• Top of the flops

    The BBC’s new primetime music show ‘Sounds Like Friday Night’ has been met with mixed reactions from across the industry and the wider public.

    The six part series, conceived as a cross between Top of the Pops and Saturday Night Live and presented by Radio 1’s Greg James and Radio 1Xtra’s Dotty, features various comedy sketches, live music performances and interviews. It has featured performances from the likes of Jason Derulo and Dizzee Rascal, with the first episode attracting respectable average audience ratings of 2.2m.

    By way of comparison, ITV’s Coronation Street attracts an average audience of 6.8 million viewers and A Question of Sport, which regularly takes the same slot on BBC One, averages three million viewers per episode. Those shows clearly have a much broader demographic than a specialist music show.

    The real question is- in the era of Netflix, Spotify and YouTube, is there even a space for such a show, however well produced and delivered? There is no doubt that the BBC does this type of show and many others very well but the music and entertainment landscape is completely un-recognisable from the one that TOTP or TFI Friday launched in.

    As consumers have largely moved on from ‘event’ TV tied to schedules to watching and listening to what they want when they want, what purpose does it serve? The sound of your Friday night is more likely to be the opening title music of Stranger Things or another slightly overhyped Netflix original show. If you want to watch live music in your living room, you can find plenty of high quality full concerts on YouTube.

    Such TV appearances can boost and artist’s profile, sales and streams and there remains an appetite for live music, evidenced by the endurance of Later..With Jools Holland or the impressive viewing figures for Glastonbury, which hit an average high of 2.9m during Ed Sheeran’s set this year.

    However, without a pure emphasis on either music or comedy, the show is a halfway house. This is perhaps a concession to millennial attention spans but that is an audience who arguably aren’t even aware this show exists.

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  • DSPs Launch New European Alliance

    Spotify, Deezer, Soundcloud and other digital service providers (DSPs) have announced the launch of Digital Music Europe (DME), a new alliance that seeks to promote the success of the European digital music industry.

    The network, which also includes platforms such as 7digital and Soundcharts, will serve as a resource for policy-makers, media and the digital music industry. Google, Apple and Amazon are all conspicious by their absence.

    President of DME and CEO of Deezer Hans-Holger Albrecht commented: “For a decade, European digital music companies have led the transformation of the music industry globally. Bringing these companies together to create DME is a great opportunity to highlight European leadership in this sector, inspire other European entrepreneurs and create a unique voice with policy-makers”.

    Dress it up however you like, this is a lobbying group at a time when DSPs undoubtedly need one- despite the European recorded music market growing by 4% in 2016 primarily due to steaming, Spotify alone is under fire on everything from artist royalty pay outs to its inability to recognise a whole bunch of mechanical rights in the US.

    The primary purpose of DME will no doubt be to push for a legislative and regulatory framework that supports the growth of their businesses first and foremost.

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  • Festival Organisers Devastated

    The organisers of the Route 91 Harvest festival in Las Vegas and its promoter Live Nation have issued statements following the shooting that killed 59 people and left 527 injured at the weekend.

    The horrific incident began as Jason Aldean, the headliner of the final night of the country music festival began his set at the Mandalay Bay casino on Sunday night.

    The perpetrator, who is believed to have committed suicide following the attack, has been identified as Stephen Paddock. Paddock started firing from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel, causing scenes of widespread chaos at the event.

    Route 91’s organisers issued a statement saying: “On behalf of the entire Route 91 Harvest Family, we are completely devastated by the event that occurred Sunday night. Our deepest sympathies go out to the injured and the deceased and their loved ones, senseless violence has claimed the souls of our fans and we have little in the way of answers”.

    The statement continued: “While we will try and move forward, we will never forget this day. We will not let hate win over love. We will not be defeated by senseless violence. We will persevere, and honour the souls that were lost. Because it matters”.

    Promoter Live Nation added: “We are heartbroken over the tragedy that took place at the Route 91 Harvest festival. To think that anyone would want to inflict harm on a gathering of music lovers is beyond our comprehension. And while we are stunned and grieving over this incomprehensible act of violence, we know that this is a moment when we must come together to prevent more tragedies like this from occurring”.

    At this stage, the killer was believed to be acting alone and as the US’s deadliest mass shooting to date, the incident has again sparked off a debate around gun control in the US.

