Industry Opinion: Music + Technology = Money?

We take a look at some end-of-year charts to see what worked for the top streaming and top earning artists in 2012.

Ultimate Guitar

As 2012 nears a wintery close, countless "end of year" lists and stats have started to hit the internet.

Among the charts of popular song streams, top selling singles and high earning artists are some clues about what worked for the most successful musical acts in 2012, and how the year might be remembered.

Let's start with the most-streamed tracks on Spotify for 2012:

Most-streamed tracks of 2012 (global)

1. Gotye featuring Kimbra - "Somebody That I Used To Know" 2. Carly Rae Jepsen - "Call Me Maybe" 3. Fun. featuring Janelle Monae "We Are Young" 4. Flo Rida - "Whistle" 5. Flo Rida featuring Sia - "Wild Ones"

At the top is the inescapable viral hit from Gotye. It's been a success for a long time in certain other countries, but it was only when America woke up to the song that it became an internet smash, with thousands of parody cover versions being produced on YouTube. Besides the singalong chorus hook, I think listeners warmed to its refreshing vintage production style. Which is ironic, because it's probably the result of vintage digital plugins becoming so affordable in the past few years.

Similarly, Carly Rae Jepsen was another viral hit - again, a catchy chorus which people (think they) can sing along to is probably the golden ingredient, but the lyrics "Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy..." went viral in their own right and made Twitter almost unbearable for a few weeks.

The lesson: don't just write a great song - find an angle that makes you ripe for parody, then don't sue anyone who covers it. That kind of promotion is great. Just ask Psy, who now has the most viewed YouTube video in history.

Now for the top earning artists:

1. Dr Dre £62 Million ($100 million) 2. Roger Waters £55 Million (£89 million) 3. Elton John £50 Million ($81 million) 4. U2 £49 Million ($79 million) 5. Take That £43 Million ($69 million)

Remarkably, Dr Dre has beaten some of the best known musicians in history to the top spot. But if you think Dre made all that money from rap alone, think again. Jay-Z was all the way town at no. 20 with £23 million ($37 million), so it looks like Dre's "side business" in making Beats by Dre headphones is making all that extra cash.

Maybe that's why Will.I.Am has just started getting into the tech business, with his new iPhone camera adaptor range. Uh, good luck with that Will:

If there were one big takeaway from these two charts, it's that musicians do better when they exploit technology.

With Gotye and Carly Rae Jepsen, it was the social internet that propelled them from being relatively unknown to chart-smashing stardom. Dr Dre approached tech from an entirely different angle by making a product his own. Whether you like them or not, he's deservedly reaping the rewards for his efforts. Even Trent Reznor is getting involved in the Beats franchise.

How might smaller acts work with technology to improve their revenue and exposure? That's something I aim to discuss in future posts, but in the meanwhile, share your ideas and experiences in the comments.

Tom Davenport (@TomDavenport)

Thanks to NME for the charts (1, 2)

