Music Trends in 2022: Our Predictions, Your Best Bets


Sean McCauley

| Posted:

January 14, 2022

2022 music trends have already begun. No year exists in a vacuum and no point in time comes out of nowhere. Therefore, as expected, many of the 2022 music trends have their genesis in predictions we made in 2021, just as those came from innovations from 2020, and so on.

That said, there’s plenty of room for wonder and amazement as we look into a brand-new decade, so let’s not stand around. Let’s look at what’s new for our upcoming four seasons. How exciting!

2022 Music Trends Celebrate Diversity and Cross-Culturism

2022 music trends pick up where 2021 left off in lots of ways, and cross-culturism is perhaps the biggest one. This time last year, we recommended that artists should “make a healthy effort to experiment with the tones and styles of other cultures” because “today’s trending music is all about coming together.”

This played out with the roaring success of labels like 88 Night Market, YouTube channels like Colors and The Nations, and regional uprisings around the world, particularly in Africa. And while the New York Times reported in June 2021 “we still have a long way to go” in diversity within the music industry, the CMA made a point to celebrate growth in country music, a category more plagued by a lack of racial variety than perhaps any other genre.

The captain of that effort is certainly Lil Nas X, the black rapper who not only broke into country with his No.1 hit, “Old Town Road,” but also came out as gay not long after, making him both “the first person of color and the first openly gay performer to be listed by Forbes in its annual Highest-Paid Country Acts List.”

Compton’s Randy Savvy, one of the most intriguing artists of 2021, even worked with Dr. Dre on his single, “Colorblind.”

"What I call street country is taking the best of what I learned from street music, which is the hip hop, all the heart, edgy stuff, and taking the best of what I love from country music and putting everything I love the most into one sound palette," said Savvy.

What it means to you:

If you want to tap into this in your own music, bring out your own cultural roots. Celebrate some traditional regional sounds. If your town has a flavor, use that to your advantage. If not, consider collaborating with artists from somewhere far away. The results might surprise you, but they’ll interest listeners for sure.

2020 music trends include Lil Nas X
Lil Nas X continues to make everything possible. – NY Times

2022 Music will Happen in the Metaverse More

Music trends 2022 include more entertainment online in virtual space than ever before. Billboard's November 2021 issue asked the question, "What's the Metaverse and What's in it for Music?" Their answer:

"The use-cases for the music industry are numerous. Music will be streamed and concerts will be viewed, offering traditional revenue streams a new ecosystem to monetize. You may have a virtual home in the metaverse, which will need to be decorated — a likely profitable sector for the burgeoning NFT market. (Who wouldn’t want a digital Thriller jacket in their virtual home, for example?). Want to throw a party in the metaverse with your friends from around the world? Hire a DJ, who may be able to do three or four shows a day from the comfort of their home. The metaverse, if it goes as many in the tech industry expect it to, will be a second world with many of the same monetizable aspects as real life and new revenue streams we haven’t even conceived of yet that will push the music industry to new heights."

There are already several venues ongoing at any given time, and they do have music fans in there dancing the night away. Sensorium CEO Sasha Tityanko says

“The boundless opportunities of VR allow users to interact with music and their favorite artists in an entirely new way. For instance, users at Sensorium Galaxy could experience the show from the artist’s eyes or join them on stage.”

10 million people watched Marshmello perform virtually in Fortnight in February 2020. Then in August that same year, hard-rock titans Korn played a concert in AdventureQuest, complete with backstage-pass ticket sales.

This trend towards gaming will likely continue, since games have outsold Hollywood since 2009 and have made (much) more than film and music combined for the last eight years.

What it means to you:

Once you’ve got a strong output of music, consider getting into art, video, clothes, and events. Collaborate with people whose creative talents dovetail with your own. License your music for use in video games and network with game developers. They need music, and it’s a fantastic way to showcase your sounds to a captive audience.

music trends 2020 also include video games taking over entertainment by leaps and bounds
Think movies and TV are your best bets for licensing? Think again. – LBPeSports

Trending Music in 2022 will happen on TikTok

2022 Music trends will be started on TikTok more and more. They just announced they now have over a BILLION users, and while that still pales in comparison to Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, it’s still the newest, most-sparkly thing for young users. There are and have been lots of ways to make money on TikTok already, but those are just starting to get traction.

