Friday, November 27, 2015

Jimmy Iovine: ‘Women find it very difficult at times to find music’

Written by Tim Ingham — Do women find it particularly difficult to discover music?

It’s a new one on us, but that’s what Jimmy Iovine claimed today (November 19) on a live interview with CBS in America.

As you can watch in the video, CBS This Morning host Gayle King welcomed Apple Music kingpin Iovine to the studio alongside “queen of hip-hop soul” and Apple Music endorser Mary J Blige.

King introduced the show with a new Apple Music TV ad featuring Blige alongside Kerry Washington and Taraji P. Henson – the second in a marketing series featuring the trio.

There is dancing in the kitchen, and a touch of salsa.

King then asks Iovine: “What was your thinking?”

The exec replies: “Streaming’s a technology… what this is is a music streaming service.

“What is does is… sort of gives you 30 million songs, and it serves them up to you and makes it easy to find music.



“So I always knew that women find it very difficult at times – some women – to find music. And this helps makes it easier with playlists, curated by real people. They’re not made by algorithms alone – they’re made by algorithms but with a human touch.”

As for the trio in the ad, Mary J Blige says it was a “genius idea” by Apple to bring them together.

“It was just beautiful to have Jimmy choose me to be a part of [her co-stars’] world and them be a part of mine.”

Iovine is asked about his “creative concept” for the new ad.

He says: “I just thought of a problem: girls are sitting around talking about boys, right? Or complaining about boys! When they’re heartbroken or whatever…

“They need music for that, right? It’s hard to find the right music. Not everyone has, you know, the right list… or knows a DJ.”

[UPDATE: Iovine has apologised for his comments. In a statement, he said: “We created Apple Music to make finding the right music easier for everyone — men and women, young and old. Our new ad focuses on women, which is why I answered the way I did, but of course the same applies equally for men. I could have chosen my words better, and I apologise.”]

Iovine’s contestable comments come a month after his public attack on Spotify and the ‘freemium’ model at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit in San Francisco.

Click here to read from this article's source.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Amazon’s Streaming Music Aims for More Casual Listeners

Written by Ben Sisario — The music industry’s streaming wars are usually seen as having three major combatants: Spotify, Apple and Pandora.

Over the last year, however, another technology giant, Amazon, has been quietly building a competitor with a slightly different approach. Amazon Prime Music, available to subscribers of the company’s $99-a-year Prime membership program, offers more than one million songs — a fraction of the catalogs available from services like Spotify and Apple Music, which each say they have more than 30 million tracks. And Prime Music lacks current hits by acts like Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran and the Weeknd.

Yet the company has begun to establish itself by focusing on what may be a vast part of the audience for streaming music: casual listeners and families. This part of the market, analysts say, may not mind the absence of a few current hits, especially considering that they can also receive the shipping discounts and streaming video offerings — like the Emmy-winning show “Transparent” — available to Prime members. And they may appreciate a surprise or two, like “Indie for the Holidays,” a playlist of 26 songs that Amazon commissioned from acts like Lisa Loeb, Rogue Wave, Robert Pollard and Langhorne Slim that will be available free for Prime members next week.

“There are people on the cutting edge of music who really want to be deep into the catalog, and then there are a lot of mainstream music fans for whom just having some good music to listen to is sufficient,” said Russ Crupnick of the consumer research firm MusicWatch. “That’s where a service like Amazon works out just fine.”

Amazon has not disclosed how many people use Prime Music and estimates vary widely. Using surveys, MusicWatch said that about 8.5 million people listen for at least one hour a month; some music executives who have dealt with Amazon put the number closer to three million or four million. (According to a recent estimate by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, the overall Amazon Prime program has 44 million subscribers in the United States.)

That is still well below the numbers for Spotify, which says it has 75 million users, including 20 million paid subscribers; and Apple, which has attracted 15 million users for its new Apple Music, 6.5 million of whom pay. Both cost $10 a month for a standard subscription.

Pandora has 78 million listeners, including 3.9 million who pay $5 a month for Pandora One, which eliminates advertising.

But analysts say that the growth of Amazon Prime Music since it began in June 2014 shows how quickly a major technology company can amass an audience large enough to challenge more established streaming services, especially when it bundles its music offerings with other services.

Steve Boom, Amazon’s vice president for digital music, said that the company began to develop its strategy for streaming music as the wider market for downloads began to tumble several years ago. “As customers have been shifting toward streaming, we knew we would ultimately have to get there,” he said in an interview at Amazon’s headquarters.

The company — which by some estimates is still the biggest retailer of CDs and vinyl records — found that its customers wanted to be able to stream music without ads, to skip songs as they pleased and to save songs on mobile devices to listen to when they were offline. And most customers, Mr. Boom said, did not need that full catalog that Spotify offered. (This reflects Amazon’s broader strategy of emphasizing very low prices for its products to appeal to as wide a market as possible; the company recently began offering a Fire tablet for $50, for example.)

“We went for a bit more of a mainstream listener,” Mr. Boom said, “for whom access to everything at all times wasn’t necessarily the main thing.”

The resulting service is something of a cross between Pandora and Spotify. As an on-demand service, it lets users search for specific tracks to listen to, and is full of playlists and recommendations. But it also has radiolike feeds of songs organized by genre or artist.

While other streaming services have had their greatest success with younger-leaning genres like hip-hop and electronic dance music, Amazon emphasized middle-of-the-road pop, indie rock and children’s music.

“The sweet spot of Prime is really the young family,” Mr. Boom said, speaking near a conference room that was being used for a concert for Amazon employees and their children by the Pop Ups, a children’s music duo that released an exclusive album with Amazon in September.

Last year, the company commissioned a playlist of holiday music, “All Is Bright,” and this season it has doubled down on that strategy. Last month it released an exclusive album from Ms. Loeb, “Nursery Rhyme Parade,” and on Friday it will begin streaming songs from “Christmas in Tahoe,” an exclusive album from the pop-rock group Train.

Ms. Loeb — best known for her 1994 song “Stay (I Missed You),” and her signature cat-eye glasses — said that Amazon’s ability to market her music to other mothers was unrivaled.

“For me, as a mom, I know the power of Amazon,” Ms. Loeb said in an interview. “I go there multiple times a week, to buy diapers in the middle of the night or to pick up a birthday gift for a relative out of town. As a musician I am always interested in a new way to reach people who may be interested, and Amazon is in front of a lot of eyeballs every day.”

The arrival of Prime Music last year was not fully welcomed in the music industry, as some record labels complained that the company was offering too little in licensing fees. Universal Music Group, the biggest label, held out for more than a year, before announcing a deal in September. Neither company would comment on the deal, but two people with knowledge of the negotiations said that Amazon eventually agreed to a higher royalty rate for Universal.

