The Song Economy

The following is a guest post from MIDiA’s Consulting Director Keith Jopling

When Journey’s song Don’t Stop Believin’ was originally released as the second single from the album Escape in 1981, it was a modest US chart hit (Billboard Hot 100 no. 9). Fast forward 28 years, in 2009 the track had two very prominent syncs: The Sopranos finale and Glee (the song featured in six episodes). From there, the song’s ascendance into global popular culture (and commerce) is well known. In 2009 it re-entered the Billboard Hot 100, this time peaking at no. 4, and finally became a UK top 10 hit following several renditions on The X Factor. However, it is on streaming platforms where the song truly thrives, steadily working its way into the ‘one billion club’ (at 757 million just now, but clearly in it for the long game).

Sony Music understands this success very well indeed. Don’t Stop Believin’ is an evergreen streaming success for the label. It is revered. Sony Music also has similar success with another 1981 song, Toto’s Africa (actually a 1982 release chosen as the third single from Toto IV). Africa was a much bigger hit on first release than Don’t Stop Believin’ and has had continual success on radio. And again, Africa has seen a meteoric rise on streaming – sitting at 711 million. Both these early eighties tracks are millennial sensations, and both are mini-industries in their own right.

My third example just happens to be another Sony Music track, though this post is not about Sony as such. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that SME has been instrumental in the calculated success of Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas. This 1994 release was in fact the number-one streamed song in Germany for all of 2019.  Consistently a top 10 streaming catalogue hit for the label since the dawn of the streaming era, 2019 (thanks to a finely-tuned and bigger marketing campaign) amounted to a new peak for the track – the year in which it finally made the holy grail some 15 years after release: Billboard no. 1.

As I said, to even out the copy a bit – every label and publisher with known catalogue – Queen, Elton John, Radiohead, Led Zeppelin, R.E.M. to name just a few, is operating at full-tilt utilisation of song assets – even if that means investment in other media assets. It’s movies, documentaries, new videos, re-masters, re-issues and myriad of strategies to generate more and more streams. No wonder Def Leppard, Peter Gabriel and other long-term streaming hold-outs finally succumbed only last year. They saw the future clearly but took their time to realise they will just have to learn to love it or lump it.

The three songs illustrate the development of the song economy. The Song Economy is the new music industry’s growth engine. It’s why publishing and songwriter catalogues are being acquired at multiples of between 10-20 of annual royalty revenues. It’s why playlists are the most valuable real estate on streaming platforms. It’s why labels and publishers are staffing up their sync teams around the world. It’s why some publishers – the administrators of the music business – are investing in creative and marketing talent and signing artists with great songs before their record label counterparts. And it’s why those publishers and labels are being pulled together under one leadership, from Downtown to Sony Music.

The Song Economy is critical for new songs just as it is for old ones. Hit songs are more important than they have ever been. That’s why, according to New York-based Hit Songs Deconstructed (which does indeed deconstruct the elements that make a major hit song, so that others can do their best to emulate that success) has been reporting a steady rise in the number of songwriters per hit (in 2018-19 a quarter of Billboard top 10 hits had no less than four songwriters) as well as producers (two per hit is more usual than just a single producer).

In all of our future-gazing industry work at MIDiA, we often look at what will drive the next big growth curve for music (indeed, we report on that very thing here), expecting that to be a new tech platform or a brand new music format. However, the real driver perhaps for the next few years at least, will be the micro-growth driven by individual songs – those big enough to qualify as mini industries. 

Sure – streaming has made it much more competitive for songs, composers, artists and their representatives. But those songs that break through into millennial streaming culture (or blow-up in Gen Z streaming culture as memes and TikTok sensations) will be pinching share of ear from the rest. At the same time, songs in popular culture are helping to keep music up there in the attention economy – competing with TV, games, books, spoken word and sports. Indeed, it is only those mini-industry songs that can claim a spot across every slice of media, through sync to podcasts to multiple forms of video. Those are the songs we want to know all about and hear over and over again.

