opinion

Why now is the perfect time for the BRIT Awards to go global

This year’s BRIT Awards could be a watershed moment for the UK music industry. Of course, you could probably say that most years. But after a long period when a beleaguered industry would look hopefully to its biggest showcase to ...

There's no future in England's streaming: Why British music needs radio more than ever

The streaming revolution has reached every corner of the music business, but its effect on radio has always been greatly exaggerated. Last week’s RAJAR figures showed radio is in ruder health than ever. Radio 2 posted another increase and even Radio 1 – probably the only radio network in the world ever to be ordered to shed some of its audience – saw itself back up towards 10 million listeners. There are similar stories every quarter, despite streaming’s exponential growth. But one effect the rise of global streaming charts may be having is on radio’s support of domestic artists. BBC stations are obliged to play British artists and embrace that responsibility enthusiastically. But a decline in the number of UK artists in the 2017 airplay Top 100 suggests not every station feels the same in the face of an international streaming hegemony. Thankfully, it looks like streaming – newly focused on local music – might yet pick up some of that slack, with an Ed Sheeran-assisted rise in the number of British artists in the 2017 Top 100 Streaming tracks. And a modest decrease across one year of airplay is no cause for panic. But streaming’s relative lack of human interaction around its championing of artists will never compensate for the impact of a trusted tastemaker introducing you to a new band. Especially when it’s one from just down the road. Spend any time in a foreign country trying to find a station that isn’t just pumping out the same half dozen global megahits and you’ll appreciate the huge diversity available via our airwaves. British radio, like British music, is the best in the world. But the two things need each other to maintain their unique connection with UK music fans. Let’s hope they realise that before it’s too late.Mark Sutherland, Editormsutherland@nbmedia.com

In Pod we trust: Why voice controlled music is the new streaming battleground

In New York for the 2018 Grammy Awards, two things were immediately apparent. Firstly, I should have brought a warmer coat. And secondly, the music streaming war in America has moved to a whole new level. Times Square was a digital battleground, with Spotify, YouTube and Apple Music seemingly locked into a turf war over who could command the most ludicrously ostentatious LED billboard. Great news for the artists and labels involved, but this is just the start. Because today’s (February 9) launch of Apple’s long-awaited, much-delayed HomePod device will open a whole new, voice-controlled domain. Ads for the HomePod were everywhere in the Grammys telecast, and notably positioned it as very much a music device, rather than the more general assistant role Amazon pitches for the Echo. And yet anyone who’s got to know Alexa over recent months understands how often such devices are used to play music – and the transformative effect it can have on music consumption, particularly on household members who were previously relatively passive music fans.   The key question for the music business may not be which device dominates, but how you ensure your music – rather than someone else’s – is played in response to general 'play music' requests   HomePod seems aimed more at the aficionado – but whether that’s the market for voice-activated devices remains to be seen. Talking to music biz executives, it seems like the most common requests to Alexa are general: “Play music” or “Play jazz”, rather than specific (“Alexa, please play Mega Armageddon Death by the Electro Hippies”). Which means that the real key question for the music business may not be which device dominates, but how you ensure your music – rather than someone else’s – is played in response to such requests. The public may be too busy dancing to pay much attention to Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant’s choices, but the biz will be sweating over the algorithms long before the battle for voice supremacy reaches its end game. So hey, Siri, welcome to the party. Are you ready for a fight to the death?* To read Music Week's verdict on the new HomePod, click here.

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