The Music Business Manager in the Modern Era

The Music Business Manager in the Modern Era

Music business managers in the digital era have to be ever more resourceful, informed, and have an understanding of areas including mining data and social media. They also increasingly have to assume a number of responsibilities that used be handled by labels, such as image and brand building, and even tour logistics. So what exactly is the role of the modern music business manager in the digital age?

In the last decade every aspect of the music industry has changed profoundly – but perhaps the deepest change has come to artist management. “What you want to achieve for an artist is the same, but the tools and the landscape have transformed, and consequently we have changed our approach,” co-founder of GRADE Management, Ed Karney, says.

“Our focus is on creative story-telling around an artist, by amplifying their personality and extra-curricular interests through digital tech, whereas when I started 10 years ago it was mainly about press coverage. The thing that has not changed is our mission, which is to uphold the best interests of the fans, because they’re the ones who pay to come to shows and shows are where most of an artist’s income is generated.”



Karney spotted the potential of Facebook’s Fan Pages early: “When they launched you could really change an artist’s career for the better in a relatively short space of time,” he says.

“Working with savvy, hungry artists who have strong opinions really helps any music management company, but none of this matters if the messaging is not authentic. If you’re a fraud you’ll be found out quickly.”

According to Olga Heijns, founder of Unmanageable Artists, the modern music manager has to do pretty much everything: “When I started in management, the main priority was to get your artist signed to a label and a publisher. The label financed and took care of most aspects of a career, while management took care of logistics and the day-to-day business – but now we have to do so much more. I was lucky because I was working through this transition period and learned the necessary new skills gradually, but someone coming in to the business today needs to know a lot, and have a huge network of contacts.”

Founder of Unmanageable Artists, Olga Heijns

Those new skills include developing an act’s visual image and creative input into video production: “A typical modern management company is really more like an artist services company,” she says. Since forming

Unmanageable Artists, Heijns has added the label MixMash Records, a publishing arm and an agency. “We employ a lot more people than before because so much more is expected of artist management,” she admits.

“Data crunching is another area that is now starting to become crucial in building artist careers, but I am not seeing a great rush by managers and promoters to deep-mine data around an act, especially in areas such as touring EDM acts. Personally I’d like to see much more collaboration with promoters and partners in touring and brand-building.”



Ferry Corsten is among Red Light Management’s most famous acts. The DJ/producer’s career stretches back to the early 1990s and he is currently working on the Unity Project, featuring multiple collaborations with various artists and produced by dance legend Paul Oakenfold

Brandon Ginsberg of Red Light Management, one of the largest management operations in the world with over 200 employees across eight offices in the US and the UK, sees mobile phones as the key to a successful digital strategy: “To execute a creative strategy you must have input from your data-crunchers in order to tap into multiple generations,” he says.

“It used to be all about Generation Z and their phones, but now most people live on their mobiles. However, the biggest change has been that acts do not need a label any more. Top priority used to be to find a label/publisher and then get a manager, but now with platforms like CD Baby and Tunecore, you can produce a track and get it released for a flat fee, then find a manager when things start to happen for you. And even after that you can build a career with a minimal team, usually a manager and a lawyer. But what has not changed is that you have to have a lot of drive, and you should only work with acts that you totally believe in, otherwise how are you ever going to persuade anyone else that they’re special? And for me it has to be acts that do their own thing and move the needle stylistically; there’s no point in trying to break artists that follow musical trends, it has to be ones that create them.”



“As managers we are responsible for crystalising and executing the artist’s vision,” CEO of Heroic Family, Budi Voogt, says.

“To do this, we need to build great teams around them who help clear the path, while balancing the interests of all stakeholders. We enjoy bringing in partners from diverse backgrounds and differing opinions

CEO of Heroic Family, Budi Voogt

because it sharpens our decision-making and hopefully results in a more sustainable career for the artist, with fewer mistakes made along the way.”

Voogt adds that technology is also important to Heroic. “We try to automate wherever possible and try to leverage data to our benefit. We use the artist tools provided by the DSPs (digital service providers) to track how our releases are performing, occasionally initiating new marketing around back-catalogue records that appear to be reviving. But we also use the demographic information to inform our touring decisions.”


TOP PHOTO: Red Light Management’s Brandon Ginsberg  

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Scouting and developing talent: the changing face of A&R

a&r scouts looking for talent (90)

Publishers have traditionally been thought of as being spoon-fed music by labels and artists, but today they are anything but passive in the field of artists and repertoire (A&R). And while it is true that the roles of the publisher has been to police IP, collect royalties and serve as sync agents, beyond all of that, what is the role of a publisher in the music business of today?

“A modern publisher is key in the process of going further into [the artists’]existing catalogue, as well as creating new catalogue,” Paris-based Infiné Music’s head of publishing, Rachel Graham, says.

“By ‘going deeper’ I mean encouraging new artists to take old tracks from the catalogue and put a modern twist on them. Another classic A&R role increasingly played by publishers is in creating new catalogue by interacting with composers and finding connections for writing workshops, co-composing sessions, connecting with lyricists, arrangers and other musicians to help enrich the writing process.”



A&R, wherever it comes from, has always been as much about talent nurturing as it is about A&R scouts looking for talent.

But developing recording artists isn’t always easy: “It depends on their personality,” Graham says. “Some musicians are incredibly stubborn and you just have to let them get on with it, and some are just very insular. An example is a duo I signed called Yosoy. They have been working together for 15 years and only recently released their first recording and started playing live. But ultimately, publishers have to be creative in A&R, because if we don’t help artists to keep making music, then we will eventually run out of work.”

