Music Week has been speaking to publishers about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, including how it could influence songwriting trends according to A&R exec Paul Smith at Warner Chappell.
What do you think the long-term impact of the coronavirus will be on the publishing sector?
Jonathan Tester: “The live sector has made national headlines with events globally like SXSW and Glastonbury being cancelled and tours being postponed, but these all have drastic consequences for publishers. We will lose significant performance revenue and the momentum our writers have been building. The closing of shops, restaurants, pubs and clubs has cut off yet more revenue streams for performance – a hairdresser closing won’t make headlines but it impacts on our revenues. Labels pushing back releases, record stores closing, film/TV production shutting down, advertising being put on hold causes a domino effect on publishing. So whilst we might not look to be the first to be severely affected, the collective fall will hit us later in the year.”
How are you helping your songwriters in terms of co-writing – are sessions still taking place as much as possible?
Flash Taylor: “Sessions are still going ahead, but some have needed to be rescheduled to further down the line. Some artists are happy to work remotely, and some are not, so we have had to work with that. However, the world of pop and dance has always worked remotely and globally, so we continue to source session opportunities in these markets by staying in constant communication with our international partners, management and label friends.
“Some of our artist writers have become interested in writing toplines to outside tracks, which may not be completely in their wheelhouses musically and we have heard some fantastic results. It's exciting that our artists are exercising their creative muscles in this lockdown. We have also had our writers working on specific briefs we have received from across the globe. Obviously, song pitching has not been affected greatly as everybody is still looking for great songs – and we have them.”
We are seeing some creative solutions to producing new content
What steps is the company taking in response to the impact of the lockdown – how much is business going on as normal?
JT: “We are very much business as usual. The first week did feel quite strange and adjusting to life outside the office took a few days of acclimatisation, but we were well prepared for the lockdown and we had all the necessary systems in place. We have weekly all staff Zoom meetings and a daily lockdown email. These help maintain the social interaction of office life and are being used as much for a wellbeing check-in as for work-related issues. Drinks after work still continue!”
How has the TV/film and advertising sync market been impacted for publishers?
JT: “Sync has remained quite buoyant throughout this period. We have experienced cancellations and pulled productions, which have been a combination of government measures, the impossibility of live action shooting and brands finding trading conditions difficult with closures. But, also, I think there's a sensitivity to the situation and when the right time to advertise is.
“However, there are also brands that have taken on a new importance due to the situation and are impacting socially on how we behave – so sectors like telecommunications, supermarkets, delivery services are now delivering not only their brand values, but adding to the collective consciousness and sharing the message of staying at home to save lives, as well as protecting and thanking the NHS. We are seeing some creative solutions to producing new content such as user-generated content, animation, new edits etc. Music is playing a vital role as it can be the most effective way to deliver a message and can provide emotional support. We are seeing a trend for songs that are positive, inspirational and deliver a sense of ‘we’re all in this together’ or ‘everything is going to be OK', and have been compiling playlists accordingly.
“In terms of TV/film, as commercial music is normally finalised at the edit/post phase we are still working on productions that have managed to film. We are also noticing an increase in re-licence, so brands that have been unable to produce new work are re-running previous campaigns.”
Will the popularity of TV streaming at this time be good for sync in the long term as services build their subscriber base?
JT: “I’m not sure if there will be a direct correlation to Covid-19 in the long term. TV streaming is already very important for sync. In terms of new subscribers, I think further growth will be dependent on retention of these new customers and whether they keep subscriptions once lockdown has ended.”
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