Trending Music: Our Predictions For 2019 & Beyond


Sean McCauley

| Posted:

January 15, 2019

Trending music for 2019 takes many cues from 2018, but we expect the coming months to do the same things in much bigger, higher and louder ways. Indie artists who know what’s going to pop and what’s going to flop can expect a positive reception from many of today’s listeners if they produce their music with these trends in mind.

Watching and learning about trending music isn’t just following fads. It’s listening to what today’s music fans are saying to you and to the world around them. It’s preparing to give the people what they want.

We’ve done the footwork for you and found what trending music will be like in 2019 and boiled it down to these four qualities. Let’s check them out.

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Musicians look ahead, so they don’t fall behind

Musical Diversity and Cross-Culturism

2018 was a blast-off year for regional music reaching exotic locales. K-pop (Korean pop music) continued to gain fans in western countries. Latin sounds conquered the summer and promised to gain steam as Despacito set a record for the longest time at No. 1 in the UK for a foreign language single. Spotify raced to organize its Viva Latino Tour. Weezer returned to the spotlight for the first time in years thanks to their surprise cover of Toto’s “Africa,” and Little Black Book writes that “eyes are on Nigeria and Asian countries such as India and South Korea to inspire the next big music trends.”

Chris Carey (founder, Media Insight Consulting) says that trending music will become both more global and more local as cultures continue to exchange music.

He states:

“The spread of streaming in non-English speaking markets has led to much more diverse music charts,” he says, but also notes that, “Dutch artists – who for years felt obliged to perform in English – have returned to performing in Dutch and seeing an incredible resurgence in their hip-hop scene as a result! Looking ahead, we will see more breakout success for a variety of languages, in the UK and globally, as well as seeing stronger local language scenes develop.”

So what’s it mean? It means embrace your own musical tradition, but make a healthy effort to experiment with the tones and styles of other cultures you’re interested in, too. Today’s trending music is all about coming together.

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Diversity makes for more popular music in the 21st century.

Giving Back to the Community

Words like charity, ecology, sustainability and education might sound like words for a political speech or social studies paper, but the truth is that they’re crucial to understanding where music trends are headed.

This isn’t a new thing, but helping the community through music has real momentum, now. That’s momentum today’s music artist can use — and feel pretty good about using it, too.

It started with major companies like Starbucks banning straws and Adidas making clothes out of ocean waste, both of which made these brands massively more popular. It moved then into surprising areas like education (Red Bull Music Academy, Levi’s Music Project) and even charity (Discwoman’s Physically Sick compilations, Majía’s Exhibition compilations).

All of these efforts benefited the communities they came from, sure, but did they benefit the artists? At the very least, they made major headlines. Doing good in the world is big, big news right now.

These may seem like too much to do for a new, up-and-coming indie musician, but even very small ideas can make big waves.

Just look at what Montreal indie label Pentagon Black is doing by releasing their albums on paper. It’s greener than pressing vinyl, puts art into the hands of fans, makes tons of headlines, and — this is maybe the best part — costs practically nothing. Label heads Raymond Biesinger and Drew Demers say their last popular compilation album cost just $200 to release.

Politics in Music

If you didn’t hear about Nike taking a stand with NFL pariah Colin Kaepernick, you weren’t paying attention. The sportswear titan calculated that their target audience would love for them to back Kaepernick publicly, so they did, and boy did that pay off with record highs at the stock market.

This extremely visible move will translate across brands, across markets, across genres and categories, and yes, it’s swiftly affecting trending music.

In 2017, rapper Kendrick Lamar released his wildly popular and politically charged “Damn” LP record. In 2018, he became the first winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Music outside of the jazz and classical genres. The Pulitzers noted that his album offers, “[powerful] vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life.”

An album with nothing much to say and little purpose behind its lyrics will not win that award in 2019.

Mo Jalloh writes for Zimrii: “… artists making considered, passionate and sincere political statements will be what truly connects with a mainstream audience … Youth engagement figures with political issues are on the rise. This will eventually be reflected in the charts.”

And Jalloh isn’t alone. The Recording Academy (Grammy Awards) wrote in November, “Just as the way a company handles private data can become a product and a selling point, the same holds true for environmental ‘green’ issues and presumably any issues that resonate with consumer demographics in a big way … you can bet more and more companies will choose to align with receptive segments of opinion to boost their brands.”

So if you’re sitting down to write lyrics for your latest banger, know that it’s probably going to reach more people who like it if you’re talking about something meaningful happening in society around you.

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Music is another form of free speech. Lean into it for the best effect.

Indie Artists Take Charge

Of these four qualities in trending music, this last one will be the easiest to follow.

Put simply, music continues to be placed in the hands of independent musicians.

Streaming music now accounts for 75% of all music listening in 2018, making virtually every bit of sound more accessible, but it has done so at the financial expense of both the artist and the music label. This makes it harder for major labels to take risks, so they put their money into just a few flagship artists (advertising, mostly) while ignoring less recognized musicians.

In response, these ignored creative types publish themselves, sign to small labels or set up their own labels. This self-fulfilling cycle hurts the corporate music industry and feeds the indie music market at the same time.

And the best part is, this is something that’s been going on for years and still manages to pick up steam today, so there’s no reason to think the process will slow down, let alone reverse.

Wrap Up on Trending Music in 2019

In short, music in 2019 will be more independent than ever before. Just like we like it.

That’s all we’ve got to say about trending music for 2019. If an ambitious songwriter were to make music tailored specifically for the listeners today, it should be cross-cultural, politically minded independent music that can directly benefit society. That’s a song likely to make headlines, and music which makes headlines makes fans, too.

And that’s all we want for you.