Joe Buck: top10 hit for 14 weeks

One traditional A&R role – that of encouraging brands to use hit songs in advertising – is currently being turned on its head through a series of tracks that started out as songs primarily created for TV adverts and which have since become hits. “Joe Buck’s The Way You Take Time stayed in the top 10 of the Netherlands Airplay Charts for 14 weeks, and is still in the top 50 six months after release. Plus it has been streamed over six million times on Spotify,” says Joost Haartsen, founder of sonic branding agency Amp.Amsterdam and head of film and TV at Universal Music Publishing Benelux. “Buck originally wrote the song for PLUS Supermarkets following a request from Amp.Amsterdam, in collaboration with advertising agency J. Walter Thompson Amsterdam. In addition, Spark Records – the label of Ilse de Lange – and Universal Music Publishing also played important roles in the pre-and post stages when a full song was created from the original 50-second track.”

Thanks to this unorthodox A&R channel, Haarsten has another hit in the making. “It’s the same brand, but this time it’s Hannah Mae with Back To You. In late November the song was announced as NPO Radio2’s TopSong, and in fact it is the fourth song we created for an advert that then gained significant airplay on Dutch National Radio.”

Previous to the hits by Buck and Mae, She’s The One by Frances for PLUS Supermarkets’ Xmas 2018 campaign generated 1.3 million streams on Spotify with an NL-only release, and the Irving Berlin classic Anything You Can Do sung by Kris Berry for a KPN summer campaign, also got significant airplay on Radio2.



Mute Records has one of the most distinguished and varied A&R track records of any independent company, with acts ranging from Depeche Mode, New Order and Erasure, to Nick Cave, DAF, Goldfrapp and Johann Johannsson. Label founder and managing director Daniel Miller says that some aspects of the A&R process have changed profoundly, others less so.

Daniel Miller: some aspects of A&R have changed profoundly

“On one level, in the CD-era, we used to have a room full of unopened jiffy bags, and now we have inboxes full of unopened emails with demos attached. But that isn’t because we don’t care, it’s because across the entire history of this company we have never signed an act on the basis of a demo. True A&R comes from arcane sources and is very random. For example you might be going to see a band you already know, and the support act turns out to be amazing.”

Miller and his team made a strategic decision some years back to make publishing arm Mute Song both more pro-active in A&R, and more personal: “A&R around publishing is about maximising what you have, whether that’s how the staff interact with the artists, or being at the root of creative collaborations. Even though we publish an artist such as Nick Cave who writes plenty of songs that could be covered, we do not push the versioning side, we prefer to create and nurture unusual projects such as The Aphex Twin working with Pirelli. It was unexpected because he is seen as an idealist, but in fact it shows what great A&R – and working closely with your artists – can achieve.”

TOP PHOTO: Mute signing Johan Johansson

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Why Music Companies Invented Artist and Label Services to Empower Creators

Artist and Label Services

Streaming services are reviving the fortunes of the global music business, which grew a healthy 9.7% in 2018 (IFPI figures).

This new age of tech-driven entertainment places music creators at the heart of the industry – as compared with the past when the business more or less required artists to focus purely on their legal contracts. Hence the emergence of the Artist and Label Services sector, there to serve creators whose work has become more complex – and potentially more lucrative – as digital takes hold.

This artist-centred era will be recognised at Midem 2020, when the world’s biggest international music-industry event hosts its inaugural Artist and Label Services Forum.

“By creating the first-ever Artist & Label Services Forum, we aim to further serve the global music community and provide concrete music solutions for new artists, entrepreneurs and the industry´s needs,” Midem director Alexandre Deniot said.

These solutions have been nurtured by the emergence of digital direct-to-consumer and direct-to-artist platforms – for example Spotify, SoundCloud, YouTube and other pioneering online music services. They triggered lawsuits, which effectively also educated artists about having a greater say in their careers.


Seeking out Artist and Label Services

Enter the DIY age when a new generation of established and emerging music acts have the option to use tech to do things their way. Instead of signing to separate companies for recording, publishing, touring and even marketing, they have started actively to look for business partners who provide a level of service that can centralise their requirements – including marketing services – and prioritise their needs. They have also gained opportunities to own or control their copyrights.

As UK-based Charles Kirby-Welch, CEO and founder of Kartel Music Group – Independent Global Music Services, said: “The good news here is that the music business is becoming increasingly artist-centric. It is based on a relationship not an exchange of rights.”

Charles Kirby-Welch, CEO and founder of Kartel Music Group – Independent Global Music Services

After US artist Chance the Rapper released his mixtape-album Coloring Book in 2016 exclusively on streaming platform Apple Music, the relationship between traditional label artists and the labels themselves was never the same again.

Without a record contract, Coloring Book became the first album to top the Billboard 200 based only on the number of streams and the first stream-only album to win a Grammy Award.

Elsewhere a number of music companies – including London-headquartered artist-services operation Kobalt, with its Built for Creators tagline – have emerged to be the trusted business partners that monitor and keep track of the billions of times artists’ recordings might be streamed plus the royalties due.


Managing the risk

But there is only so much you can do on your own as a DIY artist. “Cutting through the noise and implementing a great marketing strategy remains a complicated and risky process,” Kartel Music’s Kirby-Welch offers.

Drew Hill, managing director of UK-based music-distribution conglomerate Proper Music Group, explained how the firm’s strategy is evolving. “Our philosophy has always been to listen to what the artist wants from us as a partner, working to support their needs and not forcing them into one type of deal which that might not be the best for them,” Hill said.

“I see Artist Services as covering pretty much everything that an artist signing to a label – in the more traditional sense – would get, but normally after the record has been recorded. So, maybe no A&R – and increasingly, ownership of the master remaining with the artist.”

Drew Hill, managing director of UK-based music-distribution conglomerate Proper Music Group

Today’s technologies offer artists the choice to have a hands-on role in the business. They can upload tracks on to YouTube, create playlists for Spotify, Apple Music and the endless number of streaming platforms entering the business, and use a host of social media and messaging services to promote their work globally.


The majors get in on the act

Even the major labels have jumped on board the Artist-Services train.

Warner Music Group’s ADA Worldwide is a major artist-services operation. ADA offers WMG’s global resources to both in-house and third-party acts and labels. In June, ADA agreed to handle the future releases plus other label services including, sync and radio promotion for Producer Entertainment Group, the world’s biggest label for drag artists.

