Top execs on the best and worst of 2018: Part II

Top execs on the best and worst of 2018: Part II

In the new issue of Music Week, we mark the end of another relentless year in the music biz with a look back at the stories that shook the industry, from George Ezra’s success and Spotify’s IPO, to the soundtracks boom and the upturn in stadium shows.

In keeping with festive tradition, Music Week invited the industry to hold court on the moments that defined 2018. In the second of a yuletide series (read part one here), we present your first chance to reflect on 12 action-packed months. 

Sammy Andrews, CEO, Deviate Digital 

Best: “Ticketmaster stepping down from secondary ticketing and Japan banning it completely. Unless you run digital for artists you will never know the pain of the social media influx every fucking time a tour goes on sale, only to appear on secondary for 20 times the cost seconds later, ruling out true fans attending unless they sell a kidney. I hope our government will go further here and wipe out scalping scumbags like Viagogo.”

Worst: “Anyone not alarmed by YouTube’s aggressive behaviour over Article 13 should be.” 

Greg Lowe, agent, UTA

Best: "The live industry’s concentrated efforts to deal with secondary ticketing is beginning to pay off.  The industry has a moral obligation to be both transparent and fair to consumers and artists alike. If you take care of your audience, they will take care of you.  It feels like we are finally getting somewhere."

Worst: "Out of all the musicians that we lost this year, I was most affected by Jóhann Jóhannsson’s passing.  He wrote some of the most beautiful soundtracks of the last 20 years. We are all lucky enough to have witnessed his talent, but I’m personally gutted we will never hear more."

Guy Moot, MD, UK and president, worldwide creative, Sony/ATV Music Publishing

Best: “Article 13, the Music Modernization Act in the US, the continued rise of streaming and new territories opening up, which is very exciting from an A&R perspective.”

Worst: “The continued lack of really substantial, world-beating artists who are breaking through from the UK.” 

Andy Varley, president, Insanity Records

Best: “The industry finally faced up to the fact that it needed to address the Gender Pay Gap.” 

Worst: “The lack of genuine British breakthrough artists 

Mark Mitchell, co-president, Parlophone

Best: “For the first time, it feels genuinely like the industry is looking at itself and understanding the value of reflecting its own diverse audience - be that gender, race and sexual preference. It's also great to see more awareness and understanding of mental health issues both inside and outside of the industry. We all have to take responsibility for the next generation.”

Worst: “Brexit - so much uncertainty and unanswered questions let alone the malaise it inflicts upon everyone.”

Louis Bloom, president, Island Records UK

Best: “Dave shooting to No.1 straight out of the blocks. A unique artist who has uncompromisingly created his own lane. Truly innovative and exciting! On a personal level, the new line up at Island. All to play for!” 

Worst: “We lost a lot of amazing artists. From Aretha Franklin, Mac Miller, Avicii, Dolores and Mark E Smith. All incredible artists in their own right but their music will live on forever.”

Alice Beal, GM, Insanity Records

Best: “Lorde taking out a full-page ad in New Zealand’s biggest national newspaper to thank fans for believing in female musicians after her Grammys snub. It sent a tasteful and empowering message to us an industry that equality has never been more important.”

Worst: “2018 has felt like an awful year in terms of incredibly talented musicians dying way too young.“

Isabel Garvey, MD, Abbey Road Studios

Best: “Growth and, with it, real investment in new talent.”

Worst: “My children discovering Alexa will play anything you shout at her and completely messing up my recommendations!”

Brian Rose, country manager, UK & Ireland, Apple Music/iTunes 

Best: “The quality of new artists signed and in development in 2018, could be huge when they release in 2019.”

Worst: “Lack of new UK artists breaking.” 

Steph Wilkinson, senior radio promotions manager, Columbia

Best: “UK music feels more buoyant than ever – it was amazing to see things like Funky Friday reaching No.1 and B Young selling a million singles. It’s also brilliant to see George Ezra have a massive No.1 and No.2 single, as well as No.1 album – showing there’s room for many genres at the top of the singles charts if the quality is there.”

Worst: “A bit too much focus on short-term one-off hits – let’s keep doing that of course, but also make sure we’re going out to find and develop long-term career artists too, leaning on instinct and passion, not just stats - something Columbia has always prided itself on as a label.” 

Drew Hill, MD, Proper Music Group

Best: “Opening so many new accounts with record shops across the UK. It’s great to see the on-going renaissance of record retail on the High Street.”

Worst: “The collapse of the physical market in the US and the reasons behind it. It’s not as straightforward as US music fans turning away from physical formats." 

Mike Smith, MD, Warner/Chappell UK

Best: “The increasing openness about the issue of mental health in the industry."

Worst: “The continuing threat and closure of smaller venues, reducing the opportunity for up-and-coming artists to showcase their talent.”  

Emmanuel De Buretel, founder, Because Music Group

Best: ”Finally, after 10 years, Brussels understands the importance of content creators and starts to respect the rights-owners ahead of the music aggregators. Music is not created in a vacuum, we have to respect where it came from." 

Worst: “The fact that Sony and EMI Publishing were able to merge so easily, increasing their control of the industry.”

