I had the great pleasure yesterday to present the launch of the Featured Artists Coalition at In The City in Manchester – one of the best music conventions anywhere in the world. Joining me on stage were Brian Message, manager of Radiohead, Jazz Summers the chairman of the UK Music Managers Forum and manager of many fine acts including currently The Verve – back on fine form. And last but not least Kate Nash whose first album came out last year and charmed us all.
The consensus of support that has grown up very rapidly as FAC has surfaced into the music world has been overwhelming and enthusiastic. Dozens of top bands and artists have signed up and the list is growing daily, but the need for this organisation and the challenges it faces are also growing daily.
As the techtonic plates of the music industry shift, the old structures and the old institutions don’t give up without a fight. The major labels are trying to tie up more and more deals with major network gatekeepers, and to capture very substantial multimillion dollar upfronts based on the aggregated output of their marketshare. That’s to say that they are taking advantage of their representation of a critical mass of artists to lock up relationships with major new players who drive transactions and own customer relationships.
And of course as they do so they have the opportunity to structure deals where the upfronts are not related to individual works or artists but simply to the scale of representation. In the advertising powered model, how much of the revenue can be directly attributed to individual artist content and how much to the overall ambience of the offering?
It is in these kinds of collectively applied situations that an artists organisation can make its presence felt and seek greater transparency and more closely correlated distribution. The more quickly the artist’s organisation can form and take a seat at the table, the more chance there will be that the new model for the industry can be based on openess and fair dealing.
Over 50 years ago, the power in the music industry shifted decisively from the music publishers to the record labels. It did so because the disruptive power of the technology enabled the record labels to drive the highest proportion of revenue. Today, the power in the industry is shifting again, this time away from the record labels and towards the artists themselves.
This is a historic shift. It represents the arrival of one of the key institutions of our new tech savvy industry and it demands the reformation of the other institutions around it.