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Music streaming market ‘needs more choice’



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Music streaming generated £829m for the UK music industry last year

Spotify, Apple and Amazon Music have revived the fortunes of the music industry, but fans aren’t getting enough choice, a new report claims.

It says streaming services are too similar, offering the same collection of songs with little price variation.

Appealing to older music fans and offering “super-premium” features could double the value of the market, from £829m this year to £1.6bn in 2023.

The findings came in a report for the Entertainment Retailers Association.

“There’s a major prize at stake,” said Pedro Sanches, of consultancy firm OC&C, who conducted the study.

The current “all-you-can-eat” streaming model had “enjoyed enormous success, in part because of its simplicity,” he said, “but further innovation will drive more growth”.

The report identified several new avenues, including premium subscriptions that offer access to exclusive content and merchandise; and expanding popular family and student plans to other demographics.

Subscription streaming services have become increasingly important to the music industry, at a time when CD sales and downloads are in sharp decline.

A total of 91 billion songs were played on Spotify, Apple Music and their competitors last year – the equivalent of 1,300 songs per person in the UK – and streaming now accounts for nearly two thirds (63.6%) of all music consumption in the UK.

The ERA’s research was commissioned amid concerns that the surge in subscriptions could stagnate.

“Streaming has been the biggest news in the industry for the last 10 years,” the organisation’s CEO, Kim Bayley, told the BBC.

“The younger generation are very firmly in the streaming environment, and saturation point is approaching for under-25s, so we wanted to see where future growth will come from”.

The report found that, left to its own devices, the UK streaming market would continue to expand by 5-7% every year, reaching £1.1bn in 2023. But finding ways to tempt non-subscribers could result in a £500m boost, generating revenues of £1.6bn.

“It’s fair to say even we were surprised just how positive the results were,” Bayley said. “There’s lots of potential.”

Lessons could also be learned from other entertainment providers, she added.

“Think about the way Sky [television] bundles things together – with different tiers for sport and movies and entertainment. That’s the sort of thing you could do with music – create more channels, break it up a bit, and pay for the bits you want.”

The need for a more diverse music streaming experience was recently highlighted by Warner Music CEO Mark Cooper.

“The streaming offerings in music have not been as consumer-friendly as they could have been,” he said in New York last week.

“Right now, there’s a 50 million-track universe and it’s either free or $10 [per month], plus or minus.

“My view is that if [streaming services were] organised to allow people to choose by genre, or by number of tracks per day, hi-res sound, global [or] local, whatever it is, the music industry and the tech companies would have been ahead [of where they are now] by way of revenue optimisation.”

Music industry revenues 2018

The ERA’s research was released on the same day it was revealed that the UK Music industry had contributed £5.2bn to the UK economy in 2018.

The success of stars like Ed Sheeran and Dua Lipa helped exports soar to £2.7bn; while the live music sector made £1.1bn – up 10% from £991 million in 2017, despite Glastonbury taking a fallow year.

However, trade body UK Music warned that the new talent was being threatened by cuts to musical education and the continued closure of small music venues.

It added that, despite the huge financial rewards for A-list stars like Calvin Harris and Adele, the average musician earned £23,059 – well below the national average of £29,832.

Brexit also poses a danger to the industry, and touring musicians in particular, warned UK Music CEO Michael Dugher.

“We urgently need to ensure that the impact of Brexit doesn’t put in jeopardy the free movement of talent, just at a time when we should be looking outwards and backing the best of British talent right across the world.”

How we consumed music in 2018

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Mac Miller sounds ‘at peace’ on posthumous album




Mac Miller performing in 2017Image copyright
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Before Mac Miller died in 2018, he was working on an album called Circles.

The songs were being finished with the help of songwriter and producer Jon Brion, who went on to complete the album after Mac’s death.

The rapper’s family decided to release the album, which is out today, saying in an Instagram post that it’s a “complicated process that has no right answer”.