Artists and managers who have been involved in exclusive content deals with Amazon said that the company offered generous terms and did not interfere with the recording process. Esmé Patterson, a singer-songwriter whose song “If I” is on “Indie for the Holidays,” said the only thing she was worried about was her anti-consumerist message.

“I said in the song that buying things wasn’t the point of Christmas for me,” Ms. Patterson said. “I hoped that Amazon wouldn’t be upset about that.” There was no objection, she said.

Mr. Boom said that, despite the new collections, Amazon was not interested in acting as a record label in the same way that it had become a television studio, with coming shows like “The Man in the High Castle” and a series written and directed by Woody Allen. But he said that the company would continue to experiment with music.

“There’s room in the market,” Mr. Boom said, “for different types of services.”

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Who is behind Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) woes?

Written by Cate Mukei — The war to control musicians’ royalties has now moved to court.

In a strange twist of events, Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) officials led by the CEO Maurice Okoth are facing an uphill battle from shadowy characters who want a piece of the pie from online publishing platforms like ‘Skiza Tunes’.

MCSK has stuck to its guns and is demanding for the monies to be paid to their members through their organisation, which seems not to go well with the cartel that has been controlling the distribution.

To fend off MCSK from the cash estimated to be around Sh100 million a month, they have instigated legal disputes.

Trouble at MCSK started in September when the Divisional Criminal Investigation Officer sought permission to investigate MCSK.

“Sermons were issued to Maurice Okoth in September so that he could explain ongoing allegations of misappropriation of funds. In October, Maurice was arrested and taken to Muthaiga Police Station. Details on the cash bail document indicate he was being charged for the offence of theft by servant.

Ironically, this charge can only be implemented if MCSK is the one which had taken Maurice Okoth to court,” MCSK’s lawyer Conrad Maloba said during a press conference.

MCSK has been accused of withdrawing Sh6 million irregularly, but Maurice claims there are records accounting for the money which was used to pay members.

“MCSK has been declared an illegal entity by the Director of Public Prosecutions despite getting a letter from the office of the Attorney-General to prove our legitimacy and authority to collect money on behalf of artistes,” Okoth said.

Although the police claim that the complaints have been made by the State, MCSK’s chairman Benard Mukaisi is convinced that their woes have emanated from their ongoing war with malicious members sponsored by people behind the ‘Skiza Tune’ deals.

“The current tribulations facing the society and its officials are directly attributable to our achievements at securing lucrative deals on behalf of members, more particularly the recent ‘Skiza Tune’ deal,” he said.

Currently, four of the MCSK accounts have been frozen.

Afro-fusion musician Achieng’ Abura has lauded the government through the office of the DPP for the “bold move taken against the MCSK leadership.”

“It has been the bane of musicians that has left artistes suffering as a few enrich themselves to a level that is truly despicable.

They are truly slippery fellas, so I hope the DPP will ensure artistes get justice. The government has finally done its part and taken to task those who collect money ‘on behalf of music artistes’,”read part of her Facebook status update.

Click here to read from this article's source.

Copyrights, royalties and piracy in the Rwandan music industry

Written by Francis Bazatsinda — Music copyrights in Rwanda have been strengthened over the past years. In 2009 the Rwandan Government enacted the intellectual property law. In collaboration with leading bodies such as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) the government has been at the forefront in sensitizing artists and songwriters to register their copyrights with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) to be able to protect their innovation and keep earning from it. This text explores three elements of Intellectual property as it relates to the music sector in Rwanda.


Under the Ministry of trade and commerce, in April 2015 Rwanda celebrated the International Intellectual Property day where the minister of trade and industry urged all Rwandan artists to register their innovations. Rwanda is an active member of the World Intellectual Property Organization and joined the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) in 2011. Article 95 of Law N: 31/2009 of 26/10/2009 on the protection of intellectual property provides protection for original works among which musical works with or without accompanying words, dramatically-musical works are inclusive.

Rwanda currently takes infringements on intellectual copyrights serious. In early 2015, King James one of the most celebrated local artist was involved in a copyrights scandal over his hit ‘Ganyobwe’ where the Abadahigwa cultural troupe claimed to have original rights over the song, this issue was later solved amicably though with the artist accepting to shoot another version of the video with the Abadahigwa members featuring in the video. Today most artists have learned the importance of owning rights over their innovations, at Rwanda Development Board (RDB), there is a department of Intellectual property rights registration and artists are always sensitized to register their music.

The Rwanda Society of Authors (RSAU) was legally established and officially registered with the Rwanda Development Board in May 2010. Rwanda’s first collective management society, RSAU comprises the Association of Musicians (INGOMA Music Association), the Association of Cinema Artists (IRIZA CARD), the Association of Writers (LA PLUME D’OR) and ISOKO Arts Rwanda in partnership with different government entities. The major importance of RSAU was to follow up and enhance the rights of the artist especially the patents of the artists’ production, be it film or music as well as guiding the users of those productions like night clubs, restaurants and the rest of the hangout places around the country.


Generally all over the world music industry relies on royalties generated by the licensing of copyrighted songs and recordings as a primary form of payment for musicians. For Rwanda however generating money from music is challenging as the music sector is still growing. Today any artist can reach fans and sell music to them in any part of the world but few Rwandan artists take advantage of this opportunity.

The Government together with stakeholders in the music sector is increasingly sensitizing the artists on how to make money out of their innovations instead of regarding music as a hobby. The minister of sports and culture, ministry of trade and industry and Rwanda development Board have encouraged artists to make music a profession that earns them a living.

One of the local entities initiated Afrifame; a service platform in 2014 to assist artists in the region with music distribution and monetization in global digital stores such as iTunes, Google Play, Amazon MP3, and Spotify. Afrifame’s mission is to monetize music in any way possible and pay royalties to artists. When an artist is signed, he or she is granted full rights to control his or her music distribution over the Internet. About 85% of local artistes have signed up with Afrifame; about six compilations have been created and over 800 songs worldwide. Afrifame pays royalties to artists quarterly when the artist’s share is above a threshold of $25; the service has paid royalties three times since inception; two quarters in 2014 and the first quarter of 2015.

Twenty one artists who reached the required threshold at the end of each quarter have been receiving their royalties. Artists have expressed their positive support of the application and have suggested future improvements and strategies that could expose their work to more users and as a result boost sales, music is through downloads and online streaming. A download is when you pay to own a song on your devices; iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon are great examples.