43 comments sorted by best / new / date

    "Most-streamed tracks of 2012 (global)" There's no music on that list so there's no need for an argument.
    "top selling singles and high earning artists" this must be another april fools, because none of these people are artists.
    People have a misconception of how much people make, and not every musician/rapper makes $100 million. Look up Dr. Dre on wikipedia, you'll see he did a lot more than just rap. There is a reason he makes that much money.
    "the inescapable viral hit from Gotye" Not inescapable as the only time I've heard of him was in the other UG news story, I still have no idea who it is or how terrible the noise they made was.
    Black Mustangs
    It wasn't even that bad, I didn't mind it until I heard it on the radio fifty thousand times...
    I actually like the song. It's simple, but yet, it has a pretty cool vibe to it. It's fun just to lay back and relax to. (Don't hurt me)
    many bands make iphone or android apps to keep fans updated. but i guess in the end, it's being relatively known first that might be hard. but i don't know, i've never been in a band :/
    I remember not knowing who Daniel Johnston was and playing an iphone game he made with Billy Corgan and almost immediately starting to enjoy his music and download his songs. The game was called 'Hi, how are you' if you're interested in downloading it.
    I will probably get downvoted for this comment, so be it. I can't stand anybody on that list at the top; mostly Gotye and Carly Rea whatever the **** her name is and Fun. I have given up on the radio because when I turn it on, I hear the same song (listed above) whenever I'm in the car. I have to rely on my iPod (which is also overplayed) to enjoy while driving. Maybe I am getting old now, but music nowadays seems to be aimed toward hiptsers and younger teenagers. Anybody else can like them, I just can't stand them.
    Technology and musicwill always go hand in hand. Whether it be new recording equipment, social media, or in Dre's case, creating new products. Social Media will always be a big one. Fans enjoy finding a way to keep up to date with a band. It also allows musicains to reach out to their fans and create a folowing.
    We live in a sad age where the only way to really make it is to be an internet phenomenon and sell out.
    That's not the only way. That's just a new way. And the more ways for new talents to 'make it' the better.
    Bro, how did Dr. Dre earned so much money? Detox isn't even ready yet. BTW, you're killing me with the wait, dawg.
    People seem to be in this industry for all the wrong reasons nowadays. Admittedly, it has been this way for many years, but my question; What ever happened to making music for pleasure, and making money out of it a bonus, or as a way to pay the bills? My opinion; Stop making quick money from talentless "artists" with the use of modern technology, or how else are we going to break out of this age of ripping off the old 1, 4, 5 chord structure?
    Music has been a monetary thing for ages now though. I'd even say music for pleasure only is a relatively new thing in the context of history. There's a lot of shit going on in the industry with them just picking out the "quick buck", but at the same time the same technology that allows the industry to do that is allowing smaller bands to get recognition. It's so easy to find bands from anywhere in the world with any popularity than it was a few decades ago with only local TV, radio, and record stores. People are moving away from the big labels. I think if the industry were to ever just collapse on itself we might see an end to big millionaire stadium artists and see self-releasing bands in smaller venues become the norm. Honestly I think that would be pretty cool.
    Optimistic point of view, but I agree with much of what your saying, I'd love to see the industry change to what you described and yet I can't see "big millionaire stadium artists" disappearing any time soon, music -sadly- is far too business-orientated.
    Oh and Dre. is doing something with Trent Reznor and I am kinda stoked to see what they produce. I've listened to Beats once and couldn't hear the guitar in certain songs because the bass just override everything; kinda overrated. Although when I listen to Dani California I like it better because I'd rather listen to an all bass chorus with Frusciantes little fills in there.
    i noticed there are rarely references to technology/streaming and albums in these posts. i'm not a fan of this trajectory.
    problem's the quality of the music is in no way compareable to vinyl or master tapes...
    well.. the worst sounding earphone/headphone/IEM I ever heard with such a price came from any product by Monster. Dont get me wrong, I use Monster cable for my car audio but headphone/earphone/IEM? we got a good brand like Ultrasone, Denon, Bower and Wilkins, Westone, Bang and Olufsen, and the list goes on! and Dr. Dre just lower the audiophile standard. I do forgot that he is soo digital so he never heard anything call by the name ANALOG or WARM.. thanks Dr. Dre for stupified the masses with the tone deaf product of yours.
    Are you serious? Dr. Dre pretty much produced every rap album that has been made since the 90's, not to mention some of the basslines on "The Chronic" are samples from some of the greatest funk/soul songs of all time. Yes, Monster headphones are overpriced to death, but that has nothing to do with Dre. The dude does know something about sounding.
    Well, it does have to do with Dre, actually, just not with his skills as a producer, lol.
    well, according to me, the greatest funk/soul would be from something like Earth, Wind and Fire or James Brown. and I don't get the idea of Rap that much.. although I do enjoy the 90's product alot but just not Dr. Dre or any of those gangsta rap.. sorry
    in the best case music and technology = creativity and innovation...I mean look at pink floyd and muse