opinion

There's no future in England's streaming: Why British music needs radio more than ever

The streaming revolution has reached every corner of the music business, but its effect on radio has always been greatly exaggerated. Last week’s RAJAR figures showed radio is in ruder health than ever. Radio 2 posted another increase and even ...

In Pod we trust: Why voice controlled music is the new streaming battleground

In New York for the 2018 Grammy Awards, two things were immediately apparent. Firstly, I should have brought a warmer coat. And secondly, the music streaming war in America has moved to a whole new level. Times Square was a digital battleground, with Spotify, YouTube and Apple Music seemingly locked into a turf war over who could command the most ludicrously ostentatious LED billboard. Great news for the artists and labels involved, but this is just the start. Because today’s (February 9) launch of Apple’s long-awaited, much-delayed HomePod device will open a whole new, voice-controlled domain. Ads for the HomePod were everywhere in the Grammys telecast, and notably positioned it as very much a music device, rather than the more general assistant role Amazon pitches for the Echo. And yet anyone who’s got to know Alexa over recent months understands how often such devices are used to play music – and the transformative effect it can have on music consumption, particularly on household members who were previously relatively passive music fans.   The key question for the music business may not be which device dominates, but how you ensure your music – rather than someone else’s – is played in response to general 'play music' requests   HomePod seems aimed more at the aficionado – but whether that’s the market for voice-activated devices remains to be seen. Talking to music biz executives, it seems like the most common requests to Alexa are general: “Play music” or “Play jazz”, rather than specific (“Alexa, please play Mega Armageddon Death by the Electro Hippies”). Which means that the real key question for the music business may not be which device dominates, but how you ensure your music – rather than someone else’s – is played in response to such requests. The public may be too busy dancing to pay much attention to Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant’s choices, but the biz will be sweating over the algorithms long before the battle for voice supremacy reaches its end game. So hey, Siri, welcome to the party. Are you ready for a fight to the death?* To read Music Week's verdict on the new HomePod, click here.

Bowled over: Why the UK biz needs its own Super Bowl moment

American football might be an incomprehensible sport to many people outside the United States, but its Super Bowl Halftime Show is an international language. This weekend, wardrobe malfunctions permitting, Justin Timberlake will seal his comeback in front of what will almost certainly be one of the biggest US TV audiences of all time (indeed the Halftime Show regularly pulls a bigger rating than the match itself). As global platforms for promoting your music go, it doesn’t get any bigger and that's why the likes of Coldplay, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga have all performed in recent years. Not to mention the additional music slots and the sync deal frenzy that surrounds the commercial breaks. And yet there should be even greater opportunities out there. The most popular global sports are actually played everywhere in the world, rather than just in North America. But there’s still nothing quite like the Super Bowl anywhere else, unless you count the one-off, music-heavy opening and closing ceremonies at the London Olympics. Music and sport are the UK’s twin passions, two of its biggest gifts to the world and the two things guaranteed to quicken the pulse of passionate fans. Yet the two worlds rarely mix as they do in the US. Taylor Swift – the biggest pop star in the world – will turn up to play halftime at a college football game. Football’s FA Cup’s showpiece matches may have featured the likes of The Enemy, Tinie Tempah and Hard-Fi, but it’s never become a key promotional fixture for the biz. Jockey Club Live’s series of gigs at racetracks and other sporting venues have shown the potential and every football highlights show or T20 cricket match illustrates that sport loves a soundtrack.  But now it’s time to build on such platforms. The biz has become skilled at seeking out opportunities in the online space, as the rush of recent Facebook deals show. So how about striking long-term deals in the real world with the Premier League or Team GB and bringing some of that Super Bowl razzamatazz to our sporting events? After all, halftime means there’s still everything to play for.  

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