Those songs have always been pots of gold to the industry, but in the global streaming economy they have become something quite different. They can be revived and multiplied. They can be hits over and over again. They are, in fact, industries in themselves. Welcome to The Song Economy. Don’t Stop Believin’!

Keith Jopling is MIDiA’s Consulting Director – contact him on keith@midiaresearch.com. He also helps drive The Song Economy via the discovery & playlist venture https://www.songsommelier.com/

The Meta Trends that Will Shape the 2020s

MIDiA Predictions 2020CES, the big annual consumer tech show, is underway in Las Vegas. Unlike in most previous years, there has been little in the way of big new announcements. This is in large part because we are reaching a degree of maturity in the consumer landscape, with big new developments being replaced by smaller, sustaining innovations. Nowhere is this better seen than in smartphones, where manufacturers try to convince consumers that tweaks to the camera represent genuine paradigm shifts worthy of buying a new handset. The same applies to streaming music, where the leading Western services have seen little in the way of substantive change. Yet a slowdown in consumer tech innovation often paves the way for an acceleration in business and cultural change, as the companies and creators begin to grasp and respond to the real potential of the technology at their fingertips. At the start of the millennium’s third decade, this is where the digital content marketplaces stand. Here are MIDiA’s predictions for the meta trends that will shape content and media in the 2020s:

  • Attention saturation: MIDiA’s big call over the last few years has been that the attention economy will peak. This has now happened. As we enter the third decade of the 21st century, this unintended consequence of the digital content economy is entering its next phase. We are now in the era of attention saturation, where every new consumption minute gained comes at the cost of consumption time elsewhere. Mobile games were hit first, and audio will be next, with radio already losing audience share in the audio arena. Attention saturation was always going to be an inevitability. The important question is not why this is happening, but what will come next and what the right strategies are for surviving and thriving in this post-peak world. Measuring sentiment – rather than purely time and money spent – will emerge as the methodology for measuring success in the era of attention saturation.
  • Vertical integration: As we announced in our 2019 predictions report, the tech majors are doubling down on services, e.g. Apple (a whole suite of subscriptions), Google (YouTube Music, YouTube Premium), Amazon (IMDb TV, ad-supported music and Amazon Music HD). Part of this trend in the longer term will be big tech companies acquiring media assets. We saw this start in 2019 with Tencent’s stake in Universal Music, as well as music publishing companies expanding their stacks (e.g. Downtown Music Holdings acquiring CD Baby parent AVL). Watch for record labels, sports leagues, TV networks and games publishers getting snapped up for true vertical integration.
  • Social video will eat the world: Four years ago, MIDiA argued that video was eating the world. Now social video is eating the world. Video is becoming the omnipotent format through which we communicate, consume and share. Captioning looked like it was heralding a new era of silent cinema, but it was in fact a trojan horse – a means of enabling us to fit extra video consumption into our wider consumption patterns. Over time, though, sound has become more important and with the increased tolerance of video we are now far more willing to unmute. Nowhere is this better seen than Instagram and TikTok. Audio is the victim in that equation.
  • User-modified content: Back in 2009 DJ Spooky claimed that the 21st century was going to be ‘the era of mass cus­tomisa­tion’. Ten years on this is starting to come to pass. Progressively more of what we consume has reached us after being adapted by someone else, whether that be personal recommendations, likes or comments. Additionally, more of the content we view has been modified, such as memes, captioned photos, Instagram photos, and TikToks. 2020 will be see the rise of user-modified content (UMC) with more audiences leaning forward and taking ownership of the content they view. The lean-forward shift will accelerate in 2020.
  • Engagement clusters: The first phase of the consumer web was shaped by internet portals such as AOL and Yahoo – these were windows onto the digital world. Today, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok perform a similar role for slices of the digital world – the 21st century portals. Audiences are now fragmented across multiple apps and destinations. Smart – and typically big – companies are therefore building engagement clusters. Sometimes these are ecosystems (e.g. Apple, Amazon), but in other instances they are collections of content experiences, e.g. Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+. More clusters will emerge in 2020. An early move could be Apple adding Arcade to its Apple Music / Apple TV+ student bundle.
  • The abundance paradox and the discovery crisis: Content companies have responded to the attention boom by over-supplying content, resulting in a growing tyranny of choice. We spend so much time trying to find content through the clutter that we either do not find enough new content or have less time to consume. Additionally, we simply experience a lot of new content, flying past us in content feeds and curated playlists, rather than actually discovering it. The emerging abundance overload is the entertainment equivalent of feeling nauseous from eating or drinking too much. 2020 will see this trend accelerate, with slowing and even declining user numbers for incumbents in mature markets.

