It was a real pleasure to chair this debate on behalf of Debate Mate on March 24th.
They do great work across the industry – do check them out! When I was asked to chair this debate, I was amped and excited to hear what experts in the UK music industry from all across the musical landscape would have to say.
I have been in and around the music industry and creative arts for over twenty years.
I’ve worked at Channel 4, MTV News International, MTV Base, MTV Dance, ITV, the BBC…. and I sit on numerous music industry committees, and I’ve been lucky enough to see the evolution of artists, platforms, genres and everything in between first-hand.
More importantly than that, I am a music fan.
I am a listener, a watcher. I sing and dance-along… like the biggest fan.
I love everyone from J Hus to Jay Z, Jill Scott to Usher, Linkin Park to Earth, Wind and Fire, Beyonce to Dinah Washington and more!
So the debate was a collision of the professional and the personal, and I think you’d agree, it has come at exactly the right time.
The main question is…..Do artists have more power now than they’ve ever had before? Well – it’s debateable for sure!
Lets have a bit of context…
The music industry has changed dramatically in the last twenty years. The way we listen to music, and the way we pay for it… are almost unrecognisable from the 1990s… and even 2000s.
We’ve seen an evolution from vinyl, through cassette, to CD, download and now stream.
But is this change good for everyone? Does it empower all artists, or just those at the top?
Given my experience, our panel and audience today, we focused on the UK.
Each year there are 140 billion streams in the UK. The most streamed UK artist is Ed Sheeran, followed by Stormzy, Dua Lipa, Lewis Capaldi and Harry Styles.
Drake tops the list overall in the UK, ahead of Juice Wrld and Eminem. Globally, Bad Bunny comes out on top.
Mega artists, with mega numbers. as you’d imagine, get huge numbers, and with that – huge amounts of fame and wealth.
60,000 tracks get added to Spotify every day.
It now has 70,000,000 tracks available!
This means that more new music is being produced and made available than ever before.
So surely this means that artists have more power?
Well – maybe. But with lower barriers to entry, comes more noise. The market is crowded.
To some extent it’s easier to get heard (at least literally) but is it now harder to get noticed?
Today, are artists able to just do music?
Or do artists now have to be a brand unto themself from the outset – focusing as much , or more, on Instagram and brand partnerships… as they do on producing a track or writing lyrics?
How does social media impact different artists, different genres and generations?
So – on the proposition side – artists can record and release music easier than ever before.
They can talk directly to their fanbase like never before.
They have teams and technology that are working hard to put them at the centre of the music industry ecosystem.
There are evolving models of remuneration that may – only time will tell – see them receive greater proportions and absolute amounts of money.
But are artists now beholden to a new master – not the label as may have been the case years ago.
….But social media – the fickle nature of hype, the transient nature of what’s hot or not.
Are you more useful for selling Reeboks than records?
Other things for us to consider…..Are artists now more afraid of being cancelled …..than excited about being celebrated.
Do they seek safety in numbers and the security of social media – collaborating with other artists and brands for commercial and not creative reasons?
Was yesterday a simpler time… with fewer pressures and a more straightforward path to success – JUST making good music that makes people feel something!
If musicians have more power than ever before, and everything is getting better quickly, why do campaigns and organisations such as Broken Record, Musicians’ Union, Keep Music Alive and the Ivors Academy need to continue to lobby government, the tech giants and the industry heavyweights so aggressively on behalf of artists?
As you can tell, I could wax lyrical about this all day. But given we had six experts waiting in the wings, you may as well also hear from them!
In Ryan, Hannah, Ben, Cliff, George and Kwame, we genuinely had six experts – including artists, managers, lawyers, producers and everything in between – debating a relevant and important topic
If you hear anything thats quotable or resonates with you, do share it on social media tagging us all. …. using the hashtags #DEBATEMATE and #ArtistPower
Also do tag DEBATE MATE on Instagram and on twitter its @debate_mate
I’d love to hear what you think too!
Huge thanks to Ben Sarhangian and Esther Mark and their team at Debate Mate for the honour of chairing, all the prep work and a fascinating, informative and entertaining conversation!
Enjoy watching the debate here – can you guess which side won? It was a surprise!