Today (September 18) ERA held their AGM at Dolby, Soho Square, London, which welcomed HMV’s new owner Doug Putman as keynote speaker, as well as Lesley Johnson from BBC Studios and Samantha Ebelthite from Electronic Arts.
Also on hand was one of the three execs gracing the cover of the latest edition of Music Week: MMF CEO Annabella Coldrick.
In her ERA address, Coldrick spoke about the recalibration of music in the digital era around artist-focussed micro-businesses as well as outlining how those businesses can thrive across streaming, physical, live, publishing.
And – building on her comments in the latest Music Week cover feature on the MMF – Coldrick also took time to address stereotypes about the role of the music manager in 2019.
You can read Coldrick’s address in full below:
ERA Music Keynote: Music Managers innovating + adapting to change.
Good morning, I’m Annabella from the Music Managers Forum, the MMF as we’re more commonly known.
Historically, music managers have been depicted as a kind of Svengali character, an all-powerful puppeteer hiding in the shadows, orchestrating every move and exploiting young artists for their own financial gain.
While we’ve certainly moved on from 19th century literary depictions of music managers, there have been plenty of documentaries, biographies and fictional portrayals of the timeworn, clichéd artist manager, cigar in mouth, suitcase of cash in hand… ready to cut a ruthless deal. We only need to look to the Oscar winning ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ biopic, or Elton John’s box office success ‘Rocketman’ to catch glimpses of these portrayals.
However, whatever music management once was - and these stereotypes undoubtedly do a disservice to the pioneers and innovators of previous decades - it is, in the current day, a much changed and more established profession. Our members are signed up a code of practice and are constantly updating their skills and knowledge.
In today’s reality, managers come from an increasingly diverse range of backgrounds and bring different entrepreneurial approaches to the way they work with artists.
Take Dumi Oburota, who with his cousin Tinie Tempah set up the business Disturbing London which has turned initial success into a wider multifaceted entertainment business (covering not just music but also clothes and live events, in the vein of its champagne-spraying Disturbing Ibiza residency).
Or Niamh and Regine at Eleven Management who negotiated seven Brand Partnerships as part of the campaign for the 2017 release of Gorillaz album ‘Humanz’. From having Hennessy and Red Bull as partners for their music festival Demon Dayz, to creating an app with Deutsche Telecom, building a recording studio trailer with E.ON, a Global Ambassador programme with Jaguar, multi-city experiential fan events with Sonos and a 360 degree virtual reality music video with YouTube, these relationships helped Gorillaz realise their vision through creative, daring, collaborative partnerships.
Or take independent artist manager Anna Russell, whose passion for developing new and emerging artists has led her to set up The Virtual Manager, a subscription service with comprehensive online resources, 1:1 advice and tailored support for independent artists.
Over the last two decades as the recorded industry contracted massively and - thanks to the persistence and innovation of those companies in this room - started growing again, managers, along with their artists, have constantly embraced change.
I’d like to use the next few minutes to explore what this change means for music, And given the resurgence of the recorded sector, what we can collectively do to use this opportunity to build the foundations of a more dynamic and innovative, music industry.
Coming back to why we’re all here. What you sell, and what people pay for is entertainment whether in the form of music, film or games, that’s what sustains the entire creative industry. Creators of art, of entertainment, don’t see themselves often as just one type of artist, quite often they move and adapt across different media.
Whist we may occasionally get caught up in the details of industry structure, artists like those nominated for tomorrow's Mercury Prize demonstrate that it’s the creative output, the art, and in our case the music that’s at the heart of it all.
That’s ultimately what connects and excites us as fans, and what makes the wheels of industry turn.
Without that excitement and innovation, there’s nothing.
Which is, I think, always a point worth remembering!
However, within the industry itself, I believe there have been two interrelated changes over the past two decades of digital disruption.
FIRSTLY: the business is becoming much more ARTIST-CENTRIC.
The phrase “music industry” used to be shorthand for record labels, publishers and collection societies. These were the “rights holders” and the “gatekeepers”.
