opinion

Not fade away: Why every artist deserves a second chance in the modern music biz

‘It’s better to burn out than to fade away’ has been a go-to music biz adage since the ’70s. But, in truth, nowadays artists don’t need to do either. Much has been made, quite rightly, of how hard it is ...

Viewpoint: Sammy Andrews on Article 13

I was supposed to be writing a review of the year in this month’s column, but one subject has riled me so much over the last few months I feel obliged to address it. Because we need to talk about Article 13. There are few subjects that have been spoken about more within my circles over the last year and, make no mistake, this is an incredibly serious issue, not only for our industry but for creatives, artists and rights-holders in all corners of the world. The consequences of the outcome will have a far more profound impact than many people seem to think and, while I’ve chosen not to comment until now, I believe YouTube’s behaviour lately is cause for quite serious concern. Firstly, let’s have a look at YouTube. A service built pretty much entirely off other people’s content. And, let’s all remember for a moment, YouTube is actually Google/Alphabet, the world’s fifth largest information technology company based on revenues, superseded only by Apple, Samsung, Amazon and Foxconn (who make products for most of the companies in the Top 10). Yet they are saying that this would open them up to and I quote, “unmitigated liability and such a large financial risk that we would be forced to block huge amounts of video”. You know why that is? Because their entire business model is based on streaming content they don’t own and paying rights-holders a questionable amount for streams based on advertising revenue. But they don’t own the content. Think about that for a moment. Their argument here is that enforcing Article 13 will destroy the internet, at least if YouTube’s own ‘Save Your Internet’ campaign is anything to go by. Well, I call bullshit, YouTube. It will not destroy the internet, if anything it will encourage the very foundations the internet was built on: the sharing of information and creativity; unique creativity that should be properly compensated for usage. Of course, we have heard various positive things out of the YouTube camp, including Lyor Cohen’s call for transparency and their own active Content ID system. But, given their behaviour and attitude at present, our entire industry should have some alarm bells blasting in their ears. Shouting about the $1.8 billion they’ve paid into the industry may seem great, but those of you with comparable statements from Spotify, Apple, Amazon et all will know the so-called ‘value gap’ rears its head there too. Let’s look at this another way for a moment. If YouTube and all the other sites don’t want to fairly compensate the creators, how the hell is anyone going to make a living from being a creative in the future? As someone who works with both global superstars and up-and-coming artists, I can assure you that the young bands I see coming though can’t live off the promotional value of ‘content-jacking’ sites, nor can the creative artists or creative industries widely. I also have to question YouTube’s placement of what I can only describe as fear-mongering propaganda on its homepage. For those that haven’t seen it, YouTube are pushing out ‘Save Your Internet’ pop-ups across their service, as well as emailing creators directly. They’re actively using their position, fuelled entirely by other people’s content, to argue that they don’t need to pay for, or be responsible for misuse of that content. This feels like a step too far and raises some pretty profound questions around large tech companies’ ability to influence the political process for their own gain. We have an issue here and it’s one we need to seriously consider for the future of our creators. Yes, we have content ID… Hurrah. But why resist making looking after rights-holders a legal requirement? You all know the names of other tech companies implementing similar systems to appease the music industry… Are we about to face similar fights with them? It’s not often our industry needs to speak with one voice but, if you care about our artists, we need to stand together on this. SAMMY RECOMMENDS This month, I’d like to give a shout out to some of the leading independent YouTube rights management, take-down and monetisation services. If you have any content sitting outside of a deal at the moment, and you’re not using Content ID directly, check these companies out: AWAL TuneCore InGrooves Ditto Lasso AdRev AudioLock

Why festive songs are now for life, not just for Christmas

December 1 marks the date when Christmas music becomes not just acceptable, but pretty much compulsory across the UK. And nowadays, the streaming revolution means festive sounds are not just a matter for shops and radio music programmers – although their continued importance in those areas is shown by Magic Radio playing 100% Christmas music from last week – they’re big business. If you have a Christmas classic in your catalogue, it could be the key to the biz’s new Holy Grail: a perennial chart hit  and therefore perennial big earner for writer, artist, publisher and label. The question is, how do you get people to stream your Christmas classic, rather than someone else’s, especially in the voice control era? Anyone who owns a smart speaker will know it’s much easier to say “Alexa, play Christmas music” rather than ask for specific tracks. This isn’t the most scientific bit of research Music Week will ever do, but when your correspondent asked Apple's Siri to play Christmas music on the HomePod, the first five songs were pretty much exactly the Christmas classic you’d expect: Mariah Carey, Wham!, The Pogues, Wizzard and Slade. When I asked Amazon's Alexa the same question though, Mariah aside, the list was different: Ariana Grande, Shakin’ Stevens, Cliff Richard and Katy Perry’s Cozy Little Christmas, non-coincidentally an Amazon exclusive (see this week’s cover story for more on that). There are no doubt complicated algorithms and previous listening habits involved in some of those choices (although few of Alexa's selections would be elective favourites in our house). But, as a higher proportion of streaming moves to voice-controlled devices (particularly during Christmas, peak time for having people over for drinks and shouting at Alexa in your kitchen), cracking how and why such songs are chosen will be crucial for the biz. Don’t be surprised to see more artists go down the exclusive route in order to gain traction for new festive tunes. But it also won’t have escaped the industry’s notice that some classic (non-Yuletide) catalogues from the ’50s and ’60s will soon run out of their traditional audience. Christmas music, however, seems immune to such demographic shifts (Andy Williams, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra all feature on Spotify's most-streamed Christmas songs list), as long as you can still get it in front of people. So, while everyone else is facedown in a vat of egg nog and Quality Street, that's the new streaming battleground for execs to get to grips with this Christmas. So never mind Santa, the biz needs to make sure it’s on Alexa’s nice list this year, and for every year to come. * To read Music Week's Amazon Music cover story with UK boss Paul Firth, see this week's print edition or click here. To subscribe and never miss a vital music biz story, click here.

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