Music biz changing its tune on streaming

Michael Dean/Informa Telecoms and Media
Over the 28th to 31st of January, the music industry once again descended on Cannes for the annual institution that is Midem. Being on the trade floor this year and looking through the conference agenda, one prevailing theme was apparent; there has been shift in opinion from the wider industry and labels towards subscription music streaming services.
 
Whereas a year or so ago services such as Spotify and Deezer were still being eyed up with suspicion, they are now finding themselves being championed from within the industry as a real force for change and good.
 
Indeed before the event, much publicity was given to the recent statement by UMG (Universal Music Group) President of global digital business, Rob Wells, in which he said “the idea that Spotify cannibalizes sales is bogus.”
 
Wells was referring to recent extensive research the label had conducted that dispelled the conventional assumptions or opinions that streaming services will, over the long term, have a detrimental effect on the music industry. This of course only publically represents the opinion of one label; however as the largest of the ‘big four’ it’s safe to assume that it stands as a pretty clear barometer of a wider shift in opinion within the industry.
 
In fact, just yesterday, the outgoing Chairman of WMG (Warner Music Group) Edgar Bronfman Jr. described Spotify as “incrementally positive.” He was speaking at the D: Dive Into Media Conference in California and his opinion contrasts with his views last year that Spotify provided “no net benefit” to WMG.
 
Wells was in attendance at the Midem this year, sitting in on a panel discussion with representatives from Google, Amazon and the Indy label association, Merlin. During the session, he was keen to highlight that despite historic difficulties it is now easier than ever for a streaming service to have a discussion with UMG about licensing its content. However he did point out that the newer or less well known a service, the longer it takes for the cogs of decision-making to turn within what he described as the ‘Universal cave’.
 

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