Peter Stack, EVP, global catalogue recordings

Best: “Legislation wins - approval by the European Parliament of Article 13 of the European Copyright Directive and signature in the US of the Music Modernization Act. Both will assist the music business to protect the work of artists in the digital space.”

Worst: “The passing of Aretha Franklin, The Queen Of Soul.”

Jon Barlow, founder, 3 Beat 

Best: “The wider industry starting to realise that chart position is not the only metric of a hit record. There’s more than one way to be successful.” 

Worst: “The prevalence of data leading to many in the industry relying less on their ears and being less likely to stick their neck out for something on passion alone.” 

Mark Dowling, director, Absolute Label Services

Best: “DSPs opening up emerging markets like India and China, and the process of Article 13 through the European Parliament.”

Worst: “The closure of indie media outlets like Scuzz, who have supported niche, independent sectors of the business.” 

Sarah Liversedge Platz, director creative A&R, Bucks Music Group/MD, BDI Music

Best: “The Music Modernisation Act, which creates a mechanical society in the US at last.”

Worst: “The discrepancy between record label and publisher percentage splits on digital services. Despite record labels slightly reducing their slice of the digital pie, the inequalities between publishing revenues and record company revenues continue.” 

Paul Reed, CEO, AIF

Best: “There have been lots of positives. A separate, reduced PRS rate for festivals following a three-year process. AIF members pledging to eliminate single use plastic over the next three years. Also, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) taking Viagogo to the High Court and forcing them to overhaul their bad practices and become compliant with current law. Though it is extraordinary that it has taken a court order for them to do so.” 

Worst: “It has to be further market consolidation across the live music industry from vertically-integrated major companies as they aim to increase their market share.” 

Andy Heath, chair, Beggars Music/president, IMPEL/chair, UK Music

Best: “The passage of Article 13 in the EU’s copyright directive.” 

Worst: “YouTube continuing their delusional argument that they are a force for good in respect of cultural content, when it is perfectly plain that the value of creators’ works ranks a very poor second to their self-interest.”

Simon Pursehouse, global director of music services, Sentric Music

Best: “Here’s an answer that’s going to get me quoted on the infamous @Indie_Bullshit, but ah well… Sentric launching RightsApp. I honestly don’t mean this as shameless self-promotion, but every single publisher we’ve shown RightsApp to thinks it’s a genuine game-changer. We’re immensely proud of what we’ve achieved with it so far and there’s so much more to come. If you control publishing copyrights, this software will change your life.”

Worst: “YouTube’s approach to Article 13. The targeted advertising they’ve been doing towards their users who, it’s fair to say, may not have the best grasp on the intricacies of intellectual property, has been rather comical.” 

Korda Marshall, EVP music, BMG 

Best: “In this part of the music biz, the best thing was delivering two No.1 albums (Kylie and The Prodigy) and our first No.1 single (Lil Dicky). More broadly, putting video streams in the singles chart was a big step forward.” 

Worst: “Soundtrack albums being at No.1 for what seemed like an eternity, depriving nine UK artists of the No.1 they deserved. The UK music industry is shooting itself in the foot with this one.” 

Martin Bandier, chairman/CEO, Sony/ATV Music Publishing

Best: “The Music Modernization Act being signed into law in America. This was not only great news for songwriters and music publishers as it has the potential to deliver fairer royalty rates but it was equally important for digital service providers as it means they will no longer be at risk from lawsuits for copyright infringement. The MMA will also result in the creation of a comprehensive database that will cover song ownership information.” 

Worst: “I am happy to say that this has been a terrific year for the music business, but if I had to come up with some negatives I would say the death of Aretha Franklin who is an icon to everyone, and the opposition to Article 13 by those who want to pay intellectual property owners and creators as little as possible for the exploitation of their copyrighted material.”

David Rowe, co-MD, UMC

Best: “More people than ever paying for streaming.”

Worst: “Continued underinvestment in the profile of music heritage on streaming platforms. On the upside, there are signs of positive change coming, both from rights-holders and the platforms themselves.” 

Cassandra Gracey, president, 4th Floor Creative, Sony Music UK

Best: “Definitely the official launch of 4th Floor Creative – our creative hub at Sony. I get to work with such a magnificent team of people doing what I love – helping artists amplify their narrative in whatever way appropriate.” 

Worst: “The Greatest Showman. My brother directed the film and worked on the album for seven years. It doesn’t bother me much that he is the most successful Gracey in the music business. Not at all...”

Riki Bleau, co-president, Since ‘93

Best: “The launch of Since ‘93 Records and the rise of black British music and culture with artists like Stormzy leading the way with his magnificent BRITs performance.”

Worst: “The passing of the legendary Aretha Franklin. The loss of a great is a loss to the entire music business and beyond. 

Mark Collen, EVP, international operations, Sony Music UK

Best: “Feels like an explosion of new, young and diverse talent making waves across the industry – a collision of generations and cultures in a positive, energising way. 

Worst: “Low number of British artists breaking worldwide.”

