The music media landscape’s recent obsession with reflecting on the past as we fully wrap up not only an eventful year for this artform, but easily one of its most daring, dynamic, and evolutionary decades has prompted many to consider what is now music’s most central question: what could possibly be next, and how will we react as an audience?

Perhaps we can apply this notion to the entire decade to come given its already prominent speculations and unanswered/uncreated narratives moreso than just looking at 2020 as a single year, and while this concept does indeed deserve all the consideration in the world, I feel as though if we are talking about the underground music scene as it currently stands, no single year means more toward its continued progression than 2020 itself. 

We can still sit back and continue to reflect on this year and this decade as much as we please, and I am absolutely certain we will do just that, even with all of the social media hype regarding the year and corresponding decade to come saturating our feeds on a daily basis. But to truly move forward at the pace that this scene is asking for and frankly deserves, an outline of what this year by itself could possibly bring is absolutely necessary.

To put it bluntly, 2020 could very well give a new definition to the term “game-changer” as applied to the underground music scene. I am claiming this for a myriad of reasons — all of which fall under the greater umbrella of what it means to be a rising artist as it currently stands. 

We are living in a world that sees its trends almost exclusively dictated by social media, and to say that all levels of musical prominence are ideal examples of this sentiment is blatantly obvious. If we are as transfixed with this state of reflection as places like Twitter and YouTube would like us to believe, than this statement should make perfect sense when looking back on some of the most defining moments, movements, and progressions made in the 2010s alone. 

Given that confirmation, how can we look at this year as beginning what many are rightfully predicting as being a polarizing year to come? To best answer this, it all goes back to my aforementioned statement on what it means to be an artist in today’s world, and the nuances that come with being an underground artist more particularly. 

The first thing that we can reasonably claim about what 2020 might be like for the underground is that its unique trends will be manifested through social media alone. Maybe this is a sad truth for some, but as acts have continued to rise much quicker and with greater prominence all due to their exceptional social media campaigns and marketing throughout the latter half of the 2010s, artists looking to make their mark as effectively as possible will have to attempt a similar method in order to do so. 

And while it is true that not all artists who have accomplished this feat started in the underground or at least felt its influence, a staggering number certainly have, and that fact alone should make it clear that this level of musical stature is as integral and important to the greater music landscape than ever before. 2020 may just be the year where that statement becomes as apparent as it should be to a wider variety of listeners. 

When thinking about something like this situation being possible for anyone with an amazing idea and an even better knack for marketing themselves behind them, it should feel so very exhilarating. But even as enthusiastic as I am about being able to claim something like this with the tail-end of the previous decade proving its validity in full, I do feel the need to bring up an additional point that will play a somewhat contrasting role in how 2020 will play out for the scene.

The truth that we must all face to a certain degree when being faced with the prospects of progression in the upcoming year is that things simply cannot change overnight, even as much as we both want and expect them to. As decades continue to add up in the eyes of pop culture, signature trends are not seen as being fully established within them until at least a few years have passed. More often than not, the first couple years of a decade see the pop culture norms of its predecessor slowly phase out, while not disappearing completely until the time is optimally right to move on.

Artists looking to be the first ones on the block to define what it means to make music in the most vulnerable parts of this decade should realize this and not get too overzealous. This especially rings true when solely looking at 2020 as a single year; a calculated approach to one’s growth is entirely necessary in order to see the changes we so desire and expect in 5 years or so. 

What this entire explanation comes down to is the simple fact that we as both audiences and artists alike must be as patient as humanly possible, even in the guise of our lofty expectations for this – and it cannot be stressed enough – polarizing decade to come. And despite this tone sounding serious as can be, it is my belief that the next wave of underground talent will undoubtedly follow this advice in the coming year as we move further through it.

My expectations for this next wave are not without bearing. I feel as though I may have greater confidence in the potential rising talents of this scene than most others do; I think this is something of a virtue for myself. I say this because throughout the waning years of the 10s, my eyes were opened to a plethora of artists who have had that sense of patience that I had mentioned before — combined with visions that stretch far beyond just “making it as musicians.” 

This combination that these artists have the capability to withhold will pay off in the coming years, and it all begins this year. 

If I could sum up what I would like the grander audience of underground music to understand about 2020 in one statement, it would go as follows: be as excited as possible, but be excited in the right way. As it has been stated before, an overzealous approach to artistic progression directly contrasts with how media has traditionally functioned as far as decades are concerned. 

Even still, we are looking at what could be the most memorable and infamous year to occur this millenium, and while that is mostly due to numerous aspects outside of music in the wider pop culture landscape, music itself will undoubtedly be playing an integral role as it always does in translating this sentiment into reality. 

To get to that point however, we know where it all has to begin. It begins right here, where it always does — with the independent… the underground. Whatever this year might bring content and quality-wise, the enjoyment of entertainment and the appreciation of authentic artistry will absolutely not cease to exist.