If 2016 taught us anything, it would be to never trust your predictions. Comfortable assumptions about the year just gone were proved wildly wrong. 2017 is going to be a spectacle, if not necessarily one for which you want front row seats.
We already know that Donald Trump will take office. Closer to home, the UK Government will trigger Article 50 and begin the process of renegotiating our relationship with the EU. The first round of the French presidential election will be held in April and Germany’s federal elections follow a few months later.
Both could trigger fundamental changes to the nature of the EU.
The UK is the first country to challenge the hegemony of Brussels. A new post-Article 50 relationship will pave the way not only for our future but possibly that of Europe as a whole.
The pressure on Government to get this right is colossal and as a result, there will be little civil service or Parliamentary time for new legislation or anything much else.
Against this extremely noisy backdrop, what are the implications for music? Well, by the end of 2016, political support had turned towards policies aimed at creating better digital markets.
In 2017, streaming will continue to advance, building on the 49% rise in value we reported from 2015 to 2016. The growing legal, licensed market is gradually exposing the rogue broken bits that we, as an industry, have long argued for politicians to help fix.
With the market offering crisp focus to politicians, Google may have to grapple with (albeit minimal) regulation for the first time in the UK. How will it cope? Well, 2017 is the year we will find out.
Like Facebook, this global, multi-territorial beast is not neutral. It is a value and profit-maximising entity.
If YouTube tells rights owners it has no more money available to pay for our music, you have to ask, is its business model plain wrong?
If the price-point is so far below the level suppliers can absorb, is YouTube sustainable?
Given its importance as a platform, there is a business imperative for Google to put some serious time into making it so.
In addition, YouTube should negotiate in a far less hostile way with the rights-holders who give Google’s engineering a consumer value.
The year ahead – in which we will get to know our sixth IP Minister of the decade – will prove what kind of legislator the UK Government intends to be outside the EU. Its approach with these US-owned multinationals is a key indicator.
Helpfully, we have a live comparator in the shape of the EU Copyright Directive. By amending the Digital Economy Bill to include a backstop power with a code of conduct between search engines and rights-holders, the Government will send a welcome, if modest, signal.
Post-Referendum Britain will see Government make a big push on regional growth, jobs and investment. London did not vote to leave the EU. A Conservative Government focused on 2018 boundary changes has to offer constituents outside the south of England a voter-friendly programme for 2017.
Moving policy-making out of the south promotes diversity and will open doors to new talent and economic success.
Music can – and must – benefit from a new regional approach; after all, we are one of the few creative industries that has a sustainable economic footprint around the country.
UK Music’s annual Wish You Were Here report found UK cities and regions support hugely successful music economies (Manchester’s was worth £140m in 2015, Glasgow’s was £105m).
Music businesses don’t have to be in London – Sentric is making a good fist of it from its base in Liverpool; PPL and PRS will launch their joint venture from Leicester.
For licensing bodies, artists, entrepreneurs and would-be record or publishing bosses, digitisation and a love of music create a golden-ticket for success beyond the intolerably expensive M25.
We want more diversity in our industry and we seek to open doors for talent and economic success.
Regionalisation will work for music.
So ignoring the possibility that a Satan 2 missile could obliterate us all, the year ahead is big and bold.
UK Music will continue to act as an interface between the worlds of music and policy-makers and in doing so we must be acutely aware of the macro-political landscape which underpins everything.
By fighting our corner robustly, standing up for the rights of everyone in our industry, we will lay the foundations for a healthy, happy and harmonious future, whatever the political weather.
Story By: Jo Dipple, CEO, UK Music