The music industry has been rapidly transforming with technology as the accelerant. Ten years from now the music industry will change significantly due to the rise of streaming, the proliferation of digital distribution, the marginalization of terrestrial radio, the rise of cloud-based personalisation with artificial intelligence and machine-learning algorithms fed by Big Data, and the emergence of new distribution channels such as social media and virtual reality.

Video didn’t kill the Radio Star, and neither will Streaming… Yet

Similar to the collapse and shakeout of the print media industry (newspaper and publishing), terrestrial radio has undergone consolidation [1]. Even with the consolidation, the remaining big players are struggling. The nation’s largest owner of radio stations with 850 AM and FM stations in the US, IHeartMedia, is saddled in debt [2].

Before the proliferation of mobile internet devices, radio was a key influencer on music consumers. According to Nielsen, 93 percent of all adult consumers listen to the radio on a weekly basis [3].

According to MIDiA Research, 61 percent of music buyers is from 17 percent of consumers, the remainder listen to the radio or use free streaming from services like YouTube [4].

In the next decade, streaming will continue to make inroads and eventually become mainstream. Terrestrial radio will remain a music distribution channel, albeit a somewhat moribund one with a significantly reduced audience in the future.

Like Vinyl Records, CDs will become Collectible Relics

In 2015 digital downloads and streaming-based services exceeded physical sales. Streaming is causing a decline in not only CD sales, but also in download sales. According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), in 2015 digital revenue accounts for 45 percent of total global music industry revenues, overtaking physical revenues which fell by 4.5 percent. In the US, music streaming rose 93 percent in 2015 [5]. With the trends of increasing adoption of music streaming, decreasing physical format sales and increasing digital music consumption, CDs will become obsolete within the decade.

Music Personalization – Machine-Learning Algorithms will become as Powerful as Humans

The increase of music streaming and cloud-based services will also give rise to increased real-time personalization. Consumers will gravitate towards music services that not only best match their individual and evolving tastes, but also intelligently recommend new music. In the future, music selection algorithms will incorporate more Big Data variables and machine-learning as Artificial Neural Networks technology improves [6]. Music AI personalization will someday include Big Data sources delivered in real-time via cloud-based data feeds that are not only user-reported, but also from social media, purchasing history, and listening habits from smartphones, cars, virtual reality headsets, and other devices. Machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI), combined with Big Data, will become as impactful as human DJs and music selectors [7].

Social Media Sites and Virtual Reality will become Music Distribution Channels

Music content, like the news, will be another way in which social media sites like Facebook will begin to offer in efforts to increase overall user engagement. For example, Facebook has made significant inroads in incorporating news media with that goal in mind. Over 40 percent of US adults use Facebook to read the news [8]. The key to longevity of social media sites is user engagement. Music distribution will become a new source of revenue stream.

Virtual Reality (VR) is currently a nascent technology. Within the decade, sales of VR headsets will move from the early adopters towards the mass market segment as VR content proliferates. VR will emerge as another music distribution channel.

Due to technology, the music industry will undergo a paradigm shift over the next 10 years. Radio will die a slow death as bifurcation will continue between terrestrial radio and streaming music. CDs will become obsolete as music streaming will reign. Social media sites and virtual reality will become music distribution channels. Machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence, combined with Big Data and delivered by cloud-based services, will become as impactful as human DJs and music selectors. By 2026, the music industry will be quite different than it is today.



  1. “Radio’s big problem: Big radio.” Media Life Magazine, September 17, 2015.
  2. Shaw, Lucas and Keller, Laura. “Private Equity’s IHeartRadio Chokes on Debt Load It Can’t Repay.” Bloomberg Technology, February 4, 2016.
  3. “The Comparable Metrics Report: Q3 2015.” Nielsen, 01-06-2016.
  4. “Streaming Hits 67.5 Million Subscribers But identity Crisis Looms.” MIDiA, April 9, 2016.
  5. “Global Music Report 2016 – State of the Industry Overview.” IFPI, 2016.
  6. Rosso, Cami. “Are Artificial Neural Networks the Holy Grail?” LinkedIn, 2016.
  7. Rosso, Cami. “Why Artificial Intelligence is the Next Revolution – AI Will Change Almost Every Aspect of Our Daily Lives.” LinkedIn, 2016.
  8. Oremus, Will. “Facebook Isn’t the Social Network Anymore.” Slate, April 24, 2016.