Music Business

New Mike Masnick Report Focuses On Europe

image from musically.comFull  Midem 2013 coverage by Stuart Dredge of Music Ally.

In January 2012, Techdirt founder Mike Masnick published a report called The Sky Is Rising, a survey of the global entertainment industry that took a notably positive approach to growth in the last decade. Now Masnick and co-author Michael Ho have published a new report drilling more deeply into six European countries: the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and Spain.

It’s been released by the Computer & Communication Industry Association – you can download it as a PDF here in six languages – and covers music but also books, games and video.

For each sector, the report seeks to present an alternative picture to the stories of piracy and falling physical-media sales that have so concerned these industries over the last decade.

Masnick held a telephone press conference this afternoon to publicise the report, so we dialled in. He was keen to stress that the report doesn’t take a position on policy issues, and that its data is as sound as possible.

“We spent a lot of time sorting through a large amount of data to find the most credible and supportable data we could find, and rejecting data that we couldn’t support,” he says.

“We took government data, financial reports, vetted industry numbers and figures from trusted analysts, then comparing back across it. The key point was really to get all this data, bring it together and present it so that everyone could take a look.”

Masnick added that the report doesn’t attempt to take a position on policy issues, but rather to inform the debate around those policies.

Some of these discussions take place without really looking at the
data, or based on really limited data or anecdotal data. So having more
data, we thought, was very important. And making sure that data is
credible was important to us.”

The topline finding across the six countries was similar to that found in the original Sky is Rising report on a global basis:

“There continues to be massive growth in terms of the amount of
content being created, released, shared and distributed,” said Masnick.
“And increased opportunities in terms of the revenue being created, as
well as new services and tools.”

So, more books are being published than ever before, e-book revenues
are growing sharply (from a small base, of course); the European gaming
population doubled between 2008 and 2010 thanks to social and mobile
games, while traditional consoles continued to sell strongly; and more
films are being produced every year, with box-office and TV revenues
continuing to increase.

music. Among its musical points: the number of licensed music services
in the six European countries increased five-fold between 2007 and 2011,
while live revenues are forecast to have grown healthily in five of
them over that period: up 15% in France and Italy, 11% in Spain, 10% in
the UK and 105% in Russia in 2013.

The report also notes that more music is being produced than ever
before, with new sub-genres emerging, and new opportunities for
musicians to find an audience online, and make money through
direct-to-fan commerce and crowdfunding – although Masnick noted that
these are still small compared to the overall market size.

“There had been over the past decade a pretty big decrease in
recorded music sales, but it appears that is at least stabilising, and
we’re beginning to see some turnaround in some countries,” he said.

“We’re seeing significant growth on the digital side – the decrease
remains from the physical side. And we’re seeing massive growth in terms
of the number of legal and authorised music services in the countries,
which correlates well to the amount of digital music sales.”

Russia is singled out in the report as a country where digital music revenues fell sharply from $73m in 2010 to $43m in 2011.

Masnick cited two potential factors in this: a relative lack of new
digital services in Russia compared to other countries, and a big
drop-off in ringtone sales.

Labels would offer another factor: the availability of unlicensed
music on social network vKontakte, which has become something of a
villain in the eyes of the industry.

it’s been suggested that vKontakte is the reason there are so few legal
digital services in Russia, rather than licensing inflexibility on the
part of the music industry.

It’s a point that can be argued about until the cows come home,
although the launch of iTunes, Deezer and other services in Russia in
recent months paint a more positive picture.

Overall, though: “These are definitely markets that are
transitioning, and in most cases it appears transitioning fairly
successfully thanks to new digital services and tools,” said Masnick.

“The amount of output has continued to grow… The revenue has
continued to grow, there are different fluctuations here and there, but
the trends all seem to point in the same direction.”

He did accept that for creators, all this upheaval can be a worry,
partly because all that extra music, games, films and books being
released provides greater competition, but also because it’s not as
clear nowadays what they have to do – ”there’s now a lot more options”
as he put it.

During the ensuing Q&A, I asked Masnick whether he thinks the
books, games and film industries have learned from the music industry’s
last decade of digital disruption, as their executives are fond of
saying they have in conference appearances.

“It depends: different players have learned different lessons, and
different parts of different industries have picked up some lessons and
not picked up others,” he said.

“For the books, games and films markets, that transition has probably
been less gut-wrenching than music: they’ve certainly learned some
lessons. Certainly the recorded music industry resisted going digital at
all for a very long time, but for the book market, once e-book readers
were in the world, they very quickly jumped into that market.”

While it’s outside the scope of the report, I also asked about the
debate around digital music services like Spotify, with some artists
extremely concerned about the size of their streaming payouts.

Masnick sees these debates as “growing pains as new models and new
services pop up”, and part of the transition process from physical to
digital. “I’m fairly confident and optimistic that these things will
work themselves out over time hopefully,” he said.

“As you see more and more success, people begin to figure it out.
“When something is brand new and has a small base, there’s not
necessarily enough money to go around to make everybody really happy.
But as those markets develop, they hopefully work themselves out.”

Masnick does tend to ruffle feathers in some quarters of the music
industry – one reason we think he’s always worth listening to – so the
important thing here is to read the report and then form a judgement on

Here’s the PDF of the new The Sky is Rising report.

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