Sony Music Entertainment has grown its Artist-Services business following its acquisition of online distribution company The Orchard. In March, leading K-pop management firm JYP Entertainment appointed The Orchard to handle digital and physical releases outside South Korea.


Breaking the label mould

US-based international online distribution operation CD Baby positions the Artist and Label Services it provides (via its Creator Services and Label Services units) as the antithesis of the business model of the traditional record label.

And that approach has worked for its roster, which includes Dominican singer El Alfa, award-winning Canadian independent pop band Walk Off The Earth, Grammy and BRIT awards-nominated singing star Aloe Blacc and Danish singer-songwriter Oh Land.

“Our Creator Services can provide any of the following: editorial and playlist pitching, sync-licensing pitching, pursuing digital-service-provider (DSP) opportunities, physical-release co-ordination, hiring marketing agencies, digital ad buying and design resources,” CD Baby’s vice-president of Creator Services, Jon Bahr said.

CD Baby’s vice-president of Creator Services, Jon Bahr

CD Baby also believes that it is in the creators’ best interests for Artist Services to help digital platforms grow. “We deliver so much content to all the DSPs that we’re in constant communication with them,” vice-president of marketing, Kevin Breuner, said.


Benefits for emerging artists

“Our international footprint is also a huge advantage since much of the opportunity is in emerging markets, where the streaming services are trying to make inroads with local fan bases in places where we have staff – like Brazil, India, Argentina and Colombia. They want to feature emerging artists from those regions and we’ve been able to make great connections that have really benefited the artist communities.”

The ultimate goal is to create a music business environment that encourages artists, big and small, to thrive, according to Kirby-Welch of Kartel Music, whose company recently opened an office in Los Angeles.

An example of independent artists whose international careers have grown under the Kartel Music roof are New Zealand group Fat Freddy’s Drop.

Fat Freddy’s Drop

“Fat Freddy’s Drop are DIY trailblazers and uncompromising creative entrepreneurs. They have independently developed a global fan base, playing arenas and even their own outdoor festivals across multiple continents – and selling hundreds of thousands of records despite very limited mainstream media support.”

Tailoring the business to each artist’s ambitions is paramount, Kirby-Welch added. “Being small, nimble and focused on a small roster of artists enables us to add a human touch and a real voice to each and every client we work with.”

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“Artists need to be an active part of the search for solutions” – Interview with Nacho G. Vega and Suzanne Combo, IAO


Developed in association with the International Artist Organisation (IAO), Midem’s first Artist Hub programme was a huge success. It was the place to be to discuss key trends impacting worldwide artists as well as opportunities and solutions for today’s evolving music business.

The Artist Hub hosted 14 sessions (including 3 workshops, 3 masterclass, showcases and cocktail party) on ho topics such as DIY in a digital era, live show marketing, music placement, the evolution of DJing, and more. In total, over 550 artists from all over the world came to get inspired by their peers and music execs.

These three 3 days of intense discussions ended with the release of the official Featured Artist Declaration (FAD) by IAO.

Find out more about IAO, its mission and initiatives, in this exclusive interview of IAO’s Chairman Nacho Garcia Vega and Director Suzanne Combo.

> Could you introduce IAO and its mission?

International Artist Organisation (IAO) is the only truly legitimate international artist advocacy organisation, created by Artists for Artists, given the New Age of the “Artist-entrepreneur”.

IAO is a non-profit organisation based in Paris, founded in 2015, and regroups 13 national organisations representing the rights and interests of Featured Artists in the Music Industry (France, Spain, UK, Germany, Croatia, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Portugal but also from Canada) and still growing.

Artists now have direct access to market, thanks to digital opportunity. Moreover, labels are signing later, waiting for artists to develop their audience by themselves.

Artists have understood that the recorded music industry suffers from 1960s architecture which is creaking under the strain of new tech and business models. Treatment disparity of neighbouring rights in Europe has also allowed the erosion of protections for performers.

However, Artists were excluded from the debate in the early stages ‐ in part because we were not ready but also in part because it was extremely profitable not to have to pay us.

Yet, one thing is clear: Artists need to be an active part of the search for solutions.

For all those reasons, we decided to found our international organisation to give featured artists an international collective voice to lobby for.

  1. fair and balanced rights;
  2. a fair share of all value stemming from the artists’ works;
  3. more transparency through the value chain;
  4. a healthy music sector, and the development of cultural and social diversity;
  5. the well-being and a good mental health for artists in the music industry.

During the last 4 years, we’ve been invited to the EU Commission Copyright Roundtable, the Creative Europe working groups, many international conventions such as Midem, Reeperbahn, Canadian Music Week, Eurosonic, By:Larm, Music Tech fest, Tallin Music Week, and more…

> What are the results of your partnership with the first Artist Hub at Midem 2019?

The Artist Hub was a valuable experience for IAO at different levels: We got notoriety during our presence thanks to the explicit corporative visibility, by meeting with other representatives of the music sector, members of the media, and by gathering numerous artists from all over the world, wanting to know about the nature of our organisation, our activities, experiences as artists and challenges.

We shared useful information with DIY artists during our monographic panel and David Rowntree´s masterclass. One of our main goals was to spread our message through the Featured Artists Declaration (FAD). We proudly noticed how positively our FAD was appraised by the attendance of our meetings. Its content was even mentioned as a thorough proposal by Franck Riester, French Minister of Culture during his visit on the Artist Hub at Midem.

> What are some of the key issues at stake for artists in the upcoming months/years, as well as the emerging solutions, that IAO has identified?

In the upcoming months the key issues will be:

  • First, all IAO members will locally work on the transposition of the EU copyright directive by member states, especially from art 17 to 23 that concern performers’ online rights;
  • Second, the User Centric Payment System debate: Although we definitely need more data to be shared and analysed by all the concerned stakeholders, IAO believs it would be fairer and more transparent for artists, labels and users, to move from the actual market centric payment system, to a user centric one on the streaming platforms;
  • Lastly, we also want to address all the aspects of mental health issues in an industry that is both challenging and exploitative.