A stream is when you choose to listen to a song directly from the Internet; Spotify and YouTube are the most popular, the price for downloads varies from market to market. ITunes for example charges $0.99 for one mp3 audio and about $9.99 for an album. The streaming model on the other hand is very complex: fans can either pay a monthly subscription for an ad-free account or can listen freely in exchange for commercials; however royalties’ distribution channels vary from store to store. In general, the trend for musicians to start earning money out of their songs is just starting but with times it will grow stronger and as artists and their fans adopt that culture.


Globally the music business success depends on certainty in the legal environment and copyright laws, this is a continuous ever changing challenge as the music industry continues to be distorted by unfair competition from unlicensed services especially internet users.

Music piracy in Rwanda has been evident over the past years with several cases of people and media being sued against piracy and other illegal playing of artists’ music. In 2012 Rwanda’s renowned cultural songster, Cécile Kayirebwa filed a lawsuit at the Commercial High Court against local radio stations, including Rwanda Office of Information (ORINFOR) for illegally airing her music which is interpreted as piracy. The case ended in court by the Commercial court of Nyarugenge ordering ORINFOR the state broadcaster and Isango star (Private radio) to pay Rwf 8.6M to Cecil Kayirebwa for playing her songs illegally.

The Government of Rwanda is committed to supporting the music industry to stop this illegal practice. The Rwanda national Police are working with different stakeholders to fight this crime; in September 2014 the National Police arrested 36 people in Kigali-Nyarugenge district over music piracy in a crackdown carried out. The police spokesman explained that these music pirates were selling a CD at as low as Rwf 500 ($0.7) yet an original CD costs around Rwf5,000 ($6.78) which was affecting the artists’ earning from their products. The Ingoma Association a Rwandan artists association also works close with the National Police to fight music piracy.

To conclude, Copyrights, royalties and piracy in relation with music industry normally go hand in hand. When the copyrights and intellectual property protection laws and procedures are firm in a country or region, artists will enjoy a great deal of royalties from their talents and the reverse is true when these are not firm. In Rwanda specifically, this is still growing but at a steady speed the police is committed to preventing piracy, Local artists have formed music associations’ help in one way or the other and local entrepreneurs have ventured in such businesses like’s Afrifame.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Rdio goes bust owing Sony Music $2.4M and Shazam $1.2M

Written by Tim Ingham — Rdio has officially gone bust – owing serious money to music business rights-holders.

The US streaming company filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy on Monday (November 16) with the Northern District of California Court.

The details of the filing, obtained by MBW and which you can see below, make grim reading for music business rights-holders – especially Sony Music Entertainment.

Rdio had $190 million in secured debt plus around $30 million of unsecured debt before it filed for bankruptcy protection.

The secured debt was mainly owed to Pulser Media, which pumped funds into Rdio since 2008 and was a majority owner.

Yet it’s the $30m in unsecured debt that will most rankle the music business – not least the $2.4m Rdio owed to Sony Music Entertainment before it went under.

Below you can see the list of Rdio’s 20 biggest creditors from its Chapter 11 form (contact data redacted), republished by MBW.

As you’ll notice, compared to Sony, the other two major music companies get off relatively lightly: Rdio owed Warner Music Group $613,374 and Universal Music Group $294,219.

Rdio’s biggest creditors are partner and set-top box firm Roku Inc ($2.76m owed), Sony Music ($2.4m owed) and AEG-owned ticketing firm AXS Digital LLC ($1.25m owed).

Other creditors of interest to the music industry include Shazam ($1.17m owed), Tunecore ($236k owed) and Merlin BV ($134,960 owed) – the latter representing around 20,000 independent labels including Beggars Group, [PIAS] and Secretly Canadian.

Meanwhile, The Orchard – now a fully-owned Sony Music company – was owed $383,960. Added to Sony Music’s own credit, that means that Rdio could now get away with not paying the major a due $2.78m bill.

Here’s the big list:

Rdio’s Chapter 11 filing also reveals details of creditors owed less than the ‘top 20’ companies on its debt list (ie. less than $124,000 each).

A range of recognisable businesses and artists are owed cash, including:
  • Amazon
  • Apple
  • Arcade Fire
  • Cadiz
  • CD Baby
  • Cee Lo Green (who, along with Questlove and others, fronted an Rdio marketing campaign)
  • Chromeo
  • Comcast
  • Consolidated Independent (CI)
  • DistroKid
  • Evernote
  • Hits Magazine
  • IODA
  • Isolation Network (INgrooves)
  • Linkshare Corp
  • MN2S
  • Music KickUp
  • Pollstar
  • Questlove
  • Republic Of Music
  • Roba Music Publishing
  • Scissor Sisters
  • SoundExchange
  • SoundHound
  • Sun Entertainment
  • The Presets
  • The Source
  • Universal McCann
  • Verizon
  • Valleyarm
Another angle on the story: the shocking state of Rdio’s fiscal health when it went under.

According to Rdio’s General Counsel Elliott Peters, who co-signed the Chapter 11 document with CEO Anthony Bay, the firm was bringing in $1.5m per month from its subscriptions business, plus $100,000 – $150,000 per month from its advertising business.

Yet The Hollywood Reporter reports that Rdio Inc was spending $4 million in monthly operating expenses, including payroll for 140 employees, plus royalty payments to rights owners and service maintenance costs.

The company’s monthly loss? Anywhere from $1.85 to $2.4 million, says THR, with Peters commenting in the Chapter 11 filing that Rdio “no longer has the economic means of funding such significant operating cash flow shortfall.”

Before filing for bankruptcy, Rdio pre-agreed a deal with Pandora to sell its former rival key assets for $75m.

These include technology and staff, but do not include subscriber data or licences with music rights-holders.

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The new reality for the streaming music industry: go big or go home

Written by Ben Popper — Spotify and Pandora know they have to grow beyond their current business model or perish.

Yesterday afternoon Pandora announced it was acquiring Rdio, or at least its tech and talent, while the service and CEO were put out to pasture in a bankruptcy. This morning, Spotify made a much smaller, seemingly unrelated announcement, that it would be opening up data about how its audience listens to artists and their managers. But both pieces of news actually point in the same direction, toward a new type of streaming music service that aims to unite radio, on demand, and even live shows into a single offering.

On a call with investors about the Rdio acquisition, Pandora CEO Brian McAndrews said the goal for the company was to evolve beyond its streaming radio roots. That has become a billion dollar business for Pandora, but not one with consistent profits. Meanwhile its content costs have been outstripping its revenue growth. The harsh reality for Pandora, Spotify, and many other pure play music streaming services is that they need to find new, more lucrative revenue streams, or they will face the same fate as Beats Music and Rdio.

Streaming music has an economics problem. Like Pandora, Spotify has grown to more than $1 billion in annual revenue, but has struggled with profitability. Furthermore, the royalties it pays still strike many musicians as inadequate. Part of the struggle is that a big chunk of the royalties Spotify pays out go to rights holders — labels and publishers — who get tens of millions of dollars in advances and 70 percent of the overall revenue generated by Spotify’s subscriptions and advertising.

