Music Business

5 Stories That Will Shape The Music Industry In 2014

Upward-Spiral-Logo 160By Alex May (@AlexmDrums)

In a recent episode of the Upward Spiral podcast, we talked with Darren Hemmings, who is the founder of Motive Unknown, a strategic digital marketing consultancy, about the top stories of last year.

Ranging from music royalties gaining press attention to Billboard’s including YouTube video views and online music stream in chart rankings, 2013 provided several great topics to have a discussion about. Here is summary of the best parts.

1. Music Royalties Become Mainstream Topic

2013 saw streaming services, particularly Spotify, make headlines concerning the royalties that are given back to featured artists. This rise in publicity is due to several artists expressing concern over the payouts they received from Spotify.


“When someone who is particularly famous opts to pick a fight, then everybody loves that. I think the media particularly loves negative things happening, because they’re more interesting and more dramatic. So particularly when artists come out and deliver quite blunt words around what they're earning back from certain services, it’s inevitably going to get some attention.”

Darren Hemmings of Motive Unknown | @mr_trick 

While several major artists gained media attention when calling out the streaming service for it’s minimal payouts, their claims are not always entirely accurate.

“David Byrne’s claims around the revenue on Spotify were just factually quite wide of the mark. That kind of thing bothersme a bit, because it perpetuates bad wisdom.

I get it a lot where even when you’re working with bands — artists I’m involved with — you talk to them about this subject, and what they tell you is what they read from people like David Byrne because he gets all the press.

The rebuttal that a significantly less famous but very intelligent industry person might make doesn’t get any of the attention. People don’t want to read that, they want to read David Byrne being angry about something.”

 Darren Hemmings of Motive Unknown | @mr_trick 

2. Streaming Services Fail to Reach Mainstream

Although streaming music services had increased media coverage in 2013, we have started to wonder if streaming has reached a market saturation point. 


“A) Are we going to hit a saturation point next year? and B) Are any of these services going to crack the mainstream?

 Cortney Harding of The Upward Spiral | @cortneyharding

“It’s the one thing I think the entire streaming services market has got to unite on is pushing the method of consumption via streaming services as being a mainstream proposition. It looks like they’re all planning their moves to knock out the other competition.”

 Darren Hemmings of Motive Unknown | @mr_trick  

Hemmings believes the greatest challenge for Spotitfy will be moving away from music fanatics and trying to capture the interest of  casual music listeners.

“The irony of Spotify is that they need more people using it who don’t like music anywhere near as much. For the model to work, they need a lot of people paying, but only streaming it a little bit. Then there’s more money to break up among all of those streams as they pay out to people. But that’s a kind of weird thing right? They’ve got to win over super casual music consumers. Right here and now, I struggle with that, because super casual music consumers are probably quite happy with radio.”

 Darren Hemmings of Motive Unknown | @mr_trick  

Listen To Podcast Brief:

Pandora Pisses Off Tons of Artists

Internet radio favorite Pandora spent time last year looking for alternatives for their business model. In supporting the Internet Radio Fairness Act, Pandora aimed to have internet radio treated more like satellite and terrestrial radio, which are required to pay less to rights holders. The company fought hard in it’s attempt to get the legislation passed, but may have given off a different message to artists.

“They have been quite aggressive in the way that they’ve been approaching this, which certainly hasn’t endeared them from the artist side… I just think the biggest problem with Pandora is the way in which they’ve gone about trying to address this felt very – not underhanded maybe — but it felt very strong armed.”

  Darren Hemmings of Motive Unknown | @mr_trick 

“I just worry with Pandora — that the way they carried themselves has pissed off the rights holders so much — that they are less likely than ever to want to find a compromise on this and help them fix that problem with their business.”

  Darren Hemmings of Motive Unknown | @mr_trick 

 Listen To Entire Show:

4. EDM Festivals Rise in Popularity

Last year saw a rapid increase in popularity of EDM. No longer limited to clubs and festivals, EDM has extended its reach across the market, being heard at sports events, on the radio, and as the background music in shopping centers. We explored the social characteristics that the music promotes.

“I think at some point [EDM's] got to cave, but weirdly, I don’t feel like I’m seeing any sign of it yet… I still wonder if half of it is like a weird boast factor. People go so they can say that it was Tiesto soundtracking their night out.

 Darren Hemmings of Motive Unknown | @mr_trick  


“EDM is definitely about the communal experience of being with those other fans and getting to celebrate and party in the context of a music environment where it is surrounding them, but not necessarily forcing them to pay attention to it. That is such a distinct and curious trend. I wonder if it will continue in the coming years.”

— Kyle Bylin of The Upward Spiral | @sidewinderfm

Viral Videos Influence Music Charts

Finally, we take a look at the viral nature of music videos. 2013 saw several videos go viral, ranging from Baauer’s Harlem Shake to Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball. The large amount of views these videos obtained convinced Billboard to take video views into account when determining their top music charts. Darren Hemmings wonders what this means for music, and how it will impact future marketing.

“You’re now in a point — and a really weird tipping point — where you could introduce a race to the bottom by basically having a musical train wreck for a video that starts representing a double whim. When Miley Cyrus did that whole Wrecking Ball clip, it went hyper viral because everyone that loved it was going: 'Oh my God, you’ve got to see this!' And everyone, like me, who just couldn’t believe what they were seeing, were showing it going: 'Have you seen this?!?' It won both ways.”

— Darren Hemmings of Motive Unknown | @mr_trick 



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  1. I think soundcloud really needs to work out the glitches that are causing the site to go completely offline at times. It happened twice in the past week during peak time high traffic hours. As a music blog owner I hear how those downtimes are a major inconvenience to the readers. You would expect more from a service that is used by so many people in this industry.

  2. #1 Distribution is Everything (DiE) and combining digital and physical distribution strategies will be the single most helpful tactic that any artists/band can make in 2014. If you don’t have a clicks to bricks solution you aren’t doin it right.

  3. Nelson – agreed.
    Regarding #2 on the list
    The music industry marketers have been struggling for years with converting the “super casual music consumers” into the loyal consumers. How much does the “”super casual music consumers” spend on music each year? $60-100??? Maybe. The streaming services should focus on exclusives opportunities for their users, strengthen the relationship with the current base, and creating technology that will separate them from their competitors. Right now, the services are all kind of the same. How can you get more listeners from radio to build your streaming subs? From what I read about Beats at some point they would be offering services to sell tickets and merch for artists. The streaming services need to find a way to partner with labels and work towards a long term vision.

  4. I think Spotify needs to focus more on independents and less on labels since the writing is on the wall for labels. Over 50% of the grammy’s this year went to independents.

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