    Author and activist Naomi Klein tweeted:  “Don’t talk about guns after a massacre. Or climate change after storms. Or austerity after firetrap buildings burn. Talk when no one listens”.

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  • Streaming and Live: Simple Minds?

    The Gen was interested to read that Spotify is the latest tech company to dip its toes into the choppy waters of live music promotion. The streaming giant is set to host its first ever concert in the UK this November at London’s Alexandra Palace.

    Staged in collaboration with promoter SJM Concerts, Who We Be Live takes place on Thursday, November 30 and will feature artists including J Hus, Bugzy Malone, Cardi B, Dizzee Rascal, Giggs and Stefflon Don.

    An important point here is that Spotify are partnering with a national promoter and SJM’s promotion and operational expertise coupled with Spotify’s data could prove to be a potent combination.

    Spotify emailed fans who listen the most actively to the artists involved and followers of the Who We Be playlist in the UK, with an opportunity to purchase presale tickets- an extension of the pre-sales it already runs around artist tours and fans who listen to them most on the service.

    On the other side of the coin, Amazon’s live music division isn’t exactly off to a flying start, with Director of Prime Events (and former BBC live events exec) Jason Carter leaving after a week in the job , followed swiftly by Amazon Tickets GM Geraldine Wilson 

    As previously reported, Apple has also taken a step back from live, recently announcing the end of its Apple Music festival after ten years.

    The Gen is speculating but we imagine the corporate culture of Amazon to be greatly at odds with the slightly madcap, risk taking world of live promotion- below the most commercially successful level of artist, (your U2s, Sheerans and Coldplays), it’s quite frankly a day at the races.

    Here is the thing- live is a complex business, with various nuances. From grassroots venues to arenas and festivals, the process is broadly similar-you book the show or tour, promote it and try to keep all of the plates spinning. These include sales, production licensing, marketing, ticketing, PR, event management, logistics, ancillary steams of income outside of ticketing revenue and a great deal more. Then the show happens and is either a success or not.  BUT it happens anyway.

    It’s a completely different skill set and mentality to operating a subscription based music streaming service, which is proving to be the ultimate long game. The idea that you can simply transpose algorithms and create a successful live experience is overly simplistic, laughable even.

    Spotify partnering with a national promoter who has the expertise to deliver a show is a step in the right direction. There is a great deal of potential to further link streaming data with ticketing and promotion and the two worlds can certainly learn a lot from each other- it was interesting to see Live Nation offering a subscription style global festival pass earlier this year and selling out its allocation.

    Firstly, streaming companies need to realise, as Spotify seemingly have done that they need to work with the live industry and that putting on a show isn’t as simple as it looks.

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  • Microsoft Rips Groove From Heart

    Microsoft has this week wound down its Groove Music streaming service and announced a partnership with Spotify.

    The company’s ‘Xbox Music’ was rebranded as Groove Music in 2015, but the company has now announced plans to discontinue Groove Music passes from the end of this year- the service and related app will be completely knocked on the head, with subscribers refunded pro-rata. The move was detailed in a Microsoft blog post. 

    The partnership will enable Groove Music subscribers to migrate playlists to Spotify, which by sheer coincidence became available on Microsoft’s Xbox one games console in August this year.

    Microsoft is remaining tight lipped about how many people were actually subscribed to Groove, but it was clearly in the shadow of Spotify’s 60m subscribers. Numerous alternatives are available to Microsoft Windows users, who can also stream through Pandora and Deezer alongside Spotify, with Apple Music soon to be introduced.

    As a footnote, it is worth mentioning that Microsoft launched Zune Music Pass, a subscription service that gave Zune owners unlimited music downloads every month, back in 2006 when Spotify was a mere glimmer in Daniel Ek’s eye. Lets also not forget that Steve Jobs said this to Rolling Stone in 2003 : “The subscription model of buying music is bankrupt. I think you could make available the Second Coming in a subscription model and it might not be successful.”

     

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  • The Album: Alive and Well

    With Spotify now valued at $16bn, I’ve seen the future, brother to quote the late Leonard Cohen- the charts are irreperably broken and music is now all about curation, personalisation, playlists and single tracks- isn’t it?

    Not quite, actually- reports of the album’s death may have been greatly exaggerated.

