Amazon has rolled out a new service in the US that allows users to store music in a digital locker that can be accessed from any PC or Android-powered mobile device. The latest issue of Music & Copyright takes a look at why the launch has prompted a significant amount of debate over its legality. Amazon claims it needs no license for simple remote storage. Continue reading
New research from Music & Copyright reveals that Universal Music Group (UMG) extended its lead over second placed Sony Music Entertainment (SME) last year following an increase in its market share for recorded music sales. Although SME lost share, it remained a long way ahead of its nearest rival WMG. Continue reading
In some ways South Korea’s music industry could be considered unique. It is one of a small number of markets that have reported growth in recorded-music sales, and for several years digital sales have exceeded physical. All of this has been achieved through the government’s emphasis on turning South Korea into the most “wired” country in the world. Virtually all households are connected to a high-speed broadband service, and mobile penetration exceeds 100%, with almost all members of the population able to own a mobile now having one. Continue reading
In the latest issue of Music & Copyright we included a special focus on cloud-based music services. It’s no secret that cloud technology offers the music industry enormous potential to reignite the digital sector at a time when the a la carte model of downloading is showing signs of age. Licensing issues have hindered rollouts and it would seem that the big players are waiting for a decision in the MP3tunes.com case before staking their claim. Continue reading
Coming as it did just two days before Christmas Eve, the announcement went almost unnoticed. But it was a biggie: Media giant News Corp. divested itself of its ailing mobile entertainment arm, Fox Mobile Group (FMG), selling it to industrial conglomerate Jesta Group, a newcomer to the mobile content scene with interests in a disparate assortment of industries, including real estate, hospitality, manufacturing, technology and aviation. Continue reading
The recent announcement by Google that it is upping its game to tackle online copyright infringement received a guarded welcome by rights holders. The response by the BPI’s Geoff Taylor summed up the reaction when he said that “this package of measures, while welcome, still ignores the heart of the problem that Google search overwhelmingly directs consumers looking for music and other digital entertainment to illegal sites.” Continue reading
With much of the hype surrounding the Beatles’ music being added to iTunes now starting to fade, all attention is turning to chart placings for both single tracks and the albums. Despite Apple winning the race to secure the digital exclusive on the Beatles, CD versions of the albums are likely to see a sales increase on the back of all the free advertising.
Music & Copyright has conducted a quick survey of some of the leading online CD retailers in the UK to see what, if any, pricing differences exist between the digital versions offered by iTunes and the retailers’ CD versions. The results were quite surprising. Continue reading
France is one of a small number of countries that have recently experienced dramatic turnarounds in music sales after several years of sharp declines. According to trade association Syndicat National de l’Edition Phonographique (SNEP), the reversal in fortune began in the second half of last year and continued into the first six months of this year. Total trade revenue from recorded-music sales was up 4.1%, to €239.3 million (US$318.4 million), compared with €229.9 million in 1H09.
At this time last year, SNEP was reporting a different picture, with total trade revenues down a whopping 17.8% year-on-year in 1H09. The dramatic improvement is considered by many to have been the result of the publicity surrounding the passage of tougher legislation to control file sharing. The French body HADOPI, which is coordinating the three-strikes antipiracy measures, has undertaken a public-awareness campaign to explain how the process will work and is thought to have already started contacting ISPs to get hold of the identities of suspected file sharers.
But a comparison of the 1H10 figures with the 1Q10 figures SNEP published in May suggests that the turnaround might not be as pronounced as it seems. According to SNEP, trade revenues from physical-album sales were down 2% year-on-year in 1H10, to €169.8 million. But in 1Q10, physical-album sales were up 4% year-on-year. This suggests that in 2Q10, physical-album sales were down about 8% year-on-year.
For hard-format music videos, much of the 53.2% growth seen in 1H10 came in the second quarter. Music & Copyright has calculated that music-video sales were up about 150% year-on-year in 2Q10. SNEP said that the high growth was largely due to strong sales of U2’s U2 360° At the Rose Bowl DVD and music-DVD releases by French-Canadian artist Mylene Farmer and local artist Johnny Hallyday. Overall physical-trade revenues were up 2.5% year-on-year in 1H10, and 1Q10 revenues alone were up 4.3%. This suggests that in 2Q10, overall physical trade revenues were flat year-on-year.
