Saturday, 23 July 2016

Something is Happening Here - But You Don't Know What It Is - Do You?

Revenue is down yet profit is up...
The Music Industry is in trouble. Global revenue fell to below $15bn in 2014. Surf the Internet and you can find story after story, page after page, and blog after blog telling the woeful story of revenue loss for the record industry. Around 25% of revenue is spent on A&R and so the message is that there is less and less investment in new artists each year as revenue falls. The narrative is presented of the brave knights of the record companies fighting the illegal download dragons.

Only 15% of us go to gigs regularly. Teenagers are not buying music CD’s anymore, accounting for only 7% of the CD buying population (although apparently for us oldies the habit dies hard, as over 50’s make up 61% of the CD buying population!)

Headline News: Music Industry in Crisis. 

Bottom line: No investment in new music because of fall in revenue.

But here is a slightly different look at the data from Jonathan Band and Jonathan Gerafi, at policybandwidth in their report ‘Still Profitable After All These Years…’ Taking Sony as an example (and the basic trend is the same with Universal and Warner), they point out that the Record Label Operating Profit in the 10 years from 2004 rose from $186 million to $361 million, their Record Label Operating Profit Margins from 3.90% to 8.43%.

The Average Industry Operating Profit Margin for record companies in 2013 was 7.26% (up from 4.04% in 2004). Brand and Gerafi offer a comparison, in the construction industry it was 3.25% (up from 2.67% in 2004), in Mining it was -1.20% (down from 10.20% in 2004) and in Transport 4.89% (down from 7.44% in 2004).

Band and Gerafi conclude by asking, if revenue is down yet profit is up where are the record companies saving money? It seems to me that even though CD sales are down and revenue is down the labels are still making a decent profit  - this rather implies that the squeeze on investment in new talent is purely to increase profits!

For the love of music and not the love of money...
Personally I hate the idea that of my hard-earned cash spent on a CD, about one third goes to the record company and less than half of that goes to the artist. Imagine another world. A world where the artist was paid and all involved in the music were paid and there was no massive profit! Imagine a world where my hard-earned cash invested not in the record company but in new artists and encouraging established artists to push the boundaries!

Welcome to Malt’n’Music and in particular to a gig by Blair Dunlop. The organisers have asked me to step into the shoes of MC and I as introduce the evening I proudly proclaim that we are a not-for-profit organisation who plough everything back into the next gig. Well the next gig has a starting float of (wait for it… drum roll please…) £9.32!

If you have read other blogs about Malt’n’Music gigs you will know that I wax lyrical about community, troubadours and the meaning of real music. All this is true about this gig. Peter Aldridge, the support act, plays a consummate set of laid-back thought provoking original material proving that there are superb songwriters who write for the love of music and not the love of money. 

Blair Dunlop is the professional performer who sidles up alongside the audience. He tells us that he has a little bit of local knowledge gleamed from an ex from these parts and then proceeds to beat us over our heads with stunning tune after stunning tune. By the end of the evening everyone is his best friend, as he performs with such warmth, depth and feeling, and we start to ask ourselves if we have found a long lost brother! And then there is the fine ‘Blair Dunhop’ beer to enjoy back at The Lion!

Once again the community has come together to hear a sublime evening of music and we make no profit! Does the artist get paid? Yes.  Does the venue get paid? Yes. Do the PA guys get paid? Yes!  This is music without a fat profit. Music without a massive cut taken by the industry. Music with soul, because it is owned by the artist and not by faceless, tone deaf, industry grey suits.

The deep movement of music...
People ask me why I make a 400 mile round trip just to go to a gig when I could see the very same artist in London? The answer? Well, truth be told it is partly to meet up with friends – life is too short not to take the opportunity to be with people you care about. But it is also because as one of the people who started Malt’n’Music it is in my bones. It is because I love being part of a group who are promoting great music.  

But most of all I make the journey because I love the moment when the main act is playing and I stand at the back with the Malt’n’Music guys and we survey the scene. We see the delight on people’s faces, the joy of their feet tapping, the careless clapping along, and we know that the music is bringing the community together, that it is deepening people’s experience of life and making people realise they are glad to be alive. The depth of experience that comes from a community, gathering together to receive a traveling minstrel far surpasses that of a gathering of disparate people at an anonymous venue, massaging the ego of someone else’s manufactured superstar.

And when you experience that feeling and know you have played your part in making it happen, you don’t need payment, you don’t need thanks. You know that what has been created has an eternal quality, and no developer digging up the field around your village, no broken relationship, no crass Government Policy, no stupid dispute with the neighbour, no speeding ticket, no overdraft, no grievance at work, no question about life, the universe and everything is going to change the truth of what has happened, as the deep movement of music within the soul transforms the heart.

Don't ask about the crow - its a very small village.... 

Gig: 46 of 50
Date of Gig: Fri. 5th February 2016

Village Hall, Moulton

Blair Dunlop

Peter Aldridge

Running total of artists seen 94

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