Why indie labels are looking to thrive not just survive in 2017


Delivering the opening keynote at AIM’s Music Connected event in London, Kieron Faller, general manager at CI, talked about how recent years for record labels may have been about battling against declining fortunes but now the pain barrier had been passed through, the coming years should be about enjoying the renaissance.

“The last few years have largely been about surviving as a sector and as an industry,” he said. “I think we are through that phase now. We can look forward. Instead of just surviving, we can look forward to thriving. It’s about thinking deeply about the opportunities that exist for your businesses, your artists and your music – and making the most of them.”

This was a point made earlier by Paul Pacifico, AIM’s CEO, in his opening remarks, expressing confidence in the coming years and (hopefully) putting the pain of the opening decade and a half of the millennium behind the industry.

“We are in a music market that feels optimistic,” said Pacifico. “It’s growing and the potential is there. AIM’s challenge is to change with the market – with you and with your businesses. To lead change and to make sure we are relevant. To follow up, to fight with you and make sure that we get the absolute best out of the opportunities ahead.”

Faller began his keynote by referencing yesterday’s publication of 2016 global sales figures by the IFPI where the market was seen to grow by 5.9%.

“There has been a real sea change in the past few years – which we all know have been tough,” he said. “We have got through it as a sector and as an industry. Now we are really at the stage where things can start to really become hugely positive for us. The reason is that growth is back […] That is just such a massive change from where we have been in the past few years.”

Faller described the US growth of 11.5% last year as “insane” and felt it heralded a new future for the record business. “The amount of opportunity that that provides for us as a sector is just absolutely fantastic,” he said.

From this, he spoke about “the classic S-curve of growth” that most digital businesses are seeing – from Facebook to the record labels – and how much more potential there is to grow.

“My view is that we are still at the beginning stages of this curve,” argued Faller. “We are only seeing 100m or so paying subscribers for streaming services across the world. That’s a world of 7bn people – 4bn of whom have internet access. We are at 110m now and we are seeing those growth figures – just imagine the next three, four, five years.”

He continued, “We are at this inflection point where streaming is going to be exploding in popularity. That is going to be a massive boon for us. It’s now about understanding the opportunities and making the most of the opportunities that are around the corner.”

Faller namechecked Spotify as a key factor in that growth – calling it “the market leader in what is still a very nascent market”. He used this to talk about Merlin’s recent re-licensing deal with the company and how it is “helping the indies address streaming on a very level playing field with the majors”.

He was unapologetic about his brimming confidence about the coming years and the market growth that will follow – which certainly makes a refreshing change from the howls of pain that have dominated industry conferences since 2000.

“We have stayed the course this far as a sector,” he said. “It is time to reap the rewards of the work that we have put in over the last few years.”

Eamonn Forde

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