The artist and songwriter was very much at the end of the retail supply chain
But that’s changing.
Increasingly, the creative talent is also the “rights holder”.
They might partner with a record label or publisher - or a label services company - they might operate their own record company, they might licence or assign their rights, they might directly distribute their music.
Alternatively, they might go down a more traditional route, and sign those rights away for an advance and global promotion opportunities.
All these examples are present on the Mercury shortlist. Little Simz and Dave both established their own imprints to maintain control over their releases. IDLES and Fontaines DC are helping build the reputable catalogue of Partisan Records, a label which is quickly becoming “the” independent label for a new generation.
There is no one way to do business anymore. There are no set rules. Artists have choices. Music genres and audiences work in different ways, there are now ever more diverse "music industries" and there is a need for a strong and diverse retail sector.
Which is fantastic.
This evolution has resulted in increased opportunity as well as increased responsibility for artists managers.
As well as being the business representative of the artist or songwriter or producer - more often, they’re also in business with their client.
Managers are investing their own money in the artist’s career. Our new research to be launched next month, shows that 74% have invested their own money into careers of their clients. 30% have invested between 1-5 thousand pounds; 21% between five and 10 thousand and 15% have invested over ten thousand pounds.
And after a decade or more of cutbacks in the recorded business, the manager has taken up the challenge of finding new revenue streams for example - by growing artists income from live music, brands and gaming. In this time their role has shifted. Rather than just “doing deals”, they typically build a team, sometimes in house, to support the artist’s vision and establish a direct relationship with fans - never before possible.
This evolving and expansive new world is why we’ve developed the Accelerator Programme for Music Managers supported by YouTube Music and Arts Council England. The project helps the next generation of manager entrepreneurs by offering both the financial and educational investment, they need. 9 months in and the 24 managers on the programme have already increased the number of artists on their rosters - up from 44 to over 60. These include great artists such as IDER, Be Charlotte, Shakka, and Moses Boyd and represent how exciting and diverse the current British music scene is.
So, that’s the first major change.
The industry consists of thousands upon thousands of micro businesses all making music and aiming to connect to and grow their audience both directly and through online and offline retailers.
THE SECOND CHANGE: concerns TECHNOLOGY.
Historically, artists have always been “early adopters” and adaptors
Every advance, whether that’s the electric guitar or the sampler, has resulted in new genres and new forms of music.
Every advance in distribution, from vinyl and cassette to CD and digital, has impacted how music is consumed. Songs were 3mins long because that fitted on a 7’ , albums got longer and longer in the CD era, and now songs are again being increasingly informed by the streaming business model with intros becoming shorter to reduce skips and some artists breaking songs into smaller segments to increase listens (and pays) per track.
However in addition to this, in the era of streaming and social media, something more profound has happened.
As well as fundamental changes to how music is composed, technology has also democratised the means of production and distribution.
This is what is enabling the business to reform in a more artist-centric direction.
Unlike the traditional industry, artist and management businesses don’t tend to operate in silos.
Recorded, live, publishing, merchandise, sync…from an artist’s perspective, they’re all part of the same equation. The goal is to connect with their audience through any means possible.
For instance, a stream or social media activity might result in sales of tickets.
A well-placed sync might result in a boost in streaming.
A live show or in-store appearance might result in vinyl or CD sales.
Placement on a high-profile online playlist might result in radio pickup.
And so on, and so forth.
For me personally, as a huge fan of Super Furry Animals, a streaming service, who shall remain unnamed, recommended a track by Gwenno an artist I’d never heard of but which I fell in love with and repeatedly listened to. I then received a targeted email about a gig near me at the Moth Club in Hackney, and ultimately this resulted in me buying a vinyl copy of the new album direct from Gwenno herself.
This activity is all interconnected. It’s all generating revenue. Potentially on a global basis.
Digital technology offers artists an opportunity to weave these complementary strands together.
It’s also resulting in masses of data..
Data from the 40 thousand tracks uploaded to streaming services each day, data on the demographics of listeners, their locations, their preferences. We now know what people are listening to where and when and how.