This analysis is taken from MIDiA’s report 20/20 Vision | MIDiA Research Predictions 2020.

The report includes predictions across music, video, games and sports. Why should you read it? Well, we had an 83% success rate for our 2019 predictions report, including:

  • Apple makes privacy a product; music catalogue acquisitions will accelerate; one more really big merger and acquisition (Sprint / T-Mobile); virtual collective experience (Marshmello / Fortnite); Netflix will lose market share; DAZN will dominate US boxing; tech majors will disrupt gaming (Aracde and Stadia); Spotify will launch a major news podcast (El Primer Café).

If you are not already a MIDiA client and would like to learn more about how to get access to MIDiA’s research, data and analysis, then email stephen@midiaresearch.com

How an Economic Downturn Could Reshape Digital Media

Ten years on from the credit crunch, the global economy could be poised to enter another recession. Many of the underlying causes of the credit crunch remain in place, due to governments lacking appetite for structural reform of the faults in the global financial system that catalysed the slowdown. Many of those unchecked factors remain, and with growing volatility in geopolitics a perfect storm could be brewing. A succession of potential unintended consequences could reshape a digital economy that has grown rapidly in an era of abundance and easy access to capital.

During a recession, consumers reduce their spending on non-essentials. Media falls squarely into that category, but digital media is particularly vulnerable for three key reasons:

  • Streaming, easy to leave: The great promise of streaming subscriptions was built on convenience and value for money. These are the subscriptions that digital consumers are most likely to want to retain in a recession. However, they are also vulnerable to cancelling because a) they are contract-free and b) free alternatives are so good. Cost-conscious music fans would find the various inconveniences of downgrading to free (YouTube especially) as a dull pain compared to the cost savings – especially if they use the readily-available stream rippers and ad blockers. Similarly, video subscribers with pay-TV may want to finally cut the cord, only to find that there are early cancellation fees so end up having to cut Netflix instead. This is compounded by the fact that they can simply pop back in for the odd month to binge watch the latest series of their favourite Netflix Originals ­– but will never have an impetus to stay.
  • Millennials hit hard: Recessions typically hit the lower echelons of workforces hardest and earliest. Millennials have been the fuel in the digital media engine, but these young professionals could be the ones who have greatest job insecurity, especially those in the (tech-enabled) gig economy. Conversely, older consumers still in the workforce will inherently increase in value, while those retired will experience little direct impact on their spending power. So, in relative terms, older consumers will become more valuable in a recession.
  • Innovation slowdown: Research and development budgets will be the early victims of belt tightening at many digital media companies, but there will be another factor slowing innovation: ownership shifts. Struggling digital media companies may see investors taking full or partial ownership of the companies in order to protect their investments. This will particularly apply to companies that have used debt financing tools like convertible notes, which can result in investors converting debt into equity if targets are not met. Investors looking to protect their investments will be inherently more conservative in their strategic outlook, resulting in a slowing of costly innovation and product development.

Market outlook: fortune favours the brave

Previous economic downturns and market adjustments have seen winners and losers. Often this has as much to do with financial backing and strategic nous as with the quality of the product sets of the companies. Content budgets will likely contract to match the realities of the market, but those companies brave enough to make long-term bets could be the long-term winners. The labels still willing to invest strongly in new artists and artist marketing campaigns will likely have more impact in a less cluttered market suffering from under-investment. Similarly, TV, movie and games studios that are willing to continue to invest strongly in commissioning will see their content stand out from the rest. More than that, given the long production cycles of content, they will have the strongest rosters of content going into market when consumer spending power recovers. More conservative competitors will be playing catch up, waiting a year or more for their new investments to make it to market.