Not to mention, TikTok decided to allow tipping and other monetization in Q1 2021, so don’t sleep on it. Get in there! Get yourself the best darned single you can do, amp it everywhere, and monetize for a dolla here and there so you can get paid for your hard work, artist!

What it means to you:

This is yet another account you’ll need to keep on top of as a music marketing master. For sure, get your Facebook page all spiffy (and updated), and make sure your Instagram account is also polished up (and updated), but also get your music on TikTok and make sure you have an official TikTok account for your stage name, too.

2022 Music Trends are Live, Baby, Live

If you’ve been clinging to your studio life since music making went indie a couple decades ago, it’s time to get out there and meet the people. As reported all over the web (excuse us if we don’t cite eight places here — it’s seriously everywhere), people are tired of quarantine and ready for the live experience. That’s not just attending, either, but also playing.

That means artists really need to perform on camera for their people now. Get on your official YouTube channel. Sell tickets to your show on your website. Play in the metaverse. Do all that.

And also, maybe give some serious thought to teaching music or interacting with your fans directly the way indie synthwave artist Vaughn George has been doing the last few years.

Trending Music in 2022 Comes with a Whole New Fandom

Trending music in 2022 won’t be all about the music, as we’ve seen. It’s going to be about new technologies and subcultures, too, each partially because of the other. Where artists used to get fanmail and sign photos (and, ahem, other things) today they have the opportunity to have much closer interactions.

Ludovic Hunter-Tilney writes for Financial Times,

"Online platforms like TikTok have transformed the relationship between performers and audience. The act of creating memes and personal videos from favourite songs highlights the performative aspects of being a fan. Just as streaming has disrupted traditional ideas about owning music, so TikTok raises the question of who songs belong to: the original performer or the meme makers?"

What it means to you:

Today’s independent artists should absolutely have interactions directly with their fans. That’s a huge topic with a broad, wide range of different options, but lucky for you we’ve already hashed that out. You can read all about it here. You’re welcome!

TikTok users are the newest Internet stars
Joe Waud and Payton Moormeier are just two of the many artists with nearly a million TikTok fans. – Atlantic

Music Labels Will Handle Business More, Music Less

This new fandom has social media to thank for its existence. With newer, nicer, more intimate and more plentiful social media options, artists don’t need labels to connect with fans. This pushes labels out of the loop even more. The pressure on them to find relevance is real, especially since artists increasingly record at home, a trend which has been steady since 2005.

Traditionally, labels scouted talent, signed them, paid for their studio time, arranged for material creation of albums, distributed them, networked for shows, tours and fanclubs, and even handled marketing and brand-building. Today, savvy indie artists record themselves, produce themselves, license their music, upload it for streaming revenue, distribute it for pennies, network with fans directly, and even design their own merch, branding and websites.

What’s left for the label to do? Everything that requires real money. This means labels will become something like venture-capital firms. They’ll find artists with a healthy streaming fanbase on the rise, sign them, and invest a few hundred-thousand dollars to make them more famous than they could, themselves. The artist will still be left to design their brand and handle artistic direction.

What it means to you:

Lots, actually. Even if you’re unsigned (and who signs, anymore, really?), you’ll have even more artistic freedom than ever before. Label execs backing away from artistic guidance means musicians won’t have producers pressuring them to “make it sound more” this or that to sell units. Can we expect the pendulum to swing away from homogenous pop and towards a new wild west of kaleidoscopic musical creativity? Maybe some, but only a very little at first. That’s because smart artists wanting to make a career for themselves will still need to mimic what’s selling. If we start seeing more variety because the captains of industry stepped away from the wheel, fans still need to buy these unfamiliar sounds for the trend to take root.

three businessmen in suits
Businessmen used to affect how songs were written. Those days are gone, baby, gone. – Wiki

2022 Music Trends Will Include More A.I.

In March 2021, Warner Music signed a computer. More precisely, they signed a computer algorithm called Endel which has a free app you can download. The algorithm makes mood music for you so you can ride the waves of your emotions and attitudes as you see fit. Endel signed for a whopping 20 albums over the year, far more than any human artist could meaningfully accomplish.

