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  • Writer's pictureDave Sorbara

A New Paradigm for the Music Industry: The Explosion of Functional Music and Sound.

Updated: Sep 30, 2021

For both creators and consumers, the emerging industry around music and sound for wellbeing is rapidly changing the way we use, discover, and create music. As the movement grows, it’s created a myriad of new opportunities for creators to rethink their relationship with making music.

A New World

Today the average person is now using music and sound in so many therapeutic ways that diverge from our traditional music as entertainment paradigm that it's created a massive new market and modality for creators and consumers alike.

Today, the average person is now using music and sound in many therapeutic ways that diverge from our traditional idea of music as entertainment. The paradigm shift has created a massive new market and modality for creators and consumers alike.

COVID has exponentially accelerated the already booming trend of using music as medicine. Not just to help us heal, but to boost cognitive performance as well. Driven by high rates of clinical levels, with nearly one-fifth of adults in the US experiencing anxiety and stress, people are discovering how powerful music can be to combat these conditions. Once they realize music’s state-shifting ability has been sitting there waiting for them to tap into it all along, they can reframe their appreciation of music.

A New Perspective on Our Favourite Music

When we seek out therapeutic or functional music for sleep, relaxation, working out, or focus (to name just a small number of use cases), we set aside our deeply embedded music consumption habits and build new filters and personal frameworks to discover and enjoy music and sound. We consume with purpose and a desired intention to feel better or become elevated in some way. In the process, we tune in more to our mind-body connection and seek a state of wellbeing where the level and quality of our emotional and physical state change becomes our rating system.

When we partake in a deeply moving yoga class with an amazing teacher or guide, we create deeper emotional connections to the music and sound that was part of that experience. Likewise, when we engage in a guided meditation with calming music sitting inside a forest soundscape, we connect differently to that music and look for a specific result. We tune in differently to the result of our focused listening than we would when listening to the latest pop or hip hop playlists on Spotify. This mindset is something relatively new for both digital health and wellness content creators and consumers alike. The gargantuan music industry model is not built to serve and understand consumers in this way, which provides new opportunities across the board.

A New Industry is Taking Shape

The music industry is built on marketing hits and garnering attention by building artist brands. They drive this through traditional media and marketing channels all designed to get more plays or spins that are known to garner revenue. Today, this is still what drives revenue for the music industry—there are ads everywhere on the internet to drive listeners to buy music. While services like Spotify actively remove ads, they are not doing it because they feel it is a better experience for their consumer, but because they need to keep up with streaming royalty payments by monetizing playlists.

A better analog for the exploding functional music space is the world of music for episodic content or film where music becomes a storyteller along with visuals. As a composer for these genres, the goal is to elicit the right emotional response from the audience to move them through the arc of a story and allow them to get lost in it. In this case, soundtracks are not artist- and song-driven but viewed and consumed as part of a whole. New opportunities in digital health and wellness content are emerging whereby artists have the ability to take consumers on a journey not in story, but in a change of emotional or physical state over time. A journey from feeling low to feeling high, stress to calm, lethargic to energized, scattered to focused. We are seeing the immense value this has to the average person in today's insanely fast-paced world with the scale and value of digital health and wellness platforms like Headspace and Calm.

The Creator’s Opportunity

When the intention is wellbeing, we as consumers completely change the lens through which we look at and consume music. This in and of itself is creating a massive new opportunity in the market for creators.

As creators, we have an opportunity to not only serve the content and help create a mental connection to the audience but also to serve the audience and participants in the deepest way possible by shifting their states of being. In this case, the value created for the individual is profound. Health is a fundamental necessity and being the artist that can deliver on that foundational need, you become a valued part of that person's life. Consumers don’t necessarily relate to Dua Lipa in the same way even though her music is accomplishing the same thing! When thinking about creating music with the sole purpose of helping others, we change the framework and language around music production as well. We seek healing over seeking hits.

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