Last week we attended AIM’s annual Indie-Con, which was full of great panels with people from all over the indie music sector. We’ve narrowed down some key points in the context of Music Week editor Tim Ingham’s “5 most interesting things happening in the music market right now” speech.
We found this particularly interesting because instead of focusing on music as the title suggests, Tim concentrated on things happening in several other industries that the music industry could learn from.
1) The coffee industry
Noel Gallagher recently got a bit cross when speaking to Noisey. “It infuriates me that people are more willing to sit in a coffee shop and spend a tenner on two coffees, talking about the weather with their friends, and that coffee will last 45 minutes,” he said, “yet, they will physically get angry at you for asking them to buy an album for a tenner that will last a lifetime and might tell you about yourself and might even change your life”.
As Tim tells us, the UK coffee market is worth a staggering £6.3 billion, compared to the value of the entire UK music industry which falls at around £3.5 billion. Coffee and music are obviously two very different things, so why has Noel Gallagher got a point comparing the two? Coffee is a communal, non-interruptive experience. Music also shares these attributes, but is the industry really taking advantage of this? There is some evidence to suggest so – Rough Trade, for example, has been very successful with its stores that provide this communal experience, but as a whole the industry seems to be crying out for more innovation in this area.
2) The digital film and video games industries
The UK digital film market, made up primarily of Netflix, Amazon Prime, and iTunes, is worth £621 million in the UK, about double that of the UK digital music industry. Meanwhile the UK gaming industry is worth a staggering £2 billion. So what are they doing that we could learn from?
Video games and interactivity
One of the key things that the gaming industry encourages is interactivity. We’ve reached an age where music fans enjoy interacting with music (and each other) more than ever, and yet this isn’t being fully taken advantage of. “I find it quite odd”, says Tim, “that in an age where people have started to really enjoy creating their own music playlists at home, that major labels in particular think that the correct strategy to take advantage of this is to make the playlists for them.”
The music industry needs to encourage this interaction, and improve the experience that people have of curating and sharing their own playlists. With digital tools like Spotify at our disposal, playlists are becoming an increasingly large part of our musical diet. As George Ergatoudis, Head of Music at BBC Radio 1 & 1Xtra explains later that day, “what consumers want is a mood, or a function; a dinner party, going to the gym, going for a run.” We enjoy this process of creating and building our own playlists, yet this seems to be an area of the industry that is largely underrated.
The digital film market and episodic content
Netflix is all about episodic content, which keeps its subscribers coming back for more. This is something the music industry increasingly needs to think about with regards to new releases. In response to the question “is the album format dead?”, Alexander Milas, editor of Metal Hammer magazine suggests that the real question is “whether the album format is evolving”. It’s harder than ever for an artist to be heard above the noise and stay relevant, so dropping great content in short forms is arguably a very powerful way to keep reminding people that you’re there.
There’s also a real issue of quality nowadays, as is discussed in a panel that day. Classic albums from artists like The Beatles were shorter than they are now, and there’s an argument that the CD allowed artists to fill up more time with inadequate songs. By releasing episodic content, bands can really focus on quality over quantity, leaving people wanting more. “There’s lots of benefits of doing it like that” says George Ergatoudis, “I’m expecting to see shorter albums and more EP’s coming into the market – I know it’s going to happen.”
3) The ethical personal product market
As Tim tells us, the ethical personal product market (clothes, cosmetics, etc) is worth £1.8 billion in the UK, its value doubling since 2001. As consumers we’re caring more and more about our ethical shopping choices – we buy free range eggs, we’re willing to pay more for items with the ‘fair trade’ logo, and so on. Yet we don’t seem to apply the same attitude to the music market.
A recent article in Noisey told us that (unsurprisingly) lots of huge UK rock band members still have day jobs, and in some cases are struggling to pay rent. In his speech Tim suggests that the industry should be pushing this as a proud marketing message. “Music can learn from this and be proud of the fact that it’s representing people who are trying their best to make ends meet.”
4) The premium audio products market
The global premium headphones market alone was worth a ridiculous $4 billion in 2013, close to a third of the value of the entire global recorded music industry. Yet despite its intrinsic link to music product, this market does not pay the music industry a single dime.
“What the music industry should take away from the explosion in this market is that people wat high quality music”, explains Tim. “They’ve brought products specifically to listen to high quality music and yet they go and play a shitty product.” Should the music industry not be pointing this out to us? Should they not be telling those people who buy sonos/beats/etc. that there are premium products that will better suit their needs?
5) The bottom line
If we take some of these lessons and apply them to the music industry, perhaps consumers will be more willing to pay for music, and to pay more for premium products. One of the most refreshing things about this conference is the “can-do” attitude of independent companies. “You always have to be forward thinking” says Toby L of Transgressive Records. If the indie market can apply this resilient attitude and consider what can be learnt from other industries as Tim suggests, the future of the music industry will be in pretty safe hands.