In the run-up to Midem 2015, we’ll be featuring a select crew of up-and-coming label executives, sharing their views on how the industry is changing today. Today, Domino Recording Co‘s head of digital tells midemblog about musical digital services & platforms and trends in music consumption.
midemblog: Tell us about yourself, your background, what you do and who you do it for?
Jason Reed: I head up all things digital at Domino Recording Co. based in London, with a main focus on our commercial business, and our relationships & strategies across the various digital services and platforms. I also work closely with our marketing team on our artist campaigns, and project manage our internal development initiatives. Prior to joining the Domino family, I had stints at Sony Music International and Ministry of Sound.
> What are the best things about your job, and what have been your career highlights to date?
Working for an artist-centric company with a diverse roster means that not one campaign is “the same” in any way. Each is tailored towards a different audience and aesthetic, which creates exciting challenges and possibilities. And the nature of working in digital music means that there’s never a dull moment – the landscape is ever-changing and there’s plenty of interesting developments on the horizon. I joined Domino just before we headed into the Arctic Monkeys’ AM campaign, which of course a hugely triumphant time for the band – and this year is shaping up incredibly well, with returning artists such as Hot Chip and Villagers, and new talent such as Georgia and LA Priest. It’s always a pleasure to be surrounded by great people and brilliant music.
> What advice would you give to people looking to start working in the music industry today?
Get stuck in to whatever you can – whether it’s interning at a music-focused company, collaborating with artists and peers, or organising events – it’s all great exposure and shows a keenness to get involved. Teaching yourself new skills around coding and digital design is also something to think about; there’s a ton of resources out there, you just need the patience and initiative. It can be tough to reach the first rung of the industry ladder, but a positive and proactive attitude can definitely help. From there it’s about building new connections and remaining focused on your passions; knowledge and genuine enthusiasm can go a long way, whether you’re into certain genres of music, technology or other aspects of the industry.
> What do you predict will be the top trends for music consumption and marketing in 2015?
Further attempts at more complex personalisation in the streaming arena will continue, including efforts to improve music suggestions based on consumption data and context, such as the time of day and your physical surroundings. Spotify arguably have the lead here given the music intelligence built around The Echo Nest technology, but there’s still a long way to go before this might feel more natural and intuitive, particularly to those music fans with more esoteric tastes and interests. Ultimately it will never replace elements of human curation, so it’s about the services finding the right blend and balance. On a wider scale, it will be another interesting year for the streaming arena, with new investment and energy from the likes of TIDAL and Apple’s long-rumoured entrance. It’s also an intriguing time for digital visual experiences, with immersive concepts like HoloLens and Magic Leap on the horizon on the one hand, and Google Cardboard aiming to democratise virtual reality for the masses.
> Are labels, distributors and publishers still the most viable route to market for artists, given the proliferation of direct to fan platforms?
There’s undoubtedly some great tools for DIY artists out there to make something of a living from their art, from Bandcamp and PledgeMusic to Kickstarter. The barriers for artists to connect with their fans and get their projects to market are lower than ever in some ways. However it remains a challenge for artists to get their work seen and heard “on scale”, given the sheer volume of great music out there. The vast majority of artists benefit from a strong collaborative team behind them to reach their true creative and commercial potential, and the independent label sector is well-placed to build fruitful and transparent relationships with artists. Traditional forms of marketing and promotion continue to play an important part in building a successful campaign and raising broader awareness.
> With music sales in decline, how can artists address the challenge of monetising their fanbases in the streaming era?
The sea of change towards streaming cannot be argued with, but there is still a strong appetite for ownership and physical product across certain fanbases. The resurgence of vinyl is well documented, and shows that desirable, well-crafted packages can command a premium from music fans who are keen to support the artist. It’s more of an extreme example, but Arctic Monkeys were the most-streamed act in the UK in 2013 when AM was released – and that was also the best-selling vinyl album of that year. Streaming definitely has a scale and immediacy, but this shows there’s also a demand for tangibility that can sit alongside this – so it’s important to consider the whole spectrum of the audience where you can. There’s also considerations around the streaming platforms themselves, and how to fully engage the audiences there – looking at ways to draw people back to your catalogue, given that each repeated listen will generate income in the longer-term.
> How do you think streaming can address some of its key issues – such as sustainability, growth, pricing, windowing, transparency – in the next 12 months?
There’s seemingly some renewed angst around ad-funded streaming at the moment, particularly from the major labels. The arrival of Apple into the music streaming arena will undoubtedly build more mainstream awareness of paid-for music streaming services, and illustrate what they can offer the consumer versus the likes of YouTube, particularly if there is a heavily personifiable element around its curation. The challenge continues to be converting the growing swathe of music fans who are using free streaming platforms on a daily basis, but feel that £/€ 9.99 a month is too much of a leap to make. The proposition of hard-bundling music subscriptions with new devices (the approach that Nokia took with Comes With Music) to remove this price-perception barrier via a subsidised approach hasn’t yet worked – but it does feel like a viable route for Apple, to help scale a more sustainable streaming offering quickly.
Here in the UK, the ongoing windowing of “pre-release” singles from streaming services still continues to be a major issue. The fact that certain tracks being played on daytime national radio are unavailable to listen to on a service that music fans are actively paying £9.99 every month for – this needs to change!
> Would you persuade Taylor Swift to come back to Spotify? If so, how?
1989 is in a league of its own, having sold over 4.5 million in the US alone. But that’s exactly why using Taylor’s (or more accurately, her label’s) stance on Spotify as some kind of shining example of a functional and positive windowing strategy is a dangerous one! The irrational aspect here is that Taylor’s audience is vast and very mainstream – so the scale of streaming consumption on 1989 and her back catalogue on a service like Spotify could be massive, and would undoubtedly generate her and her label enviable amounts of revenue. But it’s possibly a hard sell to her team when you consider the amounts of income derived from other areas of the Taylor Swift brand…
This is the latest in a series of posts from leading label executives, who’ll be posting regularly here on midemblog between now and Midem this June. The posts are sourced and curated by Motive Unknown‘s Lucy Blair; and you can find them all here!