> What are the next steps/key dates for IAO?

Apart from the mentioned activity related to the implementation of the EU Directive at the national level, the members of IAO hold regular meetings that take place in parallel with some of the main European festivals and international conferences.

As in previous editions, it’s very likely that IAO will be present in the next by:Larm festival (Oslo).

IAO participates permanently in discussions regarding Featured Artists’ interests and is part of the recently constituted CCI (Creators and Cultural Industries Intergroup) created as a permanent channel for dialogue with those MEP’s involved on our sector.

As part of our aim to continue to grow as an organisation, IAO will have encounters with artists in countries where there is no national coalition of Featured Artists yet. Meetings in central Europe, the Baltic countries, and South and North America are on our 2020 agenda.

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Digital growth, innovative licensing and fair rights for authors – key themes of CISAC’s Global Collections Report

gadi oron cisac

CISAC is the largest global network for creators, representing 227 authors societies in over 120 countries. CISAC champions the rights and interests of millions of creators, lobbying for legislation across the world, providing licensing and technology services to societies and ensuring best practice and good governance.  As CISAC today releases its flagship annual Global Collections Report, the Confederation’s Director-General Gadi Oron sums up what the Report says about state of the global collective management sector going into 2020.

This week marks the release of CISAC’s annual Global Collections Report, the definitive source of data and analysis on authors’ royalties collections.  The Report shows royalties generated for millions of creators of music, audiovisual, visual arts, literature and drama, throughout the world.

Creators are not just the source of our culture: they are the single most important driver of the creative economy. Our member societies are dedicated to securing fair rights and royalties for creators. Our new report shows that last year global royalties hit a new record of €9.7 billion. It is the fifth consecutive year of growth in our sector and over that period, collections have grown in total by more than one quarter. This is good news in particular for music authors and their societies, which collect the vast majority – almost 90% – the global total.


Our market is rapidly changing and, with it, the sources of income for creators. As shown in the Report, the main driver of growth is sector’s rapid and sustained shift to digital. There is no doubt that the traditional income streams of radio, TV broadcasting, live and background music are still vital to the livelihoods of authors. But digital is now taking off – up 29% in 2018 and more than tripling over the last five years.

A few fascinating indicators show the potential for further growth. In the music sector, three years ago, among the top 20 markets none had digital royalties as the biggest collections source. Today there are five countries where the largest income stream is digital. The list is led by Mexico with an impressive 49% of the country’s collections coming from digital uses. The others are Sweden, Australia, South Korea and Canada.  This year’s Report also spotlights the markets of China and India, where digital licensing deals are powering growth.


Also telling is the marked difference between regions: in Asia/Pacific, digital’s share of total collections is 26%, twice that of Europe. A similar percentage in the far larger European market would add more than €1.5 billion euros to global royalties. Of course, Asia’s high digital share is also a reflection of the fragility of the traditional income streams in that region – something CISAC is helping societies in Asia change, in the face of powerful broadcasters resistant to paying a fair value for creative works.


The sustained digital growth of our sector is a hard-fought achievement by CISAC’s member societies which have transformed their licensing operations to monetise every possible use of creators works online. At the heart of this transformation has been new investment in data tools and technology. These handle the many trillions of digital performances processed by societies, which are growing exponentially.

CMOs’ licensing deals have tracked each new link in the evolutionary chain, from music subscription services to social media sites.  In 2018, video-on-demand platforms like Netflix and Amazon are boosting growth, with societies ensuring their member creators get maximum benefit from the much-heralded “golden age” of TV.

Finally, our Report shows the most critical element needed to ensure this growth is sustained – fair rights for the authors themselves.


Despite societies’ efforts, authors across the world are still seeing their work massively undervalued. Even fast-growing digital music collections still only account for only 19% of the total.

CISAC’s members are facing daily battles to negotiate fair rates with commercial users, or to secure legislative rights for authors in territories where they do not even exist. Our Report focuses especially on Europe, because the EU Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, adopted earlier this year, has already set an example of what a fair balance between creators and digital platforms can look like. The Directive sets a new benchmark for creators’ rights, and it is now time for governments worldwide to heed the lesson from Europe.

Sustained digital growth; innovation and adaptation by societies; and fighting for a fair legal environment – these are key themes of our 2019 Global Collections Report, and reasons to be optimistic about the current state, and the future, of our sector.

Download the report here!

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The Future of smart speakers: How voice tech is impacting the music business 

future of smart speakers

Time flies by when you’re having fun with voice assistants: the smart speakers market is nearly five years old now. When Amazon unveiled the first version of its Echo speaker in November 2014 – complete with its Alexa assistant – even the technology press wasn’t sure what to make of it. “The whole thing is a tad baffling, but also intriguing in that it’s fairly unique among major tech company product introductions,” was tech site TechCrunch’s initial verdict. “This seems like an odd pitch to make to consumers…” 

Odd, perhaps, but also persuasive. In 2018 alone, 86.2 million smart speakers were shipped globally according to research firm Strategy Analytics, while Amazon itself said in January 2019 that it had just reached the milestone of 100 million devices sold with Alexa on board. Now expanded to a family of devicesthe Echo has also been joined by Google’s Home speakers, Apple’s HomePod as well as smart speakers from Chinese firms BaiduAlibaba and Xiaomi to build the burgeoning market. 

Echo / Google Home / HomePod


Smart Speaker Statistics and Predictions 

The smart speakers market is growing fast. Research firm Canalys estimates that this device category’s global install-base was 114m units at the end of 2018, but that this will grow by 82.4% to 207.9 million units by the end of 2019. Rival research companies have also made their predictions for the future of smart speakers. IDC expects 144.3 million smart speaker shipments globally in 2019, and for this to rise to 240.1 million a year by 2023, for example. Strategy Analytics, meanwhile, has forecast a tipping point in the US in late 2020 where “there will be more US homes with smart speakers than without”. 

