As I wrote in my last Music Week column, the damaging impact of Covid-19 has been felt far and wide across the industry. The world we once knew is no more and, as a united music business, we must all find ways to adapt to whatever the new normal is. Here, I want to look at some of the things I believe the industry needs to address to make music a sustainable business for all.
Myself and many, many others out there have long argued that changes need to be made across our industry to better serve our artists and songwriters, but all too often any challenge to the status quo is casually batted away as ridiculous. But nothing is impossible, dear reader. Transformational change is just around the corner if we want it, if we fight for it.
So, rather than offer my usual opinion on matters, here I want to present some of the questions that I believe the industry should be asking itself. Unless we have these conversations, money will continue to be left on the table for many, and it will continue to flow in questionable directions. There are so many ways we can make changes across the board to ensure the sustainability and profitability of our industry, but we must do so in unison and as a united music business...
1) Given the technology available, is it impossible for collection societies to pay people quicker? And is it right that millions of pounds sit sloshing around in Black Box, which is then distributed by market share?
2) What does success actually look like in the modern day music industry?
3) What is a fair number of streams generated that should provide artists and songwriters with a living wage?
4) Is it acceptable that we have really poor quality pre-existing data? Is our lack of implementing any meaningful minimum viable data set partly to blame for the industry’s inability to adapt fully to the digital age?
5) Whose fault was it that attempts to build global databases failed, and why has an industry-wide effort not been put into rectifying that?
6) Should streaming services provide more tools for artists to nurture and upsell to the fanbase they brought to a platform? If so, what should they be?
7) Is it right that despite technology existing for over a decade, songs played in bars, restaurants and businesses aren’t directly accounted for?
8) How badly will performance income be hit with no live events and no open bars, businesses and venues?
9) Should the recorded music industry be helping our struggling grassroots venues more than they are?
10) How much of the success and value of a track is because of the quality of the song itself?
11) Should research and trials be supported? What stumbling blocks have Deezer faced getting user-centric payments over the line?
12) In the digital world, who invests heavily in the development of artists before they even get to a label? Are they adequately rewarded for their time, skill and financial investment?
13) Debates about royalty splits are long-standing, involve highly nuanced arguments and will, without doubt, rage on forever. But the current crisis does have many artists looking at their agreements. Are they fair?
14) Should the price of streaming subscriptions be raised?
15) Should more labels be providing royalty repayment holidays (for unrecouped advances) to those who are struggling, or out of cycle? Many great independent labels do this already...
Tweet your thoughts to @MusicWeek and @SammyAndrews and join in the conversation.