As 2014 comes to a close, it appears the lines between the music and technology players have never been thinner. How are the current roles redefined? And how will these major changes impact the music ecosystem in 2015?
The first question here is: are publishers the new labels? It could be the case any time soon, judging by the latest evolutions from Kobalt: the indie publishing company recently unveiled its much-anticipated new label services portal. It “offers labels, managers and artists powerful reporting and user-friendly analysis tools which will make it easy to review and understand all their varied income streams,” according to Billboard.
The near future may also lie in hardware crossovers. Who, for example, could have predicted months ago that ephemeral messaging service Snapchat had plans for a music feature? TechCrunch reports that the world-famous app just acquired QR Scan.me for $50M and Vergence Eyeglass Cam for $15M. Leaked emails from the Sony Pictures hack show that Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel “has grand aspirations to promote artists through his app and capitalise on their success,” and is already in talks with VEVO, William Morris Endeavour and Twitter to launch a specific platform soon.
Snapchat’s interface currently links to iTunes
Other news in the fast-moving tech domain further stress this unstoppable convergence between hardware, content and distribution. Things are changing so quickly that companies like Sonos — the connected audio equipment maker that just raised $130m — now has such a high market value that it could only be acquired by anyone but Google or Apple at this point, says Music Ally. Indeed, this latest round brings the firm’s total funding to date to around $455m.
But this is just the beginning: what if hardware companies started developing their own streaming services? Look no further: Music Week reports that audio brand Technics “has developed Technics Tracks, a music download platform, which will launch in the New Year.” But the same is true for Bose: Hypebot points out that the audio manufacturer “is hiring staff and moving “quickly” to build and launch its own next generation streaming music platform.”
Last but not least, Muzik has launched a set of headphones with one-touch social sharing (see picture below), raising $10m in funding. TechCrunch analyses this move as an attempt to break into the already very competitive market:
“It’ll be interesting to see if smart features can draw customers to a relatively new headphone brand over more established incumbents. Beats has succeeded with an appeal to style, as well as building brand cache by association with celebrities.”
Muzik’s new headphones allow for one-touch social sharing
This effervescence aside, streaming remains under deep scrutiny, in the wake of Taylor Swift pulling her catalogue from Spotify and Deezer last month (read more in our November News Review). WME‘s Marc Geiger recently became one of the latest music personalities to side with Swift, calling free streaming services “F—ed up,” writes Billboard. Spotify founder & CEO Daniel Ek once again stepped up to bat, admitting “we need to do a better job explaining to artists how streaming benefits them,” reported Billboard.
What if, as many argue today, streaming’s advantages for artists are indirect? In a post called “Here’s why you don’t need to worry about low streaming royalties,” blogger and artist Ari Herstand says creative marketing such as concert ticket ads within Spotify, or merchandising pushes within BandPage, are proving to be surprisingly lucrative for artists. “Music fans aren’t the enemy,” re. Herstand. “There’s lots of money to be made. You just have to get creative about it.”
Last but by no means least, one of 2014’s most surprising crossover trends has been the vinyl revival. “Nearly eight million old-fashioned vinyl records have been sold this year, up 49% from the same period last year,” says The Wall Street Journal. But how long will this last? All eyes will undoubtedly be on ‘old-fashioned’ records next year…
Resurrections, epic battles and blurred frontiers between tech, distribution, content and innovation in general: 2015 promises to be a bright and exciting year!
See you all at Midem in June 2015 to witness the latest evolutions of the music industry, live!
Top photo via Shutterstock – rangizzz