It’s always important to remember that smart speakers are not the only devices that voice assistants are being used on: smartphones, tablets, TV set-top boxes, in-car devices through to fridges and even smart toilets are also in play here. Research firm eMarketer recently predicted that 111.8 million people in the US alone will use a voice assistant at least monthly in 2019 – just over a third of the general population. “Today, most people use their voice assistants on smartphones and smart speakersSmartphones, by a wide margin, are most common,” explained the company. 


In terms of the companies selling smart speakers and their respective market shares, Canalys split out its estimates for 2018. It thinks that 78 million speakers were shipped overall, with Amazon accounting for 24.2 million of them (a 31.1% market share) and Google for 23.4 million (30%). Behind them were three Chinese firms: Alibaba (8.9 million shipments for an 11.4% market share), Xiaomi (7.1 million / 9.1%) and Baidu (3.6 million / 4.6%). 


Smart Speaker Trends: China is rising

This is one of the most important smart speaker trends to understand in 2019: the growth in China. In fact, when Canalys published its estimates for shipments in the first quarter of this year, it claimed that China had overtaken the US to become the largest smart-speaker market: with its 10.6 million shipments accounting for 51% of the global total that quarter. 

China has huge potential scale for smart speakers and their voice assistants. In July 2019, Baidu said that its DuerOS voice assistant, which is used on its speakers as well as on other devices, now had 400 million users. With the global music industry currently very excited about the growth of Chinese music-streaming services from companies like Tencent Music and NetEase, the growth of smart speakers there is just as fascinating to watch. 

So where is Apple in all of this with its HomePod? Most estimates put it in sixth place. For example, when Strategy Analytics published its smart-speaker shipments estimates for the second quarter of 2019, it claimed that Apple shipped 1.4m HomePods that quarter, for a 4.7% share of the global market – some distance behind Amazon (6.6 million / 21.9%) and Google (5.6 million / 18.5%) as well as the three Chinese manufacturers. 


Smart Speaker Usage: Music still key! 

Music is one of the key uses for a smart speaker in 2019. Indeed, several surveys have suggested it’s the most popular use. For example, NPR and Edison Research’s latest Smart Audio Report, which is an excellent source of data for smart speakers in the US, found that playing music topped the list of weekly smart-speaker requestsSome 77% of American smart-speaker owners are doing it, ahead of weather (75%) and asking general questions (74%). 

The report also found that 55% of smart speaker owners say they are listening to more audio since getting one and that 69% of them use the speaker daily. 

A different study, published by Voicebot and Voicify in March 2019, also found that listening to a music-streaming service was the most popular use case for US smart-speaker owners. In this survey, 69.9% said they were doing this monthly, and 38.2% on a daily basis. Note, radio is part of the smart-speaker ecosystem too: 40.5% were listening to radio on a monthly basis, and 21.2% daily. 


New ways to discover music   

Even nearly five years in, we’re still scraping the surface of how voice interfaces might change the way we listen to music. Amazon in particular has been working hard to roll out new modes of discovery, from its earliest days of enabling listeners to issue commands like ‘play me happy indie music from the 1990s’. In December 2018, it added the ability for listeners to use ‘Alexa, help me find…’ as a command – for example, ‘Alexa, help me find dinner music’ – as well as a new ‘Alexa, recommend some new music’ command. There is more to explore from that model of using a voice assistant as a recommender, rather than simply an entity that is ordered to play specific music.  


Decoding the algorithms 

The more complicated – or rather, more vague – commands for voice assistants are where things get interesting for the music industry. The algorithms driving the personalised music recommendations that come back for these queries are mysterious, certainly to labels but quite possibly to many of the developers working on them at the tech companies too. Labels already have teams working hard to uncover these mysteries, in order to understand how to give their music catalogues the best chance of being picked regularly by Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri and other voice assistants. Which brings us neatly on to… 


Platform control and competition issues 

Control is at the heart of another important future trend for smart speakers. Amazon controls Alexa and Echo speakers; Google controls Google Assistant and Google Home speakers; Apple controls Siri and HomePod speakers. All three companies also run their own music-streaming services: Amazon Music, YouTube Music and Apple Music respectively. The arguments about whether those services’ rivals have fair access to these platforms and their latest features are only just beginning. Witness HomePod featuring in Spotify’s recent anticompetition complaint against Apple (although also recent reports of the companies working together to open up Siri more to Spotify). The industry will be watching closely though: if the smart speakers’ sister streaming services seem to be getting an unfair advantage, regulators will be pressed to step in. 


Artist ‘skills’ as the next marketing tool? 

In a different sense, the two biggest western voice assistants are open for external companies to innovate. Alexa has its ‘skills’ and Google Assistant its ‘actions’ which are for smart speakers the equivalent to apps for smartphones. Developers can create skills/actions which smart speaker owners can then install (by voice) and use. Labels and artists are already exploring the potential this has for marketing. Check out Paloma’s Bedtime for example: released for artist Paloma Faith, it helps parents get their young children off to sleep with lullabies, stories and sleep sounds. It sits alongside skills developed for Little Mix and Michael Bublé on Alexa. Not that this is restricted to major-label artists: independent musician Emma McGann launched a skill earlier this year too. 

This kind of activity illustrates the single most important smart speaker trend in 2019: that the music industry is already actively engaging with these devices and their voice assistants: understanding how they work, how their music features are evolving, and what potential there is for labels and artists to capitalise by doing things, rather than simply sitting back as the passive providers of the music that this technology serves to listeners. 

That’s why smart speakers are such an interesting space for music going in to 2020 and beyond: because our industry doesn’t know exactly what they’ll mean yet, there’s an impetus to dive in and experiment, and to make sure that future brings even more opportunities for artists. 

from midemblog


How the globalisation of the Kpop industry is pushing production and performances beyond boundaries 

kpop industry

The globalisation of Kpop, the South Korean-originated sound boosting the country’s local recorded-music industry, is shifting from being a potential phenomenon to going truly mainstream. 

