At the height of Ministry of Sound’s legal disputes with Spotify, and accompanying speculation about whether streaming will ultimately kill the traditional compilation album, Swedish firm X5 Music was often held up as a new model.
It curated compilations as streaming playlists, driving big spikes in streams for the catalogues of its partners – initially in the classical-music world before branching out.
Yesterday’s news that Warner Music Group has bought X5 Music – with reports in Sweden suggesting the price may have been $25m – is the latest sign of major labels doubling down in their efforts to do more with playlists and streaming curation.
WMG, remember, already bought British startup Playlists.net in October 2014, and has adopted its Topsify brand as the imprint for the label group’s own playlists on Spotify.
There is pause for thought over X5’s price as reported by Swedish startups-news site Breakit – $25m for a company that has raised nearly $22m since 2005 (according to CrunchBase) isn’t a huge exit. We’ll stress that the price has not been officially confirmed yet by either party, though.
X5’s experience will come in useful as WMG tries to make more money from its back catalogue on streaming services. “We have a good model that works and everything is going great, but we don’t have all the music in the world in our database. Combined with Warner, we will have almost half of all the old classic hits,” X5 boss Johan Lagerlöf told Breakit.
Set WMG’s latest playlists move against what its rivals are up to. In August 2015, Universal Music appointed industry veteran Jay Frank as its SVP of global streaming marketing, taking a stake in his streaming-marketing companies DigSin and DigMark in the process.
UMG also has a number of playlist brands under its umbrella: Digster, This Is, Hits, Radio Active, Hype, 100% and Record Club. Sony Music, meanwhile, is currently recruiting a director of global playlisting strategy to “drive a targeted and forward-thinking playlist strategy” for the group – which also has its own Filtr playlists brand.
The trend hovering behind all this, though, is that much of the playlisting power still rests with the streaming services.
Spotify and Apple Music’s in-house playlists drive a significant percentage of their overall streams already, and there’s yet to be firm evidence that the majors’ own playlist brands can cut through to attract big, engaged followings to compare.
Which, of course, is what’s driving all of the moves listed above, as they try to change that.