opinion

Why the music industry needs new ways to break new artists under lockdown

It’s boom time for boomers. Bob Dylan and Neil Young are at the top of the charts and everywhere you look, back catalogue classics and Greatest Hits sets are dominating what’s selling and streaming right now. Indeed, last week’s Top ...

What will the music industry leave behind when lockdown lifts?

Lockdown has taught us many things. But amidst the constant Groundhog Days of Zoom calls and crossed out diary entries, it has been particularly good for realising the things you can’t live without – and rationalising the ones that no longer seem quite so necessary. And, just as people are ditching travelcards and gym subscriptions in favour of a bike and a run round the park, and vowing never to go back to meeting face-to-face, so business is making some big decisions about what the future will look like. And the things being changed are not always the ones you might expect. Last week, for example, Universal Music rebranded the UK’s current most successful label, Virgin EMI, and brought back the world-famous EMI Records imprint, with Rebecca Allen installed as label president after the departure of Ted Cockle. With persistent rumours around the launch of Def Jam UK, more big, future-shaping moves from the biggest major seem likely. Meanwhile, in this week’s new issue of Music Week, HMV owner Doug Putman hints at issues with suppliers as he finally re-opens his stores after several weeks of closed doors.  HMV has been a High Street institution for so long, it’s perhaps inevitable that some people now take it for granted. And it has had certainly had its fair share of support from labels over the years. And, while some sectors of the music industry have probably been pleasantly surprised in recent weeks at how they can get by as a near digital-only business, there were also encouraging signs of pent-up demand for physical product in the first week back. It would be a big call indeed if anyone chose to walk away from the last chain standing, just as it was looking steadier on its feet. But no doubt there will be further big decisions about the future shape of the biz to be made in the next few weeks. As lockdown eases, it will be more and more apparent which companies remain in a strong position, and which ones have been hit hard by the effects of the pandemic. It’s probably asking too much to expect the music biz ecosystem to be rebuilt exactly as it was pre-Covid. But given we don’t yet know how swift or complete any recovery will be, you’d hope no decisions are made in haste, only to be repented on at leisure. After all, as lockdown drags on, we’ve still got the time and space to look at things from every angle. * For more on HMV's return, see the new issue of Music Week, available now. To make sure you can access Music Week wherever you are, sign up to our digital issue by clicking here.

Why there can be no return to the old normal for the music business

Finally, after 12 long weeks of lockdown, your favourite record shop is probably open again. The reopening of 'non-essential' retail is a welcome sign of normality returning after weeks of lockdown, even if social distancing and Covid-19 safety measures will mean crate-digging won’t be quite the same. But that’s not the only thing changing in the business. In the two or so weeks since Black Out Tuesday raised vital questions about the lack of racial equality in the music industry, One Little Indian has changed its name to One Little Independent, Lady Antebellum have changed their name and Bristol’s Colston Hall has confirmed it will finally have a new moniker when it reopens in the autumn. Many organisations, including Republic Records and the Grammys, have taken steps to remove the word ‘urban’ from their lexicon. In line with those and the suggestions issued by the new Black Music Coalition to labels, Music Week’s club chart providers are changing the name of the Urban listing to the Black Music chart. These are important, albeit often overdue moves for the industry. But cosmetic changes are relatively easy to make. The business will have more complicated systemic decisions to make in the weeks and months ahead. And as veteran artist manager Keith Harris points out, while "pretty much everybody" acknowledges that it's time something was done, "If they don't actually do something positive, things will stay the same". It’s important the points raised by #TheShowMustBePaused don’t get forgotten as the industry returns to normal Music Week So, just as music retailers are hoping their customers still remember their favourite record store after months without access, it’s important the points raised by #TheShowMustBePaused don’t get forgotten as the industry returns. Music Week itself has a role to play in that, and we also have work to do ourselves. We certainly haven’t always got things right in the past, but we will continue to cover these issues in the future and are genuinely passionate about, and committed to, helping to amplify a more diverse range of industry voices and assisting the industry’s drive for change in any way we can. As this week’s magazine Big Story on how music companies are responding to Black Out Tuesday shows, many companies are already addressing the issues and donating funds, and it’s heartening to see an industry-wide commitment to change. But, as the Black Music Coalition point out, actions will speak louder than words. Because, this time, returning to a more usual business must not just mean business as usual. * To read our reports on the return of music retail and how the music business is ensuring greater diversity, see this week's edition of Music Week, available now, or click here and here. To make sure you can access Music Week wherever you are, sign up to our digital issue by clicking here.

'We want generational change': Whitney Boateng and Afryea Henry-Fontaine talk #TheShowMustBePausedUK

'There is so much that needs to be done': Music publicist Curtis Sharkey on the task beyond Black Out Tuesday

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