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I Revisit My Doom-and-Gloom Forecasts
What did I get right? What did I get wrong? And what will happen next?
Many years ago, I was enmeshed in the world of management consulting—where we gave out advice at a high price tag. The billing rates were like a New York taxi cab, just with a lot more zeroes added to the meter.
What exactly did we charge? Well, it was like the oft-said comment about Tiffany’s: “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.”
But every so often, I’d get asked this question:
When you revisit your past recommendations, how often did they prove correct?
This was always an awkward topic.
I never met anybody in the field who wanted to measure past results. We’d be too afraid of what we might find out. That was when I learned a useful lesson: When you shuffle the tarot deck, you don’t ask about the past.
But, here at The Honest Broker, I do revisit old forecasts. The track record is surprisingly good—although a lot of it is dumb luck. In any event, below are quick updates on some widely read articles here. Most of them were doom-and-gloom forecasts.
What did I get right? What did I get wrong? And—most important of all—what will happen next?
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IS TIKTOK ALREADY IN DECLINE?
I warned in December that TikTok may have already peaked. But new numbers show how quickly the decline is taking place.
This is painful news for record labels—who have been looking for TikTok as the launching pad of the next generation of music stars. Based on the current trend, their hopes have been misguided.
WILL AI MUSIC CREATE A BIG MARKET FOR ZOMBIE BANDS?
This one escalated rapidly. Just 24 hours ago I sent out my report on “12 Brutal Truths about AI Music.”
One of the predictions came true a few hours later.
I’m now eagerly awaiting the new Sonny & Cher track to drop.
IS THE LONG TAIL A CRUEL JOKE?
Last year I looked skeptically at the myth of the long tail—a theory that promised more cultural choices and options in the digital age.
“The Long Tail is a cruel joke,” I wrote. “It’s a fairy tale we’re told to make us feel good about all those marginalized creative endeavors. . . . We live in a Short Tail society. And it’s getting shorter all the time.”
And what’s happening now?
Here’s what the LA Times reported this morning:
Despite the seemingly infinite sea of content on an ever-expanding array of platforms, many cherished films and TV series remain unavailable to stream, caught in a tangled web of licensing quandaries, rights disputes and ever-shifting corporate strategies.
The list of films absent from the streaming landscape includes classics (Alfred Hitchcock's 1940 Gothic thriller Rebecca, Elaine May's 1972 rom-com The Heartbreak Kid); cult favorites (George Romero's Dawn of the Dead, David Lynch's Wild at Heart, Pink Floyd: The Wall) and crowd-pleasers (The Cannonball Run, Cocoon). Iconic TV shows like thirtysomething, Northern Exposure, L.A. Law and Homicide: Life on the Streets are similarly nowhere to be found.
“There are a large number of films that didn't make the migration from VHS to DVD to Blu-ray to streaming,” says Dennis Doros, who along with his wife, Amy Heller, has devoted his career to preserving, restoring and distributing films that would otherwise be lost to history. “We're talking about thousands of films. It's not just about film literacy—it's about preserving the fabric of our culture.”
Here’s breakdown of movies on Netflix by decade—the online archive where cinema history goes to die.
Maybe there’s a way to fix this mess. But it won’t come from the dominant web platforms. Their strategies get more manipulative and confining over time—and this means we should expect less choice, not more.
CAN SPOTIFY TURN A PROFIT?
In a series of articles here, I’ve warned of financial problem at Spotify. My most recent update revealed how far away the company still is from profitability, and warned of further measures to improve margins.
On the heels of this, I note that Spotify has eliminated another 200 jobs, and announced the need for a “strategic realignment.” The most ominous thing here is that the latest wave of cuts are focused on the company’s podcast business—which was supposed to provide a profitable growth engine outside of music.
I stand by my prediction that streaming subscription price increases are inevitable.
WILL DUKE ELLINGTON GET THE PULITZER PRIZE IN MUSIC HE WAS DENIED IN 1965
This is the most disappointing update of them all.
Last year, I rallied support for the Pulitzer Prize judges to give Duke Ellington the Pulitzer Prize he was shamefully denied in 1965—despite the support of the music jury. More than 65,000 people signed a petition, and the campaign received the support of many of the most illustrious musicians in America, including previous Pulitzer winners.
But one key person stood up to block the campaign—Marjorie Miller, administrator of the Pulitzer Prize. She wrote a letter to the New York Times expressing her opposition. And it seems like she has won the day, at least for the time being. But I would like to make sure that Miller’s role in denying Ellington the posthumous Pulitzer in Music for 1965 be remembered in the music history books. It would be a shame if her prominence in this shameful affair were forgotten.
IS CLASSICAL MUSIC A RED HOT GENRE?
A few months back, I looked at six different market research studies that showed unexpected growth in classical music listenership. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised—old music is so fashionable nowadays—but I was. More to the point, I was pleasantly surprised.
Now the research group Luminate has confirmed that this trend is now having an impact on streaming numbers. The genre “has been growing recently in weekly streams,” the company explains, and the full year figures for 2022 show that it outpaced the overall US music market.
Here’s the trendline—jumpy, but clearly moving upward.
Luminate also tells us that classical music fans listen to more music than other streaming subscribers (56 hours per month, which is three hours more than average). And they are also more adept in the digital realm than many other music consumers.
But here’s the biggest takeaway of them all: “Classical music fans spend 34% more per month on music compared to the average US listener.”
CAN WE FIX THE FAKE ARTISTS PROBLEM?
I’ve written a couple times about the rise of fake artists on streaming platforms. Much of this story is still clouded in secrecy. But these songs are probably work-for-hire tracks or AI-created music—which can boost platform margins by diverting listeners from real musicians who demand royalties.
The more I look into this, the stranger the story gets. I now know that there is also a fake listener problem on Spotify, which is the mirror image of the fake artist situation. In this case, the bots are probably trying to divert royalties back to their bosses. It’s like those old click farms, but boosted by more advanced technology.
But—finally!—regulators are pushing back.
Just last week, lawmakers at the European Parliament demanded more transparency and better pay for musicians. The organization GESAC, which represents musicians, issued a statement that explicitly denounces “stream manipulation, fraudulent practices, fake artists, and payola schemes.”
Will this have any impact? I’m not sure, but this is a huge step ahead of anything happening in the US, where huge web platforms have so much influence on Washington legislators.
I’ll continue to track these and other developments in music, media, and culture. If you want to keep updated, make sure you’re on the subscription list for The Honest Broker.