The IFPI’s CEO Frances Moore has weighed in on the for-and-against arguments over streaming music services, noting that subscription business models were still in their infancy and that the concerns from the likes of Thom Yorke and David Byrne were “overstated.”
Moore was a guest speaker at the ARIA Masterclass held at Sydney’s The Star, ahead of Sunday’s ARIA Awards. “Yes, such services shift us from a world where rights holders receive the bulk of their revenues in the weeks after an album or single’s release to one where they receive micropayments each time their work is played. That can be disconcerting,” Moore noted. “But the evidence is starting to build up which suggests that, over a period of time; income from streaming services can surpass that from download stores.”
Byrne and Yorke had cast doubt about the viability of streaming services for the artist community. Yorke has been particularly harsh, telling Mexico's "Sopitas": "To me this isn't the mainstream, this is like the last fart, the last desperate fart of a dying corpse. What happens next is the important part." He later admitted on Twitter he was “a 45 yr old Luddite and proud of it.”
Moore said the views of Yorke and Byrne “should be listened to with respect. But I do believe their concerns are overstated.”
In her speech, Moore touched on numerous issues – from copyright, to government support, artist investment, the promise of China’s music industry, and even the capped royalties system under which Australia’s commercial radio stations pay labels to play their music. The overarching theme of the presentation, though, was optimism. Moore outlined three key planks for the reasoning behind this: labels’ digitization, diversification and globalization. The global recorded music industry had reported 0.2% growth for 2012 after more than a decade of decline -- “clearly a welcome development, but it was obviously too early to claim ‘mission accomplished’ for the recording industry,” Moore added.
The industry’s battle with piracy hasn’t gone away. Not even close. “I have talked about the optimism of the global industry and the huge untapped potential that exists for record companies around the world. But the truth is that our ability to move from a fragile recovery to sustainable global growth will depend a lot on how we manage the problem of copyright infringement,” Moore said. “If we can’t tackle music piracy, then all of the efforts record companies have made to license new services will ultimately come to nothing."
The good news she continued, was that there is “growing recognition from governments worldwide that piracy is not just a problem for the music industry to resolve. They know it is something that all the stakeholders in the Internet economy need to work together to tackle.”
Only by “working together can we build a better and fairer Internet economy.”
Copyright had been the great “enabler of the Australian music industry,” Moore noted, name-checking Gotye as one of the world’s biggest breakout stars of recent years. “One of the areas being debated as part of the copyright debate is the establishment of ‘fair use’ rights. I think the government should be very careful about this. In the US, “fair use” as a legal concept is bound up with decades of legal precedents. Removed from that environment, it is an elastic term that could be used to undermine copyright protection, and create confusion."
Earlier, ARIA chairman and Sony Music Australasia chairman/CEO Denis Handlin said the Australian record industry had fruitful meetings with the country’s newly-elected government. Indeed, the Attorney General and Minister for the Arts George Brandis was a guest at the ARIA Awards.
The ARIA Masterclass also featured three panel discussions, opening with an insightful session on artists “breaking global,” speakers on which included elite artist managers John Watson (Gotye) and Scott Maclachlan (Lorde), and promoter Michael Chugg.
ARIA CEO Dan Rosen used the platform of the day-long event to confirm the services Rdio, Deezer and Songl had begun delivering data for the ARIA charts.