New year, new biz: How the return of the good times should change the music industry

New year, new biz: How the return of the good times should change the music industry

Happy New Year! Hopefully the dreaded return to work after Christmas hasn’t proved too bad, especially as the 2017 figures from the BPI and ERA should have instantly had everyone feeling (almost) 10% better.

After around 15 years of long, slow decline, the UK music business has now registered three consecutive years of increasingly solid growth. No one is going to complain about that, but the biz may need to develop different strategies for the boom than it did for the bust.

Caution has been the industry’s watchword when dealing with the early stages of recovery but that may no longer be the best approach. As Rob Stringer recently pointed out in Music Week, no one wants to see a return to the excesses of the ‘90s (although some of those parties would be nice), but success tends to breed success in this game and there’s no harm in the industry celebrating its triumphs.

This is especially true given that there’s no obvious Ed Sheeran-style blockbuster album definitely lined up for 2018. Which means the UK industry needs to get back to doing what it’s traditionally done best: break new artists, preferably on a global basis. 2017 was a marked improvement on 2016 but, Rag’N’Bone Man aside, the sales involved were still relatively modest - although, with breaking acts being a longer game nowadays, plenty of 2017's new stars might yet attain similar status.

The industry will also have to cope with other consequences of its success. Digital giants can not be allowed to wriggle out of playing (and paying) fair, just because the music industry has clawed back some of the income it lost in the slump. But you can bet some of them will try, and the industry and its lobbyists need to be prepared.

Meanwhile, the shadow of Brexit and its possible impact on all sectors of the biz remains the industry’s great unknown. Hopefully by this time next year, the picture will be a lot clearer.

Until then, party hard, but work harder should be the biz’s New Year Resolution.


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