There can be concerns over whether putting out someone’s music after they’ve died is the right thing to do, with fans worrying about the impact it might have on artist’s legacy.

“I think sometimes the families try and capitalise on the music in a way that’s not what the artist would’ve wanted”, says 26-year-old Henry Dean.

He’s a photographer and Mac Miller fan, and he worked with the rapper a few years ago on a magazine shoot. He spoke to Radio 1 Newsbeat at a free event to celebrate the UK release of the new album.

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Henry is pictured here with some of his art of Mac

“Posthumous music is a murky area. I’m always sceptical of whether it’s being handled right. Obviously, I don’t know Mac’s inner circle so I can’t judge.

“Artists have banks of thousands of songs and not all of them are meant to come out, so I’m hoping everything on this album is stuff that he was actively planning on releasing.”

In their post on Instagram, Mac’s family said: “We simply know that it was important to Malcom for the world to hear it”

“The look on his face when everyone was listening said it all.”

After the launch event in east London, fans seemed pleased with the result.

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Paris, Lauren, Ray and Simone were excited to hear Mac Miller’s new album

“It sounded perfect, it was very Mac Miller,” says 23-year-old fan Paris.

“You could tell it was something he would’ve wanted to come out had he been here.”

Paris’ friend Lauren agrees.

“I was a bit worried it was going to be Mac’s voice on someone else’s songs, because it wasn’t finished by him. Having listened, it was a very Mac album all the way through.

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Mac Miller was 26 when he died from an accidental overdose

Roisin O’Connor is the music correspondent for the Independent. She was invited to listen to the album by the music producers who worked on it.

“Hearing them talk, it was made very clear that the family had given their blessing for the album to be released,” she says.

“It wasn’t just scraps of material, it was intended to be an album. He’d completed a lot of it before his death – it was final touches. To release it was almost like fulfilling his wishes.”

She says that while posthumous music releases can be treacherous territory, Circles feels like a complete body of work from Mac himself.

“It’s him at his creative peak. He sounds at peace, and philosophical about getting through each day.”

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Belfast artist Jordan Adetunji on Ireland’s hip-hop music scene




Hip hop music has seen a surge in popularity right across the island of Ireland over the last number of years.

Local artists are seeing their music make waves both at home and across the globe, headlining shows and playing venues, something Jordan Adetunji admits that only a couple of years ago “wouldn’t really be happening”.

The Belfast artist became the first ever hip-hop act to play at the NI Music Prize in 2019.

He spoke to BBC News NI about the “developing” scene that isn’t “just the typical”.

Video journalist: Jordan Kenny

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Frank Skinner: ‘I’m all for a bit of moral menace’




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Frank Skinner played ukulele at the Queen’s 92nd birthday celebrations in 2018

“The edge of inappropriate is the spiritual home of the best stand-up comedy,” proclaims Frank Skinner in the programme notes for his new West End show, Showbiz.

It’s also, he jokes, “the name of my country house in Gloucestershire”.

The 62-year-old, who has made a pretty good living walking the tightrope of comedic taste, is about to ride the bus (using his over 60s travel card) to London’s Garrick Theatre, as he speaks to the BBC, for the first night of a five-week residency, having road-tested it around the UK last year.

Loosely-based around celebrity anecdotes he’s acquired over the past 25 years working as one of the country’s most cherished comedians, Skinner’s show is littered with poetic and funny filth about his decaying body, lessening libido and late arrival to fatherhood in his mid-50s.

In an era when critics have called “wokeness” – the modern day political correctness – the death knell for comedy, the veteran stand-up still trusts his instincts.

“Sometimes when you start improvising on stage, which I do a fair bit of, obviously you haven’t planned it. But to be honest, it’s not like I’m one of these blokes who is sitting at home pouring it all out and then does a different thing on stage.

“I think the line between me on and off is fairly blurred”.

In other words, if a joke is good enough to tell down the pub, then it’s fit for the stage too.

