Data, Europe, equality and the value gap: seven things we learned at Eurosonic 2017

Data, Europe, equality and the value gap: seven things we learned at Eurosonic 2017

A freezing edition of Eurosonic/Noorderslag closed its doors in the wee hours of Sunday January 15, having hosted a successful four-day party and conference in the Dutch city of Groningen, playing host to some 40,300 festivalgoers and 4,200 conference attendees.

Over 382 acts played 424 shows on 48 stages. British talent featured heavily throughout, starting with the European Border Breakers Awards, which saw the triumph of Dua Lipa (pictured above), who was among the 10 up-and-coming winners and also took home the People Choice Award. As the dust settles on the event for another year, here are seven takeaways from Music Week's time in Groningen.

Europe is still a work in progress

It seems the music community's desire to see the European Union adopt a plan (and a budget) specific to the needs of the industry is an ongoing quest. After a series of consultations with stakeholders, the European Commission is still committed to the Music Moves Europe initiative, even though the European Parliament declined at the end of last year to vote for a pilot programme.

This was confirmed by Barbara Gessler, newly appointed head of culture at the Directorate General of Education and Culture. "I can promise that there will be a full programme in 2021," said Gessler, before adding two caveats: "We need the Commission to buy in, the Parliament to buy in, the nations to buy in," and the music community needs to "speak with one voice."

Anna Hildur, programme director of the Nordic Music Export-NOMEX, welcomed the news: "I am happy that [Gessler] confirmed commitment to the cause."

More than a woman

Much like other sectors of the industry, the live music community has gender issues. Very few women hold top jobs in concert promotion companies, talent agencies or management firms. But the issue is not simply about leadership positions, as it also affects all sorts of other jobs, especially technical positions.

Flavie Van Colen, co-manager of Paloma, a music venue in Nimes, in the south of France, reported that a recent survey in France showed that the "cool" creative sector "is worse than the army" in letting women access to leadership or artistic positions. Carmen Zapata, the manager of ASACC (Associació de Sales de Concerts de Catalunya), summed up the issue by stating: "We want to be with our male colleagues in all places."

The value gap for dummies

If you thought you’d had enough of the value gap in 2016, be warned: it's not over!

The recorded music industry, performers and songwriters and collective management organisations are only just starting to make noise about the issue.

At Eurosonic, European indie labels held a session titled The Value Gap For Dummies, which updated the audience on the state of the gap. At the heart of the issue are platforms like YouTube, Soundcloud or Facebook that take provisions to avoid paying fair market rates for the use of content.

"The value of music is used by others to make value," said Alexander Beets, head of the business department of the Fontys Rockacademie in Tilburg. A European directive, made public last year, offered a first attempt to find a legislative solution, but Matthieu Philibert from the European Association of Independent Music Companies said firms like Google will lobby Parliament to get the measure scrapped, so the industry has to push for the legislation. "The next few months will be crucial," he warned. 

Streaming won the digital war

Exit downloads, here comes streaming. With an estimated 25-30% decline in digital downloads, 2016 will be remembered as the year streaming went mainstream, but also when it pushed downloads closer to extinction.

Zach Fuller, paid-content analyst at MIDiA Research, bluntly told the Eurosonic crowd that "streaming is killing off downloads" and "playlists are cannibalising downloads."

Because of that, he said, the very notion of the album is being challenged and "managing the download decline will be a crucial task in the coming years" for the music industry. Fuller also asserted that record labels should better understand YouTube's monetisation system to grow revenues from the platform.

So much so for the value gap!

Streaming is not the enemy of radio

Chris Price believes that radio can gain from partnering with streaming services, an idea that goes against the notion that streaming is killing the radio stars. In a keynote presentation, the head of music for BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra outlined the multi-platform strategy of the BBC to ensure that the output of the station is available to listeners if and when they want it.

It is about "using other people's platforms to get your platforms better known," said Price, before adding: "We want audiences to use BBC curated music [on streaming platforms] but not at the expense of our own platforms."

Data is king, but you have to know how to use it

Jake Beaumont-Nesbitt from the IMMF, and Bill Wilson, VP of digital strategy at US trade organisation Music Biz, which regroups physical and digital music vendors, brilliantly managed to demonstrate the depth of data available to the industry, with the help of reps from Believe, YouTube, Deezer, among others. "Data can help inform making decisions," said Wilson.

"Music is potentially one of the most data-rich industries, and some industries would be selling their kidneys to get data like that. It is really valuable and we are under-using it," said Beaumont-Nesbitt.

But data is no substitute for a good pair of ears...

However, even with all this data available to labels, it will not replace the good ears of A&R executives. Identifying the potential of an artist is "a combination of gut and data," reckons Toon Martens, co-managing director of Sony Music Entertainment Benelux.

He added, "We use tools to be better at A&R and by that I mean more efficient. When have all this data available, why would we not try to use it?" 

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