How has digital music changed the music industry? Much has already happened since Midem unplugged its beachfront speakers last June, and the spotlight has been dominated almost exclusively by western giants’ shortcomings over the last few weeks.
Snap Inc. has unleashed and announced a slew of new features and products, and also has experienced its first below-IPO stock price as Instagram’s creeping advances continue to make investors question the viable ad growth of Snapchat.
Spotify’s editorial and licensing teams have come under fire since several pseudonymous artists that appear in a variety of playlists have been revealed as writers for various production music companies — though Music Ally chooses to view this scenario not as a scandal but as food for thought for how we find value in different types of art, revenue models and marketing tactics. And perhaps the most important news to the industry since Midem has been the layoffs of 173 SoundCloud employees, leaving us wondering what comes next for the creator-led streaming service.
How has digital music changed the music industry?
Had we drafted a vision of the month-after-Midem future, based on our international audiences’ conversations and reading figures, we would have forecasted a very different centre to the news. Looking across all of the reports on panels and conversations held across Midem that Music Ally published, the most-read pieces were ones on India, China and the development of streaming services in emerging markets.
With Tencent’s Andy Ng speaking about developing a business with over half-a-billion monthly active users, understanding the power of the masses to ad revenue, patronage activity and crowdsourcing/funding/equity models, our industry is in for never-before-seen levels of revenue capture and fan engagement from territories that historically have been drops in the bucket. Yet talk on these larger ideas has already been replaced by negatives—what companies have not been doing right, and how they have been failing.
In a hope to keep those future-minded conversations at Midem burning in the minds of those best positioned to enact change, here are Music Ally’s five tips for understanding and fostering industry transformation across the second half of 2017.
1. Watch what’s happening outside music
As much as we may like to think our industry is the most important, most cutting-edge, most boundary-pushing in the world, the reality is that such a view is usually drawn before having looked at what is going on elsewhere in marketing, live events, digital entertainment and social media.
During a Music Ally presentation at Midem, most audience attendees were unaware that advertising giant Facebook had over-reported some of its video consumption stats by as much as 80% last year. Even fewer had heard of Twitch, a YouTube-like platform where over 100 million monthly viewers watch an average of 106 minutes of live-streamed video game playthroughs and commentary a day.
It is because of this unawareness of what is going on within digital platforms that the industry is so often caught off guard, and it is with this failure to meet the most active digital entertainment consumers on the planet where they are that we have entire video platforms left unmonetised.
Afraid of what you’re missing? Jumpstart your view of the digital world by skimming the headlines of the Wall Street Journal’s free CMO Today and Morning Download newsletters, the Recode Daily…and, of course, Music Ally 🙂
2. Talk to someone who’s actually there
Whether you’re an industry veteran or looking for your first job, understanding a region-specific event, transformation or trend is going to require an understanding of the area.
This might mean picking up the phone and asking your company colleague in another country how the industry works differently out there, after an artist begins to exceed expectations in the territory, or it might mean reaching out to someone new and forming a new industry contact following a press piece on a thought-provoking regional change.
Need a fun place to start? Find out how CDs vs. vinyl sales breakdown in Taiwan, how they’re distributed/manufactured differently there, and how many units per fan (not counting per-stream equivalents) a successful band would hope to sell domestically. It’ll blow your mind.
3. Know the difference: strategies and market gaps
When Music Ally evaluates startups, we consider the ecosystem in which that startup exists. Countless startups begin by filling a market gap—meeting some type of need that is not yet being met—but this is not a strategy in its own right.
A good company will have strategies built into their company roadmap that account for the emergence of new competition, adapting consumer behavior and market change. Thinking this through for a pool of companies in an industry helps us predict where consolidation is most likely to next occur, and which companies have the highest likelihood of surviving.
Need an example? Think through the product gap filled by Snap Inc. before Instagram introduced Stories, and how the lack of a strategy has prevented Snap from building services that other platforms with larger user bases cannot replicate and reap their own benefits.
4. Question the meaning behind the data
As much as we love fast facts and stories that help us make sense of all the messy data in the world, investigating the statistics we are presented with gives us a clearer view of the bigger picture. Streams per fan, mobile downloads by country, consumer opinions…each of these can be measured and presented in a plurality of ways, some more accurate than others.
Look at the source of the data, the size of the survey sample, and the motive of the storyteller before taking every line of a factsheet at face value. To dive deeper on this, take a look at the “methodology” sections behind the data-driven stories presented here.
5. Talk about it!
If you’re watching something amazing unfold, or you see something that needs changing, talk about it. Whether on Medium or talking to a periodical, raising awareness around change, and the need for change, is one of the most critical things that has to happen before people can take action. For our take on some of the most exciting companies transforming the entertainment industry in a positive way, head over to our Midem white paper—The Best Music and Tech Partnerships of 2016 – 2017.