The streaming services that have reached scale would love to negotiate better deals with the labels. But unfortunately for them, the entrance of tech giants like Apple, Google, and Amazon into this industry will likely make that difficult. Those companies are happy to pay the labels to create music services that are loss leaders meant largely to bring users into their ecosystem where they might spend time or money on other more lucrative pursuits. If YouTube Music becomes a success and video becomes something all streaming services need to offer, the labels will have not one but two sets of critical rights. Like Beats and Rdio, smaller players will most likely be acquired or go bankrupt. Bigger players like Spotify and Pandora will try to grow horizontally to escape the money-losing trap of ad-supported streaming.

With Rdio’s assets, Pandora will build a new on-demand service that will compete with Spotify and Apple Music. It hopes that service can get its customers to pay $9.99 a month, far more than the $3.99 a month they do now for Pandora's premium offering. And with its recent acquisition of TicketFly, the company is making a bet that it can use its understanding of the music customers like to sell a lot of concert tickets. Those two areas have much better margins than the ad-supported radio which makes up the majority of Pandora’s current revenue.

Spotify is taking aim at the same goal. It has roughly the same number of total users as Pandora, 75 million at last count to Pandora’s 78 million. And while it isn’t known as a streaming radio service, anyone can use it that way, picking an artist or album as a seed station and getting an endless playlist in return, personalized as they indicate which songs they like and dislike. Just last week, Spotify made clear it wants to tap the same live music angle as Pandora, introducing a new feature that offers users a personalized playlist of local concerts happening in their area, and the ability to buy tickets right from those recommendations.

The Fan Insight data that Spotify rolled out today is, in essence, a pitch to artists that Spotify is not just a place to earn money by uploading your music — it’s also a way to research your fan base, and to actively market to them. It's designed to help them plan smarter tours and understand the impact their music and marketing is having on fans. Spotify noted in its press release that artists like Ed Sheeran have used its data to target their super fans while promoting a tour, and that the click-through rates were far higher than the industry average. Pandora has a similar product, Messages from Artists, also driven by data about who a band’s biggest supporters are.

Tidal, the newest entrant to the streaming music game, has a similar pitch. It was recently purchased by Jay Z, who brought in a cadre of other high-profile artists as co-owners. The service has been putting on exclusive concerts, with tickets often exclusively available to Tidal subscribers. And it’s also positioned itself as a platform that will discover and elevate talented acts that have not yet found fame, in essence taking on the role traditionally occupied by a music label.

For Spotify, the move into label-like activities comes at an opportune time. The company is in the midst of renegotiating deals with several major record labels, and still gets cast as the villain by big name acts like Taylor Swift and the musicians who own the competing streaming service, Tidal. Giving away useful data could simultaneously strengthen Spotify's hand at the negotiating table with labels and improve its image among creators.

The idea that streaming services could eliminate the need for labels is a beguiling one. Eliminating the middleman would allow Spotify or Pandora, and artists who power their services, to keep a much bigger piece of the pie. But there are still many things labels do for artists that streaming services like Spotify cannot. They help to craft an image and get songs on terrestrial radio, where a large amount of listening and music discovery still happens. They pay to make visually stunning music videos and market upcoming albums in every way imaginable.

So far only Tidal, which is a relatively small player in the industry and has the celebrity muscle to take a stand, has come suggested outright that these tasks could be handled just as well by artists if they were to take control of the means of production.

In the age of vinyl records or CDs, it would have been difficult if not impossible for a solo artist to achieve global distribution on their own. But in a time when anyone can record an MP3 and upload it from their laptop, that middle man is far less important. And that is really the big idea underlying all of these changes. By providing a one-stop shop for distribution, monetization, audience research, marketing, and live event promotions, the streaming services are starting to stake a claim to a large part of what record labels have traditionally done.

Click here to read from this article's source.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Adele’s 25 just went platinum in 24 hours

Written by Tim Ingham — There are people out there who believe Adele somehow let down the music business by not putting her new album, 25, on streaming services in its opening week.

Then there are those who believe that these songs belong to Adele (plus XL/Beggars, Sony and UMPG) – and therefore she can do what the heck she likes with them.

Today, her decision appears to have been rather emphatically vindicated.

According to the Official Charts Company, 25 sold a whopping 300,000 units in its first 24 hours on sale in the UK yesterday (November 20), securing platinum status in the market by midnight last night.

It registers as one of the biggest first opening day album sales totals in UK history – slightly behind the first 24 hours of Oasis’s Be Here Now in 1997 (424,000 sales), but ahead of Take That’s Progress in 2010 (217,500).

The tally is also significantly bigger than the debut of 25’s record-breaking predecessor, 21, which sold 208,000 in its opening week back in 2011.

MBW understands that a million units of Adele’s 25 have been shipped into UK retail. Optimistic forecasts suggesting it could go double-platinum (600k+ sales) in its first seven days now look increasingly realistic.

A high-up UK retail source told us pre-release that anything under 250k in 25’s first week would have been a disappointment – a milestone it’s already smashed.

“500k would be good… 700k would be great,” they added.

Early sales will have been given a significant boost by ‘Adele At The BBC’ – an hour-long TV special which aired on BBC One at 8.30pm UK time last night.

One TV industry expert tells MBW that the show is likely to have attracted somewhere around 5m viewers. The below sketch has already pulled in over 2m views on YouTube. (Watch it, it’s genuinely heartwarming.)

Meanwhile, early indications from the US suggest that 25’s first day on sale in the market was equally as successful as its UK outing – with Hits Magazine calling its commercial performance “beyond belief”.

Analysts are predicting that 25 will sell between 2m and 3m in its debut week in the States.

25 almost certainly sold 600,000+ in the US yesterday, indicate MBW sources.

[Update: It’s even bigger than we thought: Billboard reports that 25 sold more than 900,000 copies in the US on day one… on iTunes alone. That means if it sold at least 100,000 at physical retail – a given, really – then it would have shifted 1m in a day in the States, passing that market’s own platinum threshold.]

When you factor in the UK day-one figure plus an approximation of sales in the rest of the world, the album will have comfortably sold more than a million copies globally in its first 24 hours.

What was all that about Adele making a mistake with her streaming strategy again?

(That’s “dumb and uneducated” Adele, according to Bob Lefsetz – who believes “physical will be dead” this time next year. Okay mate.)

As for Spotify, it’s waiting patiently for an album which one music biz player today told MBW was “the ultimate outlier”; an album completely in its own lane, with its own rules.

