opinion

What the music biz can learn from Netflix and TV streaming

And then there were three. Music Week’s revelations last week about how Amazon has worked its way alongside Spotify and Apple Music to become a major player in UK music streaming shows the sector is still up for grabs. In ...

A decade of decadence? Why the music biz should expect the unexpected in the Roaring '20s

Welcome to the Roaring, Soaring '20s! As executives slowly eases themselves back into work and a new decade, it’s worth contemplating how far we’ve come since the biz edged, much more tentatively into the 2010s. Back then, the recorded music industry was still locked in a slump than would carry on for another half decade while perhaps its ultimate saviour, Spotify (founder Daniel Ek, pictured), had only just launched in the UK. It took less than a decade for Spotify to transform itself from small-scale Swedish start-up to market-leading public company so perhaps the ultimate lesson from the music industry’s recent history is that no one really knows what’s coming next. We enter this new era on the back of a sustained, streaming-fuelled five-year growth cycle – see the hugely encouraging market figures both here in the UK and across the pond in the US – that certainly doesn’t look like it’s going to end any time soon. But they'd have said that in the '90s. So, what if the streaming bubble bursts? What if a new format or a new form of piracy emerges? What if all the new money currently washing through the biz and funding mega-publishing deals and huge A&R investment finds an even more attractive, even higher yield business to invest in? The ultimate lesson from the music industry's recent history is that no one really knows what's coming next Mark Sutherland True, it’s clear the industry is more cautious about the current boom than it was during the ‘90s. And many companies are sensibly investing in the diversification and forward-planning that should futureproof their businesses. But it’s also worth remembering the spirit of the slump years. Back then, you knew everyone involved in the business of music was there for the right reasons and there was relative freedom to balance the art with the commerce. And, while the biz’s recovery has been remarkable, it’s been based on equal parts commercial and musical innovation. So, while – in this business, more than any other business – none of us necessarily know what will actually happen in the next 10 minutes, let alone the next 10 years, one thing’s for sure: look after the music, and the money should take care of itself. * For Music Week's guide to the essential albums and tours of 2020, see our new issue, out today. To subscribe to Music Week and never miss a vital music biz story, click here.

A time for forgiving? Why the music biz should unite in 2020

It’s the season of peace on earth, but that is not the story of the music industry’s 2019. Depending on your perspective, this has either been a vintage year or anabsolute annus horribilis for music biz rows. Whether it’s Taylor Swift’s on-going dispute with Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun (Swift and Borchetta are pictured in happier times); the indies’ complaints about Universal and Tencent; or Spotify versus the songwriters (or Warner Music or Apple or…), the illusion of the music community’s united front has been well and truly shattered. None of these disputes are unjustified, but many of them could have been avoided with a little more care and respect. During the pre-streaming slump, there was broad solidarity within the biz, as companies and executives clubbed together in the face of an extremely challenging environment. But now that the biz is once again awash with cash – this time with the sort of profit margins that would have been dismissed as the stuff of a madman’s dreams back in the ’90s – that togetherness is being challenged. It’s no real surprise that Spotify have been at the heart of so many disputes this year. The streaming service began as a start-up, rapidly became the market-leader and now finds itself the subject of intense competition from deep-pocketed rivals. Now it’s a public company, it does what most public companies do: seek out the biggest possible prize by using every bit of leverage it has. When the biz was in the doldrums, neither the prize nor the leverage were really big enough to justify such disputes. Today, both have been super-scaled, which means some are prepared to ditch successful partnerships and long alliances at the first drop of a hefty cheque. This may just be the festive spirit(s) talking, but does it have to be this way? Despite the recovery, there are still industry-wide issues that need solving, and are only likely to be fixed by working together. And the global political climate, including the dreaded Brexit becoming a reality, will make things more challenging for everyone. As explored in the new, bumper Christmas edition of Music Week, artists and songwriters, for so long the Bob Cratchits of the biz hoping for a few crumbs from the table, are now reasserting their rights and, while others in the industry might lose out slightly by helping them out, it seems likely everyone would benefit in the long run. After all, the ghosts of the music industry past will tell you that everything is cyclical. The boom years won’t last forever so instead, why not plan ahead and extend the season of ‘good will to all’ into 2020 and beyond? Merry Christmas! * The bumper Christmas edition of Music Week is in all good newsagents now. To secure your copy of this very special issue, email Rachael Hampton on rachael.hampton@futurenet.com. To subscribe to Music Week and never miss a vital music biz story, click here.

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