opinion

Viewpoint: Sammy Andrews on the alignment of ticketing and streaming

If you’ve ever heard me rant at a conference over the last 10 years, or been at dinner with me after two glasses of Pinot Noir, you’ll know I’ve been banging the drum for a while now on the potential ...

Shoppers paradise lost: Why the biz needs to make sure casual music fans still have physical options at Christmas

This festive season will be the first in decades where the misery of my annual Christmas shopping trip to London’s Oxford Street will not be rescued by a visit to HMV. The reborn retailer closed down its flagship store earlier this year. It is thriving elsewhere, of course, including opening a huge new HMV Vault store in Birmingham, while – luckily for the music fans in my family – there are plenty of independent options just off the Oxford Street main drag. But London’s premier shopping destination is now essentially free of physical music, bar a few vinyl albums on sale in Urban Outfitters. That won’t matter to the hardcore music heads who will find their fix elsewhere, or the fans who get their tunes solely via streaming services. But in gifting season, it will – along with the squeeze on supermarket space and the continued retreat from High Street locations for music retailers everywhere – rob the industry of those spontaneous purchases from casual music fans that contribute hugely to the general health of the business. Not everyone will make the move to streaming, particularly as the £120 annual cost of most services would traditionally be at the top end of per-head music spending. Generally, 2019 has seen plenty of invention on the physical side of the business, with Taylor Swift, BTS and Tool making sure those loyal to CD and vinyl get plenty of bang for their extra bucks. But the 2019 trend to drop huge albums ever closer to Christmas Day itself also means that it’s harder for the less committed to factor those releases into their stocking-filler plans. Traditionally, music has played a central role in the great British Christmas, yet there will probably be fewer gifts of actual music exchanged this Yuletide season than in most of the post-vinyl years. Q4 sales so far have been sluggish and, while hotly-anticipated releases from Stormzy and this week’s Music Week cover star Harry Styles should help change that, it’s notable how much the current top-sellers still rely on physical sales. Of the Top 20 albums on Friday, only Michael Bublé’s hardy perennial Christmas had more ‘sales’ from streaming than from physical. Few of the others even came close. Eleven of the Top 20 albums moved fewer than 1000 streaming units last week. Eight moved less than 100! That means there are still plenty of festive physical opportunities out there. Oxford Street shoppers might not be able to take them this year, but the biz should work as hard as possible to make sure everyone else can. * To read Music Week's HMV cover story from earlier this year, click here. To subscribe to Music Week and never miss a vital music biz story, click here.

'Our best-laid plans were suddenly trashed': Former Music Week editor Paul Williams on his time in the hotseat

All week long, the music business has been taking a stroll down memory lane through the back pages of Music Week, as we celebrate 60 years of the world’s greatest music business publication. From Sir Lucian Grainge, Rob Stringer and Max Lousada to Alistair Norbury, Sarah Stennett and Phil Christie, the great and the good of the biz have shared their favourite Music Week moments. And former editors have talked us through their time at the helm, from Steve Redmond’s raucous early ‘90s to Selina Webb’s wild ride through the Kill Your Friends era to Martin Talbot’s stewardship of the nervous Noughties. Few, however, faced a challenge like Paul Williams, editor between 2007 and 2011. Not only did Williams – now coming to the end of a stint as VP of communications for Sony/ATV – have to deal with the industry’s shift to streaming, but he also had to cope with the death of Michael Jackson on deadline day. Here, the former boss talks us through his rollercoaster ride: “It was only about a decade ago that I became Music Week editor, but that time feels almost prehistoric now given the seismic changes that have since taken place in the music business. Back then, streaming was a niche that filled a few column inches and we were more preoccupied writing about Woolworths and the other High Street retailers. While a digital-dominated future was starting to take shape, this was a period of real uncertainty for the industry as revenues dropped year after year and managing decline became a new way of life. No record company more symbolised the challenges facing the business than EMI, which was bought in a multi-billion-pound deal by Terra Firma in the year that I became editor. The takeover looked smart initially, but when the financial crisis hit the following year, it exposed that Guy Hands had severely overpaid for the British major. As recorded music sales dropped, one bright spot was the live sector and Music Week increased its coverage to reflect this shift in industry power. The recently-opened O2 was quickly established as the world’s most successful music venue and was even able to sign up Michael Jackson for a 50-date residency. Of course, those shows never happened as the star suddenly passed away – with particularly unfortunate timing for this editor.  Knowing the next issue of Music Week was pretty much wrapped up, I confidently made the decision to allow most of our journalists to skip the usual Friday press day so they could attend Glastonbury Festival. However, as the MW team headed to Worthy Farm, news of Jackson’s death broke, which meant most of the pages already written for the magazine had to be ripped up and the skeleton staff of two then faced the prospect of putting together an extensive tribute to the King Of Pop in just a few hours. While the job got done with moments to spare, the staff were told they would be watching Glastonbury on TV the following year! The Jackson episode typified the kind of challenges you have to deal with running a weekly magazine, when your best-laid plans are suddenly trashed and events take you in another direction. However, I would not swap my time at Music Week for anything. It was a privilege to have served as editor of a publication that I consider to be crucial to the UK music industry. In my career now working in communications, it remains an essential read to me and, at a time when so much has changed, it is reassuring to know that Music Week is still thriving after 60 years.” * For the full 60th anniversary extravaganza, see this week’s print edition of Music Week, available now. To secure your copy of this very special issue, email Rachael Hampton on rachael.hampton@futurenet.com. To subscribe to Music Week and never miss a vital music biz story, please click here.

'Cataloguing the evolution of the biz was a privilege': Former Music Week editor Martin Talbot on his time in the hotseat

'It changed my life': Former Music Week editor Selina Webb on her time in the hotseat

'Maurice Oberstein was screaming at me': Former Music Week editor Steve Redmond reflects on his time in the hotseat

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