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FastForward to the future of the music business

FastForward to the future of the music business

CHAIR: Chris Carey, Media Insight Consulting (UK)

Guest speakers included:
Farhana Aboo, AEI Group (UK)
Felix Canetty-Clarke, Sony/ATV (UK)
Anna-Sophie Mertens, Live Nation UK
Emily Scoggins, Marketing Consultant (UK)

Futures Forum’s second Room 1 panel focused on the future of the wider music business, with figures from live, recording, publishing and digital examining how the industry will develop in the years ahead.

Sony/ATV’s Felix Canetty-Clarke opened by talking about voice-controlled smart speakers, warning against the monopolisation of the sector by Amazon’s Alexa device. “There’s a risk that if Amazon are in charge of voice, if you say ‘play me pop’ or ‘play me rock,’ the music that follows is entirely dictated by Amazon, which is quite scary. So, unless you’re asking for something specific, you’re effectively listening to music through a funnel that they [Amazon] are controlling.”

Marketing consultant Emily Scoggins noted than an over-reliance by consumers on voice control could lead to problems for “bands like Chvrches or Pvris, whose names don’t sound how they’re spelt” (pronounced ‘Churches’ and ‘Paris’, respectively).

Moving onto the question of stage times – beloved by the average fan but hated by support bands ­– Scoggins said she “love[s] to see them”, but other panellists weren’t so sure.

“I once went to Brixton Academy to see the support band,” said Canetty-Clarke, “and there were less than 50 people there, in a 5,000-capacity venue.”

“On the one hand you want to inform your consumers,” added Live Nation UK’s Anna-Sophie Mertens, “but if they’re only there to see the headliner ­– and the headliner isn’t on until nine or ten – they’re not going to get there early to see the support act.”

Chair Chris Carey then asked about artist development, and specifically whose responsibility it is. Farhana Aboo spoke about AEI Group’s work supporting unsigned artists through its various online channels.

“Previously you’d need a label, as there was no Internet to reach a wide audience,” she explained. “We support artists by getting them uploads on channels. So we are developing them but in a different kind of way, then we jump in [later] with backing from label side.”

The company also provides NCS (copyright-free) music for vloggers, Twitch streamers and other online content creators.

"I remember passing through an open door to an area that had people gaming, and I couldn’t believe everyone was watching two guys sitting in chairs racing cars"

Mertens said she’ll also “be promoting shows before a label event gets involved. When it’s a really small 70-capacity venue there’s no money to be made – if anything I’m actually paying for that show – but hopefully at some point they’ll be playing Brixton [Academy] and bigger and you get the money back.”

Canetty-Clarke highlighted the importance of playlisting but cautioned that there’s a temptation to see an artist’s streaming numbers as a “failure if they’re not [immediately] global ­– there’s something to be said for starting local and growing it from there.”

On the future of audiences for music, and entertainment more widely, Scoggins ­– formerly head of marketing at The O2 London ­– recalled her first exposure to the e-sports sector, which will continue to grow in size. “I remember passing through an open door to an area that had people gaming, and I couldn’t believe everyone was watching two guys sitting in chairs racing cars,” she said.

Aboo said the growth of alternative forms of digital entertainment has the potential to grow ‘live’ audiences beyond what was traditionally possible.

“Lots of people live in places where there aren’t any shows,” she concluded. “I heard of a girl who came downstairs and proudly proclaimed to her parents that she’d been to her first concert – and it was Marshmello in Fortnite.”