Midem Day 1: Streaming’s Evolution, Voice Control, Hi-Res Audio & More
Streaming and subscriptions are the talk of the music industry in 2017, fuelling a healthy (so far) return to growth for global recorded-music revenues. Midem 2017’s ‘Streaming Day’ strand explored some of the trends around this area.
The day kicked off with a debate about how streaming services have come of age, and what needs to happen next to continue their growth and evolution.
Lyricfind CEO Darryl Ballantyne; Armonia CEO Virginie Berger; Musimap CEO Vincent Favrat; Amazon director of content acquisition Rishi Mirchandani; and Qobuz CMO Malcolm Ouzeri took part in a discussion moderated by consultant Ted Cohen.
Amazon’s Echo and its Alexa voice assistant loomed large. “In my house right now I’ve got two young daughters, and they run around our house talking to Alexa all the time, saying ‘play music’. It’s all they’re ever going to know,” said Mirchandani.
Ballantyne was blunt about the thought process behind licensing new music startups. “If we believe in what they’re doing and their model, we’re much less likely to ask for money up front, or different terms. We want to see that succeed,” he said. “If we don’t believe in it, if we don’t think it’s a sustainable model: we’ll still license it, but that’s when we’re going to want a cheque upfront. We’re either going to want a quality service or a quality cheque!
Qobuz’s Ouzeri said streaming services should do more to boost audio quality. “It’s really crazy the amount of money spent on R&D when it’s ‘we’re going to talk about voice control, we’re going to talk about artificial intelligence’. But there’s something that lacks in the foundations… the quality.”
One way music-streaming is evolving is the development of ‘hi-res audio’ services, which promise to deliver music at the quality musicians hear it in the studio when recording.
A panel debate saw some of the industry’s evangelists for the technology marshal their arguments for hi-res audio as an important part of the industry’s future.
7digital deputy CEO Pete Downton; MQA CEO Mike Jbara; Qobuz CMO Malcolm Ouzeri; Sony Music’s SVP of partner development for its global digital business Andre Stapleton; and Universal Music CTO Ty Roberts took part in the panel, sponsored by the Digital Entertainment Group, whose senior director Marc Finer moderated.
“Most of the important works are the ones that are getting the focus. It’s a big deal in our company,” said Roberts. “It’s absolutely a priority for us. We’ve been investing in this for some years now,” agreed Stapleton. But Downton warned that hi-res audio’s success must be about more than simply converting catalogue.
“The install base is pretty much there already… But it’s got to be simple for the consumer. If the consumer has to read and figure this out for themselves, you’re never going to drive mass adoption,” he said. Meanwhile, Ouzeri delivered a warning to the industry about its chances of convincing younger music fans to pay more money for hi-res streaming subscriptions.
“When you go to them and say how much they’re going to spend on hi-res music, are they going to spend 20 euros a month, when they have so much trouble spending 10 euros a month at the moment?” he said.