Tapping Into Superfans and Generative AI Among Hot Topics in New Edition of ‘The Trapital Report’

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Why are hip-hop and R&B still popular streaming-wise but less so on the live music front? How can superfans and generative AI help further music industry growth? Those are just two of the hot topics addressed in Trapital’s second annual report on major trends in music, media and hip-hop. Presented by the ticketing company DICE, 2023’s The Trapital Report is being released today (Oct. 31) in tandem with Billboard‘s exclusive first-look preview.

“This report is for the key decision makers in music, media and entertainment, the executives, founders and investors in the space,” Trapital founder Dan Runcie tells Billboard. “These are the people who are working actively to serve the artists that they work with. They’re working actively to provide an experience to the end consumers as well as fans. And to do that they need to be as close as possible to the current trends that are happening within the actual revenue. But looking fast forward, what are the things that they need to invest their time and money in? How do they better understand this audience? Our report is able to offer those insights.”

The report begins with a look at the slowing growth of streaming. While music streaming revenue was $17.5B in 2022 versus $15.7B in 2021, that only represents 11% growth. That percentage figure is down from 24%, 19% and 29% in prior years, per Trapital’s analysis of data from Luminate, MRC, Nielsen and the IFPI Global Music Report 2022.

Explains Runcie, “Streaming growth has started to slow down from a revenue perspective year over year, especially from the heights that we had seen in the pandemic. That has sparked a lot of industry discussions about how to split the pie like pushes to raise prices and increase the payouts to certain types of artists; reducing the noise and fraud. But I do think that the two big opportunities that the industry has to grow the overall pie is to look at the superfan and lean into generative AI.”

“I do think even alone on the streaming services, they have a lot of valuable data and understanding as to who the superfans are,” says Runcie.  “And as well to all of the combinations of things that can be offered, whether it’s exclusive access to fans, community input …  I think there are different ways to have different tiers to enable that.”

Acknowledging the intense discussions emanating over the use of generative AI, Runcie says the emerging technology represents another growth opportunity by increasing derivative work. 

“Anytime in the history of recorded music, derivative work grows and that overall demand grows the pie,” he explains. “And it can do that because the underlying asset that a lot of popular derivative work comes from is work that the record labels already own. It’s what the rights holders already have. So being able to find the right attribution, being able to do it in a way that acknowledges both the safety and rights that the artists and the rights holders have, I think all of this is possible if you accept the fact that this isn’t necessarily a genie that’s going to go back in the bottle. It’s still very early, but no different than YouTube being able to figure out Content ID. The same can be possible for generative AI and allowing superfans to create making music, anything that enables that as that continues to grow, it only adds more value adds to the artists and the rights holders who have the valuable intellectual property.”

On the hip-hop front, the report notes the genre’s total global revenue rose slightly between 2021 ($2.72B) and 2022 ($2.78B). But its share of total revenue has dipped from 27.7% in 2021 to 26.8% in 2022. And while only three rap albums have hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in 2023  — Lil Uzi Vert’s Pink Tape, Travis Scott’s Utopia and Drake’s For All the Dogs — hip-hop still reigns as the top genre. It accounts for 33% of all albums on the Billboard 200, more than twice pop and rock combined at 16% each.

However, in the report section titled “From URL to IRL” it points out the glaring fact that despite hip-hop and R&B’s popularity in terms of streaming and social media, pop and rock still command the live music front: 27% of concert revenue/33% of streaming revenue in the U.S. versus 11% of concert revenue/27% of streaming revenue for R&B/hip-hop according to Trapital’s analysis of stats from Pollstar and Luminate.

The report explains the disconnect is related to several factors. Among them: that hip-hop artists didn’t consistently begin touring on a global arena level until the 2000s; the hesitancy on the part of concert promoters to book rap acts owing to violence and safety concerns even though “rock acts often had worse violence issues”; younger fan bases; and the fact that many hip-hop and R&B acts “have clustered around larger festivals like Rolling Loud, the club circuit and other festival appearances” which are more economical than paying for expensive concert tickets.

“This is something I’ve been eager to dig into,” says Runcie. “And I’m glad we were able to do it with this report. When you transition from stream URL to in real life, hip-hop and R&B don’t necessarily dominate in the same way. Even though we’ve seen hip-hop and R&B artists that have done arena tours like Drake, J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar and SZA, other hip-hop/R&B artists who’ve had very popular music haven’t quite gotten to that same point on the live music side.”

To that point, the report includes a breakdown of which artists can sell out a tour at each venue level. The list encompasses 30+ stadiums (Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, The Weeknd, Lady Gaga), 10K+ arenas (SZA, Lizzo, Travis Scott, Kendrick Lamar, Miley Cyrus), 5K+ amphitheatres (Lil Uzi Vert, Janelle Monae, Wiz Khalifa, Lil Baby, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie) and 2K+ ballrooms (Latto, Chloe Baily, Yeat, Denzel Curry, Glorilla).

Also of interest in The Trapital Report is a look at Latin music’s popularity, the largest DSPs and most valuable private companies, indie artist case stories, audience profiles, the most valuable songs streamed on Spotify and YouTube and the top 1% of artists in streaming. According to Runcie, the full reports features detailed analyses on streaming revenue, music genre trends, live entertainment, short-form video, chart analysis among other topics.

For more information, visit trapital.co/report

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