🔵 About that "indie coalition" remark...
Or, why we need a top level, international entity to protect commercial interests
Hi there -
From the emails I have received since publishing last week’s “Where Is The Indie Coalition?”, it would appear I have set the cat among the pigeons somewhat. Evidently my writing has done the rounds, based on emails I have received showing just how many people have forwarded it to others. (And hello to all those who read my email: please do consider subscribing!)
I think, therefore, that now might be a good time to further elaborate on my thoughts here.
I don’t have a fundamental issue with trade bodies. Far from it: I believe they can be a huge force for good, representing the needs of their constituent members. For what it’s worth, I do feel - particularly after reading Music Ally’s article today (linked below) - that there are now so many that things might be getting counter-productive. However, that is only because there is clear evidence that the music industry cannot speak with one voice, despite (arguably) having a common goal.
Really, my point about the indie coalition was that we are seeing the likes of Universal Music use its sizeable resources to snap up indie businesses, with the acquisition of a stake in NTS being a perfect case in point.
In that context, I don’t feel current trade bodies are even there to lead what I would consider to be a more commercial endeavour. That’s not me throwing shade their way: I simply don’t think it is in their remit.
Simply put, it’s now prudent for the largest indie labels and label groups to unite under a common goal: to protect the indie ecosystem that ensures they have routes to market and audiences to sell to. It certainly did this in the past - just read Richard King’s superb “How Soon Is Now” for a detailed history on that.
The major labels are international. The eyes across this need to be too. They must also have a keen grip on market dynamics and a solid sense of what businesses are contributors to the culture and economy around music itself. With those factors in mind, that body should then be appraising where potential market threats might appear if - as was the case with NTS - a major label might step in to acquire a stake. An appraisal should be made as to whether the indies have a viable case for coming together to protect whatever is under threat, and if so, explore the financial means by which that might be able to happen.
Again, I appreciate that my view here might be perceived as naive. Saying something is one thing; materialising that into something effective is another entirely. Nonetheless, I do feel the point still needs to be made, because I don’t see others making it, and I feel that we are seeing the wonderful, vibrant ecosystem around independent music shrinking more and more.
This is not a matter to ignore any longer.
Have a great evening,
🎶 listening to “Phaze In Version” by Bandulu. I recall Bandulu as a group, but never really checked their music in the 90s when they first appeared. This track, however, shows the UK group delivering something akin to Basic Channel’s minimal, texture-heavy brand of techno, and it’s amazing. There’s many tracks that sound like this now… but this was made in 1993 or thereabouts. Brilliant.
📺 watching “I'm Done w/ Gear Videos & Reviews” by Benn Jordan. Quite a sad watch, just exposing how toxic and silly the whole music-making YouTubers space has become. I don’t blame him for stepping back, but others should heed the warning.
🤖 playing with Sanebox’s custom folders. I’ve used Sanebox for about 10 years now, and would recommend it to anyone. However I’ve recently revisited the custom folder training and it’s once again proving its worth. Essential for me for auto-organising emails into “now” folders (for immediate attention) and “later” ones (for when I get time to review what’s in there).
Stories from the Music Industry:
“We are hugely concerned that the government is forming a roundtable which only gives one single seat to a representative of all creatives across all media (including film, theatre, literature and music), but has three seats for executives from major record companies. This is profoundly unbalanced and tone-deaf,” said the CMM in an open letter. The letter lays bare the tensions within the UK’s music industry – but also globally – between rightsholders and musicians.
👆🏻Hot take: trade bodies upon trade bodies. This article diplomatically highlights just how crazy the situation has now become. Consolidation of some kind is required, surely.
But Harrison says Spotify’s “unprecedented” popularity was great enough to justify a “bespoke” deal. “If we don’t have Spotify working properly across Play services and core services, people will not buy Android phones,” Harrison testified. As part of the deal, both parties also agreed to commit $50 million apiece to a “success fund.”
👆🏻Hot take: I find it amazing that music is considered so valuable a thing to Google that it would rather waive millions in fees than lose the #1 music app, whilst at the same time, we are all arguing about certain artists still getting a rotten deal from those very streaming services Google is championing.