“We love and respect Adele, as do her 24 million fans on Spotify,” Daniel Ek’s company said in a statement.

“We hope that she will give those fans the opportunity to enjoy 25 on Spotify alongside 19 and 21 very soon.”

Click here to read from this article's source.

Adele's '25' Won't Be Available on Any Streaming Services

Written by Reuters — Adele's much-anticipated album "25" will not be available for streaming on any digital music services, including Spotify, Apple Music and Deezer, the companies said on Thursday.

Apple Inc confirmed "25," released on Friday, will not be available to stream on Apple Music. It did say in a statement that Adele's latest single "Hello" will continue being available for streaming, and that it was "thrilled to offer" the album to buy on its online store iTunes.

Spotify also confirmed that its followers would not have access to the new album.

"We love and respect Adele, as do her 24 million fans on Spotify. We hope that she will give those fans the opportunity to enjoy '25' on Spotify alongside '19' and '21' very soon," the company said in a statement.

Tyler Goldman, chief executive, North America, of music streaming company Deezer told Reuters that the service would not offer "25" at launch.

Adele's representatives declined to comment on the decision.

A music industry source said Adele's XL Recording label had decided to withhold "25," expected to be the biggest album release of 2015, from streaming platforms when it is released. The New York Times first reported the move.

"She's benefiting from paid subscriptions, but she's using this as an opportunity to try and sell more CD's or downloads," Deezer's Goldman said. "If all artists did this, we wouldn't have the growth in subscriptions we have."

Other streaming services, including Pandora and Google Play, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Adele's "25" is the first by the singer since "21" in 2011, which sold more than 30 million copies worldwide.

"25" had been expected to sell more than 1 million units in North America in its first week, according to estimates by Billboard magazine.

The move by Adele and her management mirrors Taylor Swift, one of the most powerful names in pop music, who refused to offer her "1989" album to streaming services last year, saying music should not be free. She did put the album on Apple Music in July, after it agreed to pay artists during a free trial.

"1989" became the biggest-selling album in the world in 2014 with estimated sales of more than 8.5 million copies.

Swift's decision to withhold "1989" did not have a material financial impact for streaming services and neither will Adele's, said Goldman. "One individual artist is not going to change the inevitability of streaming," he said.

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Friday, November 20, 2015

With #UberBigBreak, Uber Breaks Into Yet Another Sector Of The Music Industry

Written by Cherie Hu — Aside from revolutionizing transportation, ride-sharing service Uber has played an increasingly active role in music, most recently by increasing opportunities for artist development and networking.

In partnership with Warner Music Nashville, Uber launched an initiative called #UberBigBreak last Tuesday that connected Uber riders with senior music executives in the city. Using the promo code “BIGBREAK” within the Uber app, aspiring singer-songwriters could request a ride to an in-person audition with representatives of Warner Music, the Country Music Association (CMA), the country-music website Rare Country, and other high-profile companies.

The partnership is a symbolic breakdown of the conventionally high, opaque barriers to entry in mainstream music. Through #UberBigBreak, the connections that many artists would otherwise work for years to attain became accessible at the touch of a button. More notably, however, this is also a signal that mainstream music is still lagging behind in terms of internal innovation, as Warner Music had to rely on external technologies to facilitate internal processes.

Although the concept of the Uber-Warner partnership is revolutionary, this is certainly not Uber’s first collaboration with music companies. The startup has previously partnered with Music Midtown and Live Nation to facilitate onsite travel at music festivals, in addition to hosting exclusive live concerts for Uber riders with artists such as Kygo. In addition to positioning itself as a key partner in the concert space, Uber has also strived to make music a central part of ridesharing as a whole. The company’s partnership with Spotify (which turns one year old this Friday) enables riders with Spotify Premium accounts to control the music playing in their Uber car’s speakers from their phones. There is already much speculation for what the future of this partnership will entail—for instance, upon entering an Uber car, riders could listen to automated Spotify playlists based on their pick-up point, destination and overall music preferences.

To understand the historical significance of #UberBigBreak, it is worth juxtaposing the Uber-Warner partnership with a separate but similar comparison frequently made in the media, namely that between Uber and Napster. Both Uber and Napster used technology to disrupt and overturn established infrastructures in their respective industries, to the delight of their customers and to the outrage of the government. The most evident difference between the two companies is that Uber is still enormously popular and successful, while Napster was quickly shut down by authorities (although it has since relaunched as a streaming service).

One important reason for this discrepancy is that Uber, along with other high-performing companies in the sharing economy such as Airbnb, has nailed the integration of social codes into its business rhetoric. In other words, Uber and Airbnb have aligned their platforms with the ideals of transparency, accountability, and job creation and flexibility, promoting maximal empowerment both of individuals and of the larger community.

On the other hand, Napster’s only “social code” was making the illegal sharing of music more convenient for listeners. The service caused both economic and emotional distress to virtually everyone on the other side of the industry, including artists, labels, and record stores. In a similar vein, the salience of social codes in music streaming—the slightly less economically damaging successor to piracy—is hotly debated. Although popular services like Spotify are arguably invaluable for increasing artist exposure, there are frequent criticisms that streaming models hurt indie and emerging artists or pay artists overall unfairly.

In light of this struggle to merge technological innovations with social codes, the music industry has thus begun to look for solutions outside of itself, using other widely-adopted services like Uber to empower the industry’s neediest players. The result thus far seems mutually beneficial; while creating the impression that major labels are now more proactive in increasing opportunity for aspiring musicians, #UberBigBreak also increases the appeal of Uber’s platform by extending the ideal of job creation far beyond the ride-sharing ecosystem to music, and potentially to other industries as well.

Apart from the music industry’s potential reliance on external technologies to increase their appeal to artists, the only limitation I see in #UberBigBreak is that it shifts power disproportionately to Uber riders, without taking into consideration the potential needs of the drivers. Uber must ensure that job creation does not come at the expense of worker satisfaction; in fact, the company has faced growing criticism from its drivers about low wages and poor working conditions.

A personal encounter of mine from earlier this year points to why Uber’s industry- and location-specific initiatives like #UberBigBreak should more explicitly leverage the talent of drivers in the future. I spent January 2015 in Los Angeles (another entertainment capital of the world), participating in the Harvardwood 101 career exploration program and subsequently interning with A&R at Interscope Records. All of my incredible experiences with Harvardwood and Interscope could fill up an entire second article, but one unexpected gift from my stay was the in-depth education about the entertainment industry that I received by talking with my Uber drivers, most of whom were aspiring actors. It was through my conversations with them that I was exposed to the often grueling, sometimes rewarding, perennially unpredictable journey of working in film and TV. What struck me in particular was the diversity of these stories; one driver spoke to me excitedly about how he landed a role as an extra on Glee, while another driver seemed much more dejected, talking about his impatience for his “big break” and questioning the worth of his diligence.

