British labels body the BPI has a new boss from today, with Dr Jo Twist OBE taking up the CEO role vacated by Geoff Taylor – since hired as EVP of AI for Sony Music.
Twist’s appointment was announced earlier this year, and she joins from British games-industry trade body Ukie, where she has been CEO since 2012. So what’s in her in-tray this morning? Here are Music Ally’s thoughts, which are relevant well beyond this specific organisation and its home market.
First, there’s the streaming economy. Taylor’s last couple of years at the BPI encompassed a parliamentary inquiry into streaming economics (which was tougher on labels than they would have hoped); a market investigation by competition regulator the CMA (which was more in line with their views); and the launch of government-convened working groups to tackle some of the key challenges in streaming and the industry.
Twist joins as a new working group launches that could be the punchiest one yet: covering remuneration for musicians. The BPI is walking something of a tightrope: obliged to defend the interests of its members (the biggest of whom aren’t keen on new models like equitable remuneration or user-centric payouts) while also working to ease tensions with musicians’ representatives and find compromises and collaboration.
Second, there’s another tightrope: AI. The music industry has been setting out its stall on creative AI, which we’ll summarise as ‘it can be great and helpful, but it can also be bad and dangerous, so it needs regulating, and musicians and rightsholders need protecting – and by the way here are our ideas for regulations and protections‘.
Under Twist’s leadership, the BPI will continue to press for these policy goals, including persuading the government not to return to its previous idea of giving AI developers a legal exception enabling them to train their models on copyrighted material without permission. However, it’s important that the BPI doesn’t ignore the positive side of AI technologies: there’s a valuable educational role it can play in helping its label members make the most of those.
Also on the new boss’s to-do list are music exports, for like all industry bodies, part of its role is helping homegrown artists to punch their weight (or even above it) on the global stage, at a time when language barriers are tumbling, and thus competition is coming from Latin America, South Korea and other new powerhouses.
20% growth in British recorded-music exports last year and an increase in funding for the BPI’s Music Exports Growth Scheme (MEGS) are recent bright spots that provide a platform to continue tackling this challenge. Twist and her team’s task will be to devise more initiatives and strategies, just as their peers around the world will be doing.
Also on the priority list for the BPI is diversity, equity and inclusion. The organisation’s senior management team – Twist, chief strategy officer Sophie Jones; COO MJ Olaore; chair YolandDa Brown and general counsel Kiaron Whitehead – already reflects the changing business, but there is more work to be done in the wider industry.
Today, the co-founder of the PRS Foundation’s Power Up initiative has criticised “the resurgence of injustices, lack of equity, and inequality” in the industry.
Meanwhile, at a hearing in the British parliament’s inquiry into misogyny in music earlier this year, several women’s industry organisations made it clear that they struggle to secure the funding they need to do their current work, let alone more ambitious programmes. The BPI can’t solve these problems alone, but it can play an important role.
Two more things. First, live music. The BPI’s focus may be on labels and recorded music, but Twist joins at a time when there are real fears for the health of the UK’s grassroots live circuit. Independent venues are vital for the new talent who represent the lifeblood of the BPI’s members. There is scope for more links between the recorded music industry and the live sector – charity the Music Venue Trust will surely have some ideas – and financial support.
Finally, the BPI’s new boss comes from the games industry, and that’s a strong positive (and not just because it means she’s not yet worn down by British music-industry infighting). Building more cross-industry links and helping members learn and take inspiration from games innovation – although PLEASE, not loot boxes – would be valuable.
That’s something that plays neatly into the BPI’s evolution in recent years with initiatives like the Music & Tech Springboard Programme (originally a partnership with Music Ally) placing an emphasis on innovative music startups and the work they can do with labels and artists.
Being the head of a music industry body involves a certain amount of unavoidable shouting about Bad And Wrong applications of new technologies. But a just-as-important part of the job is helping the industry to forge links with the good actors in tech who’ll be key partners in the years ahead.