Has the future of the music industry ever been more driven by individual initiatives?
If this trend is confirmed, 2015 may well be the year where artists weigh in on the debate over streaming services in their current state. The next step after the much-discussed controversies of last year, most notably Taylor Swift’s decision to pull all of her songs from Spotify? For now, attention is focused on Jay Z’s impressive €50m bid for Aspiro, the parent company of high-def streaming platform WimP/Tidal. As Music Business Worldwide writes, the musician and entrepreneur could now compete with Spotify directly.
Another recent, individual initiative of note is Aphex Twin’s decision to flood Soundcloud with over a hundred unreleased recordings. According to The Guardian, the artist is “highlighting the need for a new playfulness and spirit of adventure in the music industry’s relationship with the internet. Why not explore the creative possibilities offered by the internet? Why not use it as a medium to shock, delight and surprise?”
Harvey performing live during the White Chalk tour in 2007, photo by Ella Mullins, CC BY 2.0
Two bold moves from artists, two different visions of what online services can bring to the industry? In fact, more artists than ever are being more creative than ever in finding new ways to generate value — i.e. revenue — with their music. As Noisey notes in a must-read article, there has never been so much inventiveness in this field, “from Taylor Swift sending her fans cheques and homemade paintings to TLC powering up a kickstarter.” Quoting examples such as PJ Harvey letting fans pay to watch her record her latest album, or LA rapper Nipsey Hussle selling mixtapes with a limited run (1,000 copies at $100 each; Jay Z bought 100) Noisey underlines a very important fact:
“(…) The new capital in music is not necessarily in the faith and support of a label machine, or even your ranking on Google trends, but in the dedication and loyalty of your fans, especially your super fans. It’s what digital age business writer Nicholas Lovell dubbed “the curve”, an economic theory discussed in his book of the same name.”
Do artists really lead the race in terms of marketing inventiveness, though? Buzzfeed just published their list of “The 12 Best Music Marketing Campaigns Of 2014”, which proves that marketers also have their say on the subject. To quote just one example, swimming wear brand Seafolly partnered with music band Panama to create a shoppable music video (watch it below). Midem’s own Marketing Competition, which will take place this June, will reward new creative ideas like these, driven by music or digital music services.
Even social networks are joining this “innovation rush” with their own initiatives: Snapchat, for instance, just launched a new media platform, called Discover. Billboard reports that the service offers “daily refreshed content from select and disparate group of major media players like Vice, The Daily Mail, Comedy Central”, not to mention Warner Music Group, thanks to whom mini-teasers for music videos are now displayed on the app.
Is true disruptive now the mainstay of new upstarts like SnapChat, though? The challenge of innovation for larger companies was once again underlined by Sony‘s recent decision to close its subscription service, Music Unlimited, choosing instead to partner with Spotify, Hypebot reports.
Streaming itself is still on the rise, even though the situation depends on the territory. In Europe, for example, France and Italy have a similar situation: declining music markets in which streaming has overtaken iTunes for the first time, Music Business writes about the former and the latter countries. But in Northern Europe, things are quite different: Norway‘s revenues from recorded music were flat in 2014, but not only do streaming services such as Spotify and Tidal/WiMP now lead the race there, they have also “virtually elminated” piracy, according to the same source (see chart below).
Would streaming — and innovation in the music industry in general — benefit from a change of rules in Europe? That is, at least, what IMPALA thinks: The independent music companies association just submitted a Digital Action Plan “calling for a new European industrial policy to drive the digital market through the cultural and creative sectors,” Music Week reports.
After all, isn’t innovation a rules-changing business?
See you all at Midem in June 2015 to witness the latest evolutions of the music industry, and make sure to register to the Midem Marketing Competition 2015, which will award the best music marketing campaign of the year!
Top photo via Shutterstock – Christian Bertrand