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#69 - Another year around the sun 🌞

Your Weekly Music Round-Up: Sunlighter Top 10 Albums, 2023 music round-up, Lorde's upcoming album, Kesha free from Kemosabe, Insano, French tax on streaming.

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Happy Sunlighter Sunday! We hope everyone’s enjoying their holiday season. In our final edition of 2023, we reflect on our favorite albums as well as the broad trends the music industry encountered over the past year. This is our 2023 music round-up.

We’re kicking off our recap with our Top 10 Albums of the Year based on quality of production, lyricism, and overall cohesion. 

  1. Pink Friday 2, Nicki Minaj


  3. Zach Bryan, Zach Bryan

  4. I Miss You Already + I Haven’t Left Yet, Del Water Gap

  5. Desire, I Want To Turn Into You, Caroline Polachek

  6. The Good Witch, Maisie Peters

  7. GUTS, Olivia Rodrigo

  8. Good Lies, Overmono

  9. Endless Summer Vacation, Miley Cyrus

  10. In The End It Always Does, The Japanese House

*After you’re done, check out how they compare with NME, Billboard, and NPR. While you’re at it, here’s a recap of Jay-Z’s songs of the year.

Google Music Trends: Before jumping in to highlight 2023 takeaways, we’re sharing a few fun facts from Google’s biggest search trends in the music industry:

  • Shakira was the most searched artist of 2023.

  • The theme of a popular anime series, アイドル by Japanse superduo Yoasobi, was the most searched song.

  • Imagine Dragons held 2 of the top 5 “hum to search” songs with “Bones” and “Believer.”

Live Performances: The 2023 Pollstar rankings revealed a 46% increase in top tours, indicating that the live music industry is alive and thriving. Namely, Beyoncé and Taylor Swift made the biggest impact as their Renaissance and Eras Tours became social currency, boosting the U.S. economy along the way. However, the report also highlights challenges faced by artists and venues, underscoring the uneven recovery within the live music sector as it rebounds from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

RIAA Records: This year, the Recording Industry Association of America reported 57 artists received their first-ever Gold or Platinum records (500,000 units sold or 1,000,000 units sold, respectively). A few standout accomplishments from Sunlighter favorites this year:

  • 🪶 Peso Pluma achieved his first Platinum album with GÉNESIS. The record-breaking Latin artist is in good company with MALUMA and Rauw Alejandro; Latin music as a genre dominated this year, securing 7 of only 8 Platinum albums of the year. Furthermore, Peso Pluma is the only artist with Diamond singles this year, collectively accumulating over 490 million single units sold.

  • 💿 Platinum Songs: Lil Durk, “All My Life” feat. J. Cole (2x), YOUNG MIKO, “LISA” (2x), Lizzy McAlpine, “ceilings,” Zach Bryan, “I Remember Everything” feat. Kacey Musgraves and “Dawns” feat. Maggie Rogers, Olivia Rodrigo, “vampire,” Mariah The Scientist, “Spread Thin,” and PinkPantheress, “Boy’s a liar Pt. 2” feat. Ice Spice.

  • 🏆 Gone Gold: Laufey received her first-ever Gold single with “From The Start.” YOUNG MIKO achieved Gold with her single, “Wiggy.” On the album front, Lil Durk and Zach Bryan achieved Gold status for Almost Healed and Zach Bryan, respectively.

Industry & Technology: This year saw several industry-defining secular trends, most notably, Republic Records’ dominance (the #1 label of 2023, owning 13.3% of the overall market share with major artists like Taylor Swift making up nearly 2%), industry organizations like ASCAP and BMI curtailing fraudulent activities while also pioneering rules on generative AI, Deezer and Spotify evolving their royalty models to become more “artist-centric,” and TikTok Music asserting its position as a one-stop-shop for music discovery and live performances.

Lorde “builds stamina” for her next album, Kesha finally free from Kemosabe

Lorde sparked excitement from fans (including us) by posting an ambiguous message on Instagram, reportedly experimenting with different sounds and styles, hinting at the possibility of new music. This would mark the first album for the New Zealand pop artist since Solar Power in 2021, which featured her second collaboration with producer Jack Antonoff (Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey). While we anticipate a potential upcoming release, stay tuned on Instagram or via Lorde’s bulletin newsletter for updates.

