What was up with 2017, music-wise, in the Balkans?

As a publisher of the leading music media outlet in the region, I am, obviously, very much involved with the music and the whole Eco-system around it. And, for sure, I am one of the guys that love to talk about the future. Also, I do like to recap the year (actually, I recap all the time) and talk about that, too. Well, the trends are what I rely the future on.

So, highlights of the stats as a recap, Muzika as a curated content platform, had in between 100.000 and 250.000 visitors per month (a bit over 1 million in a year) and a social media reach that was 1.6 million people this December, only on Facebook.

Enough with the data, what we did as a group recap — we grouped the music geek forces and wrote a piece on the music of 2017, mostly about the best music of that year but I added these trends and somehow stuffed it in the article. (Croatian)

What is interesting and different from the other recaps you read about, this one is about the region — ex Yugoslavia (Slovenia, Croatia, B&H, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Kosovo) and a bit about neighboring Austria and Hungary. But mostly from Croatian perspective, since, well, I am a Croat. Living in between NYC and the stated region, though. Ok, go…

1. The region is more connected

Persistent strengthening of the regional connections and its music exchange is the most important positive trend in our fragmented zone. Despite the dominant political conservative currents (like anti-gay, pro-religion if it’s about your religion and similar trends seen in the world these days), live music is globally growing, exactly what is happening in this region, also. I mean, live music needs more gigs.

So, it crosses borders. It sounds like that is a normal thing. I agree it is supposed to be like that. But political past and the conservative present are in the opposition of that idea. Live music doesn’t care, though. It is crossing borders even more. That is why Serbian acts like Bojana Vunturišević and Repetitor have been seen more and more often on the joint top-lists with Chui (Croatia), Edo Maajka (Croatia/B&H) or Frenkie (B&H), for example.

Some of the activities helped with that trend — export activities like Slovenian music showcase festival and conference MENT as one of the leaders of bringing the region together.

2. Dad rock of Croatia

This was the year of the “dad rock” bands like Guns’n’Roses and The Rolling Stones who toured around the world and rocked the live entertainment. The same, but on the local level, did the big Croatian acts like Gibonni and Parni valjak. What is noteworthy here is the increase in the ticket price for domestic shows with prices that are getting closer to the prices of the foreign major acts in the country. For example, Parni valjak had its average ticket price around $25 for Arena in Zagreb which was not the reality of the same level acts 10 years ago when the price difference in between foreign acts and local ones were huge.

3. Raspberry

Not to praise only, the Musical Raspberry would go to Lisinski, the Carnegie Hall of Croatia, which had a tradition to invite only the music shows of the highest quality. Last year was not like that. Although the venue is financed from the public funds which make it sustainable, for some reason that was not the story this year (it began two years ago with just one or two acts, but this year set the new standard — of not having one).

Then again, this is probably the best opportunity for many acts that would never have a shot, so — get in while it lasts! To see example — one of the acts that will highlight 2018 is hidden behind this link.

4. Trap

This year, the local hip-hop cubs have strengthened. There was a gap with no new hip-hop music like TBF, Edo Maajka or Tram 11 but this was the year that brought acts like High 5 and the other acts from the newly established trap scene.

This video is also highlighted as one of the best videos of the year by Marcella Zanki, a Nowness, and Vice videographer

5. The brands are OK

Since our work is also connecting the major brands with the music, it is cool to stop hearing “this band has sold out” when the band makes collaboration with a brand. In that game international telecom brand Vip made the most notable project (that we were part of, also) creating a song “Nema da nema” with the top emerging trap act stated in the chapter before — High 5. The campaign was about limitless data targeting youth which makes that kind of act with the social media content as a natural choice. The other great campaign would be Žujina glazbena točionica that sponsors series of the best curated music show program in the country and created related branded online content.

Muzika + Vip collab: Tinder takeover with two amazing local hip-hop acts Kandžija and Remi (Elemental) as digital influencers

6. Influencers and social media

The new social media player Musical.ly is not a big boy in the region, at least not yet. Then again, Snapchat is used by the youngest music lovers only but mostly as a pure messenger. So, most of the young population which is almost entirely related to music — is basically binging on Facebook and YouTube (and content platforms, some downloading illegal content, some HBO). Instagram is relevant but not that big of music fans while Twitter is common to have but the users are not so active so it’s not a thing in the regional music industry.

