YouTube removing the ladder under the music industry
The Wall Street Journal are running their Tech Cafe the for second year, in Shoreditch in the heart of London’s tech scene. This morning the music industry was firmly in the spotlight, with former Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason giving his take.
What became clear was that despite continuing love of vinyl records, it is online, through socially shared content, where the music industry is moving. Both Mason and those asking him questions had a huge focus on the effect of Spotify and, more pertinently, YouTube.
On Spotify, Mason revealed that there was initial scepitism amongst artists about the model, because so little of the money per play goes to the artist. He said that “£130 for one million plays doesn’t really seem enough”. However, he did declare that “streaming is the future” of the music industry.
Given this, and the cherry picking nature of streamed music, there was a discussion about how releases will come to be formatted, and the fact that albums no longer need to be a defined hour long unit. The drummer noted that there is “no basis that we’re still working on the vinyl album” format i.e eight to 10 tracks over one hour. Record labels seem to be a long way behind embracing the new opportunities digital music gives them.
Mason also believes that some of the old “rungs of the ladder are missing” now in the music industry, mostly due to the following a band can build up by publishing their music to YouTube and engaging on platforms like Facebook. Bands can now build up a huge fanbase using web and social tools, and new bands can be discovered and shared online long before they are signed to a record label, in a way they previously would have done by playing pubs and clubs. Huge artists such as Lady GaGa and Madonna have also used social media to build online tribes, and have fans buy into their brand like never before.
Given the huge growth in streaming music, labels and artists still cannot really drill down into who is listening to their content. When someone hits play on YouTube or Spotify, they don’t really know who that person is. Yet. There was a belief amongst both the audience and Nick Mason that databases would be developed and expanded in order to gather all the data that comes from socially shared digital music formats, so that every play of a song is properly recorded. It might seem a bit frightening to us users, but bands and labels are not going to leave such a resource untapped for too much longer.
Thanks to YouTube and Spotify the world of digital music is moving quickly, and the industry is having to catch up.