'There are opportunities, challenges and threats': Alison Wenham on the latest WINTEL

'There are opportunities, challenges and threats': Alison Wenham on the latest WINTEL

The latest WINTEL report’s findings are causing a stir in the industry with the revelation that the independent sector now has almost a 40% market share, once you factor in indies distributed by the majors.

Worldwide Independent Network, which published the report this week, has a longstanding champion of the indie sector as its CEO. In the latest issue of Music Week, Alison Wenham talks through the key issues - here’s some more fresh WINTEL from that interview…

Merlin has highlighted streaming growth areas for indies, what does WINTEL say about these hot spots in Asia and Latin America?

“I think the growth of the emerging markets is a surprise to everyone, the speed with which cultural diversity [has become established]. We have examples of labels signing DJs in India. So there’s going to be an explosion of really exciting, new hybrids from different markets and different cultural music backgrounds coming together. The emerging markets are going to see enormous growth over the next few years. For the western mature markets, they will probably find their growth will level off in time.

How have the independents gained ground just as the majors are enjoying a boom in streaming revenues?

“I think it’s discovery. The independents have always been very patient players in the market, they have a long-term view of their artists’ development. One of the more interesting and affirmative statistics that we tracked for the first time ever this year is that 76% of artists choose to renew their contracts with independents. So you see a very strong partnership, a very long-term view and a patient approach to the market. The marketing budgets available to independents are simply not in any way comparable to the majors. But so often for artists who are given a really big marketing budget, it can be almost quite damaging in the medium to long-term. Whereas, I think discovery is something that is a consumer delight. There’s always been that thrill of discovery and that’s really what's driving the independents’ growth.”

There’s always been that thrill of discovery and that’s what’s driving the independents’ growth

Alison Wenham

What do you think about the calls for DSPs to show more support for indies on playlists?

“Playlists are important, no denying that. I’m sure that Spotify and Apple Music and others will take note. All of the services are evolving and all of the services will provide more background information, and that can only be a good thing. Obvious where you’ve got a concentration of interests, it’s just like radio - you’re going to get a hotly contested area of the industry where the indies may not be as successful as the majors. They just don’t have the deep pockets and they don’t have the teams. I think in the bigger picture there are plenty of specialist playlists and discovery will diversify consumer interest.”

In an increasingly singles-driven streaming market, have indies helped the album artist endure?

“I think it’s one of their greatest strengths - and track-based marketing is an expensive exercise as well.”

Looking at Take That’s rare six-figure debut sales, does streaming mean 100,000 sales in a week is no longer realistic for most artists and labels?

“If you look at South Korea thee’s an interesting statistic there, where you’ve got a very mature streaming market. Obviously K-pop is a very big genre, but you’ve also had a 50% increase in physical sales. The independents have always been curators of back catalogue and always paid great attention to detail and love to produce intelligent and high quality vinyl. I don’t see that changing at all.”

The report also shows indies are generally a good place to work…

“There’s very high staff retention within independents. Having the same team in place - the team that signed you and believed in you and will stay with you - is an important aspect of the stability, the trust and the shared vision of an artist. So often in a larger environment that falls apart and unravels because of decisions that are taken to move people around and move people on.”

What are the dangers for the indies in 2019?

“It’s a moving piece, there are always opportunities, challenges and threats. What is a striking feature of our community today compared to 20 years ago is that we can proudly say that we are a global community and we look out for each other. The existence of WIN, the existence of a strong trade association network across the world will always be there as a champion for the sector, and also as a protector.”

To read the full Alison Wenham interview pick up the latest issue - or subscribers can click here. To subscribe and never miss a big industry story click here.

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