And apart from the music digital basics, meaning, uploading the music videos on YouTube and hiring students as not an expensive solution for social media administration (well, Facebook) — musicians are seeing the big potential in the influencer marketing. They are starting to work more seriously on their fan-bases. It is also a great upcoming trend for 2018.

Besides the campaigns we were involved as a company — there was a notable influencer related example in the region —the Serbian Universal Music made the transformation of a teen you-tuber named Marija Žeželj to a pop star. Check Marija’s YouTube (the music one).

7. The consolidation of the festival scene

Croatia is still the festival destination, but it seems like the hype is vanishing. It is probably still in the top 5 most attractive destinations for the people that want more — but regarding the business — it seems that the festival inflation came to its end, there are no more big festival names popping up every week.

This was the year of consolidation of the existing ones which are working on their quality improving the local infrastructure and the offer itself. About the upcoming season — there is always room for more, like the spin-offs of major festival brands, but the other tourist destination seems to attract them more. The word is — it comes from the national tourism strategies.

8. Vinyl is in (the region)

Vinyl is a thing. Finally. Rip CD, you ex-love.

9. Nipplepeople

The Croatian indie pop collective made an urban hit of the year collaborating with elder pop singer Zdenka Kovačićek and this is the thing of the year.

There you go. That’s was what’s up.

And now — the personal lists.

My international albums of the year:

  1. Kendrick Lamar — “DAMN.” — This guy is a genius. No need to explain.

2. Sampha — “Process” — It just feels right. Also, very smoothly planned career. Last year working with Drake and the big shots, this year sits at the same table with them.

3. LCD Soundsystem — “american dream” — Love the music, love the story. James Murphy is the guy.

4. Jay Z — “4:44” — I became a fan several years ago. I know, I know. But now it resonates well. Also, was quite lucky that I accidentally bumped up at his pop-up listening session at Samsung store in Meatpacking District NYC at the beginning of the year.

5. Father John Misty — “Pure Comedy” — I have seen his show 5 years ago in Austin, Texas. Did not research before going to the show —never heard about the guy — but was blasted away. This newest album proved what I was expected.

6. Wolf Alice — “Visions of a Life” — this band excited me like Crystal Castles did about 10 years ago. Thought I lost the excitement.

7. King Krule — “The OOZ” — It’s a mix of about everything there is. And it feels good.

8. SZA — “CTRL” — Hope it’s not just a fashion thing cause I would love to see where this goes.

9. Migos — “Culture” — That‘s exactly what’s up in the music today.

10. Mount Eerie — “A Crow Looked At Me” — a Lo-fi melancholy that hit the right buttons. For some reason, it triggers the same button once Grandaddy did.

11. The National — “Sleep Well Beast” — Under the skin. Do not need any more words.

12. Vince Staples — “Big Fish Theory” — The tune that would recommend for a soundtrack of the. Any life.

13. The War on Drugs — “A Deeper Understanding” — It is retro. And it probably filled the hole made by wanting something new but also from the past.

14. Thundercat — “Drunk” — Smooth!

15. Slowdive — “Slowdive” — Sometimes, it’s good to take a look at your own shoes.

My local and regional albums of the year — so if you wanna check out the music from the region — check those:

1. Bojana Vunturišević — “Daljine” — World-class lady from Serbia that won both hearts and dance-floors.

2. Frenkie, Kontra, Indigo — “Egzil” — This rap is so energetic it made a deal with Red Bull energy drink (pun intended).

3. Chui + Jazz Orkestar HRT-a — “Chui ovu glazbu” — Chui is just so stubborn with their excellence.

4. Natali Dizdar — “Iluzije” — A long time since we heard something from this lady. And it’s remarkable.

5. Mayales — “Simbol za sunce” — The beautiful city sounds.

6. Para Lele — “Para Lele” — A creative psychedelic world pop. If you like to label genres.

Music show of the year: Moderat @ Arena Pula.

It was one of the last shows of the band — in the peak of their career. Having one of the hottest electronic live acts playing in one of the most amazing venues in the world — it just had to be great. And it was. Moderat played after Grace Jones on the opening of Dimensions Festival.

Thanks for reading! I do not have a potato. Sorry about that!