opinion

Secondary helpings: Why the fight against the ticket touts is far from over

Ticketmaster’s decision to shutter Seatwave and Get Me In!  in Europe was a bold one, and a big victory for the FanFair Alliance and its fellow anti-secondary ticketing campaigners. Once a giant like Ticketmaster has decided the sector is more ...

Full indie breakfast: What Lauren Laverne's big radio move could mean for the music biz

While the biz was focusing on Nick Grimshaw’s departure from Radio 1’s flagship Breakfast Show, fellow BBC network Radio 6 Music was quietly making a potentially more significant announcement. The arrival of Lauren Laverne as the station’s first female breakfast show host – and, alongside 1Xtra’s Dotty, one of the few solo female presenters in that timeslot – will certainly offer a welcome alternative in the still-surprisingly-blokey world of early morning radio. Shaun Keaveny has done a sterling job over the past 11 - 11! - years and has earned his move to afternoon, while some of the other schedule changes at 6 will no doubt take some time to bed in with listeners that have had remarkably little change to deal with in recent years. Big changes elsewhere in the radio landscape should give them the chance to do just that. But, from a pure industry perspective, Laverne's move also puts a renowned tastemaker in a slot that tends to be dominated by personalities, rather than music champions. Laverne is a big personality herself, but she also knows what it’s like to be an artist, from her days in post-Britpop punkas Kenickie. She knows her way around the music business, as anyone who has seen her hosting the Music Week Awards for the past two years will know. And she has a tendency to pop up anywhere – the Mercury Prize, Glastonbury – that’s associated with great music. Laverne’s statement about her appointment notably concentrated on the show’s music content and, while she might not get away with all of her eclectic mid-morning choices at the crack of dawn, she’ll surely still be looking way beyond the playlist, while she has the profile and impact to really champion new artists and releases. And, as 6 Music plots to build on its 2.5 million listeners – a number that, by the way, would have been considered the stuff of a madman’s dreams during your correspondent’s days on the station – its new, high-profile breakfast show host could be the key. BBC 6 Music one of the few parts of the shrinking alternative world that is still growing. The dominance of streaming has hit indie music, particularly guitar music, hard when it comes to generating hit singles and has meant it's no longer at the heart of popular culture. The sector, and 6 for that matter, could use a proper hitmaking platform to go with the industry-wide goodwill. This could be it.

No half measures: Who's who in the bid for a 50% stake in Universal Music

There aren’t many things in the music business that Sir Lucian Grainge hasn’t experienced. But selling half of the world’s biggest music company is one of them. Vivendi’s decision to dial back on an IPO for Universal Music Group in favour of selling a 50% stake – as predicted by this column back in May – is unlikely to dampen the frenzy surrounding music investments at the moment. Indeed, it will spark a whole new forest fire of speculation about who might come on board. Given Vivendi’s preference for a strategic partner who will be “compatible with UMG’s current strategy”, a crucial phrase in the announcement, it’s probably easier to say who it won’t be. As we’ve noted before, Universal and the rest of the music business finally has the streaming giants right where it wants them: at each other’s throats. Even if regulators would allow it, it seems unlikely that Universal has gone to all the trouble of making sure there's a competitive streaming environment with no one dominant player, just to chuck its lot in with one of those non-dominant players. Of course, it's possible that they have so much money even Vivendi might have to listen, but if Google, Apple, Amazon or Spotify really are harbouring dreams of becoming rights-holders the easy way, they might want to read that "compatible" statement again. If Vivendi means what it says, the digital giants are likely to be disappointed. If Vivendi means what it says, the digital giants are likely to be disappointed Similarly, the bottomless pockets of private equity will serve little purpose here. Universal is already generating huge profits and it wants to grow its markets, not just its bank balance. That means geography will play its part, and could bring, say, an Alibaba into the frame. With investment as likely to come from Asia or Europe as it is America, telecoms or media companies look the best bet. Both sectors have cash and challenges in almost equal measure, and are being reshaped on an almost daily basis, leaving Universal looking like a sure thing in a world of outside bets. Especially as its digital innovation track record could have all sorts of transferrable applications for interested parties in other sectors. While Universal would benefit from synergies across its talent stable and from access to all sorts of new revenue opportunities. By all accounts, no one at UMG or Vivendi is in a rush over this, so we may not know who’s involved in the stake purchase until 2020. But, while for most at UMG it’ll be business as usual until then, you can expect Sir Lucian to be closely involved with Vivendi's decision-making process. As the highly effective EMI deal showed, he already knows how to buy big. We’re about to find out if he can sell even bigger…

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