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Can Music Learn from TV & Games?

Question 3: What can the industry learn from other creative and digital sectors such as games and TV in 2017?

Lets be clear from the outset- this isn’t about the music industry attempting to replicate the success of other creative industries. According to UKIE, the global video games market is expected to grow from $91.8bn in 2015 to a total of $118.6 billion by 2019 with the UK alone valued at £2.96bn in 2016- 2.6 times the size of music.

With the UK music industry generating £1.11bn ($1.37bn) at retail in 2016, such numbers are a pipe dream that even Super Mario wouldn’t venture down. We’re comparing apples to oranges because its sometimes interesting to do so and there are lessons to be leaned from other sectors:

  1. Make album releases an event. This has been seriously lacking from album releases over the last few years with the exception of mega stars such as Kanye West (and you get the feeling that one was haphazard rather than carefully engineered).

Albums slither out onto digital platforms every week and if they are lucky, get a place on Apple and Spotify’s ‘new release’ playlists before becoming washed up in the great ocean of noise competing for your attention. The album is no longer an event, so rights holders must utilise streaming, live events, VR and everything at their disposal to make it a talking point beyond the core fan base- See Bjork’s VR exhibitions and PJ Harvey’s recording of an album in public as a good starting point in getting music to again join new TV shows and game releases around the water cooler.

  1. Tell a story: the incredible demand for shows such as Stranger Things and Breaking Bad on Netflix (which soared past 75m subscribers in 2016) and Westworld on Sky is not just about word of mouth, it’s a carefully managed strategy to keep viewers hanging on for more- you remain engaged through the lifespan of the product and far beyond. One of the most anticipated TV releases of this year is the third season of Twin Peaks, a show that last aired in 1991.

This is harder to do in music but put simply, labels and artists are going to need to become master story tellers because release cycles are broken- fans will stream an artist’s music for as along as they are interested in what they have to say. Are ‘episodes’ the future of album release? Perhaps not for everyone but Ed Sheeran, who more or less broke the Internet earlier this month with the simultaneous release of two new tracks in advance of his album (an extended pilot if you like) seems to think so.

  1. Create a clearer and more accessible digital marketplace. If a consumer wants to digitally purchase a video game, they log onto one of a few platform specific services- there is not a myriad of services offering more or less the same thing.

Such online stores are very good at making distinctions between ‘major’ releases from large publishers and independent releases that tend to be lower priced, quirkier and more experimental. Sony in particular has made cool, independent releases a key part of its strategy for the Playstation 4. Sadly, we can’t say the same for streaming services, though Spotify is reportedly becoming more focused on such distinctions for playlist creation. Lets hope so, because we are playing catch up and, pardon the pun, desperately need to level up.

Price point is crucial for this- why is Netflix dominating while Spotify stumbles? You can start Netflix for as little as £5.99 for standard definition, a “worth a punt” price that is £4 less per month than any music streaming service.

More flexibility and consideration of what the customer is willing to pay is clearly needed, with £9.99 an absolute steal for some but simply not worth it for most at present.

All of the above is much easier said than done- but an industry more willing to leave its comfort zone and look outside for inspiration more frequently would be a healthier place for all.

To catch up on the previous big questions for the music industry in 2017, go here:

Question 1  Where Next For Streaming

Question 2 Will VR Become Actual Reality

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