Note, though, that Endel just does music to match a general tone. It doesn’t have vocals, and the instrumentation is synthetic and New-Agey. It’s great for focusing on homework, meditation or falling asleep, but it’s worthless for music appreciation.

This is pretty much what A.I. can currently do as a songwriter: small applications like finding a chord progression to fit your mood. It can do things like this pretty well, though. It can match a guitar tone to a desired emotion, write matching drums and percussion for EDM and hip hop, even write melody lines on top of your background chords.

So that’s what we can expect from A.I. in the short run. It’s going to be a tool to help more humans enter audio artistry for the first time because suddenly it’s easier to do.

“It’s a transition from mass-consumption to mass-creation,” says CEO of Mawson A.I. lab Stephen Phillips. “These kids who grew up in Minecraft are coming through, they entertain themselves by being creative. … A.I. is just going to give them new creative tools and let them create whatever they can imagine.”

They’ll be aided by AI composers like Bronze and Boomy, as well as by voice synthesizers like Replica.

Not to mention, for the first time indie artists will be able to create effective, affordable ads to drive their revenue, too. Companies who have been using AI to make ads for more than a year include:

  • Google
  • Influential
  • Amplero
  • Sizmek
  • Albert
  • GumGum
  • (and) Invoca

So plainly AI isn’t just something people write about in blogs and newspapers, anymore. This is a real tool people are using to accomplish things like music. There’s no point in ignoring tools made to help the modern artist. Might as well keep on top of it now so you don’t have to catch up later.

What it means to you:

That depends on you. Many musicians will choose the path of the purist, shunning all help from computer A.I. Others will take advantage of what apps they can to make the songwriting job easier. Younger, newer artists won’t see any reason to take the harder road. They’ll just hit the “make song” button and work from there, and bless them for it. Change is good. Nobody’s taking away the traditional methods.

One thing’s for sure, though — until A.I. gets better at it, there’s a certain autotune-y sound it can’t escape. Sounding analog is something the computer still can’t pull off. That analog sound may grow in popularity as A.I. becomes more prevalent.

You know, until we can’t tell the difference anymore.

music trends in 2020 include ai making music too
Analog sounds still have plenty of weight. At least until computers can sound analog… – Blackline

Trending Music in 2022 Has Much Younger Musicians

2022 Music predictions have to include the youth of today! Just like 2019 and 2020, 2021 had all kinds of young artists making headlines.

  • Claire Rosinkranz, age 17, became a mainstream pop star surpassing 186 million streams on Spotify alone in 2021
  • Lilyisthatyou, 20, dropped “FMRN” for approx. 400k daily Spotify streams
  • 347aidan, 18, toured with Claire Rosinkranz (above), 230 million combined streams on Spotify, 4.4m monthly listeners
  • Jelani Aryeh, 20, 1.2 million monthly listeners on Spotify
  • Glaive, just 16, has been called “the future of pop.” 850,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, 13m streams, etc.

So we're still seeing the artists get younger and younger — which makes us over here both super happy and really impressed.

What it means to you:

If you’re a very young independent musician — and lots of us are — then this is your year to shine! And if you’re a veteran musician — which many of us others are — then it’s more important than ever to understand that artists as young as 13 or 14 can make music in ways only geniuses could’ve managed a few years ago. It’s true that Mozart was only five when he composed the Minuet and Trio, but it’s also true that technology has allowed for many more such Mozarts. Consider collaborating with them, or if not, at least be sure not to underestimate them. The youth of today are making more music than ever before.

2022 Music Trends Help You Navigate Your Career

2022 music trends might make an artist sneer because trendiness seems uncool. But cool or not, you’ve got to admit trends make deciding how you want to help your career make you money much, much easier. After all, when more people are interested in a thing, isn’t it a no-brainer to give them that thing if you want more people to like you? And anyhow whether we like it or not, music has always been subject to the culture of the day. Knowing what that culture will bring ahead of time just makes working with it easier. Here’s to being ahead of the game!