opinion

Slipped discs: Why the biz needs to give CDs as much love and attention as vinyl

Talking to execs about the future of physical music this week, one joked that we’ll soon need a CD Day to persuade consumers of the joys of the compact disc. At least, I think they were joking. I am sadly ...

Spotify the difference: Why the streaming giant's IPO will affect labels' relationships with artists

I do hope you didn’t eat too much chocolate over the Easter break. Because the music biz is going to need to find some room for popcorn as we watch Spotify’s IPO unfold this week.The prospect of the world’s biggest music streaming service going public holds lots of potential ramifications for the industry, as our report in the latest issue of Music Week illustrates. But Daniel Ek and co aren’t the only ones who should be pondering the future this week.Because how the biz distributes its dividends from the Spotify float will do an awful lot to frame its relationships with artists in the years to come. All three majors and Merlin have pledged to share any windfall from selling their equity stakes with their artists and label members, and some companies have also pledged to pass on money to distributed labels.So far, no one is saying when, or even if, they plan to actually sell those stakes. Timing will, of course, be pretty crucial; with a potential $20 billion+ valuation, selling too early or too late could conceivably cost those artists a small fortune.But that’s not even the trickiest part. The basis on which money is distributed will be enough to test the finest strategists (and accountants) in the biz. Do you divvy up the cash on the basis of current performance, or over the entire time that the stakes have been held? How do you compensate a newer artist with a few streaming megahits versus a heritage act with a vast catalogue that ticks over nicely? And so on.No one’s expecting it to be easy, but it’s going to require a whole new level of transparency and cooperation from labels. After all, this is a process that not only needs to be done, but needs to be seen to be done. Pass the popcorn please…

No more killing your friends: Why collaboration is the way forward for the label biz

Re-watching the Kill Your Friends movie recently, two things leapt out. One, the insane level of Music Week product placement. And two, the equally insane levels of competition between – and even within – labels that drove the biz back then. Even allowing for John Niven’s generous artistic licence – hey, I was there in the ‘90s and things were pretty cutthroat, but no throats were literally being cut, as far as I recall – that competition has categorised the label business for as long as most people can remember. And the UK, with its small industry but big potential rewards, is more oppositional than most. But slowly, things seem to be changing. Publishers long since learned to get along with each other, as the rise of co-writing meant they often had to work the same tracks. And areas such as sync, where there are often multiple stakeholders, have shown that labels and publishers big and small can pull together to make things happen. Meanwhile, our biggest compilations brand, Now, is a collaboration across the major label barricades. Those of you who pore over Music Week’s market shares pages every week will have noticed a few entries of late on the singles chart where different labels – sometimes within the same corporate group, sometimes from competitors – effectively share a release. Given the huge rise in featured artists and collaborations, that’s something that’s likely to become more common. Such cooperation was born out of hard times for the biz. The question is, now the good times are coming back, will the industry take a backwards step to the old era? A&R insiders increasingly talk of the inflationary pressure that's taking deals for hot artists back to '90s-esque levels. But, these days, you’d hope Steven Stelfox and his rival execs might collaborate on a project, rather than quite literally stab each other in the back. After all, the modern biz really should be less Kill Your Friends and more chill, you’re friends.

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