Breaking down the half-year figures by quarter raises serious questions about the digital sector. According to SNEP, Internet download sales were up 30.3% year-on-year in 1H10, and online singles accounted for the largest share of overall digital sales. But in the first quarter, year-on-year growth of online sales was much higher, at 50.5%. This means growth slowed considerably in the second quarter, to just 14%. Most concerning, however, is the overall digital figure. SNEP said that total digital sales were up 12% year-on-year in 1H10, to €42.9 million. But for the first quarter, year-on-year growth was 28.7%, to €23.1 million. This means that digital sales in the second quarter totaled €19.8 million, equivalent to a year-on-year fall of almost 3% and a quarter-on-quarter drop of 14%.
It is still too early to assess how tough legal action is affecting file-sharing, but the French music industry must be concerned that the quick turnaround in recorded-music sales could be coming to an equally abrupt end. French music-sales figures for 3Q10 might be buoyed by the action by HADOPI . But if further evidence emerges that the French music market is weakening, the link between tougher legislation and rising music sales might seem much less strong.
With the decline in recorded-music sales reaching something of a turning point in a number of markets, it seemed like a good time to analyze the retail sales of several music genres to see whether the downturn and subsequent stabilization have been equally divided across genres or whether some genres have suffered more than others. The analysis shows that pop and rock have strengthened their hold on music sales, while rap/hip-hop, the darling of the 1990s, has suffered a decline.
The discussions surrounding recorded-music sales and what to do to solve the decline in recent years has often dealt with recorded music as a single entity. There is also a commonly held assumption that all the musical genres and subgenres have suffered in equal measure. Music & Copyright has analyzed the retail sales of the different music genres over the previous decade to establish whether this is the case.
The results are, in part, not totally surprising, with pop and rock music tightening their grip on retail sales in the 2000s. But rap/hip-hop, which surged in the 1990s, slipped as public criticism mounted. Sales of jazz, classical and other smaller genres also fell off.
It is probably worth stating that the classification of any artist’s music into a single genre is fairly arbitrary and can differ between record company, music retailer and national trade association. Categorizing music within a genre can often have multiple influencing factors, such as musical technique, style, context, target audience and geographical origin. Moreover, many genres have subgenres that can overlap others. For example, media-management service Gracenote categorizes music into more than 1,600 individual genre categories. To confuse things even more, several studies have been published in recent years describing theoretical and scientific approaches to determining a music genre. However, for the purposes of this study, Music & Copyright has limited itself to the most commonly used genre categories by most national trade associations when presenting a breakdown of sales by genre.
The two most popular music genres in terms of retail sales over the past 10 years are pop and rock. According to Music & Copyright, retail sales of pop music stood at US$7.4 billion in 2009, while retail sales of rock music stood at US$6.5 billion. In terms of revenue share, pop accounted for 29.2% of global music-retail sales last year, with rock taking a 25.7% share. The closeness of the two genres at the end of the last decade was also apparent at the beginning. In 2000, pop had a global sales share of 27.8%, with rock at 22.7%. Despite a difference in year-to-year share performance, the retail-sales decline of the two genres in the previous decade has been fairly even: For pop, retail sales decreased 27.7%, while retail sales for rock fell 22.1%. However, both genres outperformed total music-retail sales, which fell 31% in 2009, to US$25.4 billion, from US$36.9 billion in 2000.
With pop and rock accounting for a combined retail-sales share of 55% in 2009, other genres have clearly underperformed when compared with the global sales decline. Music & Copyright has found that the retail value of rap/hip-hop sales dropped almost 50% between 2000 and 2009. It should be noted that the performance of particular genres of music that are more popular in some larger markets, such as the US and Japan, will also be reflected on a global level because of the high share of retail sales in those markets. However, rap/hip-hop has received criticism in recent years, particularly in the US, for its close association with violence. A poll a few years ago of black Americans conducted by the Associated Press and AOL-Black Voices found that half of all respondents described the genre as having a negative image.
Retail sales of classical music and jazz have also experienced a faster decline than the global average. For these genres, as well as some other genres grouped in this study as part of “other,” the reduction in floor space by brick-and-mortar retailers of slow-selling, low-margin genres in favor of better-selling items, such as DVDs, video games and consumer electronics, has had an impact on availability and subsequently sales. Moreover, the transition to digital and away from physical soundcarriers could be having a negative effect on the retail sales of the more-niche genres. For example, classical music is available online, but this on its own is not enough to secure sales. Except for searches for specific titles, browsing for classical music can be more restrictive online than in a physical store, because a consumer can see only what is displayed on his monitor at any one time. If digital-music services do not have helpful links, charts, submenus and subgenres, freely browsing a genre without significant background knowledge is almost impossible.