Dorothy Hui, VP digital, 4th Floor Creative, Sony Music

Best: “The heightened dialogue in 2018 around parity and inclusion will have huge long-term benefits. We will help ensure our industry stays ahead of broader cultural shifts by actively integrating diverse perspectives into everything we do -- from how we run our businesses and develop talent to how we talk to fans.” 

Worst: “Each time we experienced untimely loss of an artist due to mental health or substances was devastating for the music community. The UK music industry has been proactive in opening up conversation around these issues, so hopefully more people can become aware of and feel comfortable accessing available support.

Victoria Needs, director of UK international marketing, Sony Music UK

Best: “The pace of growth of developing music markets, watching new markets emerge and in turn the opportunities available for our artists across all corners of the globe.  It’s incredible the impact the rest of the world can have on how you break records, and also sometimes even how it can influence the kind of music you make in the first place.” 

Worst: “It’s a shame that Article 13 has turned into a public war. Aside from that, Baby Shark. I hear it a lot at home. Somehow, I manage to I love it and I hate it all at the same time, but it’s a constant reminder that however hard I try, I will never know enough about You Tube algorithms.”

Negla Abdela, head of digital marketing, Ministry Of Sound Recordings

Best: “Dave and Fredo going to No.1 with Funky Friday was a real moment. I think Dave’s worked hard at building a solid fanbase and anticipation for his music and Funky Friday’s success was only a glimpse at what he’s set to achieve next year.” 

Worst: “Avicii and Mac Miller’s deaths because they were both so untimely. Both artists made such an impact in a short amount of time.” 

Nemat Abdela, marketing manager, Columbia Records

Best: “It’s been a great year for artists from the grime, gap, Afroswing scenes. Artists like B Young, Fredo, D-Block Europe charted Top 20 and higher, some independently. But Dave reaching No.1 with Funky Friday was a pivotal moment for the scene and shows that the music continues to go from strength to strength.” 

Worst: “Many artists passed away before their time this year. Mac Miller’s sudden passing was a huge shock and you could see from the outpouring of love and support from artists and fans alike how much he meant to so many people.”

Annette Donnelly, MD, Sony Music Ireland

Best: “Further recovery of the Irish music market, predominantly due to the continued uptake in streaming which has supported the return of significant growth to the business.” 

Worst: “Not enough new Irish acts breaking either locally or globally. Also the devastating news about the death of Dolores O’Riordan.” 

Tim Fraser-Harding, president, global catalogue, Warner Music Group 

Best: “David Bowie’s 2000 Glastonbury performance getting released.”

Worst: “Aretha Franklin passing – another legend lost too soon.”

Tom March, co-president, Polydor

Best: “The industry keeps growing and improving. These are great times.”

Worst: “Glastonbury wasn’t on.”

Richard Hinkley, co-MD, UMC

Best: “All the major streaming services continued to grow alongside a continued physical business that has defied naysayers. We have a marketplace as varied as the ways in which people listen." 

Worst: “A big challenge is the conflict between user-experience and the artist. ‘Frictionless’ or ‘skip-free’ experiences seldom provide a powerful moment of discovery, let alone personality.” 

Simon Barnabas, MD, UMOD

Best: “Video streaming finally being counted in the OCC singles chart. I understood the reservations, but at least we’re now fully tracking consumption across all the major formats the public utilise.”

Worst: “Dr Dre didn’t release an album. No value gap debate, corporate shenanigans or other headline-grabbing update from a tech company can compete with that as disappointing news!” 

Pieter van Rijn, CEO, FUGA

Best: “2018 was a great year for awareness, from Article 13 to MMA to the focus on gender equality. I see it as a token of our industry growing up.”

Worst: “Avicii’s death. He touched so many with his songs and he was so unbelievably young to pass away.” 

Tim Heineke, founder, I Am Pop

Best: “In terms of fan communication, we are slowly moving from social media newsfeeds to one-on-one communication via messaging apps - which is great! Aggressive newsfeed algorithms were blocking most artists' content; 98% of updates currently get filtered and organic engagement is around 0.2%. Whereas messaging is direct, 1:1, and open rates are over 90%, within seconds of sharing something. This is a massive shift in direct-to-fan communication and will be hugely important in 2019.”

Worst: “It's become insanely difficult to get people's attention, and even harder when there are massive events happening, consuming our digital landscape. We have all spent a decade investing in growing our social audiences and now you actually can’t reach those fans anymore. That’s one of the worst things that continues to happen - and people also keep on pouring money into reaching them. Now everyone is professing Instagram is the future, but that’s also a newsfeed. The future of sharing lies in 1:1 for fan communication.”

Dominic McGonigal, chair, C8 Associates

Best: “2018 will go down as the year lawmakers finally realised that the monopoly platforms are not always a force for good. Musicians have had a love-hate relationship with YouTube since it started. It’s been the most amazing way to reach fans, but the royalty payments have been shockingly small.” 

Worst: “2018 also saw the most aggressive astroturf campaign against musicians and the industry that I have ever seen. Millions of emails and thousands of phone calls were aimed at politicians, like an artillery barrage, largely generated by bots. In a new twist on fake news, YouTube tried to persuade artists to speak out against a new law that would help them distribute their music and earn a fair return.”

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