opinion

Copyrights & wrongs: What the biz needs to do to win the next European Parliament vote

Right now, it may seem hard to find an upside to the European Parliament’s decision not to immediately pass the new Copyright Directive (apart from knowing we have at least another two months of people banging on about the so-called ...

Sorted for Beese & gee whiz: What Darcus Beese's Island US job means for the biz

It’s the end of an era at Island UK today, and the start of another at Island US, as Darcus Beese officially takes the helm at the American version of the company he has served for almost his entire career. It’s the latest sign of how highly-regarded British execs are across the pond these days. Indeed, he replaces another Brit, David Massey, although their equally-successful styles could certainly be filed under ‘contrasting’. Beese is already making himself at home over there - he Instagrammed a picture of himself in front of the US logo last week with the caption, 'All day, everyday' - and his UK successor Louis Bloom is already hard at work. Beese's ascension shows the continued value of A&R nous, but may also indicate that the newly-buoyant biz is coming back round to a more maverick approach. Last week, in his explosive Music Week cover story, Lyor Cohen called for the return of the unconventional  entrepreneurs, including Island founder and Beese's inspiration Chris Blackwell, who powered the original wave of independent labels. And, while the barriers for entry look much higher these days, the continued streaming boom may yet attract such characters back into the business. Until that day arrives, Beese makes for a great role model, proof that leftfield sensibilities can still impact the mainstream. His track record at Island UK was strong, both in the A&R department where he made his name and in his willingness to break new ground, such as the pioneering first launch of a UK frontline major label urban division. And, in these days of playlist homogeneity, artists that stand out in a crowd are looking more valuable than ever. So the man who has helped guide the UK career of acts as diverse as Drake, Amy Winehouse, PJ Harvey and Catfish And The Bottlemen is surely as well-placed as anyone to make an impact Stateside. “The world has changed and there's nothing you can do about it,” Beese told Music Week back in 2016, as he picked up Music Week’s MUSEXPO European Executive Of The Year award. “All we can do is continue to sign and make exciting music.” Beese's trademark self-deprecation hides the fact that there’s probably rather more to it than that, especially in a US business that is shifting faster than at any point in its history. But, even as the industry and his own location changes, you suspect Darcus Beese’s brand of inspirational A&R will remain the same. *To read Beese's full Big Interview from 2016, click here.  

Figure it out: Why the music biz has to get to grips with a whole new streaming numbers game

All music fans may be created equal, but some are now more equal than others. The Official Charts Company’s latest Singles Chart revamp - as exclusively revealed by Music Week - means that a stream from a subscriber is now worth six times more, in chart terms at least, than a stream from someone listening on an ad-funded service. It remains to be seen what impact that will have on the charts, or on record company strategy, but it’s clear that the simple days of adding up unit sales are fast disappearing in the rear-view mirror. The chart changes also, finally, bring video consumption into the chart, meaning those that only consume music via YouTube (which, anyone with teenage children will know, happens to be quite a few people) will finally participate in the chart. Hell, YouTube Music even has its own premium tier these days, thanks to this week’s Music Week cover star Lyor Cohen. In his explosive interview, Cohen makes the point that the music business should not focus only on subscription services, however. YouTube’s 1.9 billion free users may not bring in as much cash per-person as premium subscribers - hence the biz's perennial dissatisfaction over the so-called 'value gap' - but, overall, their contribution surely remains worth having, especially if Google’s ad sales continue to boom. After all, those free streams now count towards the chart, whatever the per-stream rate. But even within paid-for services, the industry should start looking at more than just the headline subscriber number. As Spotify and Apple draw neck-and-neck, and Amazon, YouTube et al grow their user base, how much people stream will soon become every bit as important as how much they pay. Spotify and Apple may soon have an equal number of subscribers in some markets, but does that mean they will contribute an equal share of streams to hit tracks? Will different services prove to be stronger in different demos and for different genres? That data will be crucial to labels and artists looking to break through, especially with varying chart weights applying to streams from different parts of the same service. And that's before the increased streaming rates for accelerated decline kick in: at that point one sale will be worth 1200 free streams. The race to be first amongst equals starts right here, right now...   * To read our cover story with Lyor Cohen, pick up this week's print edition of Music Week, or click here. To subscribe and never miss a vital music biz story, click here.

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