Once again its award season in the music business. In the USA well have the Grammies (which are a worldwide benchmark) and in the UK the Brits. Both award ceremonies are designed as marketing tools, to highlight the ‘best’ recordings and product out there. Following the high point of the holiday season where sales are at their highest, the award ceremonies help keep the music and acts in the public eye.
Columns and web pages will be focused on these events. The industry hopes, as always, that they will create a direct boost in sales for the nominated acts (and winners) and indirectly get people into record shops or online stores, where they might pick up other music whilst browsing.
In the UK we seem to allow the story of how well our acts are doing in the USA to dominate proceedings. It is similar to the Oscars. Even though we have our own ceremonies (the Brits for music and BAFTAS for movies) we still think that doing well at US ceremonies is key. Thats not a ridiculous position, in that the USA is a huge market. However, surely what matters just as much is whether those acts are funded by US or UK labels. Its possible to have US acts which are owned by UK labels, and in many ways its healthy to have a portfolio of acts from around the world.
Additionally, perhaps we should be concentrating on how well UK labels (or acts) are doing in other markets, such as Russia, China, India and Japan. Clearly those are difficult markets and not worth as much as the USA. Japan, excluded, all those markets have major piracy problems, but the potential for growth there is huge. If UK labels don’t invest in those markets (accepting that in the short term they might loose money) then they will loose out. At some point a home grown market will emerge from those markets, and if not challenged will could then ‘dump’ content back on our market.
This is not an argument for cultural protectionism, but for cultural aggressiveness. Just as the UK strives to have its content do well in the states, a mature well developed market, it should also be making huge steps into these new markets. Finding great talent, and developing it. Perhaps adopting different business models for different markets. After all, how much music do major labels sell in Africa? Not a lot as they do not see their model working there. However there is a working model out there and there is money to be made, its just a different model to the one in the USA, EU, Australia and Japan.
Of course these award ceremonies are built very much around the traditional model. The idea of having an album of the year award, helps market a bulk of work in one go, but how many people actually buy albums over buying individual downloads? How many people are now just streaming the odd song?
What happens if artists sell a subscription or membership to their channel and then drip feed songs. They might never be packaged as an album, but are just a stream of content released over a long period of time. We can still have song of the year, and Act of the year though. I would expect that as new formats take form, we will see a change to these ceremonies.
For now though we are sometime away from that reality, so lets sit back and enjoy the fact that the Brits are back in town. Again.