opinion

Viewpoint: Sammy Andrews on the new (super) normal

In her latest must-read Music Week column, Digital Deviate CEO Sammy Andrews guides us through the ever-changing tech world... There’s no doubt about it, the pandemic has been a real “tale of two halves” for the music industry. Some businesses ...

Tuned Global MD Con Raso on the power of niche music streaming

Con Raso, MD & co-founder, Tuned Global, manages the entire Tuned Global network which involves offices in Melbourne, Sydney, London and San Francisco. Over the past 10 years, he has focused on creating innovative mobile and online distribution models within the B2C entertainment market. Here, Raso looks at the global potential for niche music streaming services… It's no secret, pandemic or no pandemic, streaming is the predominant form of music consumption today. No doubt, the Western music streaming world is dominated by services such as Spotify and Apple Music that offer an ‘everything for everyone’ menu. We are, however, witnessing a rise of services that dig deeper and offer a specialist take based on geography, genre or even leisure activity. In fact, Spotify’s revenue growth is slowing down, partly due to the rise of local services in emerging markets. Taking all of that into consideration, is music heading in a similar direction to the TV world where consumers are prepared to pay for a range of different subscriptions with different types of content rather than just sticking with one option? Granted, the mainstream music streaming services all share similar content compared to TV where they all have unique offerings (eg, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+). That being said, there are plenty of music services that focus on a tailored approach to their local audience with localised content. They don’t replicate or replace the offering of mainstream DSPs, but rather complement them by catering to the local social economic needs. This focus allows them to engage with super-fans and support local music industries and artists.  A prime example of this is the content found on Gaana, India’s largest commercial music streaming service with 185m MAUs and 20 regional languages. This DSP’s content consists primarily of Indian titles in genres such as Hindu Hip Hop, Punjabi pop ballads and devotional religious songs. Similarly, the Pan-African platform Deedo, powered by Tuned Global, offers local musicians the opportunity to distribute their music online and keep 100% of their income. Meanwhile, PortalDisc in Chile provides a fully localised user experience achieved by using custom metadata provided by our turnkey branded solution to divide the content into regions and Chilean music genres. With over 130,000 Chilean songs from 300 national labels and more than 7,000 independent artists, it covers the full range of the country’s musical styles, geographical regions and historical eras. Music streaming can be used to deepen a brand’s connection with its customers Con Raso For users who may already be satisfied with their local content offerings on the major DSPs, they could perhaps feel underserviced in another area, one of which could be a lack of diversity or deep catalogues, in particular genres which fall outside of the mainstream. Fans of classical music or jazz, for example, might not get very specific recommendations and have limited options for editorial playlists. Services such as Primephonic offer classical music listeners a unique experience with curated playlists, hi-res audio quality that is needed for this genre and, more importantly, enables users to search by period, genre, style or personnel, such as who conducted the performance.  Music doesn’t always have to be the sole focus of a service, but music can still play an important role when integrated with an activity. This is especially the case with apps tailored to specific activities such as fitness or meditation. In the case of fitness, music was always used to accompany workouts, with the pandemic increasing the demand for digital alternatives, such as Peloton, where your workout playlist is integrated with your workout experience.  Going one step beyond, music streaming can be used to deepen a brand’s connection with its customers. ACX Music and Ultimate Fighting Championship developed an app that enables UFC fans to engage with their favourite athletes via music playlists and videos. Pizza Hut Malaysia also used music streaming to connect with its customer base with the recent ‘Singing Pizza’ campaign, by offering an exclusive playlist tailored to each pizza box within the Pizza Hut app.  Specialty services don’t aspire to necessarily displace Spotify or Apple, they hope to attract a different audience by providing a feature and content-rich service for their core/niche tastes. Niche services have the ability to understand and cater to their specific target audience's tastes in a way that the larger companies cannot. Being able to curate listeners’ experiences with deeper playlists and podcasts is another advantage and allows these companies to establish loyalty and authenticity with their audience. Put simply, they are able to focus on the vertical, rather than the horizontal, Everything for someone, rather than something for everyone. 

