opinion

£9.99: What's your emergency? Why streaming subscription increases should be back on the music biz agenda

Spotify turned 10 last week, and celebrated with a deluge of stats about its decade-long history. It's been 10 years of constant statistical growth, whether that's in terms of number of subscribers or the number of streams the service generates. ...

The long player game: How the album can survive the streaming age

For some of us, of course, every day is National Album Day. But the new event on the music industry calendar, which takes place tomorrow (October 13), will have to do a lot more than preach to the choir if it’s to become a national institution. Because the seachange in music consumption over recent years has moved a lot faster than 33rpm. While the vinyl revival hints at a desire from some to embrace the old ways of listening to music, most people’s preferred method of consumption is light years away from gathering round the gramophone. And, while everyone currently working in the music business has no trouble naming their favourite album, will future generations be able to say the same if they don't grow up listening to the format? Streaming now regularly represents 60% of the albums market week-in, week-out, but it seems unlikely that much of that listening comes from people truly giving a record their full attention and playing every song in order. And National Album Day will have its work cut out to break that cycle, let alone boost actual album sales. The skip button and shuffle feature have liberated listeners from the curse of the filler track or the poorly sequenced tracklist but, by and large, the industry still presents “long-players” in pretty much the same way it always has. This is not the case in other industries. TV has responded to the threat of the internet by producing ever higher quality series, available how, when and where the viewers want them, and engineered for obsessive consumption. Albums have long had built-in convenience, but too often their presentation, particularly on streaming services, seems throwaway. Meanwhile the lowering quality threshold means it’s been a long time since there was a undisputed front-runner for the Mercury Prize, let alone a truly generation-defining album. And that’s why, if National Album Day is to become a regular event, it can’t just be about old masterpieces. If albums are to remain central to UK culture, artists must be empowered to make new records with the vision to compete with the classics. And record companies and streaming services must promote them as essential bodies of work, not just for one day, but all year round. * For more on National Album Day and the future of the format, see the current print edition of Music Week. To read our full report on how albums can survive in the streaming age, click here. To subscribe and never miss a vital music biz story, click here.  

Viewpoint: Sammy Andrews on the outlook for Spotify

Welcome to the first of many columns I’m going to be writing for Music Week. Expect a mix of futurology, topical digital debates and perhaps the occasional swear word if I’m in full-on rant mode! I thought I’d kick off my first column with the recent news that Spotify is testing direct artist uploads. It’s the latest in a series of moves and shakes at Spotify that I heavily suspect are part of a wider play. Direct content upload is far from a new idea. YouTube, SoundCloud and even Pandora have all had this function for years (along with content ID systems that Spotify will now have to deploy when this rolls out widely) but, as Spotify currently claims 36% of the global music streaming market, this is a significant development that will undoubtedly impact artist deal decisions going forward. It’s been pretty entertaining watching aggregators since this news rolled out, many desperate to justify their worth in the face of competition directly from a DSP. But who will this really affect? The biggest impact will be for artists in archaic, old-school deals with labels who will undoubtedly earn more money from a direct deal; artists using aggregators that offer no additional marketing or support; some traditional distributors that aren’t really adding any value past delivery; and label services deals that take a higher split. Increasingly, the pressure for distributors and labels in the digital age has been to justify their offering outside of content delivery – which, let’s face it, anyone can do. Of course, many do have incredible offerings. If you find the right distributor or label with the right team and tech in place, their funding, marketing, support and know-how can still justifiably outweigh some of the financial savings artists would make on a direct deal with DSPs. But we all know there are many labels and distributors out there offering very little past delivery and it’s those folks that need to be worried here, and positively petrified if the likes of Apple and Deezer follow suit. But direct uploads are just the latest update from the ever-evolving powerhouse that is Spotify. They’ve had incredible success with their Rap Caviar live shows in the USA and the Who We Be UK live show in 2017. With the announcement this year of a brand new live event in the USA for their Hot Country playlist, something that really interests me about the live potential for Spotify’s shows is the sheer amount of data they can use to curate and place these. From the line-up, to the geographical location, they know who’s listening and where. Oddly, this echoes what’s happening in the restaurant trade where delivery app companies use their search and ordering data to identify areas where restaurants don’t have physical sites and set up “dark kitchens”. They are rented at a low cost to High Street names and independents alike that want a presence in the area without the outlay of a full restaurant. Data is revolutionising the way we consume many things, and Spotify’s ability to apply this thinking to live events is a brilliant way for them to ensure their brand can bring what people want to the right area. Add in Spotify testing the potential for sponsored song placements in playlists and rolling out playlist submissions for artists directly and I would predict we are about to see the release of a heap of tools to help Spotify monetise all of the above whilst further connecting artists to their fans. This is pure speculation (I do love a little future gaze) but if I were Spotify I’d certainly have a look at monetising everything from paid playlist placements to paid-for send-outs to fans via e-mail or the app. It makes you wonder if Spotify’s heavy investment in tech and data is about to pay off for them in a big way. Watch this space… SAMMY RECOMMENDS Hot tech this month FESTICKET This brilliant new Festival Finder beta is big news for events and fans. You can link your Spotify profile and have festival recommendations based on your listening habits. Imagine attending a festival where you love all the bands? FEEDFORWARD It’s no secret that I love a bit of AI but, far from robots taking over the world, Feedforward AI are doing some smart things in the entertainment space. They include some genuinely brilliant ways to breathe new monetisation into catalogues. PIXALOOP At Deviate Digital, we’re always on the look out for innovative apps to help with content creation. This is a fun little app that lets you animate still images. Works best on things like sky and liquid.

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