Although some genres that are more popular in a limited number of countries are included in this analysis, some are not. Country music, for example, is included, because it is more popular in the world’s biggest market, the US. The number of country-focused radio stations outnumbers most other genre-based stations. Because of this, a large number of country tracks figure in the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, which is based on airplay rather than sales. However, in terms of retail sales, the genre accounts for about 12%, compared with more than 30% for rock. Even so, despite much-lower retail sales of country music elsewhere in the world, the high level in the US resulted in a global share of 5.9% in 2009.
In contrast, religious and Latin genres – such as Musica Popular Brasileira, which itself incorporate subgenres such as samba and samba-cancao – sell well in many Latin American countries. But because Latin American countries account for a much lower share of global retail sales, these genres have been grouped as part of “other.” [Editor's note: please check the more recent genre blog which has more up to date figures for 2010]
If ever there was a perfect example of a new business model failing to achieve in the real world what looked so good on paper it is the subscription model of music consumption. Gaining access to all of the world’s music for the price of an album (plus a few extra bells and whistles) is a business model that has all the credentials to succeed but has so far failed to deliver.
To begin with, subscription download services attempted to promote their worth on the premise that they could provide access to millions of music tracks instantly. Consumers could download an unlimited number of tracks for a fixed fee. But the services failed to deal with consumer concerns that access to their downloads would be lost once their subscription lapsed. Subscriber numbers to such services, such as Rhapsody and Napster remain low. This is despite the fact that their service offering compares very favorably with other digital music services. Napster, for example, has now evolved from a subscription download service to one that offers a range of options. For example, in the UK it now offers three tiers that allow for unlimited streaming of approximately 10 million tracks but also includes a number of track downloads to keep depending on the subscription tier taken.
But it remains in the shadows of Spotify, which continues to attract significant media attention in the countries it operates. Spotify recently introduced a new lower-priced tier in all its seven European markets. For £4.99/€4.99, subscribers are provided with streamed music with no advertising but at a lower bit rate than the most expensive tier. Mobile access is also not offered and there is no offline facility. However, the new price brings Spotify into line with its main UK competitors. We7 added a £4.99 option to its advertising-supported service at the beginning of this year and Sky Songs, the subscription service from UK broadcaster BSkyB, quietly lowered its pricing to £4.99 in March.
The premium price point in the UK for PC-only streaming is clearly settling at around £5 per month with PC and mobile access at around £10. While the rollout and level of consumer interest in streaming in the UK is certainly not a blueprint for the rest of Europe, the popularity of music shown through high per capita spending in the country suggests that the UK is a market which will provide a good indication of the likely future success of music subscriptions.
At the moment, UK consumers favor the music-to-own model. According to “Evolution of Digital Media”, a survey conducted by OpinionMatters for the technology manufacturer Hewlett Packard (HP), 73.3% of those surveyed (respondents were aged 16 years and over) said they could not envisage a time when they would shift their consumption of music totally to a subscription model. However, 14.8% of respondents said they could envisage making a full switch to subscriptions within five years. If that actually happened, that would mean close to six million people in the UK would be using a subscription music service. If they were paying £5 per month, total annual retail revenues would be around £350 million. Compare this with subscription trade revenues in the UK last year, which totaled about £12 million, with advertising supported service revenues contributing a further £8 million.
Precise interpretations of these findings are, of course, very speculative at best, particularly as they are based on a very small sample of the UK population. Moreover, the survey contained no details on how much respondents would be prepared to pay for a subscription service and why the majority of respondents would not entertain using subscription services at all. The findings of a separate report, published by the law firm Wiggin and Entertainment Media Research, suggested a significant number of consumers would be willing to sign up to a subscription service if it was priced between £3.00 and £3.50. However, even at this lower rate, subscription revenues would generate in the region of £210 million to £250 million a year.
Is this going to happen? Probably not. Opinions given in surveys may provide an interesting and sometimes illuminating snapshot of consumer behavior at any one time, but, like subscription services, their findings look good only on paper. However, there is one factor that could affect the subscription success. Apple is rumored to be launching a subscription service and will make an announcement to that effect at its World Wide Developer Conference later this month. Prior to Apple’s launch of iTunes, a-la-carte downloading was almost as unpopular as subscription services are today (anyone remember MyCokeMusic?). Apple has subsequently become dominant in digital music retailing and its entry into music subscriptions could have the same effect. Watch this space.