These findings are taken from the first report in MIDiA’s Recession Impact research series:

Recession Impact: How an Economic Downturn Could Reshape Digital Media

For a strictly limited period you can download this report for free on the MIDiA report store here. This offer ends on Friday 20th December, at which point the report will revert to its original price.

Take Five (the big five stories and data you need to know) November 11th 2019

take5 11 11 19BTS, fandom 3.0: The management of BTS’s distributor was trying to work out who had greenlitan un authorized billboard campaign for the South Korean boy band. When it turned out that the fans had paid,it pulled back the veil on a whole new fandom paradigm. (We’ll be publishing a Fandom 3.0 report soon).

Video overkill? Not to be outdone by the likes of Apple, Warner and Disney, Discovery has announced that it too may be launching a video subscription service in the US.On the one hand, the competition represents great consumer choice;on the other,it creates wallet share pressure. Netflix, Disney+, Amazon, HBO Max, Amazon and Hulu (basic) together cost $53.22. Feels a lot like the cable streaming is meant to be reducing.

The great Apple bundlingprocess begins: Apple needs subscriptions not for margin or even revenue, but to prop up device sales average revenue per user (ARPU). Within three years Apple will have full subscription bundles retailed with devices. It is testing the waters with Apple TV+. The latest development is being bundled with the Apple Music student plan.Don’t bet against Arcade also being in there soon.

Recycled bottles = smart speakers:This is a little old but we only just saw it and we value any opportunity to shine a light on the climate crisis and efforts to address it – however modest. Google’s Nest Mini smartspeaker is to be made, in part, from recycled plastic bottles. Compare and contrast with the environmental footprint of Apple’s AirPods.

Fourday week: Microsoft has been trialing four-day weeks in Japan. Productivity was up 40% and electricity consumption down 23%. The contrast with Alibaba’s 996 (i.e.9:00-9:00six days a week)is stark. So far, we have hurtled into the era of tech-enabled consumption and production without taking stock.

Five Trends Changing Music Marketing

This is a guest post from MIDiA Research analyst Keith Jopling

Marketing music has never been straightforward. That’s why back in the day, label executives would use the single as the shortcut to finding an audience on which to propel the artist, and even more importantly, their latest album. Meanwhile, radio stations were largely in lockstep, since they would rather play the ‘catchiest’ hits as well as help build familiarity for those hits (those that got through dreaded call-out research). Still, neither side really knew which songs audiences would take to their hearts. The signal was foggy, at least until the record reached the shops. Even then, it was hard to know whether people liked the music, or just didn’t know about it. Hence the market was a constant flow of ‘push and pray’.

The single biggest change brought by streaming is the clarity of the signal. It has improved. It is clearer now which songs people really like. The art of marketing is to seed the song into the right places and wait to see what pops where. The challenge for label marketers isn’t so much to grasp this new world – they do. Their challenge is to have enough direct levers they can pull to make the new world order tip in their artists’ favour. The cause of many a migraine for marketers, however, is that they have very few direct levers and are at the mercy of gatekeepers, influencers and other layers that sit between their songs and the audience.

The problems for music marketers are manifold. We’ve listed just some of them here, each with a kernel of a solution. Whether music marketers have it in their power to fashion the solutions into actionable marketing tactics is a different story. But, given that global marketing is one of the core competencies of a modern record label (and a modern artist manager), the broader solution is for marketers to push their agenda higher up the chain, and for more corporate-level innovation and investment to get the marketing engines changed up and fit for purpose. We argue as well that to succeed in doing this, marketers should change behaviours and start marketing for the environment now, not yesterday.

In this short report (download for free on the MIDiA webpages), Consulting Director Keith Jopling examines five problematical trends changing the way music is marketed, and points to potential solutions.

