Post Malone and Pokémon: a combination so crazy that it just might work.
Malone had the honor of kicking off P25 Music, a year-long celebration in partnership with Universal Music Group, on Saturday — the official Pokémon Day, no less — with a virtual concert that livestreamed on Pokémon’s YouTube and Twitch accounts, and its website. The tribute was short, clocking in at just under 15 minutes, but set the stage for what the rest of P25 Music might look like: a showcase of the vast world of Pokémon while also appealing to your casual listener of the Hot 100.
And it’s not as if Malone was on stage with his rendition of the classic PokéRap (although this writer, for what it’s worth, would’ve loved to see it). It might have looked like any other virtual concert — if it weren’t for the various Pokémon that swirled around Malone throughout the show. Like the Travis Scott “Fortnite” concert that came before it, the P25 Music kickoff took advantage of its format to make the experience one that was truly unique, if not a little surreal.
The concert kicked off with an animated version of Malone (one that debuted in preparation for the event earlier this week) greeting a stadium of what looked like hundreds of thousands of pixelated fans, jumping into his hit “Psycho” as a giant Pikachu electrocuted the stage. As Malone continued to perform, he was swept away on a floating piece of land to tour various environments to find different types of Pokémon. After soaring among the Butterfree, he found himself in a dark forest, surrounded by the glowing Shiinotic and Umbreon as he transitioned into one of his biggest hits, “Circles.”
Eventually, he was also whisked away to more of the Pokémon world — from the skies with Braviary, down to the seas with Jellicent. He went on to virtually perform his new contribution to P25 Music, his cover of Hootie & the Blowfish’s “Only Wanna Be With You,” which samples the Ecruteak City theme from “Pokémon Gold and Silver” to give it that Nintendo flare, while dancing along with Charizard and Groudon.
Is there something a little bizarre about watching a cartoon Malone vibe with a legendary Pokémon while singing his rendition of a Hootie hit? Sure there is. But, in its own way, that alone is a fitting tribute to Pokémon’s long relationship with top musicians. After all, who can forget Donna Summer’s powerful vocals on “The Power of One” to cap off “Pokémon: The Movie 2000”? Pokémon has always recruited famous artists to celebrate their Pocket Monsters — Malone (who’s apparently a Pokémon fan himself, holding onto a Game Boy Color just to play the games) is just the latest in a long legacy.
After Malone returned to the stadium, closing out his set with his Quavo collaboration “Congratulations,” he teased some of what’s to come in P25 Music: new music from Katy Perry, J Balvin and “many more artists.” And it’s anyone’s guess as to which Pokémon Perry and Balvin will dance with, or which of the game’s classics they might sample in their new offerings. But it’s clear The Pokémon Company is pulling out all the stops to celebrate 25 years of one of the world’s most durable franchises.
The concert industry clearly wants to get back to work, as a flurry of announcements on Friday proved. But what those announcements also proved is that getting back to work will require a leap of faith by all involved, most prominently, the government.
Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino, speaking during an earnings call and citing conversations with state governors, said that “a clear outline to a 75% to 100%” capacity for outdoor US events in 2021 was looking likely to be green-lit.”
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“We are seeing… what we’ve been talking about: [fans] are excited to get back to the show as soon as we get the green lights in these markets to open up,” he added.
That point of view was bolstered this week across the pond. On Monday, the British government said that large music events in the U.K. could resume at 100% capacity beginning on June 21. Live Nation leaped into action, putting 100,000 tickets on sale for the August 27 and 29 Reading & Leeds festival. The concert was sold out by the end of the week. Live Nation also sold tickets for the dance-music-based Creamfields fest Aug. 26 to 29. That sold out 70,000 tickets in 48 hours.
What this means is it’s likely that at least some states will see live outdoor concerts by the end of summer. “So as long as these states open up to the right capacities, we can start in midsummer and in the southern US we can go all the way into November,” Rapino said.
That enthusiasm was tempered by a Friday announcement from Taylor Swift. She officially canceled her previously postponed “Lover Fest” tour dates. Swift said on Twitter that “No one knows what the touring landscape is going to look like in the future.”
With sporting events, indoor dining, and movie theaters reopening across the country with pandemic protections in place, it looks like we will have at least some events this summer. The desire is apparently there on the part of the fans. Now it will take the courage of the marketplace and government to allow mass gatherings to resume.
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Sales of recorded music grew 9.2% last year to $12.2 billion as subscriptions to streaming services reached new highs during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The past year marked the music industry’s fifth consecutive year of growth thanks to streaming, which accounted for 83% of total revenue, according to a report from record company trade group the Recording Industry Association of America. Revenue generated from music licenses to social media and fitness apps also picked up during the last year.
The pandemic lockdowns were momentous for at-home streaming entertainment services in 2020. With almost no live concerts, limited capacity at sporting events and closed movie theaters consumers tuned into music-streaming apps, and flocked to social apps like Instagram, and TikTok and at-home fitness apps like Peloton, which heavily rely on music to engage users. drive engagement.
Subscriptions to on-demand streaming services offered by Spotify Technology SA, SPOT 1.43% Apple Inc. and others grew to 75.5 million from 60.4 million in 2019, the biggest ever increase in a single year. The streaming category, which also includes ad-supported on-demand services, such as YouTube, Vevo and Spotify’s ad-supported tier, streaming radio services such as Pandora and SiriusXM, as well as music licenses for streaming fitness services like Peloton, generated $10.1 billion in 2020, up 13.4% from the previous year.
“These services are largely music-powered—whether it’s TikTok dances, skateboarding dreams, or Instagram people-watching, the ‘most followed’ lists for all these services and platforms are overwhelmingly made up of artists and music creators,” said RIAA Chief Executive Mitch Glazier.
RIAA’s data includes Peloton and Facebook, FB 1.15% which owns Instagram, but it doesn’t include TikTok.
The music industry’s fortunes started to turn around in 2016, when the growth from streaming services began to outweigh a 15-year decline in CD sales amid rampant online piracy. Revenue is still below, but closing in on, its 1999 peak of $14.6 billion.
Last year, sales of physical music products were flat at $1.1 billion. Revenue from sales of vinyl—up 29% to $626 million—surpassed revenue from CDs for the first time since 1986, though it still only accounted for 5.2% of overall revenue. Digital download sales fell 18% to $674 million, and accounted for just 6% of total revenue in 2019.
A decline in advertising revenue during the pandemic dragged on revenue from ad-supported on-demand streaming services such as Alphabet Inc.’s GOOG 0.27% YouTube and Spotify’s free service, which saw 17% year-over-year growth to $1.2 billion. The category saw nearly 30% growth in each of the prior three years.
Write to Anne Steele at Anne.Steele@wsj.com
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