Spotify was a real leader and innovator in this space - giving artists and their managers access to this data directly for the first time, not just via their label or distributor. This transformed the way they could use this information, not only to ask pertinent questions on Royalties, but also to enable artist micro businesses to develop and thrive. Managers can use analytics to understand their audience better, plan tours, sell tickets and grow their fanbase.
Our board member Sammy Andrews of Deviate Digital wrote about this very eloquently in Music Week - about the huge potential of “joining the dots” to better target potential customers, but also how a failure to share information between live and recorded sectors is hindering progress.
Many of the streaming services in this room are now working on new valuable tools, enabling artists and their teams to help join the dots and reach their audiences more effectively. I worked briefly in my career at Design Council where the mantra of user-centred design was sacrosanct and I’m so pleased to see retailers involving artists and managers directly as you develop more products and services to ensure they are valuable for their users.
Which makes it both a challenging and thrilling time to be an artist and a manager.
We’re in the throes of a cultural revolution and “the industry” is entering a new phase. As so often said, we’re now in an “attention economy” and your members are competing for the best, most engaging and creative content and our members represent those who can supply it.
WHICH BRINGS ME NICELY TO THE MMF.
The Music Managers Forum, of which I’ve been Chief Exec for almost 4 years now, comprises over 700 UK-based managers with global business - from those representing the biggest artists and songwriters in the world, right through to those taking their first steps.
As well as providing a voice for our community, we also look to educate, inform and - occasionally - agitate for change!
Our role is often to call out uncomfortable truths and then celebrate progress as it happens. In some ways we can be seen as the disruptors of the music industry.
As well as campaigning, an increasing part of our what we do is share information and help provide our members with the knowledge and skills to succeed as micro businesses in this brave new world.
In this way, MMF actually has much in common with ERA.
For a start, many of our Associate partners are also your members - like Amazon, Deezer, YouTube Music, SoundCloud and Spotify.
It means we are able to work closely with these services, to offer them a collective way to engage with the managers who are reshaping the business, and help our members to better understand the opportunities retail platforms offer.
We’re proud of these relationships and we will always be open to dialogue even when we don’t always agree on everything, such as elements of the recently debated copyright directive or mechanical rates in the US.
In an increasingly polarised world it’s important channels of conversation continue to be open and remain constructive to finding solutions that work both for artists, fans and the retailers who connect us.
Ever since the MMF since was founded in 1992, we’ve always campaigned for a more progressive and innovative music industry.
Through our long-running Dissecting The Digital Dollar project, which we’ve developed with CMU’s Chris Cooke, we’ve also helped increase knowledge to explain the digital retail environment.
Over a series of 6 publications, these guides have helped managers better understand the licensing framework for streaming services, and enabled them to raise standards by knowing what information to request from their business partners.
The latest instalment, the Song Royalties Guide, has shone a light on the licensing of publisher royalties and aims to help unpick the complex jumble of global song royalty chains that delay and chip away at the value of songwriter earnings.
As a result of these chains, songwriters can be left unpaid for years and have their earnings reduced by data disputes, deductions and delays as the money flows through collecting societies, music publishers and other entities.
For instance, in 2018, PRS processed 11.2 trillion performances of music; almost doubling from 6.6 trillion the year before. And the difficulty in matching this back to the rightful songwriter is causing real issues in the music supply chain.
We’re not claiming to have all the answers here - but we’re helping managers ask the right questions.
As my Chair, Paul Craig, who managers Biffy Clyro, is fond of saying - education empowers. And not everyone always welcomes this empowerment.
But I think this also raises some pertinent points about music retail in general.
Micro businesses, particularly artist businesses, require multiple ways to reach their customers, and that means a diverse retail market.
So while much of MMF’s work focuses on streaming and digital, and how we all adapt and take advantage of those changes, we must also strive to put sufficient focus on the other aspects of retail - including live music and physical retail.
My own formative relationship with music was at a brilliant shop called Jumbo Records in Leeds. It’s where I bought my first 12 inch by Suede and all my tickets for gigs at venues like the Duchess of York.
