opinion

Viewpoint: Claire Singers on gender diversity

Six months ago, major music companies reported their gender pay gap figures, and they made for unpleasant and embarrassing reading, revealing structural inequality at senior leadership level. In April 2019, companies with over 250 employees will have to repeat the ...

Viewpoint: Sammy Andrews on Blockchain

In her latest no-holds-barred digital column for Music Week, Deviate Digital CEO Sammy Andrews puts her head on the blockchain – and explains why the much-touted technology could finally be ready to live up to all the hype… I’m wary some of you might switch off at the mere mention of blockchain. But, while I’m the first to admit it’s been hyped beyond belief, you’re unlikely to go a day without hearing about it for a reason. So let’s cut to the chase. What blockchain is not: an instantly actionable Holy Grail that answers every music industry problem. What it is: a completely viable long-term solution to several issues facing the music industry and beyond. Whatever your take on it, blockchain (or distributed ledger technology), has been around for nearly a decade now and it’s already being used and tested for all manner of things. Ticketmaster is the latest in a long line of companies to delve into this world with the purchase of Upgraded, a software company which has built a smartphone app that authenticates tickets using Ethereum. In basic terms, Ethereum is a software platform based on blockchain technology, allowing people to build apps and services. Upgraded is using a mix of smart contracts and dynamic barcodes that both fans and venues can scan to be sure they’re not fake. Ticketmaster and Live Nation have both hinted publicly several times that paperless ticketing is a priority for them. And, from a consumer perspective, it’s ludicrous that you can board a flight or the tube with your phone, yet you still need to root around for a piece of paper for gigs. The anti-blockchain massive that blew up on Twitter about the Upgraded purchase demonstrates that many folks didn’t bother to look into why Ticketmaster bought the company. Indeed, a lot of folks still don’t actually understand what blockchain is, or what it’s not. Blockchain has a huge variety of potential applications for our industry – it’s not just capable of one thing. There are many pilot projects in place with publishers and labels (some of which I hear have already been successful) as well as other developments, including the recent announcement of a platform called Fanbase whose advisors include The Orchard founder Scott Cohen. Equally though, there are things it’s not good for in its current state. It is not a magic cure-all that can be integrated easily into existing tool sets and, due to its peer-to-peer nature, it uses a lot of power. For some things it’s slow – really slow – and its scalability in its current incarnation is questionable. But I’m one of the firm believers that all of this will change. And I’m not alone, everyone from the finance industry and the government to retailers agrees, while the music industry’s curiosity is growing by the day. What many people seem to miss when they glaze over with at the mere mention of the word ‘blockchain’ is the sheer amount of potential applications. Most large companies in our business are experimenting in some way, either by buying companies outright, building in-house solutions or running internal research groups. That’s something that’s evident in some of the public confirmations of pilots and patents in our own industry and beyond. They include: Spotify (music attribution), Microsoft (ID confirmation), Apple (time stamp verification), Ujo (rights management and distribution) and Sony (rights management). Meanwhile, PRS For Music, SACEM and ASCAP are working on a JV to “see if the music industry could create and adopt a shared, decentralised database of musical work metadata with real-time update and tracking capabilities”. Spoiler: it can! I have been speaking on panels about blockchain tech for many years, so I get pitched by at least 10 solutions every month. True, some are absolute bollocks, but there are some people doing truly amazing things in the space – a few I really rate include Dot Blockchain, Blockpool, Jaak, MyCelia, Ujo, Lucid Tunes and Beatchain. Bad news for the blockchain haters, but they are truly the tip of the iceberg. SAMMY RECOMMENDS Hot tech this month SEND MATE We’ve heard a lot about messenger tools over the years but this one delivers. If you want an effective way to interact with your Facebook fans, speak to this company. I have several successful campaigns running with them as I type. CHART METRIC Some folks probably know about Chart Metric already but, if you want to track basic data and insights from non-granular data via more general API access, including playlist inclusions and their owners, this is the service to use.

Taylor made: How Taylor Swift's next deal could change the game for the music business...

When Taylor Swift signed her first record deal, she was a 15-year-old country singer looking for a break. When she signs her second one, probably at some point in the next few weeks, the world’s biggest pop star could break a whole lot more if she wants to: executives’ hearts, the entire traditional record label model… And, of course, the bank. The potential options available to Team Swift as they broker the next phase of her career are mind-boggling. She could probably demand the biggest major label deal in history if she wanted to. She could go independent and blaze a trail for future stars who want to exist outside of the traditional deal structure. She could hook up with a digital service or another entity and capsize the entire label model. Or she could stay with the Big Machine Label Group that has helped get her to the top. Over the years, Swift has proved uncommonly loyal to the people she works with, and it's impossible to say her current label partners (Big Machine, Universal Music, plus Virgin EMI in the UK) have done anything but an incredible job. But as her popularity has grown, it’s become increasingly apparent that – even as megastars go – Swift occupies her own lane.   The potential options available to Team Swift as they broker the next phase of her career are mind-boggling   Pretty much every time Swift has released an album, people have queued up to tell her she’s doing it wrong. And every time, the first week sales numbers have proved her spectacularly right. Even Apple and Spotify have made moves to accommodate her over the years, while Reputation has succeeded despite her declining to do the usual media campaign. And there's much more to Swift than record sales, as her hugely successful touring, merch, publishing and branding operations prove. True, her signing situation is complicated by separate negotiations that could see Big Machine sold, with the question of whether the group retains Swift’s master recordings central to that deal. Big Machine has plenty of other great artists, but none in Swift's orbit. Then again, who does? Ultimately, however, even the destination of her catalogue seems likely to increase Swift’s leverage with her partner of choice, whether new or old. When the deal finally comes, it’s likely to make her a lot of money. But, more importantly, it should seal her reputation (pun intended) as the ultimate music biz game-changer. Precisely whose game she changes remains to be seen…

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