These actor-drivers could have benefited from an initiative similar to #UberBigBreak, applied to a different location and industry, namely Los Angeles and film/TV. After all, the entertainment ecosystem as a whole is one not only in which connections matter more than anything else for career success, but also in which these connections would otherwise happen entirely by chance and out of one’s control.

In this vein, the looming marriage of Uber with the entertainment industry is strikingly indicative of the lives that emerging artists lead today. They not only output creative work, but also are multitaskers and attentive entrepreneurs—whether in taking on several smaller jobs to self-finance artistic pursuits (e.g. Uber driver, Airbnb host) or in utilizing the latest technologies to seize previously inaccessible opportunities.

#UberBigBreak has signaled both Uber’s insight into the demographics of its riders and the mainstream music industry’s growing willingness to embrace technology as a catalyst for artistic opportunity. By explicitly extending such opportunities to all of its stakeholders, including drivers, and by expanding industry reach beyond music to film, TV and related sectors, Uber could become a vital networking tool in the increasingly entrepreneurial world of entertainment, and could hopefully inspire more internal technological innovation within entertainment companies themselves.

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Major label A&R crisis? What major label A&R crisis?

Written by Tim Ingham — By now, you’ve probably seen the figures.

The BPI says that 156 new artist signings were inked by UK major labels last year.

Yet according to MBW analysis, just nine new acts released debut albums in 2014 that reached the market’s gold (100,000) sales status – which equates to a frightening hit rate of 5.7%.

Conflating these two numbers should be done with a fair old pinch of salt, of course – these signings were very unlikely to release an album in the same year they joined their label, for example.

But as a ballpark estimate, it shows the harsh reality of modern A&R, especially at a major record company: a very high risk game, with very few big winners.

That’s especially true when you consider that only around 3-5 home-sourced debut albums reach platinum (300,000 sales) each year in the UK, which equates to just 2-3% of all new annual signings at the majors.

One of those signings last year was George Ezra, whose debut LP shifted over 600,000 in 2014 alone. (The only other platinum seller in the year was Capitol-signed Sam Smith, who sold over 1.2m.)

The A&R mind behind Ezra’s album, Alison Donald – co-MD of Columbia Records UK – joined MBW on a panel at Music Futures in Newcastle yesterday to discuss the above scary figures and other challenges facing modern artist development at a major label.

In 2015, when only three debut artist albums have reached gold in the UK so far, the title of our discussion was an appropriate one:

‘A&R Crisis? What A&R Crisis?’

Donald is a seasoned veteran of getting the best out of artists and writers, having previously run Chrysalis Music and been Head Of A&R at Warner/Chappell – working with and/or signing the likes of Damon Albarn, Cee Lo Green, The Strokes, Fleet Foxes and Mark Ronson during her career.

Alongside her in our panel sat two fellow thoroughbreds of the UK A&R scene.

First up was Jim Chancellor, President of UMG’s Fiction Records and co-MD of its thriving services division, Caroline International.

During his career, Chancellor has signed and broken artists such as Snow Patrol, Elbow, Nick Mulvey and The Maccabees – a band he brought to Fiction nine years ago, and who still call the label home today.

Finishing the line-up was Nick Gatfield, former CEO and Chairman of Sony Music UK, who has also worked at the very top of EMI and Island Records.

Gatfield, whose 30-year record label career includes A&R work with Amy Winehouse, Radiohead, Deadmau5 and One Direction, now runs Twin Music Inc – an independent organisation that offers seed funding to on-the-rise artists and music businesses.

Chancellor, Donald and Gatfield all have unique and high-stakes experience of A&R at a major, and know the thrills and pitfalls of the game better than almost anyone.

Below are the highlights from our chat on the tricky subject of signing (and dropping) artists at a major label organisation.

Read on to absorb some priceless knowledge… and appreciate just how tough blockbuster A&R has become in the modern industry.

Alison, you run a big frontline label at Sony. Judging by the data MBW analysed this week, only 2-3% of new artists will go on to have a debut platinum album in the UK – around one in 30-40. You achieved that with George Ezra last year – but are you worried about those stats?

Alison: Well, yes, obviously. But I think they’re somewhat exaggerated as well. It all depends. The big question is, should we still be judging a success by charts and record sales alone?

Having been a publisher as well as working in a record company, I know there are multiple revenue streams for each artist.

We have some artists, like George Ezra, who, I’m delighted to say, made a great [platinum] record and captured the public’s imagination. But then we have French electronic artist Madeon, who may not have sold as many records as [Ezra] but his live income, his sync income, all of the ancillaries make up a very good deal for everyone.



So you have to be very bespoke about it. When you do a deal, some artists are more track-based, other artists are more album-based. Some artists lend themselves brilliantly to sync, others have incredible live, like Bring Me The Horizon on RCA, for example.

There are multiple ways now to judge success and value. And you have to factor in international success [the MBW numbers are UK-only].

After we signed George on a development deal, Nick [Gatfield, then Sony UK boss] played it at an international conference. The head of Sony Italy said it was fantastic, I want to go with it now. We said: ‘Okay, why not?’

We had a Top 10 record in 12 countries throughout Europe before it actually went to radio here in the UK.

Nick, you worked at the very top of a UK major label at Sony for over three years. Reporting into Doug Morris, you were very close to the pressures of a global corporation’s quarterly targets. Now you’re running a completely different independent organisation. What problem at the majors are you trying to solve?

Nick: The problem the majors have is really one of structure – of size and scale. This is no anti-major rant; I do a lot of business with the majors.

Jim’s story with The Maccabees is testament to him, the band and Fiction. But it’s a rare story in the major world right now; allowing a band to grow over [a decade].

The reason for that is because of the financial pressures put on the company. When you’re running an organisation like Sony, you’re running a $200m – $300m operation where you’ve got quarterly reporting and financial targets you’ve got to hit.



It always used to make me laugh in the music business that we’d sit and plan and plan and plan and create a budget that matches the release schedule.

Then generally speaking, by hook or by crook, you make the numbers. But it’s usually got nothing to do with the business plan you started out with.

For instance, with George Ezra, we probably put him down for something like 30,000 units – an okay development project. Meanwhile, something that was buzzing and on fire which you pay through the nose for just stiffs.

That’s the great thing about the music business. The longer I’ve done it, the more conclusive proof I’ve found that nobody really knows anything.

Jim: Fact.

Nick: Nobody could have predicted that Ed Sheeran would have become the artist he is today. I guarantee you.

Least of all the Island A&R who dropped him!

