'Tis already the season: Why the music biz can't afford to wait for Christmas

“It’s tiiiime!” trilled Mariah Carey in an amusing viral video that saw the pop legend going into Christmas mode the second the clock ticked over from October into November. It was a joke, albeit one designed to promote Carey’s (by ...

Never mind the ballots: Why the music biz can't afford to ignore the General Election

Usually, early December for the music business means concentrating on the race to be No.1 over the festive season. But this year, thanks to Boris Johnson’s (pictured) decision to call a December 12 General Election, we’ll all be more concerned with who will be at No.10 for Christmas. Voting during the biz’s most crucial sales period may be an unwelcome distraction – especially as the last few times Britain went to the polls it didn’t seem to solve anything. But the industry can’t afford not to use this opportunity to push its case to the politicians who, for the first time in a while, might actually feel obliged to listen. Brexit may seem to have taken inspiration from the Manic Street Preachers of late – Forever Delayed – but its spectre still looms large over an industry that has been woefully under-informed by the government as to how leaving the European Union might actually affect its core businesses. Increasingly stark warnings over the possible impact on touring have drawn little in the way of official guidance, so the election serves as a useful opportunity to lobby all parties as to the way forward. But equally – with the result far from a foregone conclusion – campaigning is a crucial opportunity to get in front of politicians, some of whom may hold the balance of power in a few months’ time. The brevity of Johnson’s administration means that it remains something of an unknown quantity. Even if the government is returned with an overall majority, there will be crucial changes with current Secretary Of State for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Nicky Morgan announcing she will stand down as an MP at the election. The DCMS job seems to have changed hands more regularly than the Albums Chart No.1 of late and the biz would benefit from some stability, whoever wins the election. But whoever does end up being handed the keys to No.10, the music business needs to use the next six weeks to make sure it’s made its case – both Brexit and non-Brexit-related – to anyone and everyone likely to be in a decision-making position on December 13. After all, there will still be a week left to sort out the much-more-important Christmas No.1 chart battle... * Stay tuned to musicweek.com for more General Election coverage.

Viewpoint: Sammy Andrews on the rise of K-pop and TikTok

I am reading the most fascinating book at the moment. It’s called New Kings Of The World, Dispatches from Bollywood, Dizi, and K-pop, by Fatima Bhutto. It’s an intriguing look at everything mentioned in the title and some of the pages have made me think a little more widely on the major plays being made across continents right now; be that labels and streaming services clambering over themselves to have a presence and do deals in developing territories, K-pop and Bollywood smashing global streaming and exploring to the West, or Chinese apps breaking barriers and artists. The book houses some incredible little nuggets about K-pop’s dance with pop and politics. There was the time when, in response to North Korea claiming they tested a hydrogen bomb, South Korea blasted K-pop across the border for so long (and so loudly) that North Korea declared it an act of war! Then there’s the very telling fact that, after economic breakdown, Korea required a new export in its re-imagined economy and, drawing on inspiration from North America and Britain, they ploughed money and infrastructure into technology and entertainment, notably K-pop. The government invested heavily in setting up creative agencies within their ministries, helped design guides on how best to export K-pop to other territories and installed broadband to the entire nation as early as 1994! Yes, that’s right… Nineteen-ninety-fucking-four. In 2014, South Korea had an internet connection 200 times faster than the average connection in North America. Many of us in the business have spoken for some years about the opportunities that would arise as the rest of the world came online and it is absolutely coming to fruition right now across places such as India, Africa and South America (many of which bypassed those painful dial-up years and went straight to data plans!). Fast connections aside, K-pop is making serious waves right now. Earlier this month K-pop all-star group SuperM debuted at No.1 on the US albums chart. Every major label without exception and most big indies are signing K-pop at a rapid rate, big Western promoters are opening huge stadiums in Korea, companies on this side of the world are snapping up big K-pop managers and labels are flocking to Asia to open imprints. But K-pop isn’t the only thing that that’s coming in hard from the East right now. I’ve written about TikTok a few times this year, but now feels like a good time to delve back into it given recent developments. Firstly, the idea that a Chinese-owned app (and social network) would take hold in the way it has across the West would have been unthinkable to most a few years ago but, as I write, TikTok was reported to have had in the region of one billion downloads by February this year. Yes, you read that right. It also spent over a year as the top app on the iOS store. Those figures dwarf any streaming service you can name. It’s also been aggressively hiring over the last few months, reportedly head hunting some very established and respected industry veterans and rising starts to build out its music relationships. The platform has spawned stars including Lil Nas X and is launching tracks into the stratosphere at an incredible rate. At Deviate Digital, we are seeing absolutely insane figures from all ads we place there in comparison to any other social network, but TikTok is facing some pretty serious challenges, too. Many are aware of some of the licensing deals in place, but right now it faces major push back and copyright disputes from organisations including the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) and ICE. It has also faced criticism for censorship in some parts of the world and sparked security concerns. TikTok is owned by fast-growing giant Bytedance, which in 2018 was valued at $78 billion. Bytedance is looking to launch a streaming service and, if rumours are to be believed, they are looking to do so soon. With the momentum TikTok has already generated in the West, imagine the impact that kind of service could have. One thing is for sure, the coming months and years will see global cultural trends change in ways most could have never have imagined. In a time where some are keen to see walls go up, it’s nice to see music continually smashing borders.

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