The Kpop industry’s worldwide influence has been acknowledged by IFPI, the international industry trade body. 

Among the most popular Kpop groups, BTS, the Korean boy-band sensation taking the world by storm, nabbed the second and third positions in the IFPI’s 2018 Top 10 best-selling albums. BTS – Love Yourself ‘Answer’ was the world’s second most successful album with 2.7 million units sold, while BTS – Love Yourself ‘Tear’ clinched the third spot with 2.3 million units. 

Blackpink Jennie

IFPI also ranked the seven-piece idol band (formed in 2013, signed to Korean conglomerate Big Hit Entertainment and known as the ARMY by its devoted international followers) the world’s second most successful recording act in 2018. 


Online a key driver for Kpop industry  

The international impact of the Kpop industry is impossible to avoid, according to Danny Lee, chief agent at Los Angeles-based Kpop talent agency Asian Agent: “The globalisation of Kpop is undeniably a genuine phenomenon. As the means of music and music-related content consumption online increasingly becomes the norm, Kpop’s vivid aesthetic, fashion, choreography and music production will continue to represent a benchmark for delivering a world-class music product.” 

His views were endorsed by several major industry stalwarts during The Year Kpop Broke IThe USA in 2019, a Midem discussion panel in Cannes. 

“It’s been fun to watch how Kpop has grown the last couple of years,” manager of new US teen hitmaker Billie EilishDanny Rukasin, says. “What’s intriguing is that it highlights how global music has become and how multicultural the US market and the rest of the world have been, and how accepting they have been of music not necessarily in their native language.” 

Danny Lee: “The globalisation of Kpop is undeniably a genuine phenomenon

Ever since Gangnam Style, the hit Kpop single by Psy, became the most liked music video on YouTube in 2012 and No.1 in more than 30 countries, the spread of Kpop has accelerated.  

Part of the K-Wave or Hallyu Wave that saw Korean movies, drama and music first spread to neighbouring Asian countries, the Kpop industry is now big international business, encompassing merchandise revenues, live ticket sales, and movie box-office hits as well. 

BTS have won several Korean and Asian music honours as well as the Billboard Music Awards, the MTV Video Music Awards and Platinum-sales accolades.  

And this year, the band, which has several successful international tours and two box-office hit movies under its belt, was invited to join the US’ Recording Academy, the organisation behind the much coveted Grammy Awards. 

By this April, Kill This Love, by all-girl Kpop phenom Blackpink, officially became the most-watched music-video debut on YouTube after recording almost 57 million views in its first 24 hours. 


Kpop goes Latin 

Kpop’s influence in the world continues to advance as Super Junior boast a Latin hit with Lo Siento (featuring Leslie Grace), which is performed in both Spanish and Korean and snatched 60 million-plus YouTube views by August. 

Expect to see Kpop popularity grow via a host of other stars like 1TYM, Jinusean, Big Bank, Exo, AOA, Super Junior, Shinee — and the now comparatively veteran 2NE1 

They have been manufactured, trained, developed and marketed by powerful Korean record labels and entertainment companies like Big Hit and its rivals YG Entertainment, SM Entertainment and JYP Entertainment. Big Hit alone has a corporate valuation of more than US$1bn, according to the Hyundai Research Institute. 

Blackpink Rose

They’ve used international streaming platforms, including SpotifyDeezerSoundCould and Apple Music, social media networks from Twitter to China’Weibo, and mobile video games to raise the brand value of their Kpop idol proteges.   

Fans’ appetite for information about their idols is insatiable. YouTube Originals, part of the video-sharing giant, has joined forces with JYP Entertainment to create a series of original documentaries about TWICE, the JYP-managed all-girl band. 


The hard work comes first 

The several years’ training expected of every aspiring Kpop artist before they are unleashed on to the world has seen Kpop also become a benchmark of high-production values. 

This helped the South Korean recorded-music business jump by 17.9% in revenues last year, making it the world’s sixth biggest music market, according to IFPI data. “There are strong opinions that Kpop is here to stay,” observes Asian Agent’s Danny Lee.  

Blackpink Lisa

His analysis of a successful Kpop’s song structure points to its multiple breaks, familiar catchy melodies and references to other genres, including pop, hip hop, R&B, electronic dance, and Korea’s own style and influence.  

“This is, in fact, a global export product that is also localised for its audience and fans. Kpop is not alone in the context of global music as Latin music is stronger than ever.” 

This has generated distinctive collaborations between global artists such as Dua Lipa and BlackpinkKiss And Make Up, which led to the first time a Korean act has entered the UK’s Top 40 radio plays. 

Lee also explains the creative mechanics and process involved in developing a Kpop idol act, which can comprise three to 12 members each. He says: “Each member is given a specific profile and attribute that can help fans identify with them at a much deeper level. From there, a photoshoot or music video will focus on both the group and members individually, with their own unique representation.” 

The management company then invests in each act’s specific but consistent fashion style, dance choreography, video-camera movements, movie-standard sets and quality productions. 

The fans’ devotion evolves into a movement, Lee says. “Fans create theories, fan chants, trending topics on Twitter, and they become part of the movement instead of being unseen bystanders.”  

He continues: “Fans are patiently waiting for a Kpop meets Latin meets Anglo collaboration, so there’s still much more to happen at a global level. We’re just getting started.” 




from midemblog


Report: The Midem African Forum 2019

Report: The Midem African Forum 2019

Launched in 2018 as part of the High-Potential Markets Programme, The Midem African Forum’s ambition is to assist with the development and internationalisation of the African music markets. The African Music Forum consists of a series of conferences, workshops and showcases, which took place this year in Dakar (Senegal), Douala (Cameroon) & Lagos (Nigeria), in association with TRACE Africa.


