Viewpoint: Sammy Andrews on the music biz's post-Covid recovery options

Sammy Andrews

The coronavirus crisis has devastated the music industry. But, in her latest digital column for Music Week, Deviate Digital CEO Sammy Andrews tries to find the positives in the fresh trends and revenue streams emerging under the new reality...

For this month’s column, I want to help lift the veil on the delicate sense of opportunity that is emerging out of the chaos we find ourselves in.

Now that we are a fair few months into the global Covid-19 pandemic, some interesting patterns are emerging that I hope the music industry will in some way take heed of and carry forward into the new normal. 

At Deviate, I feel very fortunate that Covid-19 became a period of mass action for us. The day the lockdown set in, every single one of our clients (and potential clients) turned to us to help them navigate a path via digital.

While some may have pitched ideas to us that we were pitching 10 years ago, the digital bloom we are seeing across the industry is something that is not only important to navigate during Covid, but something that will provide incremental revenue to, and have profound impact on, the industry long after we are able to shake hands again.

Whilst this has been and continues to be a devastating time for many, there are some glimmers of hope in the darkness.

The success of the recent Love Record Stores event showed unprecedented demand, support and potential for online sales. Record shops all over the UK declared record trading figures, many selling out of stock within hours. This is something we must all recognise and take forward. The long overdue digital revolution amongst traditional bricks-and-mortar stores is a sight to behold and something we should be careful to nurture.

TikTok truly has a sense of being a game-changer about it

Sammy Andrews

The same can be said for merch. It’s flying out of online stores and has done so consistently since the beginning of lockdown and, while the situation may change as the true economic impact of Covid-19 takes hold, I sincerely hope artists will take away the understanding that they can drive some serious revenue through merch when they engage with their fanbase properly. Instagram, SnapChat, YouTube and Google shopping are all getting on the radars of acts looking for a viable route to market. And all of these platforms have announced rollouts of new shopping products in the last few weeks.

Then there’s livestreaming, in all of its forms. Those of us that have worked in digital for a couple of decades are not new to livestreaming, but Covid has seen mass adoption, be that for conferences, awards, festivals, gigs, fundraisers or interviews… Everyone is getting in on the action. There is also a clear move towards monetisation, with BTS’ record-breaking sales and Laura Marling’s successful ticketed Dice livestream showing there’s a market for it. 

The big potential for me is in when live does reopen. If your act’s routing misses out 90% of the world, there is huge potential to open this up (albeit on a limited basis, as there is absolute value in scarcity) to fans globally for incremental sales. BTS grossed around $18 million from one livestream: think about that for a second, and then throw in merch on top. The same opportunities exist for festivals. I hope we will start to see that sector emerge post-Covid as people wake up to the potential. Licensing, however, remains a serious issue and one that must be addressed. There will no doubt also be questions over rights. As everyone clocks the potential value, we’ll see a scramble for ownership of such streams and events. Tread carefully. 

Last month, I asked what I felt were the questions at the heart of the #BrokenRecord debate. Thank you to everyone who got in touch with responses. Those burning questions are now being addressed both in public and behind closed doors on just about every board I am aware of. There is, for the first time in many years, a sense of hope and intention to solve some of our industry’s embarrassing hangovers from a previous age. I hope action is taken across the board, long after we put away the facemasks.

And then there’s TikTok. I’ve written about the platform’s undeniable potential many times, but right now it truly has a sense of being a game-changer about it, especially when it comes to the next feel good hit of the summer. In the absence of schools, dancefloors and parties, the world is flocking there to both share and make videos and, in doing so, it’s making hits and not just for new music. 

TikTokers are using the lyrics of I’m Just A Kid, the classic 2002 pop-punk track by Simple Plan, to recreate old family and friends photos. Those videos have three billion views at time of writing, while The Weeknd’s #BlindingLightsChallenge has also become very popular with over 370m views to date.

Whilst we all feel the pain and the sadness of the coronavirus crisis, I hope we can also grasp these innovations with both hands. Without the need for sanitiser.

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