#83 Newsletter Editorial - Reasons To Be Cheerful

01 Nov 2011

Credits: dullhunk@flickr

The world is in the midst of a global financial and economic crisis.  Last week European leaders arguably saved a faltering Euro by agreeing to write off 50% of Greek debt and set aside 1 trillion Euros to promote financial stability.  Closer to home, protesters at St. Paul’s argue that capitalism is broken, and banking and political systems are to blame.

Juxtaposed against all this doom and gloom, the UK recordings business isn’t faring too badly.  Illustrated perhaps most acutely by Adele’s continuing domination of the US Billboard chart with 21 in its 13th week at no.1, and 19 not far behind, the independent sector’s continuing success sets a positive tone for AIM’s forthcoming inaugural Independent Music Awards, an event so popular it could have sold out its ticket allocation many times over.  We’ll report from it in the next MusicTank newsletter.

But it’s not just indies who are in the pink.  On the digital side of the business there’s a lot to shout about too, with anticipation building for Google’s new music service, which if it’s as innovative as is reckoned, when aligned with Google’s core search service, could give iTunes a run for its money.  Elsewhere, smartphone apps are creating a new land-rush of innovation, with some promoting (or in Björk’s case actually constituting) frontline artist releases and others, like Universal’s Timewheel app, breathing new life into catalogue sales.  Meanwhile, the growing use of HTML 5 is releasing Apple’s stranglehold on iOS Apps, enabling the creation of apps that circumvent Apple’s 30% fee of in-app purchases.

While there’s clearly a bright future for apps, given there’s no single format for music apps and no single player enabling people to group and play the various music apps they have together – a sort of iTunes for apps – we are some distance away from music apps becoming a new format for music.  But we believe that it can only be a matter of time before apps have their own iTunes moment (just as MP3 downloads did in 2004). There are companies today working on exactly such technologies – all of which makes 2012 set to become a very interesting year.

Continuing the theme of innovation, this newsletter features the first in a series of exclusive editorials on the subject by Keith Jopling, who chairs the BPI’s Innovation Committee, set up last year to accelerate the development of the UK’s digital music market.  He outlines three key areas of digital music innovation that need development if the recordings business is to encourage the creation of long term sustainable music services and formats.

There’s been another development this summer that cannot have been missed by many who work across the UK music business and that is that Tim Ingham has taken over the reins at a Music Week magazine that was itself taken over by publishing group Intent Media over the summer.

One time Music Week Editor Steve Redmond neatly described the vital importance of Music week on ERA’s blog: “Its most important function… is to hold up a mirror to the industry it represents. It’s a magnifying mirror which makes that business look bigger. Take it away and the business is diminished.”

But apart from all of us benefiting from the fact that Music Week still exists, we should all be relieved it’s found such a good home: an energetic, fresh and keen publishing team who are not only aware of the task ahead of themselves but are relishing it.

The process of change at the magazine has only really just begun, and is set to continue until Xmas at least. It’s a process of experimentation, and as with any experiment, not everything will go right every time. What’s important though is the energy they are bringing to the publication – again, coming up with regular innovations, trying things out, keeping them if they work and dropping them if they fail – an attitude and way of working which all of us need to adopt if we are to take this business forward.

Of course the music trade media landscape has changed over the last decade and we are all of us lucky to be in a position to benefit from the service that Record of the Day, Music Ally and CMU provide.  But it’s Music Week that’s read outside our industry, and which more than any other magazine represents our business to others, be they in government, neighbouring industries or other countries.

So while it’s not quite a return to the “good old days” (whenever they were), as the skies cloud over and nights creep in, it still feels good to be part of an industry that is as alive and new as ever.

Edtorial by Sam Shemtob

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