Problem (and solution) 1: Managing linear decline

The steady decline of linear radio and TV audiences is eroding these platforms’ contribution to music marketing effectiveness. The industry seems to live in hope that this will find a self-cure. A label’s power to get an artist’s song on the radio is seen by the artist as second fiddle to streaming, so the solution is obvious – either work with radio to improve its relevance or -get better at playlist pitching and see radio as a bi-product or bonus, not an essential. With playlist pitching getting harder, perhaps the former option is actually the better one.

Currently, radio is the only large-scale media that labels have for reaching national audiences at a shared time and place. But radio’s rolling playlist slots are too low in volume. One simple change would be for labels/publishers/managers to convince radio brands to expand their playlists to accommodate many more slots for new music (preferably with much better analytics to measure this, as audiences continue to migrate from broadcast to on-demand). For one thing, it would help radio’s issues in competing with streaming platforms if they could increase their capacity for song discovery by trading off new songs with catalogue plays or heavy rotation hits – ‘track of the hour’ rather than ‘track of the day’. Radio could argue that it is a better discovery platform than streaming, given it can add powerful context (daypart, presenters, artist stories) that streaming currently does not. Radio provides a sense of community. Streaming platforms are frozen wastelands in comparison. Radio can only make this argument however, if it can go further to compete with streaming on volume.

The plethora of branded radio apps now on the market is hardly a joined-up force to take on streaming, but if the market continues to evolve this way, then radio providers must use their brand equity and identity to serve super-niches, and serve them better – be it genre, demographic, a particular scene, theme or location. The most successful will begin to stem the loss in audience reach, but also fill the gaps left by streaming services to hold onto those audiences in terms of engagement and emotional attachment. For all the rhetoric of streaming platforms, one of those gaps is music discovery.

Download our free report to read the following further problems & solutions:

  • Managing streaming economics and higher song volumes
  • Managing post-album creativity
  • Managing global-local culture
  • Managing music value

Fan upsell is the money left on the table

In the mainstream pop world, the upsell potential to super-fans remains a gaping hole in the potential growth for the industry. Labels have acquired merchandise companies for incremental revenue but have so far stayed clear of the one sector in which the artists’ ‘product’ remains a scarce premium – live performance. Yet, real estate and demand can be created outside of the main live sector dominated by Live Nation and AEG. Companies like Dice and Sofar Sounds and even City Winery in the USA have proved this.

Some horizontal thinking is required on the subject of music’s value problem – whether it be that previous ‘promotional’ channels be abandoned unless there is directly attributable consumption as a result, or that labels can create more live real estate (through monetising showcases or converting tour support funding into direct ticketed appearances). Artists remain super-valuable brands. Average revenue per artist must go one way – up. Artists must use this as the benchmark for choosing their preferred means of representation, not just the size of their streaming numbers.

The Frank Ocean Days May Be Gone, but Streaming Disintermediation Is Just Getting Going

Aaron_Smith
At the start of this month Apple struck a deal with French rap duo PNL. PNL are part of a growing breed of top-tier frontline artists that have opted to retain ownership of their masters. In our just-published Independent Artists report (MIDiA clients can read the full report here)we have sized out the label services marketplace, and when it is coupled with artists direct (i.e. DIY) the independent artist sector was worth 8% of the entire recorded music business in 2018.

While that number may sound relatively modest, it is growing fast and represents the future. Traditional label deals are not disappearing, but they are becoming just one component of an increasingly complex recorded music revenue mix. This is the industry context that enables initiatives such as Apple’s PNL deal and both Spotify and Apple backing Aaron Smith, who incidentally is signed to artist accelerator Platoon, which is a company that Apple acquired in December 2018.

