How artists and fans use technology to create new futures?

Culture Clubs
Photo cover by: Helena Lopes
Written by: Eamonn Forde
Published Mar 05, 2021
5 min read

Partnering up with research agencies Culture Co-Op and YouGov, Spotify published its first Culture Next Trends Report for Southeast Asia. It is based on the rich and diverse testimonies of 3,000 Gen Zs and Millennials in Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, as well as Taiwan, including several artists we help to develop like Jasmine Sokko and Yura Yunita.

We looked at the five interesting trends the report showcases, helping better understand the broader generational shifts taking place and how it could shape the future of culture and music.

#1 Micro-communities generate micro-impact

In the age of traditional media, the promotional route to market was restricted by the number of media outlets available. Streaming and digital have blown that apart and the idea of an all-powerful mainstream centre has given way to a multitude of distinct micro-communities. This is all giving a new voice to acts from markets that were traditionally overlooked on the global stage.

Indonesian singer-songwriter Hindia says, “Even though most of my songs are written and sung in Indonesian, I believe that through good extensions such as visual presentation and giving context to each work, my works could connect with people that I can’t physically reach, and to become common grounds for others.

The internet has changed the way artists create and the way audiences find and personally curate music.

Indeed, a Spotify audience survey found that 77% of respondents believe that music helps them to connect with other listeners as well as other cultures. This is all down to the globe-shrinking power of digital, according to Indonesian rapper Rich Brian. “I would definitely call myself a global citizen, as someone who grew up in Indonesia while being on the internet every day I got the chance to learn so much from so many different countries and cultures,” he says.

#2 Online subconsciousness drives decisions in the real world

With so much time being spent online, especially by Millennials and Gen Zs, there is a very powerful knock-on effect into the real world. The study has found that 61% of respondents believed the aesthetics they experience online shape their expectations of what they should see in the real world.

This is the power of the “Instagram destination” writ large. Singaporean electronic artist Jasmine Sokko says this creates for her a “30/70 love-hate relationship with social media”. She is amazed at how well her social algorithm understands her personal taste and “continues feeding me with new content that I absolutely love”, but also feels she needs to push against this as it could mean “I’m plateauing with my taste” and therefore limiting her experiences.

This is the delicate balancing act of social media and recommendations: knowing your tastes and catering to them is a boon, but locking them down closes out whole new worlds.

#3 Pop culture inspires socio-political change

The amplification of both micro and macro politics online has led to genuine and profound change around the world. The Arab Spring, the BLM movement, the powerful shifts forward brought about by #MeToo, climate strike’s impact at a governmental level and the proliferation of LGBTQ+ messaging have all happened in the past few years and have dramatically altered the world for the better. This is also manifested in growing awareness around mental health issues.

We now have the liberty to be more open about mental health, and a stronger belief that mental disorders are nothing to be ashamed of,” says Indonesian singer Yura Yunita.

Activism has been super-charged by social media and 67% of Gen Zs and Millennials now believe they need to be more proactive and embrace campaigning in their lives because complacency can no longer be an option. This carries over into the music they consume – and how it can educate and empower them. These generations not only expect positive change to follow, they have the tools to make it happen for themselves.

#4 Processing emotions through sound

The power of music lies in how it makes us feel – energizing us when we need it, comforting us when we are sad, articulating the emotions we often cannot find the words for ourselves.

The importance of mental health awareness is something that chimes with Gen Z and Millennial consumers and the impact of the global pandemic has seen many of them turn to music for rescue and support. Among Southeast Asian listeners, Spotify found that 60% of them turn to music to help them cope when they are feeling down or experiencing stress.

Phum Viphurit uses his music to talk about mental health issues (notably in his song Hello, Anxiety) and wants this to create a bridge between him and his audience. “To me, writing and being able to speak about struggling to manage my pressures was like therapy, to share and connect with people going through a similar experience,” he says. Music has always had that power to heal and now through social media that healing can spread even further.

#5 The growth of “screenless” moments 

The first generation of iPhone was released in late 2007 but in the past 13 years the smartphone has utterly changed how we consume content and connect with each other. Using our phones – for information, entertainment, education, work and socializing – is now a constant in our day.

A study by the advertising agency We Are Social in 2020 found that Indonesians spend on average just under eight hours a day on their phones. During the global pandemic we have leaned on these devices even more to help us feel connected to a world that appears shut down.

Yet there is a feeling this is becoming too much, with 56% of Gen Zs and Millennials telling a Spotify survey they believe there is an excess of visual stimulation in our daily lives – and their escape from that is to sink into music and podcasts. Having good headphones or earbuds is as important as having a smartphone for many and the growth of smart speakers and connected cars is surrounding us in sounds like never before, adapting it to our needs – from relaxing to working out. Music has always provided a soundtrack but now it can provide that soundtrack all the time and, in doing so, its importance is at an all-time high.

In the same line