Like small grassroots venues, record shops act as a hub to local scenes up and down the country. They back local talent. They’re where like-minded, music-obsessed people gather. They’re where bands form. The staff of record shops are often managers, promoters, music journalists or artists themselves.
They are, to take an overused tech term, “curators".
And they’re also innovators.
Which is why it’s so inspirational to see how shops like Jumbo have adapted to changing customers demands.
Yes, there’s the revival in vinyl sales - up 50% at Jumbo, according to my research - and you can still buy tickets for shows; but you’re also welcomed in to browse, to drink a coffee, and there’s an amazing array of events, listening parties and instores.
Why wouldn’t artists want to be connected to such a place? Especially when you’ve got a show booked in Leeds?
In what can sometimes be a digital monoculture, I think we can all appreciate why record shops retain their importance.
They provide an alternative experience to online, and remain an important part of the artist’s business model.
Whilst music consumption has shifted into the digital space, the popularity of vinyl and through rise of national events such as Record Store Day and National Album Day, a new generation of music fans are given the opportunity to gain a retail experience both on and offline.
So with all that in mind, it is vital that we work together to support and nurture all forms of entertainment retail both physical and digital across music, audio-visual and gaming.
One lesson we’ve certainly learned from Dissecting The Digital Dollar is the need for greater collaboration on new innovation within the industry.
It’s self evident, and I know Kim feels incredibly strongly about this, that streaming services have helped return the recorded music market - the biggest labels, publishers and catalogue owners - to growth.
According to a recent analysis published by MBW, the combined valuation of Universal, Sony and Warner could now be as high as $90bn. The majors in the US are bringing in $30m dollars per day!
Considering recorded music was considered “free” a few years ago, it’s is an astonishing comeback.
However, rather than signalling a return to the “Kill Your Friends” era of excess, this is an exciting opportunity for the music industry of the future to be built on different foundations to the past.
Thankfully, we seem to have moved on from the idea that a handful of "rights holders” could negotiate substantial and unattributed advances from digital services on the basis of market share, and keep the details of those licences under NDAs.
All labels have now committed to sharing the proceeds of equity sales, with their artists which is massively welcome and I’d like to think partly due to MMF campaigning. We hope this will be replicated for any other equity or lump sum payments traded by our business partners in exchange for artists catalogue.
The increase in transparency is empowering artists to ask questions, strike fairer deals and highlights what should be addressed next.
There’s been a real shift led by music retailers who have recognised they need to remove barriers and allow managers far greater direct access. Artists and their managers should collectively be involved as partners in innovation, at the heart of, not the end of the retail supply chain.
The industry has a bad rep for making it difficult to launch new innovations, a recent MusicAlly article showed how frustrating and costly it can be for startups getting the proper licences in place.
The music industry needs to be open to support new ideas and explore what new technology can do for music whether that be high definition, VR or new collaboration tools. And we need to be more innovative in the licencing structures to enable this to happen.
Related to this, we’ve also recently welcomed the call from Deezer to look again at how the business model of streaming operates and trial a ‘user-centric’ model, which reconnects the artist to the fan by linking an individual’s subscription to the music they actually listen to.
So as well as ensuring that money flows back into the business on more equitable terms than in the analogue or download eras, all of us must ensure there is greater coherence across the whole business.
I’m fairly relaxed that artists will, by their very nature, continue to innovate and surprise.
I’m sure that those nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2020, 2021 and 2030 will be as brilliant as tomorrow’s shortlist, and they’ll continue to break ground and use and abuse technology in new and interesting ways.
I’m also confident that there’ll be demand from audiences, hungry for new and interesting music.
Those things won’t change.
But the relevance of the rest of us in this room will depend on how we add value to those relationships.
In a market where artists and audiences can form direct and meaningful connections, it’s up to us, retailers and managers, to innovate together and create, not just adapt to change, to shape the future of music.
Annabella Coldrick joins Paul Craig and Kwame Kwaten on the cover of the latest edition of Music Week to talk about the MMF. Subscribers can click here to read the article.