Wise Music Group's Tim Hayes on how publishing is adapting to the lockdown

Wise Music Group's Tim Hayes on how publishing is adapting to the lockdown

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the music industry has been hit hard, particularly the live sector and physical retail.

With the government issuing guidance on the plan to ease the lockdown, UK Music has called for the creation of a taskforce to help the industry

While the publishing sector has not faced the immediate impact we’ve seen in some areas, it’s intricately connected to the music ecosystem so there will be an effect on everything from sync to collection societies. And the lockdown will even influence the type of songs that are getting written.

Here, Tim Hayes, senior creative manager – TV at Wise Music Group, looks at how the pandemic is going to change music publishing in the months and years ahead…

What steps is the company taking in response to the pandemic?

Wise Music have closed all offices worldwide, with all employees working from home and all meetings taken via webcam or phone. Business is staying as normal and fluid as it is whilst in the office, and we’re finding cross-departmental communication is key to ensure we’re servicing our catalogues and writers in the best way possible.”

Streaming volumes have been affected during the global lockdown, is that a concern?

Audio streaming is the primary way people consume music now, so the general decline is alarming for the industry as a whole. However, I think it may also be indicative that people are using other forms to connect with music, such as radio and personal record collections. Personally, I’ve been listening to the radio a lot more than usual and fallen back in love with it, as have a lot of people I talk to. I think that is because it gives a mixture of communication and interaction, which we all need right now, as well as brilliant curation of music with certain radio stations tailored almost perfectly to specific taste.”

I hope there will be an abundance of great music composed in the coming months

Tim Hayes

How has the TV/film and advertising sync market been affected for publishers?

“TV/film markets are very long term in general, so although filming may have halted, most pre- and post-production can still be carried out remotely meaning productions can continue working. Advertising has taken a hit due to the quick turnaround times and restrictions on shooting adverts. There has been an uplift in user-generated content adverts from brands in relation to the pandemic, which is interesting. But as a realistic short-term solution, I think there will be a lot of brands looking to re-licence their previous advertising campaigns.

“We’ve already lost some great TV opportunities to pitch and license music to in the 2020 Olympics, Euros, Premier League etc, and looking at the broader topic of TV broadcast, the BBC’s coverage of Glastonbury is usually a great promotional opportunity for artists to connect with new audiences. Should the lockdown carry over for longer than expected, there will certainly be a significant impact on the sync industry.” 

Will the popularity of TV streaming at this time be good for publishing/sync in the long term, as services build a larger subscriber base?

TV streaming has been growing at an extreme rate over the last five years and this will help to push it further. Where previously a household may have a subscription to one SVOD platform, the need for new content will push the public to subscribe to additional platforms, meaning that people may now have three or four SVOD platforms at once. The retention of these new subscribers when lockdown ends will be a big concern to all SVOD platforms and it will push them to create more unique and exciting content, and therefore, more commissions for composers and licensing opportunities for rights holders.

“One very interesting development with SVOD recently is the launch of Disney+ across Europe at the end of March. Without planning to do so, Disney+ has launched at a time when the need for content has never been greater. It is a perfect time to push the product to consumers, which I assume would have translated into a much higher level of subscribers than they initially expected.”

What do you think the long-term impact will be on the publishing sector? 

“Publishing isn’t affected as badly as those sectors on the surface, but live is a huge part of our classical business and our writers’ work. There are various projects that some of our writers have been working on for 18+ months, such as ballets, theatre productions and worldwide premiere concerts being cancelled. In general, our writers are using this time wisely to write new music, discuss opportunities for future projects. Personally, I think – and hope – there will be an abundance of great music composed in the coming months, which will help to alleviate pressures that the current situation will bring over the next year or so.” 

To read the Music Week report on publishing and Covid-19, subscribers can click here. To subscribe and never miss a big industry story, click here

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