in Columns

The Special Feature 4/2021 Editorial: A look at the potential futures of the music industry

by Anu Ahola

Among the global forces for change that are determining our future – megatrends – the ones most affecting the music industry are urgent ecological reconstruction, ubiquitous technology and shifts in the economic system and in earnings logic.

Megatrends are always accompanied by a variety of what are known as weak signals, i.e. hints of a possibly emerging theme that may become important in the future. It is useful to examine the rise and fall of trends in the light of such signals. Also, trends always breed counter-trends. The robust progress of digitalisation has prompted a reaction towards concrete, perhaps more genuine things and experiences. The growing renaissance of vinyl records has been cited as evidence of this.


In order to gain anything like a clear view of what the music industry is facing, we should pick up not a crystal ball but VR goggles and a 3D audio system. The pandemic served to migrate music production and listening into virtual spaces (see article here), and technology is poised to offer music consumers applications and experiences where only human imagination is the limit. An example of music tech in Finland is Holon – an auditory AR app that generates interactive synth music on the basis of the user’s movements, position, environmental data and other signals. 

After all of today’s immersive and interactive music experiences, it is useful to discard all gadgets for a while and see what live music experiences are available and where. What concerts could we find close by, perhaps organised by our own local community? What if we want to go listen to an artist flown halfway across the world to our city for one gig only – can we still do so with a clear conscience? And what should an artist whose entire career and identity are built on travel, tours and influences gained all over the world think about air travel and touring?

Tours and many other challenges having to do with ecological sustainability are major issues that the music industry is currently contemplating and addressing everywhere, Finland not excepted, and there is every reason to believe that sustainable solutions will be found through collaboration and with time. Audiences and their choices obviously also play a huge role in the context of the music industry. As composer Matilda Seppälä notes in an interview with FMQ:

“Although under the current circumstances it is not possible for a professional composer to stop travelling altogether, I can envision a music sector that is more local, more interactive, more generalist and more present in the everyday lives of people in the community. Composers could play a local role in that.”


What is particularly important for building our future is how we raise our children and adolescents and what opportunities, examples and images we offer them in the domain of music. These post-normal times are an era of redefinition, reinventing, transition, uncertainty and upheaval, and it is impossible to predict how long this will last. But we can influence what the world after this post-normal era will look like, right now – and every day of our lives. 

Translation: Jaakko Mäntyjärvi