The first stage of the Midem African Forum took place in Dakar, Senegal (April 9)

Key needs identified were:

– Reinforce the value chain
Senegal is a country of culture and for its creators to thrive, it is essential for them to come together, collaborate, share information to build a common vision as to where its industry should evolve towards, giving each profession its rightful place in the value chain, providing the right amount of funding and training to secure a strong ecosystem across the value chain – from the producers and technicians to the managers, labels and artists.

– The monetisation of music
The objective here is to understand the music industry as an economy and music listeners as consumers, and thus the need to understand music consumption habits and adapt strategies to those consumers: a strong mobile penetration, a mobile consumption of music and a low access to banks. Additionally, two main monetisation streams were identified: digital and live music. needing to be fully engaged with and developed by the artists (to reach new local, regional and international audiences) and their entourage (to create dedicated content, digital marketing strategies) all the while securing efficient digital distribution networks with the less intermediaries possible. The second being more established as the local live music industry is strong and already allows artists to tour and thrive.

Creator’s rights & the remuneration of artists
With the rise of digital, artists and their entourage need to become conscious of the value of their music and to get familiar with questions of copyright and their rights so as to ensure the right collection of their royalties (from declaring the correct metadata to building the publishing ecosystem, strengthening collecting societies and fighting versus piracy).

Training & the structuring of the Senegalese music industry
There is a will to grow the training of artists and music professionals so as to move towards an industry of “entrepreneurs” who are able to grow the understanding of the music industry, to analyse the state of the Senegalese music business, to collect data, to build databases of music and professionals, to create events/occasions for the community to meet, discuss key challenges and address them.

More tweets from this stage here & here.


The second stage took place in Douala, Cameroon (April 12)

Key needs identified were:

Building an organised music industry 
Structuring the way business is done, clarifying the roles & responsibilities of the different players within the value chain, strengthening distribution channels & infrastructures to allow creativity to thrive

Giving artists & creative their true value through training & regulation
Promote knowledge-sharing, ensure the artist and their entourage know their music’s value, their rights and how the business works, so as to protect creation & secure transparent monetisation streams

Artist mobility & music distribution 
Live remains the essential distribution & monetisation stream but access to neighbouring & international markets is complex because of difficulties to travel (visa, lack of funding gaps, payment issues) & poor understanding of how these other markets work; adapting new digital tools to local realities & consumption habits, as well as finding local solutions to access & distribute music legally.

More tweets from this stage here & here.


The final stage took place in Lagos, Nigeria (April 15)

The key needs identified were:

Embracing tech & digital to reach local/regional/global audiences
Use tech to monetise music locally & internationally; take advantage of Nigeria & Africa’s young, connected & mobile population to reach a bigger share in the global music industry; create local tools that serve local talent beyond mainstream acts; develop digital strategies with an emphasis on data management to create opportunities; capitalise on internet & globalisation

Structuring further the Nigerian music industry
Grow the local music ecosystem; demonstrate the viability, profitability & value of the music business for governments to facilitate regulation & structuring of the industry, as well for banks to invest; strengthen local infrastructures for creativity to thrive; build innovative business models adapted to local realities

Educating artists & music professionals
Capacity building (tech & business expertise/artistry & performance/content creation/professionalisation); look at international standards & aiming at reaching them; facilitate connections; create music academies to train the artists, technicians & executives of tomorrow.

More tweets from this stage here, here & here.

from midemblog


Midemlab 2019: Discover the finalists!

Midemlab 2019 finalists

The 12th annual edition of world-leading music startup competition Midemlab will this year be presented by Deezer & Recochoku. The winners will be chosen in Cannes by a jury that includes tech journalist Sirena BergmanKuack Media Group‘s Juan Francisco, Music Tech Germany’s Matthias Strobel & many more (full details here). Let’s discover the 20 finalists!


Category 1: Music Creation & Education

Big Ear Games make music games to learn how to compose music. Big Ear, their debut game, demystifies how music works; Endlesss is a virtual space for live collaborative recreational music-making; Jambl is a user-generated music platform where users can create music, add videos, collaborate and share with friends in a simple, creative and fun way; Muzeek amplifies composers’ creativity, notably through an ‘Augmented Composer’ functionality; and Lonofi presents itself as “the first app using AI generated music for well-being and mental health.”


Category 2: Music distribution & discovery

Alissia Music is a personalised music service which picks songs based on your mood and your individual preferences; Banding is a matchmaking app for musicians; ClapCharts is a service to detect and promote promising talents through listeners; ClicknClear is an online marketplace where athletes/teams can license all the original music they want from rights holders; & Soundtracktor is an AI-powered platform for music composers to monetise music catalogues.


Category 3: Marketing & Data/Analytics

Legitary is an algorithm to detect fraud in streaming data; MusicList is an AI that can suggest music by understanding the behaviour, the mood, the location, etc. of users in real time; Musiio is also an AI that can ‘listen’ to large volumes of music to help streaming companies automate their personalised playlists, and help labels automate their discovery of new talent; Paperchain is a platform that closes the payment gap between when catalogue is played and when labels and artists get paid; & Wedao builds tours for popular artists basing on social media/streaming data and promotes shows through fan and influencer micro-targeting.


Category 4: Experiential Technologies – AR/VR, high resolution, IoT & hardware

Joué is a modular MIDI instrument which simplifies music playing for beginners and professional artists (video available here); MI.MU is a wireless, wearable, gestural musical instrument and controller for the performance and composition of music; MuX is a VR sandbox Instrument; ODIHO is a system which broadcasts any sound content (mike, recorded sound…) directly on listener’s smartphone headphone, in HD and real-time; & Tunefork is a software that delivers optimal hearing experience for people with hearing loss and seniors.


Find out more about MidemLab, and Midem’s special startup offer, here

from midemblog


“There is a great willingness to come together and put African talent on the global music map” – Interview with Alexandre Deniot

Midem African Forum 2019

Following the success of the 2018 African Tour, which took place in Johannesburg, Lagos, Abidjan and Brazzaville, Midem returns to Africa for a second edition in April 2019, with a focus on the region’s music market, touring three other key African music cities – Dakar, Douala and Lagos – and culminating in a dedicated day at Midem next June.

midemblog: How do you think the market has evolved since the launch of the African Forum in 2018?

