowly), the millennial whoop (I have Hey, The Lumineers) Y four chords that they share from The Beatles to Maroon 5 flood us.

The digital revolution and the big labels

“With the Napster arrived in 1999, the industry entered a deep crisis that would lead to a complete transformation“, explains García Blesa. The record companies, which had had the upper hand until that moment – in 2000, 73.2% of the Spanish market was in the hands of Sony, BMG, Warner, Emi and UniversalAccording to data from the SGAE, they put up stiff resistance. “Paradoxically”, adds this professional, who is also a writer and film director, and despite what he calls a “miscalculation”, the music business offers today “historical numbers thanks, among others, to digital platforms”. The irruption in 2003 of iTunes (Apple) was – he says – key.

“He opted for affordable prices and the option to buy songs”, a consolidated model; in 2008, in addition, Spotify arrived to further shake the panorama. This Swedish company, in fact, managed to convince record labels that they participated in its shareholding, although more than ten years later, all that glitters is not gold: although it grows in users (320 million, 144 payment), copyright costs weigh on you. The debate about what artists receive for reproductions has also been open for years, although some of the most reluctant, such as Pink Floyd, Taylor Swift, The Beatles o Metallica, they ended up allowing their music to play on the platform.

Some Notes: between 2010 and 2019, the most listened to male artist on Spotify It was Drake and the female, Ariana Grande; there are other similar services to consider, such as Amazon Music, Google Play, Pandora o Tidal; 77% of those surveyed by the IFPI use YouTube -which was born in 2005- to listen to music: hence, we must not forget it, they left The Weeknd o Pablo Alboran and With height, by Rosalía and J. Balvin, accumulates 1,650 million views; social networks have been crucial in promoting artists and their connection with fans; Finally, the digital model has rescued another practice from past decades -in addition to short songs-, the launch of singles no disk.

The singer Rosalía, at the Mad Cool festival in 2019.
The singer Rosalía, at the Mad Cool festival in 2019.

Record sales figures, out-of-date formats

Sales of recorded music grew worldwide in 2019 for the fifth consecutive year. 8.2%, up to 20,200 million dollars (17,000 million euros); the streaming it already represents 56.1% of the market. In Spain, the growth was 16.3%, up to 296.4 million euros. Promusicae (Spanish Music Producers) remembers, however, two things: that this year the pandemic has changed everything and that we are coming from a hecatomb, since “in the black period between 2002 and 2013” there was a collapse of 80% of the market. Hence, what was won last year has not been seen since 2007 (284 million euros) and has no point of comparison with 2000 (more than 630 million).

In 2000, 62.9 million records were sold in our country; at number 1, The soul to airby Alejandro Sanz. The CD, according to the SGAE was “the format par excellence” all over the planet and the minidisc – in case you were wondering, Japan continues to manufacture them– sank 33.5%. In the US, online music purchases accounted for 2.8% of total sales at the time, and illegal downloads were a serious problem. 2006 was the first year with digital revenue in Spain; in 2019, 213 million of the total 296.4 came from streaming and, at the same time, vinyl sales grew – surprise – 56.3%. It was not the only closing of the circle: Alejandro Sanz was, again, sales leader with #ElDisco.

Finally, in the first semester of this difficult year 2020 has been the streamingprecisely, the one that has contained the drop in sales due to the closure of stores during the confinement. The Global sector revenues grew 3.99% Compared to the same period of the previous year; those of the digital market, 18.9%.

A store clerk places Michael Jackson records after his death.
A store clerk places Michael Jackson records after his death.

The force of live shows and the rise of festivals

The consolidation of the festival “as a massive tool for the consumption of live music” is another milestone in the sector for García Blesa. When sales started to drop, he notes, “the recording industry focused on an area of ​​the business that it had historically considered less“, the live shows; the companies began at that time to offer” economic support on tour to their artists “because they saw that it helped to sell and promote albums. Live music billed in 2019 in Spain 382.6 million euros net; in 2001 there were 85, according to data from the last Yearbook of the Association of Musical Promoters (APM).

We have 1,019 festivals in Spain, according to the Ministry of Culture -the classical and jazz are included-; 30.1% of Spaniards attended concerts of “current music” in 2018. The most important macro-festivals presented notable figures in 2019: for example, the Medusa Sun Beach Cullera, Valencia, had 315,000 attendees and the Primavera Sound from Barcelona, ​​220,000, 60% foreigners. These events have also attracted the money from large investment funds like magnets. The world’s leading promoter of live entertainment, owner of Ticketmaster, es Live Nation, with 40,000 concerts a year (300 in Spain): in 2007, Madonna he put his entire career in his hands.

Question for note: What group was the one that was most lavish in Spanish festivals during 2019? Carolina During, the authors of the famous Cayetano.

The Rolling Stones, during a Madrid performance in 2014.
The Rolling Stones, during a Madrid performance in 2014.

The uncertainty of 2020

More than 200 associations, unions and professionals make up the movement Red alert, which for weeks has been trying to make visible the status of events and live shows in Spain after the forced stoppage suffered by the pandemic. They are part of Red Alert / We make events, which started in the UK. According to the national federation Es_Música, from March 2020 to February 2021 live music will have lost 1,265 million euros. “The conjunctural ravages of Covid 19 in live music are yet to be determined, but, sooner or later, the artists and the public will return to the stage. Hopefully very soon,” says García Blesa. Hopefully it will be like that.