"We're not out of the woods yet": Top names on the changes that lay ahead for the distribution sector

In the latest issue of Music Week, we deliver a very special report on the physical and digital distribution sector. As part of our overview, top names at Proper Music, Republic Of Music, Ingrooves, Freeme Digital and Fuga discuss everything from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic to the global picture and also ponder the future of physical music.  

Here – in an unread extract of our interviews – key names weigh in on the biggest changes that they anticipate lay ahead for the distribution sector…

“As distribution keeps evolving into non-traditional areas, we will likely see distributors working more closely with rights-holders to market the records they ship. This will only grow as artists continue to seek independence and demand control around their releases. The biggest challenge in the near future will still be the coronavirus and its impact on retail. Whilst a steady recovery is showing promise, we’re not out of the woods yet.”
Drew Hill (MD, Proper Music Group) 

“The biggest change in Africa will be how seriously artists take digital streaming revenue. This period has exposed some of the weaker streaming platforms. Artists will vote with their feet and support services that support their craft whereas distributors will have to offer more and more value-added services, such as investments and creator tools in order to stay competitive. The biggest challenges I see are educational. We need to further educate artists on the business of music as more and more opportunities come their way. The game has changed and thanks to technology artists now have massive leverage. This also means artists have to shoulder more responsibilities in driving their careers. China, as always, is a highly innovative territory and has again provided an indication of how flexibility could work in practice. During the Covid-19 crisis, music streaming platforms introduced tipping as a way to support artists. We could see growth in these types of functions as artists are starting to treat this as a serious form of revenue.”
Michael Ugwu (CEO/founder, Freeme Digital) 

“Artist development efforts are going to need to continue to adapt to an uncertain marketplace. Being able to identify and act on new opportunities quickly will be key. We are also huge believers in leveraging the enormous amount of data available and using our technology to empower labels to make smarter strategic decisions about their projects. No one label could invest the amount of resources that we have in this kind of future facing tech.”
Nick Roden (MD, Ingrooves, UK)

“On the physical side, I am seeing a big shift towards sales via D2C artist stores and retail initiatives with the indie sector, whether it be Album Of The Month at Rough Trade, an exclusive vinyl release via Bleep or a vinyl Dinked Edition through that chain of indie stores, and I think that will continue for us with the great specialist music we release. The high street chains and supermarkets are becoming far less crucial in delivering chart results and sales. Amazon is great for the higher profile artists, but it is the indies that are helping to break the new acts still, and I see that becoming even more important in the future. In terms of digital, obviously streaming has almost completely taken over from downloads now and so the need to get your artist on editorial playlists, but also alongside this the need to help artists build their own numbers so they aren’t as reliant on these playlists is going to become even more important in the future, which is no surprise really.”
Mark McQuillan (owner, Republic Of Music)

“We are witnessing the development of a rich and diverse ecosystem, the next stage in the evolution of the digital supply chain where non-traditional record companies across a range of mediums, from film to video games can stake their claim in the music market. New businesses are forging the roots of an altogether more interconnected, adaptable digital ecosystem, one where new relationships can be formed and business models rethought. I also believe that in the coming years we will see more alignment around metadata protocols and sharing across recording and publishing rights as this lack of transparency remains an inhibiting factor for artists and the industry at large.”
Pieter Van Rijn (CEO, Fuga)

Subscribers can read the full 2020 distribution special report here.

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