    Speaking at the Reeperbahn festival and conference in Hamburg recently, Warner Music Group’s Chief Digital Officer and EVP of Business Development, Ole Obermann set out to bust some myths- one of which was that the album is dead.

    As documented on Music Business Worldwide, Obermann used a sample breakdown of revenue for a global superstar album sales (physical and download), single sales (physical and download), and streaming to illustrate that the album is still crucially important even in today’s streaming world.

    Obermann demonstrated that the artist had pulled in 50% of total recorded music income from full (ie. not equivalent) album sales.

    Some other recent examples- American group The National recently celebrated their first UK Number One album with ‘Sleep Well Beast’. 18 years and seven albums into their career, it’s a huge milestone and one that is propelling the band to do serious live business, with four nights at Hammersmith Apollo selling out swiftly. The band played the penultimate slot on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury this year, with a set focused on the as yet unreleased album that went down a storm.

    Elsewhere, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (pictured) recently completed a five-date UK arena tour, whose set lists comprised largely of the stark and uncompromising 2016 album Skeleton Tree. The concerts were acclaimed as the best of the band’s lengthy career, with Cave building a connection with audiences that transcended the huge and rather soulless spaces he was playing. At The 02 Arena in London, the whole experience felt strangely like an intimate yet huge sounding club show.

    For such artists, the album as a core body of work is their lifeblood and can be used to develop connections to fans on numerous levels- teaser tracks on streaming sites, pre-orders bundled with pre-sale links to gigs, live performances of tracks in advance to build momentum, special and varied vinyl releases and more.

    Both examples also lay waste to the idea that the industry is not creating new ‘legacy’ acts that can pack out the big sheds and headline large festivals- the prevailing logic is that with the demise of Cohen, Bowie, Petty and many more, there are no more heroes as the old song goes. It is nonsense and the album remains the anchor around which such legacies develop.

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  • The Great Escape Goes Dutch

    The Great Escape has announced that the Netherlands will be its lead international partner at next year’s event, taking place from May 17th-19th.

    Dutch Music Export and The Great Escape will be highlighting the Netherlands’ music industry, featuring performances from some of the country’s rising emerging talent, including Naaz and Pitou.

    With the partnership in the bag, its time for some obligatory and mutually appreciative quotes.

    Dutch Music Export producer Ruud Berends said: “Dutch Music Export is proud to be the focus country at TGE 2018. Our country has supported and attended TGE from year one with both the Dutch Impact Party and through various promotional support for our artists and industry.

    Berends continued: “The UK is one of the most important countries for us to present the best the Lowlands has to offer and The Great Escape provides the best platform to showcase, support and promote Dutch musical talent to not only the UK but international music industries and audiences.”

    Rory Bett, MAMA CEO added: “At last we are thrilled to shine a spotlight on one of our strongest, most longstanding partners, the Netherlands. Since the birth of TGE in 2006 the DME has worked alongside us to bring the best Dutch artists to the festival, our convention and line-up has grown from strength to strength with their support and incredible music scene. 2018 is the perfect time to put the very best The Netherlands has to offer at the forefront of our festival.”

    The Great Escape’s previous lead international partners include Canada, New Zealand, France and Switzerland.

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  • Music Venues Trust: Patron Saints

    The Music Venue Trust has announced three new artist patrons in advance of its annual Venues day on 17th October. Charlotte Hatherley, Slaves and The Anchoress will all now support the organisation, with Everything Everything’s Jeremy Pritchard the first musician to become a trustee.

    Jeremy Pritchard commented: “Were it not for the presence of the Tunbridge Wells Forum while I was growing up, I very much doubt that I would be a professional musician now. The same would be said of countless other individuals who have been inspired and nurtured by similar community live music venues – Southampton Joiners, Bristol Thekla, Oxford Jericho, Manchester Night And Day, Hull Welly, Newcastle Cluny, and so on”.

    He continued: “The UK music industry needs to do more to support its live grassroots, and government needs to recognise that the health and future prosperity of this important British industry relies on us nurturing these seeds”.

    The MVT’s annual Venues Day event this year is already sold-out, taking place on 17th Oct at Ministry Of Sound in London and featuring a variety of panel discussions on issues facing small venues.