Hentons' Chris Panayi on why the music industry needs government support ahead of the live revival

Chris Panayi, senior partner at accounting firm Hentons, is a music industry stalwart who has been working with musicians, managers, promoters, tour teams and agents for more than 40 years. Here, he explains why the industry is feeling let down and ignored by the government during the Covid pandemic and Brexit touring crisis… Brexit, streaming and Covid-19 have been a triple whammy for the music industry. Brexit has caused no end of problematic hoops for musicians and tour operators to jump through, with musicians forced to cancel EU gigs, and no clarity from the government on how negotiations are progressing with EU countries over potentially removing restrictions on touring. Revenue from streaming continues to be a highly controversial and difficult issue for the industry, and despite a recent DCMS Committee investigation, there is no clear solution on how payments to musicians can be made fairer. Add the impact of Covid-19 to all of this, and the phrase ‘unprecedented challenges’ doesn’t even begin to cover what the industry is going through! “Everyone in the industry has been hit hard, from big name stars to emerging and new artists and all of those support teams associated with live touring including sound engineers and lighting designers through to security companies and venues. Support for the music industry from the Chancellor in the Budget was notably absent and justifiably, the music industry feels let down and ignored. “Many people in the industry live from contract to contract and without any shows for more than 18 months, their reserves are quickly running out. The majority work on a freelance basis and don’t qualify for grants or support. The stress these people have been under is shocking, with many earning nothing for more than a year. Where is the protection and support for an industry that under normal circumstances contributes so much to both the economy and the culture of our country?” As the chief executive of the Music Managers Forum, Annabella Coldrick, said: “Covid and Brexit have really impacted the music business, and although everyone remains hopeful that full-scale live shows might return in the UK, there's still a lot of uncertainty ahead - particularly when it comes to international touring, on which so many artists depend.”  Before the pandemic, employment in the industry hit an all-time high of almost 200,000 people in the UK, but the majority of those people have lost their jobs. There is no denying that times have really been hard. No touring also means no ticket revenue, no merchandise sales and no chance to connect in person with the fans.  It’s our responsibility to safeguard the future of this inspiring industry and the only way we can do that is as a collective Chris Panayi Of the hundreds of people in the music industry that we provide tax and accounting advice to, 70% lost the majority of their income overnight. Our role has been to help those we represent with both financial and emotional guidance, and we have understood and listened to the significant problems that musicians, managers, agents and all of those associated with live touring are facing. We have helped them to access the nuggets of financial support that have been available to them, as well as liaising with banks providing accurate financial data to help negotiate loans and mortgage holidays, but a large-scale solution is needed to protect the industry and everyone in it from collapse. People in the music industry are hard workers by nature, they need to be, but it’s up to all of us who advise and represent them to speak up and demand more support in order to deliver some sort of safety net. It’s our responsibility to safeguard the future of this inspiring industry and the only way we can do that is as a collective. All Covid-19 restrictions are due to be lifted on June 21, which provides a glimmer of hope, but hopefully our Culture Secretary, and the government, will listen to industry calls for a state backed Covid-19 cancellation scheme for live events that will give some sort of security to organisers, performers and suppliers. If we are going to encourage confidence in music festivals, gigs and performances planned for this summer and beyond, we must follow other European countries and have the government underwrite Covid-19 cancellation insurance. One thing I have learnt during my 40-plus years in the industry is the importance of trust. The government has supported the likes of the film and TV industry with a £500m Restart Scheme but left the music industry to borrow its own way out of the situation. We are obviously very cautious about what the future of live performances holds, but one thing that has not changed is how resourceful and creative the people in the music industry are. Hopefully, despite what has been an impossibly difficult 12 months, some sort of financial security can start to be generated, so that the talented people in our industry can focus on what they do best - writing, recording and performing the wonderful music that makes our industry so unique.

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