Independent artists open up new opportunities for streaming services

When Apple did its exclusive with Frank Ocean back in 2016it caused such an industry backlash that UMG head Lucian Grainge banned his labels from doing exclusive deals and the movement seemed dead in the water. If there was any doubt, Spotify kicked up so much label ill will when it launched its Direct Artists platform that it officially shuttered the initiative in July. However, now we are seeing that there many more ways to skin the proverbial cat. It is perfectly possible to disintermediate labels without having to actually disintermediate them. Doing an exclusive with an independent artist or giving him / her priority promotion is doubly effective for streaming services as:

  1. Record labels have no right to complain because independent artists have just the same right of access to audiences as label artists
  2. The more exposure independent artists get, the more their market share will grow, which will lessen record labels’ market share, which makes it harder for them to resist and easier for the streaming services to start making bolder moves down the line

Ambiguity will be the shape of things

Even this structure plays into the traditional view of labels versus the rest. The new truth is much more nuanced. For example, when Stormzy was duetting with Ed Sheeran at the Brits, signed on a label services deal to WMG’s ADA, was he a Warner artist or an independent artist? He was, of course, both. The evolution of the market will be defined by progressively more of this ambiguity, which will give streaming services equally more ability to not only play to these market dynamics but to stress-test the boundaries. The simple fact is that streaming services will become ever-agnostic with regards to artists’ commercial partnerships and in turn they will become a more important component of the value chain. Apple Music did the PNL deal because they had much more commercial flexibility dealing with an independent artist than dealing with a label artist. At some stage, labels will have to decide whether they want to revisit the exclusives model. Without doing so, they may not get a seat at the new table.

The Classical Music Market: Streaming’s Next Genre?

MIDiA-Research-Idagio-Classical-Music-Market_Image-724x1024Classical music has long been viewed by many as a rarified genre that stands apart from other forms of music. While there is clearly something in that, something new is happening to the classical market: streaming is opening up a new, more diverse base of fans. Many of these are finding new entry points to classical music, such as hearing piano concertos on Relaxing Piano playlists. These new audiences bring with them new expectations about what classical music listening should be like and they present a major new opportunity for the classical market.

I am excited to announce the release of a report on the global classical music market that covers this concept and much, much more. MIDiA researched and wrote the report on behalf of classical music streaming service Idagio. (To be clear, this report is an objective and independent analysis of the classical market, not one of those ‘white papers’ that exists to champion the virtues of the client’s proposition.)

With that important caveat out of the way, I strongly recommend you download the full report for free here. It is packed with exclusive new consumer data that presents a unique view of classical music consumers and how they are engaging with streaming. The survey was fielded in the US, UK, Mexico, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Germany and South Korea.

A fill list of contents is at the bottom of this post.

Here are a couple of paragraphs from the report that helps contextualise why classical music is gaining new relevance in today’s streaming world:

Classical music fans are a crucial music consumer segment that is too often overlooked in the mainstream of the music industry, and especially within the streaming market. However, the clear picture that has emerged in this report is one of a large and diverse group of consumers that include large volumes of mainstream music consumers who are also fans of other genres. The traditional image of Classical fans of only being older, traditionally minded and musically aloof does not stand up to scrutiny. Instead we see a group of people that are increasingly both youthful and digitally savvy, and that have wide tastes that go beyond just Classical music. This though, is not just a reflection of the diversity of these consumers but also of the way in which streaming is helping Classical music find a new, younger generation of fans.

Alongside this, streaming services risk getting locked in a race to the musical middle-ground in order to build the biggest audiences possible, with record labels and producers rushing to fill this overcrowded space with increasingly formulaic playlist-optimized songs. Songs that like fresh fruit are designed for quick, immediate consumption, not for longevity. This vicious circle of song optimization / playlist optimization may be the path of least resistance but it can ultimately lead to an unsatisfying overall music experience. Classical music provides an antidote to the algorithm-defined mainstream, and of the status update driven chaotic maelstrom that is digital life. Now we are starting to see the signs of a new generation of Classical music fans searching for a refreshing, reassuring alternative to the tumult and homogeneity of mainstream.