BMI sells to New Mountain Capital-led group; Google/Alphabet fund to acquire minority stake in PRO; $100m handed to publishers and songwriters
Another important piece of today’s announcement: BMI’s current shareholders will allocate $100 million of the proceeds of the proposed sale to songwriter, composer and publisher affiliates “in recognition of [their] creativity” shortly after the transaction closes. BMI says that the allocation of this $100 million “will be in keeping with [BMI’s] distribution methodologies, which are based on performance levels over a set period of time”.
👆🏻Hot take: the detail to watch for over time is how payouts might change as the company explores this for-profit model under new ownership. Time will tell.
Spotify’s new policies aim to tackle three core issues: (1) To “further deter artificial streaming” (2) To “better distribute small payments that aren’t reaching artists,” and (3) “Rein in those attempting to game the system with noise”. The streaming company claims that by addressing these issues, it will be able to drive “an additional $1 billion in revenue toward emerging and professional artists over the next five years”.
👆🏻Hot take: I think a much better job could be done of explaining where this $1BN in revenue is coming from, as this is all spin to me. It is $1BN being taken from one set of artists and passed to another set, which I’m still not sure is any kind of win.
“Without clarity on the changes to music copyright laws included in the 2023 Rendición de Cuentas law – confirming that any additional costs are the responsibility of rights holders – Spotify will unfortunately begin to phase out its service in Uruguay effective January 1, 2024, and fully cease service by February, to the detriment of artists and fans,” said Spotify in a statement.
👆🏻Hot take: I oddly admire Spotify for making good on its threat. I’ve no idea what consequence it will have, but it certainly sends a strong message not just to Uruguay but other countries who might be exploring similar laws.
Stories from the Broader World of Tech:
OpenAI wrote on the X platform, formerly Twitter: “We have reached an agreement in principle for Sam Altman to return to OpenAI as CEO with a new initial board of Bret Taylor (chair), Larry Summers, and Adam D’Angelo. We are collaborating to figure out the details. Thank you so much for your patience through this.” Altman, who has not regained his position on the board, posted on X soon after: “I love OpenAI, and everything I’ve done over the past few days has been in service of keeping this team and its mission together.” He added: “I’m looking forward to returning to OpenAI.”
👆🏻Hot take: I assume this will be the last development on this front, as the “fired, hired, poached, hired again” merry-go-round is the most insane I’ve seen for such a short space of time. Perhaps the bigger implication here though is that OpenAI will be very much focusing on rapid development now.
The crypto exchange “admits it engaged in anti-money laundering, unlicensed money transmitting and sanctions violations,” the DOJ release stated, calling it the “largest corporate resolution” that included criminal charges for an executive. Zhao pleaded guilty to failing to maintain an anti-money laundering program. “The message here should be clear: using new technology to break the law does not make you a disruptor, it makes you a criminal,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.
👆🏻Hot take: given, barely 18 months ago, both SBF and CZ were being hailed as billionaire mavericks, this is quite the crash down to earth. Curious to see what, if any, chilling effect this will all have on the crypto space.
Need something else to read? Here you go:
Geoffrey Hinton has spent a lifetime teaching computers to learn. Now he worries that artificial brains are better than ours.
👆🏻 Hot take: a great profile of Geoffrey Hinton which I’d argue flags both the deeply concerning aspects of AI but also the more positive angles as to the good it could potentially do. Well worth a read.
After being tipped on Matthew Perry’s death, the site’s close ties to law enforcement and habit of paying sources gets new scrutiny.
👆🏻Hot take: this brings to mind the worst phase of The Sun during Kelvin MacKenzie’s reign here in the UK, where laws were broken and famous people harassed, even when at death’s door. A grim read on a site that’s so far unchallenged in its ethics.
Who am I and who are Motive Unknown?
I’m Darren and I’m the MD of Motive Unknown. I started the company back in 2011. Since then we’ve grown to a team of 20, representing some 25 indie labels in the marketing strategy space, as well as working with artists directly.
Our artist clients cover anything from top-tier pop (Spice Girls, Robbie Williams) through hip hop (Run The Jewels, Dessa), electronic (Underworld, Moby) and more. Our label clients take in Dirty Hit (The 1975, Beabadoobee) Partisan Records (IDLES, Fontaines DC), Domino Records (Arctic Monkeys, Wet Leg), Warp Records (Aphex Twin, Danny Brown), LuckyMe (Baauer, Hudson Mohawke), and Lex Records (MF DOOM, Eyedress) among others.
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