    The Gen must again ask: Is this a London centric problem? Iconic venues have been closing down and it is as much of a struggle to operate a grass roots venue as it ever has been but new ones are also opening across the UK. The importance of these venues in developing talent should not be underestimated and of course, Agent of Change makes sense and the UK Government should act and commit to it. But how much of this is simply market forces? And are we really seeing a dearth of new festival and arena headliners as a result? Many live promoters would say that the ‘headliner’ problem, beyond say the cyclical nature of V festival headliners (The Killers, Kasabian and / or Kings of Leon anyone?), is not a problem at all with talent emerging at all levels.

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  • UK Music: Tick Off To Free Riders

    New figures published by UK Music today reveal that the UK music industry grew by 6% in 2016, contributing £4.4bn to the economy.

    The ‘Measuring Music 2017’ report indicates that the music industry continued to grow last year across almost every sector of the business. Exports jumped by 13% to £2.5bn, while the contribution of live music grew by 14% to £1bn. In comparison, recorded music grew by 5% to £640m. Employment across the sector increased by 19% to a total of 142,208 people.

    The export figures are especially impressive and no doubt driven by the success of large UK acts such as Ed Sheeran, Adele and Skepta.

    But not everything in the garden is rosy according to UK Music Chief Executive Michael Dugher, who called on tech companies to close the much discussed ‘value gap’ and end the “free ride” by properly rewarding artists and creators.

    Dugher said:  “The number of new jobs created in the UK rose at a faster pace than the rest of the employment market and our export figures shot up across the board. The outlook for the music business is better than it has been in years. But we urgently need to address the ‘value gap’ on the new and exciting platforms that many people now use to listen to music. Unlike subscription services, those platforms often offer little adequate reward to the investors and creators of the music that drives so much of their traffic”.

    He concluded: “There is still too often a culture of denial from the big tech firms. The way people listen to music may be changing, but certain fundamental responsibilities must continue.  It’s time for the free ride to come to an end”.

    Interestingly, the report also includes details of a UK Music survey on the views of the music industry on Brexit. In the results, only 2% thought Brexit would have a positive impact on their chances of work whereas 50% feared leaving the EU would have a negative impact. This is unsurprising for an industry that was predominantly against leaving the EU, with a Creative Industries Federation survey prior to Brexit revealing that 96% of its members were in favour of remaining.

    However, one in five (19.5%) believed that Brexit would have no impact, while 28% responded that they did not know.

    On that note, Dugher also this month urged the Government to end the “uncertainty and lack of clarity” facing the industry over Brexit.

    Find out more and read the report here.

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  • Does Spotify have the Rights Stuff?

    The Gen believes that we can all now move beyond the debate around streaming being the saviour of the recorded industry. The figures speak for themselves- Spotify now has 60m paying subscribers and is expected to generate $3bn for rights holders this year.

    The IFPI’s latest research into music consumption on a global level reveals that 45% of fans are engaging with licensed audio streaming. This is an increase of 37% in comparison to 2016, with figures based on research conducted by Ipsos Connect across 13 major music markets.

    Digging a little deeper adds a generational angle to this- Among consumers of paid subscription services, 90% listen using a smartphone, with 85% of those questioned aged 13-15 using streaming services.

    We can all agree that this is good for the industry but some discomfort remains- across the pond, major songwriters including Neil Young and the estate of The Doors have voiced outrage at Spotify’s inability to identify and pay a tranche of mechanical rights in the US marketplace over the past six years. Spotify responded by offering to effectively buy off the affected composers through a $43m settlement offer, then going on to make a legal argument that it wasn’t even obliged to recognise US ‘reproduction’ rights. This triggered understandable outrage across the music community in the US.

    And then we have Lyor Cohen recently claiming that YouTube is actually giving a fair deal to rights holders.

    So, Spotify– Friend or Foe? We shouldn’t really need to be asking at this stage and one can’t help but feel they have missed the point. The tendency to try and throw money at complex problems involving licensing was also recently demonstrated by Facebook. It is worrying and perhaps betrays the relative immaturity of tech companies. You are dealing with artists and songwriters and it is about recognition for their work as much as anything. It is frankly your job to deal with these complexities.

    To quote the late great music manager Jazz Summers: “get the music right, and the rest will follow”. A simple philosophy but one that rings true and extends to fair treatment of songwriters- one that Spotify, as it eyes up an IPO and grapples with its profitability problem, should take to heart if it wishes to play the long game.

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