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U.K. SPOTLIGHT: CONNECTING
THE DOTS

As they are with their label brethren and sistren, the advent of the Streaming Age and the globalization of the biz are foremost in the minds of U.K. publishers, who are generally quite optimistic about the direction of the industry.

With publishers in particular, the issue of compensation from streaming raises a number of complex issues, even as they recognize the format’s potential to grow music consumption substantially.

Sony/ATV U.K. Managing Director and President of European Creative Guy Moot reflects the views of many in the pub sector as regards the format. “We are overwhelmingly positive about the opportunities streaming brings,” says Moot, “although we have to ensure the economics work properly and songwriters are paid fairly for the essential contribution they make to these services. From an A&R perspective we are going to have to adapt to reflect the way people now consume music and where they discover it and the artists behind the songs. We’ve been heading down this path for a long time in any case, but streaming will mean the market in the future will become even more about the hits.”

Moot describes “beacons” that draw listeners to artists and enhance discovery, and sees streaming as an opportunity to work more directly with services to shine a light on the pubco’s writers, songs and catalogs. “While there are clearly challenges in this market overall,” he adds, “we are very excited about what lies ahead.”

Warner/Chappell U.K. Managing Director Richard Manners expresses a similarly qualified optimism, and underscores the need for more aggressive outreach—and perhaps more intuitive navigation—from the services themselves.

“Streaming is being embraced by young listeners, which is promising,” he notes. “However, there needs to be more promotion to get mass-market take up. It’d be good to see widespread marketing of streaming services this Christmas. Apple Music works brilliantly for me, but I think an easier interface might encourage wider adoption.” Manners also says he looks forward to the BBC’s streaming app, as the Beeb has “proven expertise in making casual listening easy and compelling at the same time.”

Speaking of the need to “bring as many entrepreneurs as possible back into our ecosystem,” UMPG VP International Industry and Legal Affairs Jackie Alway notes that the pubco’s recent global conference in L.A. provided a chance for a wide-ranging discussion of how to optimize streaming. “[Worldwide head] Jody [Gerson]’s directive is to take a global, holistic approach in everything we do,” Alway notes, “so we work together and review every local or regional negotiation or deal as to how it can impact our company and writers worldwide.”

Still in all, the possibilities represented by streaming and other digital platforms outstrip any skepticism. “For us,” says Good Soldier Songs founder/chief Christian Tattersfield, who transitioned from ruling Warner U.K. to launching the indie firm, “it’s all about the growth of streaming and the global reach of the Internet.”

 A more globally interconnected industry, meanwhile—brought into greater sync, as it were, by the growth of digital media—presents greater possibilities than ever for songwriters to reach across territories and find new audiences and opportunities. Moot hails the “the long-established pan-European A&R setup Sony/ATV has in place” that enables writers “to realize their full international potential.” He underscores that the company’s “entire A&R setup is designed for us to get our writers on big releases outside the U.K. It’s a truly international business now, which is why we do everything we can to identify and then to make the most of the opportunities available to our writers across the whole of Europe as well as in the U.S. and increasingly in Japan and South East Asia.” 

“The best way to get writers on big records overseas,” offers Manners, “is to have a big record domestically. You can then leverage relationships, especially in L.A. and Stockholm, to build their careers and develop their co-writing opportunities. There’s no substitute for the personal touch—writers and publishers and managers need to work relentlessly on meetings and creating the right environment in which to ‘get lucky.’” 

Frank Tope, UMPG U.K.’s Sr. Director of A&R, points out that in addition to strong relationships with writers in other territories, “we have a dedicated international A&R team here in Mark Gale and Elizabeth Troughton, who work tirelessly to put our writers in international sessions and to promote them to A&R teams in territories across the world. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that we do always strive to sign genuinely world-class songwriters and artists.”

As the “global marketplace” expands, the drive to build the business in previously untapped or underserved territories ramps up. Several of these boast massive populations, emerging urban middle classes, mobile infrastructure and a keen hunger for global pop culture—though many of their music fans have previously obtained its products only through illicit means.

“Digital holds the key to U.S. and U.K. music company success in China, India and Africa,” insists Sony/ATV Head of International Guy Henderson. “Apart from South Africa, which has had a well-developed music market for decades, all three regions have historically been blighted by physical piracy,” which has stunted development.

Henderson believes “appropriately priced, telco-driven digital services” will be the driver for growth in new markets, and other changes give more reason to be upbeat. “With recent government support for copyright and the emergence of legitimate digital aggregators in China, a change in the copyright law in India and the advent of pan-African digital licensing out of South Africa, music companies are better placed than ever to develop local artists and songwriters in all three regions and also monetize their global repertoire for the first time.”

Another London-based exec, Andrew Jenkins, UMPG EVP Asia Pacific Region & Industry Affairs, describes his company’s work in this area as “progressive,” noting, “We continually invest to expand revenue opportunities for our artists and writers. “ He emphasizes the necessity of “a custom approach to each market—which includes having a local presence, developing local relationships, researching and listening to what sells. These emerging markets work differently than the U.K., so it’s important to take an interest in the artists and charts of each local market, have extreme patience and a mid- to long-term strategy. ”  

In a period of dizzying change on multiple fronts, the publishers we approached clearly understand they can’t sing the same old song. But the new refrain is definitely in a major key, whatever one’s reservations.

For Tattersfield, connecting the aforementioned dots—streaming growth, global interconnection and the opening of vast new markets—reveals a big new bottom line. “From our perspective, this is the beginning of the golden era,” he observes. “If you have real hits you can reach a global audience with a speed like never before. “I expect to see worldwide paid-for streaming numbers to massively increase in the next 12 months, and when we reach the tipping point with the public, the sky’s the limit.”

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