YouTube Music's new subscription service: The Music Week verdict

A few weeks back, Music Week jokingly compared the launch of a new Google music service with the arrival of an England World Cup campaign: a lot of hype that usually ends in inglorious failure. So it’s somewhat ironic that ...

Stand up for something: Why the music biz should back career artists, not just hits

At Capital’s forever-excellent Summertime Ball the other weekend, the predominately-teenage audience once again provided the ultimate litmus test for today’s crop of top pop performers. If gathered music industry execs needed to know whether the Wembley Stadium crowd approved of their charges, they only needed to look up into the seated blocks. If the crowd was standing up, the song being performed was a nailed-on hit. If they were sat down, phones out, Snapchat on, the connection had been lost. And the test applied very much to songs, rather than artists. Even big name guest appearances only really moved the dial if the song was a banger. And if – like a live version of a streaming playlist – there had been a fast-forward button available whenever some brave pop star announced, “Here’s a brand new song”, the skip rates would likely have been off the scale. Meanwhile, at Taylor Swift’s spectacular show at Manchester’s Etihad Stadium, a similar demographic spent the entire show on their feet, singing and screaming for more, despite Swift’s willingness to play deep cuts from both the new album and her back catalogue. The same could be said of Ed Sheeran's excellent set at Wembley at the weekend. Of course, Swift and Sheeran are superstars now, but they became so thanks to careful attention to every aspect of their career on the way up, and by nurturing their fanbases to care about more than just their latest song. The question of how you go from breaking a record to breaking an artist, and from making a crowd stand up for your hits to standing up for you (in every sense), is possibly the biggest creative challenge facing the music business right now. George Ergatoudis’ move last week from Spotify to Apple shows the importance of playlisting in the cutthroat digital landscape. But the pre-eminence of those lists offers few opportunities for an artist’s originality, individuality or personality to emerge – and it’s those qualities which ultimately build careers, not just chart hits. The biz needs those hits but it also needs to be bold enough to let some real artists stand up. Then maybe the audience might do the same.

Squad goals: How the World Cup can boost the music business

There will be no official England World Cup Squad single this year. For anyone raised on the glory days of tournament songs such as New Order’s World In Motion and The Lightning Seeds’ Three Lions – not to mention Scotland/Del Amitri’s seminal, if sadly over-optimistic Don’t Come Home Too Soon – this seems as sad as Gazza’s tears. You can blame streaming for killing the one-off novelty single or blame a series of hopeless World Cup and European Championship campaigns for killing the blind optimism that’s a pre-requisite for corralling pop stars and footballers into the same studio. But the world’s biggest sports event still offers a myriad of potential opportunities for the music business. There’s been much talk of how the tournament could help further open up Russia to Western industry. Well, the live biz has already been there and done that, with the pioneering work done by agents such as UTA's Neil Warnock since the days of the Iron Curtain now paying off with a burgeoning live market there.   The world’s biggest sports event still offers a myriad of opportunities for the music business   But there’s still more to be done. Post-Brexit, Russia could be a key trading partner – or a whole new level of bureaucratic nightmare – so any relationships in place beforehand will help. And streaming could unlock Russia’s consumer market in the same way the format has in South America, and may yet do in India and China. And of course the World Cup audience is truly global, offering our artists and labels a unique opportunity for visibility in almost every country on earth. So it’s important that the biz makes the most of the opportunities FIFA’s huge platform sends their way, whether it’s the gigantic global sync deals offered by key brands and sponsors, or the chance to soundtrack England’s inevitable ignominious exit on highlights packages around the world. After all, in the World Cup of music, British teams actually have a chance of winning. [New Order Photo: Nick Wilson]   

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