So the topic of the evening was meant to be Social media and the music industry but that’s not quite what we got.
Everyone talked about the revenue/rights quandary but there was no real talk of how they were strategising for the digital age. Except for , a singer songwriter who has leveraged social media to connect to her fan base, build a loyal following and even crowd sourced $11,000 via the Pozible platform to fund her first album.
There was talk at the outset of how well ARIA did “engaging” fans this year on Twitter. So what? The ARIA awards are on television. It’s got a pretty good head start because its being broadcast.
Somehow it just seemed that the panel, with exception of aforementioned indie songstress, was hanging on to the old way of doing business. They reinforced the status quo again and again – acts still need the music business, there’s no such thing really as independent artists. Um, yes there is and the hecklers* in the crowd started listing acts: The Jezebels, John Butler Trio, amongst others.
The topic of discovery and curated listening was raised by the . The consensus was that serendipitous discover wasn’t all that it is cracked up to be and listeners need those cool music types to tell what they need to hear. OK so Genius, and other recommendation engines don’t work and won’t improve? So tag classification systems on Soundcloud or Hypemachine are useless? I know I’m a relatively savvy user but I also have faith that users, given a good service and a good UI, will explore features made available to them if they find them useful.
The panel, I think it was Ben Shepherd from Sound Alliance segmented the music audience into two types: loyalists and casual listeners. It was implied that casual listeners will never pay and will be satisfied with free streaming music services and illegal downloads. I think these guys just hang out with the cool kids. There is a whole mainstream audience out there – sure they might listen to Susan Boyle sometimes – but they are happy to pay for music. Case in point, the entire Apple iTunes platform proves that if you create an ecosystem that makes purchasing seamless for the user they will indeed pay. What royalties artists derive from this is another matter entirely and nothing to do with social media and the music industry.
Repeatedly the panel kept talking about the web as a channel but not about social media as a platform. But it was worse than that. The web channel they spoke of looked entirely like a broadcast option only delivered via their specific platforms or partnerships. Convenient.
An audience member pointed out that the three revenue streams of artists (synchronisation as in licensing from film and advertising, touring and merchandising sales) have changed only marginally and that the album, except for the top 10% of artists, has always been a loss leader. He asked Dan Rosen of ARIA where they fit in the new model of rental versus ownership (audio below). The response was that ARIA will support any legal way of purchasing music where rights/money flow back to the artist.
This led to the question of whether ARIA are exploring a streaming music chart? Sweden has one and apparently artists generate more revenue from streaming music services than they do from iTunes. OK this is interesting stuff but its platform, not social media. I also was left with no impression that ARIA are actively lobbying and negotiating with the likes of Spotify, soon to enter the Australian market. They most probably are, it just sounded so reactive on the night.
Ironically it was Ben Shepherd from Sound Alliance who was skeptical of whether Spotify will provide artists with the royalty cheques they deserve. We had learnt earlier on the night that radio only pays 1% royalties for the music they pay. This is clearly a disgrace, particularly when you consider the size of businesses like Austereo. He projected the Spotify IPO could raise a billion dollars
the Australian advertising revenues of Spotify in the millions* but he lamented that they would likely pay only minimal royalties. Why did I preface this as ironic? Because Sound Alliance themselves don’t necessarily pay their music writers for their content.
Sam Buckingham finished the night with a point that was at least on topic. Social media is about making fans and keeping them. And of course so much more.
Full disclaimer: Some of those said hecklers are my friends and are themselves either music fans or music industry boffins.
Thanks to Jo Sabin for subbing this post.
* Thanks to Ben Shepherd who clarified what he said in regards to the potential Spotify IPO, correcting me in his comment below.