Go download the free report! (No registration required)

classical music report contents

Here’s Why Apple Just Killed Off iTunes

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, California, U.S. June 3, 2019. REUTERS/Mason Trinca

Apple has announced that it is closing iTunes and replacing it with three new apps:Apple Music, Apple Podcasts and Apple TV Apps. While this doesn’t (yet) mean the end of the iTunes Storeit is a major development for Apple. In fact, in many ways, it reflects the way in which Apple is becoming ever more later a follower. The great unbundling process has been going on across digital services for years, with Apple the tech major to cling closest and longest to a unified app experience. Now, just as Facebook, Google and Amazon have a suite of specialist apps, so does Apple. Unbundling is a natural part of the digital cycle, giving users the ability have dedicated user experiences that serve specific needs well rather than many (at best) no so well, (at worst) poorly. Indeed Apple’s Craig Federighi’s tongue-in-cheek quip”One thing we hear over and over: Can iTunes do even more?” hints at just how bloated and no longer fit for purpose iTunes had become.

iTunes never did really shake off its origins

iTunes actually started off as a tool for ripping and burning CDs. In fact, its original marketing slogan was ‘Rip Mix Burn’. It evolved into a tool for managing and playing music and supporting the iPod. Over time it layered in videos, books, apps, Apple Music etc etc. But one thing iTunes never excelled on, even before it suffered from feature bloat, was being a great music player. It was if it could never quite shake off its origins. Apple Music has of course picked up the player baton and run with it for Apple. Now that iTunes has splintered into three apps, we should start to see the evolution of three distinct sets of user experiences. Apple hasn’t pushed the boat out yet because it has a fundamentally conservative user base that has to have change implemented at a steady rate in order not to alienate it.

Unbundling and beyond

With hardware sales are unlikely to drive strong growth again for Apple until it finds its next big device hit, and although Watch and TV could still both rise to the challenge, it is more likely to be a new form factor. Until then, Apple needs its content and services business to pick up the slack. Right now, the App Store generates the lion’s share of Apple’s content and services revenue and there is clearly an imperative for Apple to ensure that it is driving more revenue from its own products rather than simply extracting a tenancy fee from those of others’. With its new suite of subscription services (Apple Arcade, TV+, News+) Apple is now poised to go deep across a wide range of content offerings. Unbundling its apps and subscriptions gives it the agility to build sector specific user experiences and marketing campaigns. Separating out podcasts is particularly interesting, as Apple is making the call that they do not belong with music. A stark contrast to Spotify’s approach. Indeed, Spotify may just be approaching its own iTunes moment, with an app that is trying to do too many things for too many different use cases. iTunes just committedhara-kirito enable Apple to compete better in the digital content marketplace. Spotify may need to do something similar soon.

Extra little thought: does Apple Music the subscription service now become Apple Music+ in order to differentiate itself from the Apple Music app?

How ByteDance May Just Be About to Drive the Next Streaming Paradigm

download-5Streaming music is approaching a decision point. Right now, music subscriptions are doing a fantastic job of monetising consumption, but next we need to learn how to monetise fandom. Global streaming revenues were up 30% in 2018 to reach $19.5 billion in retail values. Streaming’s current focus, in the west at least, is utilitarian – it focuses on getting tracks onto our devices and connecting us with music we will listen to, if not necessarily love. Many years ago there was a theory that music was going to be become like water. This was seen as a transformational aspiration, but now that we have that future the sheen has come off. Now, much as we may depend on the water that comes out of our taps, we do not attribute emotional value to it, we do not identify ourselves by it, we do not have conversations around it; water is a utility. Streaming has commodified music in the same way. Monetising consumption was a perfectly sensible ‘play it safe’ strategy to turn around the global recorded music business, but now the next streaming paradigm is needed, and TikTok might just have started the ball rolling.

Streaming needs to bring back the heart and soul to music

Music does something very special in a way that most other forms of media cannot. It represents us. It reflects how we feel and who we are, especially when we are young. Music is the soundtrack to our formative years, helping shape and identify who we, creating treasured shared moments and effectively sound-tracking our lives. In the old days of recorded music, from the 1950s right through to the 1990s, music was the central cultural identifier for youth, to the extent that you could tell what music people liked by the way they looked. Teenage bedrooms would be full of records, tapes or CDs that immediately told the musical story of that person. When someone said ‘Yes I like that band, I’ve got their album’, it was a statement of fandom: that person liked the band so music they had spent money to buy the record. Fast forward to now, and so many of the tools for cultural identification have been stripped away. The shelves of albums are replaced with ever-changing personal and curated playlists (i.e. a snapshot of ‘how I’m feeling now’ rather than ‘this is who I am’). Saying ‘yes, I’ve streamed that artist’ means little; anyone can access a stream, and there’s no financial commitment from the listener. Even ‘I follow that artist’ is becoming less useful, as following is simply becoming an over-abundant sorting tool for listeners. In short, streaming needs to figure out how to bring heart and soul back to music.

