There were numerous talking points at Music Ally’s 2013: A Survival Guide event in London last night, with Universal Music global head of digital business Francis Keeling’s slapdown of ‘windowing’ album releases to hold them back from streaming services one of the biggest.
“Us trying to implement windowing in our business is a complete disaster, it’s the wrong thing to do, and can only alienate the fanbases,” said Keeling.
Universal Music is a broad church, with some artists’ managers being notably keen to support streaming (e.g. Justin Bieber) and others… not so much (Rihanna). Keeling’s words hint at the discussions going on behind the scenes between major labels, managers and streaming services like Spotify.
That said, there was some discussion last night about whether windowing itself is less the problem than bad implementation and explanation of the system. “There’s no understanding of how windows on television or why they work,” said fellow panellist Joe Cohen.
Other talking points included FAC co-CEO Crispin Hunt calling for more transparency and inclusion of artists in digital dealmaking – “It’s got to become more transparent: the way that these new deals are done… Artists have to be included in that, or we won’t be able to make art any more” – and Keeling talking about Universal’s belief in a swing back towards ad-funded music. “Advertising is not something we should be afraid of. We should embrace it, and use it to fund a lot of what we’re doing,” he said.
But perhaps the strongest thing that came through was the notion that digital music still isn’t anywhere near enough of a mainstream proposition.
“The thing you often forget is you’re in a bubble. There’s a lot of people in the world who still buy CDs. They’re the mass-market,” said Columbia Records’ Karen Piper, backed up by we7’s Steve Purdham. “Walk down the streets, there are more people who don’t stream music today, or who don’t listen to it, than there are who do. That’s what we’ve got to unleash.”