Nick: Precisely, to name but one. Warners came quite late to the [Sheeran] deal, I have to say, but to their credit they signed him.

He just didn’t tick any boxes. I’m not a ginger-ist, but he was a ginger and that was a problem for a lot of people, as ridiculous as it sounds.

There’s a huge pressure on delivering numbers [at a major]. A lot of that is portfolio management.



It’s great when you can nurture something like a George Ezra or The Maccabees. But you need those signals along the journey that you’re doing the right thing.

With George, it was signed incredibly early, and credit to the [Columbia] A&R team for doing that… But you can’t have 50 of those artists sitting on long-term development deals on your roster. You’d be out of business.

You need quick fixes, you need superstars – you have to balance that portfolio. It’s a constant juggling act.

That’s possibly why these new A&R stats are quite so worrying. Majors need big, big hit albums just to pay the bills.

Nick: At the majors, you’ve got such an overhead to support. Generally speaking, you either hit it out of the park or you fail. There’s no ‘middle class’ of artist at majors anymore.

In all the years, I’ve done [A&R] I’ve met very few artists who say: ‘I just want to make sh*tloads of money.’

99.9% of artists do this because they want a career making music and want to earn enough money to continue doing so.

So then you look at brand partnerships, sync income, merch income, publishing – there are multiple revenue streams you can support an artist with [outside of a record deal].



At Twin, we invest in emerging talent in much the same way that an angel investor would invest in a startup business: we work out a strategy with the artist across all those revenue streams, and try to grow their audience. I’m very interested in that ‘middle class’ of artist.

Another thing at majors, it’s invariably drilled into you: you have to sign worldwide deals. Of course, majors are global companies, with global overhead.

But just because you sign an act in the UK, it doesn’t mean anybody in America is going to give a shit about it.

[At Twin], I’m finding pockets of interest for emerging talent wherever they happen to be: it could be Australia, Latin America, the US…

So your artists’ small businesses aren’t predicated on the business needs of a global corporation…

Nick: No, they’re not. They’re predicated on making enough money to continue doing it. And after that, you might get your opportunity to hit it out of the park at a major.

Jim, what about this idea of ‘data-led A&R’? You speak with real passion about the likes of Elbow, Glass Animals, The Maccabees… Does the idea of A&Rs getting excited over massive YouTube numbers or Twitter followers ahead of actual music make your heart sink?

Jim: Yeah, a little bit. I don’t know – I guess if people like it, people like it. There’s nothing wrong with that.

But then what’s [an A&R’s] role? We’ve got some young bands [at Fiction] and the numbers are terrible – because they’re young and nobody knows who they are.

Data is great, but I wouldn’t hang your coat on it – [A&R] is all about taste.



Terrible example, but just look at X Factor. How many of the winners have been the biggest stars? Normally it’s the ones who come fifth!

So I don’t know if the general public are best placed to pick [priority artists]. I don’t mean to belittle the general public there, I mean… why would they know?

[A&Rs] get exposed to a ridiculous amount of stuff and develop filters over time.

As for metrics? They’re a band from Canada.

But if an act that really excites you has zero YouTube views and zero Twitter followers, isn’t that an opportunity?

Jim: Absolutely. But it’s also scary. It’s safer to sit back, wait and let the artist develop. Hopefully with Nick’s money [crowd laughs].

I’ve seen quite a few artists who’ve had really amazing data… and then you go into the meat and drink of making records and it doesn’t happen.



SoundCloud is an amazing thing – I’m not sure the business model is where it needs to be, that’s for a different panel.

But I’ve seen artists do amazingly well on SoundCloud, then I’ve gone to see them live and there’s like five people there.

What stage of an artist’s career do you typically sign them and what are you looking out for?

Jim: That’s a difficult question. All you want to do as an A&R man is sign something utterly amazing. That’s all I’m ever looking for. It’s finding a needle in a million haystacks.

Then when you do find it, you run after it. It doesn’t really matter whether they’re three albums down the line, or they’ve written half a song, a riff, that you can’t get out of your head.

You have to go with the courage of your convictions. If I knew what formula made a ‘hit’, how it worked, I wouldn’t be sat here. I’d be on a beach.



[A&R] is easier when there’s lots of stuff happening around [an act], and you see that whole music business furore about a hot band.

But how many times have we seen a hot band land a deal and then you never hear from them ever again?

You’ve got to look for stuff you believe in, that you can see a future with. You mentioned The Maccabees, I love that band so much. But they love being themselves.

It’s difficult to be in a band for 10 years, especially when you’re not headlining Glastonbury – when you’re really grafting. All the plaudits should go to them, because they stuck together.

Fiction is a smaller label within Universal. Do you still feel the pressure from the top to hit quarterly targets? You speak from the heart, but you’ve got to make the balance sheet make sense…

Jim: Yeah, you’ve got to be responsible. I’d lie if I said I didn’t feel the pressure. But to be honest, my boss is brilliant.

Fiction is Universal’s garden shed. Not many people go in there and not many people know what goes on in there.



Yet every now and again something interesting comes out of it.

We have a slightly different way of doing things, I guess, to some of the bigger labels – we don’t have the resources, people, money, whatever.

The scary A&R stats MBW ran this week are based on unit sales. Does the music industry need to start judging itself on revenue instead? If so, why?

Alison: Yes, it’s crucial.

We’ve just gone day and date [as a UK industry], which means records aren’t [following the pattern] of a big build up, then a big week one release. Now tracks live and die on whether people love them or not. That’s it.

Calvin Harris is a good example. His recent single may not have achieved a [No.1] chart position, but actually it’s sold more [than most big singles], has been in the market longer, and it still continues to grow around the world.



If we are to get through this next transitional period, when deals will need to be more bespoke, there will still be the big singles.

As my friend and colleague Fred [Bolza] describes it, these massive singles make now ‘the 50s on steroids’. That’s great. They work brilliantly for a Calvin Harris.

But if you’re a Kasabian or a Vaccines, they don’t so much – it’s the live, the sync, the multiple income streams, where you see the benefit.

It’s a mindset that needs to change.

The box office chart for movies is based on revenue. How would you feel about that happening in music?

Alison: Great. The chart should absolutely be a reflection of your scale. There are bands who are huge live but don’t sell [many records].

This week, Activision Blizzard came out and said that in three days the latest Call Of Duty had turned over $550m. But the music industry’s very much, ‘Oh no, we couldn’t possibly talk about the money behind this deal.’ Is there a cultural barrier here – we don’t like to talk about music in monetary terms because it’s ‘art’, while cinema and video games don’t have such hang-ups…

Alison: [Pauses] Yeah. But these are artists! Video games are [made by] programmers.

Jim: Artists are often very sensitive people. They usually don’t like to talk about money – even when they’ve got loads of it.