Context and fandom

There are two fundamental ways to fix the problem:

  1. Add context
  2. Add fandom

The first is all about discovery: yes, that much referenced but rarely actually delivered concept. Streaming is all about discovery, right? 50 million tracks, new music playlists everywhere you swipe. But it turns out that there is a very big difference between hearing new music and discovering new music. Little wonder then that even among streaming users, streaming is only the fourth most effective way of discovering music (even hearing songs on TV shows rates higher). Radio may be haemorrhaging listeners but it still does discovery best, thanks to DJs calling out track names, recurrent tracks to familiarise audiences, artist features etc.  This is not to say that streaming should simply mimic radio, though that might be part of the answer, but instead to think how it can layer context and meaning around music.

Monetising fandom

The second element is fandom. As I have written about before, Chinese service providers, Tencent in particular, have done a great job of building experiences around music rather than building pure music experiences. Tencent’s services, especially We Sing, make available tools like tipping, virtual gifts and badges to let its users express themselves via music. It does virtually what CDs and posters on teenager’s bedroom walls used to do. Right now, teenagers in the west only really have Instagram, Snapchat and Fortnite to do that with. YouTube and Soundcloud are the closest we have to fandom-powered music services due to features such as comments, likes, lyric videos etc. It is no coincidence that teens heavily over index for all of these activities (clients, check out MIDiA’s awesome consumer data portal for more on this).

It is time for audio streaming services to start following the lead of YouTube, Soundcloud and Tencent, and even to start embracing some of the off-platform apps that are trying to fix the problem themselves. Of course, they are going to need some support from rightsholders to make this happen.

Why TikTok may be the market catalyst

Enter TikTok, whose parent company ByteDance is reported to be prepping a streaming service. TikTok has more than 30% penetration among 16-19s and is the heir apparent to Musically, which Byte Dance acquired before then shuttering. TikTok lets its users express themselves with music as the soundtrack and has the power to turn obscure tracks into viral megahits. Let’s work on the assumption that ByteDance leverages its TikTok assets and doesn’t get browbeaten by rightsholders into launching a Spotify clone (the fact it has focused so far on non-western labels like T-Series suggests it is looking to break the licensing mould). The combination of a fandom-focused streaming service that also looks like it will be targeted at emerging markets could spur the next stage of streaming growth. So far only Tencent has successfully monetised fandom at scale. Now ByteDance looks set to follow suit. Western streaming services can either watch from the side lines or start working with rightsholders to bring heart and soul back to music. The future is monetising fandom.

New MIDiA Latin American Streaming Report, in English, Spanish and Portuguese

MIDiA Latin America Streaming reportMIDiA has just published its latest report on the Latin American streaming music market, and we have versions available in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

MIDiA has been tracking the Latin American music market for over five years, including annual consumer data and market metrics.

Our latest report ‘Latin America Streaming Music Market: YouTube and Spotify Take Hold’is written by our long term Latin American music analyst Leo Morel and features data on Mexico, Brazil and the region as a whole.

 

 

The report includes analysis and data on:

  • Consumer adoption of YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer and other streaming services
  • Playlist penetration
  • Wider consumer music behaviour eg downloads, CDs
  • Streaming revenues (subscriptions, ad supported music ad supported video)
  • Streaming users (subscriptions, ad supported music ad supported video)

Companies and brands mentioned in the report: Apple, Deezer, Google, iPhone, iTunes, Movistar, Spotify, TIM, Virgin Mobile, Vevo, Vivo, YouTube

The reports are immediately available to our clients, while you can purchase the individual reports here:

The reports each come with PDF, Slides, Excel and infographic.

For any questions please email info@midiaresearch.com