After ten years, Kesha is now free from her contract with producer Dr. Luke and his Kemosabe record label, marking the end of a legal battle that began in 2014. Earlier this year, we reviewed Gag Order, her final album with the record label, which largely centered on processing the grief and toll that Dr. Luke’s physical and emotional abuse had on Kesha and her career. We’re looking forward to seeing what Kesha can do with greater artistic freedom and control over her music career.

Kid Cudi to drop new Insano album and Cudi memoir in 2024

After Kid Cudi previously pushed the release date of his upcoming album, Insano, to January due to “being a perfectionist,” we’re now less than two weeks away. In the interim, Kid Cudi has announced plans for a memoir titled Cudi, set to be accompanied by a book tour in 2024. Fans can expect the book to offer insights into the artist's life and creative journey.

💵 French Tax on Streaming: Spotify and Deezer have criticized the French government's proposal to introduce a music streaming tax, arguing that such a tax could hinder the growth of the industry and harm consumers by increasing subscription costs. As a result, Spotify has pulled its support for two music festivals in protest of the new tax change. Notably, this comes a few weeks after a disagreement with the Uruguayan government on changes to their music copyright laws, which resulted in Spotify threatening to exit the country.

💰 Spatial Royalties: Apple Music is considering adjusting its payment structure to potentially offer higher royalties to artists for songs mixed in Dolby Atmos. Already one of the highest-paying streamers in the business, the proposed change aims to incentivize spatial audio formats, reflecting a growing industry focus on enhancing the streaming experience.

🤖 AI Collaborators: CreateSafe, the company behind Grimes’ AI cloning tool, has partnered with Sounds Studio to collaborate on AI-driven music creation and distribution. The venture aims to leverage AI to enhance the music creation process and streamline distribution. Microsoft’s new AI chatbot, Copilot, has released an integration with Suno, a generative AI music platform that helps users compose songs through text prompts.

🥽 Virtual Music Events: TikTok's inaugural live concert, “TikTok In The Mix,” attracted over 33.5 million unique viewers, marking a significant success for TikTok as a live music platform. Separately, both Jack Harlow and BLACKPINK have plans to perform concerts through Meta’s virtual reality platform, Meta Horizon.

🌐 Web3 Updates: Pixelynx, a metaverse company owned by Deadmau5, announced new tooling for its AI music creation platform, Korus. Sound recently integrated with Base chain and introduced protocol rewards for both artists and curators. Nina Protocol now allows for lossless uploads. For track collectors on Supercollector, you now have a new collector page.

💭 Music Wellness: Warner Music has entered into a partnership with MediMusic, marking its first venture into music therapy. The collaboration aims to explore the therapeutic benefits of music, underscoring a broader industry interest in the intersection of music and wellness.

💪 Fight For Your Right: BMG is continuing its refocusing strategy under CEO Thomas Coesfeld, divesting its live concert companies as part of a plan to concentrate more on music rights. The move signifies BMG's strategic shift towards prioritizing music publishing and rights management.

💿 Indie Distribution: LyricFind has acquired Rotor Videos and entered into a partnership with CD Baby, expanding its services to enhance lyric licensing and distribution for independent artists.

💰 Securing the Bag: Direct-to-fan platform Medallion has secured $13.7 million in funding from investors to support its efforts in connecting artists with their fans via direct engagement. Breakr, a social music marketing startup, has raised an additional $1.9 million in funding and allocated $3.5 million to creators, emphasizing its commitment to supporting and compensating content creators in the music industry. Prism.fm, an events booking platform, has raised $5 million to further develop its services for event organizers and streamline the management of live events.

The Top 3 Entering 2024

📈 With limited debuts during the holiday week, Taylor Swift returns to #1 on the Billboard albums chart. Mariah Carey logs her 14th total week as the #1 song on the Billboard 100 since 2019. Finally, if you were ever interested in Billboard’s Top New Artist each year since 1977, you’re in luck. This year, it was Zach Bryan.

The Merch Table

  • 💮 Le Fleur, C’est Chic: Tyler The Creator launched the season 2 collection of his elevated clothing brand, le Fleur, featuring everything from caps, to vests, and polos.

  • 🏎️ F1 ASAP: At last month’s Vegas Grand Prix, ASAP Rocky revealed his exclusive Puma x F1 collection. Everything is currently sold out, but keep your eyes peeled for a restock.

  • ✏️ Study the Hype: Bruce Houghton, founder of music publication Hypebot, is offering a free course to learn the basics of successful touring. All four lessons will become available at Berklee College of Music and through Coursera.

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See ya next Sunday 😎

Donya and Chris

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