Nick, I don’t want to to make you justify sins of the past if your views have changed. But at Sony you must have signed many a ‘360 deal’. Are they justified, especially at a major label?

Nick: Well, yes. Sony was very fortunate with its relationship with something like the X Factor – there, I think there’s a fair justification for taking a big slug of ancillary revenue. You had the show, and then you created those brands like One Direction.

It’s no great trade secret: Sony made an awful lot of money from One Direction ancillaries.



But on 90% of regular deals, it’s a competitive environment and invariably it’s a seller’s market, so you ended up with 10% of ancillaries. So I can tell you, [majors] make f*ck all from [ancillaries in typical 360 deals]. Nothing.

In terms of new music, if you take out TV/reality stuff, then ancillary income – live, merch etc. – will be generating less than 10% of [a label’s] revenue.

The precedent for Twin’s model was one particular deal during of the more interesting periods of my career. I say ‘interesting’ with some irony.

I was at EMI under Terra Firma, where I had the job title of running ‘new music’, whatever that meant.

Actually, I soon realised what it meant was that new music was expensive and high risk so Terra Firma didn’t like it – at all.

Because they’re a private equity company. Judging you on the basis of a private equity company…

Nick: It was incredible. We’d have to do deals by things like the internal rate of return and the average cost of capital. Rock and roll.

But one of the deals we did was with Deadmau5. It changed my way of thinking a lot.

EMI at that time was massively uncompetitive, largely because of being owned by private equity. It was constantly under threat of being sold, folded, whatever. No right-thinking manager would have signed with us over Universal or Sony.



So that only left one A&R strategy: you had to do deals other people wouldn’t do. Deadmau5 was looking for investment in his live business. He liked the idea of being in partnership with a global company. It was an expensive, million dollar deal. But if was a full 50/50 JV for five years [across all of his revenue streams]. We created Deadmau5 Inc – EMI and Deadmau5 were equal shareholders.

It was incredibly successful. There were marketing commitments; EMI had to support the growth of his live shows.

What was liberating about it was realising that what moved the dial for Deadmau5 was putting music out in the underground – not trying to commercialise it at all.

His live business was growing largely because the music was free and being shared and talked about. In a traditional record deal, that would have been an anathema.

Jim, the scary A&R figures I keep quoting are all about album sales. But maybe that’s in itself old-fashioned. Are you prepared for the day that the importance of the album to the business falls away – when streamed tracks and playlists become the priority?

Jim: It’s already here. [Caroline signing] Glass Animals is a really good example of it.

They’ve sold 300,000 albums and done over 100m streams of tracks. They’ve sold out Shepherd’s Bush Empire without being played on any of the UK’s major national radio stations.

That band have a career. The streaming part of their business is about 50% [of their income] now – and that includes live.

Personally, I love vinyl and I actually quite like CDs.

You’re not supposed to say that anymore!

Jim: I know, I know. Just wait for the CD revival…

The streaming thing is brilliant. Some of those platforms are so easy to use. None of them are perfect yet, but they’ll grow.

I saw some statistics the other day which said there aren’t as many people on Apple Music as Spotify yet – for reasons we don’t need to go into – but the people who are on Apple Music are consuming three or four times the amount of music [per user] as the people on Spotify.



I thought that was really interesting: quite a lot of muso-type people are going into that world.

It’s here, but it doesn’t quite add up to what the labels and artists were used to [in a sales world]. It’s a transitional period. We’re going from what was to what will be.

It’s going to be really tough, but I think the future’s really bright. Nothing’s guaranteed, but it does feel positive.

You know, we used to not even bother making vinyl as no-one gave a toss. But we made the latest Tame Impala record and manufactured the vinyl, globally, from the UK. We manufactured 75,000 copies. That’s nuts.

The album isn’t just a cultural priority. It’s a business priority, and major label execs are still set targets and bonuses based on ‘albums’ – deals are done in ‘albums’. Nick, does this need to change?

Nick: Yes. In fact, it’s something we initiated at Sony – although I don’t know if it was seen through; this idea that everything needs to be revenue-based now, not based on units.

An album is an arbitrary platform for music. It became a thing because of what technology provided at a particular time – it wasn’t because people decided to go and write a 45 minute piece of music with X number of tracks.



That’s why when CDs came out you’d have 75 minutes of music, of which 30 was rubbish – endless remixes just to fill up the format.

I don’t think the album has a divine right to survive as a format. Quite honestly I wonder if the majority of people buying a [vinyl] album now are buying it as merchandise, rather than an audio format.

And there’s nothing wrong with that if they are.

It’s kind of sad though – to see vinyl stuck behind glass in a frame.

Alison: Yes, but it’s still that tribal thing with an artist.

Nick: Yes – it’s merch. It’s no different than spending £25 on a hoodie.

Jim: Please, people, just take the black circular disc out first.

This isn’t a nice question, but if we’re talking about 95% of new artists not making platinum debut albums, that means one thing… most of them will get dropped. How do you know it’s time to part ways with an artist? When do you give up on your dream – because you signed them – that they’re going to ‘make it’? What are the tell-tale signs?

Jim: When it’s burnt down. I’m trying to think of the best way to describe it.

This is going to sound really harsh. [Pauses.] Has anybody ever had a dog? [Crowd laughs.] Where they’re nearing the end of their life and you just know that they’re not much longer for this world? It’s that.

Alison: When it becomes really unsustainable. One always keeps trying because you never know. But ultimately crossing the art/commerce value bridge is what we do.



Sometimes it’s very clear: when the music’s not great, the financials are completely unsustainable, your boss is telling you it’s bad.

But… there’s many stories of acts who’ve been dropped and gone on to huge success. If in doubt, go with the art – if the music’s not there and the financials are too horrific for you to go in and say [to your boss] ‘please give them one more chance’, it’s time.

It’s obviously something one hates, but it’s not always the end of a band’s career – by any means.

Nick: Normally the tell-tale sign is when your boss tells you…

But Alison said that, and you were her boss! Now you’re blaming your boss – where does the buck stop!?

Nick: We go back to metrics. I don’t think metrics can or should ever dictate an A&R decision.

Without wanting to make it sound like a dark art, A&R decisions are made through an instinctive process.

But when you can’t ignore metrics is when you take music to market. That’s an incredibly expensive process – it’s a big roll of the dice.



If you’re putting music out into the ether and you’re using all the platforms we’ve been talking about and nothing comes back… you know what? You’re wrong. Sometimes, you’re just wrong.

You can do it two or three times – ‘I’m going to go again’ – but if the same answer keeps coming back, you’re wrong.

That’s when you need to be completely clear and admit: ‘I made a mistake.’

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