Alexandre Deniot: We are truly witnessing a growing internationalisation of African artists and their music. Talents such as Davido, Black Coffee, Yemi Alade and Maleek Berry, who are ambassadors of the African Forum, but also DJ Maphorisa, Aya Nakamura, Fally Ipupa or Moonchild Sanelly, are breaking barriers, not only in the continent but also beyond. Africa produces a melting pot of musical genres that contribute much to today’s contemporary culture. Afrobeat is one example of course but other genres and alternative artists have the potential to export and reach new fans all around the world.

There is a great willingness to come together and create a common narrative to put African talent on the global music map.

What is truly exciting is the massive potential within the continent itself, driven by a music-hungry fan base that is young and mobile-friendly. There are an estimated 453 million internet users in the whole of Africa. 500 million African citizens are expected to own smartphones by 2020, with a majority of Africa’s Sub-Saharan population aged under 20. Growing mobile penetration has made it easier for recorded music to be sold and to collect revenues via mobile phones. More and more companies are seeking to professionalise and structure the African music market, and allow African music in all its diversity to reach international audiences.

As the local music industries unite and structure their businesses, it’s interesting to see that we are clearly seeing a growing interest from leading international players to grow their presence in the continent and work with African artists.

Starting with digital distributors and services, with Spotify making its African debut in March 2018 with the launch of its South African service, and joining Apple Music as well as Joox and Voov, two streaming services originated by Tencent Holdings. The presence of African repertoire on these platforms is growing.  Key international labels and publishers, both major and independent are also showing renewed interest in doing business in Africa, which is why it’s important for the local music industries to be united and structured.


>What is your objective for the second edition of the Midem African Forum?

The Midem African Forum is here to bring together local creators, executives and businesses to develop solutions relevant to their respective domestic needs.

Our goal is to pursue the efforts and conversations initiated last year, and to provide African artists and music companies with a neutral platform to connect, reach more fans and generate new revenues globally.

By including new countries like Senegal and Cameroon in the Midem African Tour, we want to enrich the pan-African network of music professionals. This second Forum will welcome again a series of conferences, concerts and workshops showcasing different musical cultures and professional ecosystems to promote African creativity, share professional expertise and knowledge, to create a relevant local and international networking, exchange ideas and involve local politicians and industry officials.

Social media has galvanised the entrepreneurial spirit among African artists. They pioneered the move into DIY (do-it-yourself) music, promoting their music, handlingthe PR, producing and booking shows directly. They are now looking for partners to take their business to higher stage and that is why Midem is willing to help by connecting them with the global music community.


What do you think is the biggest obstacle to further internationalisation of African music?

Artists, labels and governments need to improve their understanding of the value of copyright, to structure (or establish) their rights collection services and to provide copyright protection so that artists and composers can register their works and be paid for it. Digital penetration is strong in Africa, but it is important to get the fans to pay for their favourite artists’ music legally. During the workshops of the 2018 Midem African Forum, one of the ideas that emerged as a common and pan-African solution to these challenges would be to create a pan-African guild representing and promoting music rights owners across Africa, providing a forum for cross-border discussion within the music business community and capable of lobbying at an inter-governmental level.

Such a guild could create links with the achievements in the UK, France, Canada and South Korea, where the governments have understood why the creative industries are critical to a nation’s economic prosperity. Creating value for the artist and the region’s heritage in monetary terms should be a priority.

Today, technology can make the collection and distribution of royalties simpler and more transparent. The development of regional music streaming platforms such as Mdundo, Deedo or Black Coffee’s Gongbox, with strong local repertoires giving visibility to African artists in all their diversity and richness is essential, as the region’s artists still depend on mobile phones’ Caller Ring-Back Tones to generate any income from recorded music.

As much as technology is helping the growth of the African music markets, it’s important to note that the price of data, in these extremely mobile-centric territories is a true obstacle to fans accessing music; especially as telcos are at the very heart of the ecosystem, serving as the connection point between artists and their audiences. With this in mind, to facilitate access to music online, accelerate mobile usage and allow new digital services to grow, it is essential to develop a more adapted pricing policy.

Another important challenge that was identified during these workshops is the need for adequate concert venues to simplify the movement of performing artists throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. One recommendation also raised was the concept of an African-wide passport, which would enable artists to apply for region-wide visas, making it more manageable to tour the continent. Today, artists have to apply for visas on a country-by-country basis if they want to tour Sub-Saharan Africa’s almost 50 territories.

Finally, African markets music also establish a network of talent agencies, talent-management firms and booking agencies to safeguard artists’ interests.


>How can Midem be useful in this evolution?

Midem provides a platform that allows artists and music professionals from all around the world to connect and work towards common goals. As the leading event for the international music ecosystem, and by organizing this forum in Africa, we want to create the opportunity for music creators and related rights owners in Africa to learn from the global music communities. We truly believe that, by creating a dialogue and allowing music executives to meet, ideas grow and business opportunities come for African artists and professionals around the world.


>How do you see the African music industry in the next few years?

Africa is an artistic volcano! There have been fantastic “eruptions” when major artists have broken through on the international stage, from Youssou’N Dour to Wizkid, Angélique Kidjio, Fela Kuti, Magic System, Cesaria Evora, Yemi Alade and Oumou Sangaré, to name only a few, but there could be so much more.

The potential is massive, and I am convinced the next “Despacito” will come from Africa in the near future. There is incredible talent and appetite for great music and the world is ready to discover new artists coming from the continent and bringing their unique sound to the global music scene.

Beyond a “one hit wonder”, a truly structured African music industry and a strong network of music professionals throughout the continent can create a new era for African artists to reach truly global audiences, to tour internationally and create strong music partnerships.


Find out more about the African Forum programme here.

from midemblog