‘Lightness of touch’

The Royal family, Bruce Forsyth and the ahem, “cursed” Strictly dancers all find themselves on the receiving end of Skinner’s dry wit in the show, which The Guardian said finds the “statesman of stand-up shows” showing “no sign of stiffening”.

“It’s rare to see such fast-thinking wit deployed with such a sense of joy,” added The Times’ Dominic Maxwell.

Skinner declared on-stage during Wednesday’s press night that “a lightness of touch” is required when tackling certain topics (mostly genitalia). He allayed the fears of an apparently worried-looking audience member named Linda that she needn’t worry about an accent he was about to attempt.

“When I started doing comedy,” he adds, “We were very much what was then called ‘alternative comedy’ and the two great centrepieces of that was non-sexist, non-racist.

“That was that was the big thing, which now seems absolutely basic, page one, but then was revolutionary.

“I did mainstream working men’s clubs in Birmingham, and you would not believe the racism, for example, was absolutely the norm [for] friendly middle-aged entertainers.

“We were at the beginning of that and I think we started to expand it. So then you think, ‘Well what about homophobia?'”

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BBC/Avalon TV

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David Baddiel and Skinner presented TV shows Fantasy Football League

While he jokes woke culture means he’ll no longer help attractive young women with their heavy suitcases, Skinner believes the new normal parameters are “a sort of a militaristic approach to kindness”.

“Unless you force people to do stuff, most people won’t do it. So I think you can make a few interesting dramas about sexual predators, but the best way to stop it is to say to people, they’ll lose their job.

“So I’m all for a bit of moral menace, as it were”.

US President Barack Obama recently spoke of his distrust of righteous online trolls, while US comedian Dave Chappelle made a whole stand-up special about cancel culture. Satirist Armando Iannucci said last week he thinks people are “losing the appetite to engage in argument” for fear of causing offence.

“I think it can be annoying at times,” Skinner goes on, “It can empower idiots on occasion, and when it becomes like a parlour game where people sit around saying, ‘Oh, you said that, and you shouldn’t have said that…

“I grew up going to football matches where people threw bananas at black players and we didn’t have to sit around and debate whether it was racist or not. But I think it’s one of the major social advances of the last 60 years.”

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Frank Skinner

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He anchored the TV show Room 101 from 2012-2018, before the BBC bosses put the show in there itself, but still hosts a weekly show on Absolute Radio

He believes that in the age of Twitter, it would be hard for any comedian harbouring suspect personal views to fake it for long anyway.

“I got in one night and my partner said to me, ‘What were you doing in Superdrug?’ And I thought, ‘This is it now, this is East Germany!’

“All my philandering in the past would be impossible in the modern generation”.

Fellow British comedian Ricky Gervais criticised celebrities at the Golden Globe Awards for mere virtue signalling and Skinner would tend to agree, noting “there’s only one thing more embarrassing than the celebrities talking about politics; and that’s politicians talking about anything other than politics”.

‘Best shot’

The working class millionaire confesses to have started preaching from the pulpit himself lately, to an audience of one: Seven-year-old son Buzz.

“The other day I gave a little speech at home about the fact that we shouldn’t see Frozen 2 as girl film, that there’s no such thing as a girl film.

“I don’t know whether I really believe that or not, but I felt it was important to say so!”

Dad and lad recently went on a history-themed trip to Rome, where the Catholic comedian managed to wangle front row tickets for an audience with the Pope at The Vatican. This time through his church connections, not his showbiz ones.

Another family trip saw Skinner make a deal with his partner of 19 years, Cath Mason, not to swear for the first five minutes of his set at Latitude Festival so the youngster could see his old man at work.

The star, who suffered a bad bout of pneumonia in late 2018 (“it’s great for the cheekbones!”), says he’s giving the late dad thing his “best shot”, mindful of how many younger men have made mess of it.

“If I’d have had kids in my 20s it would have been nightmarish”.

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Frank – whose real name is Christopher Collins – alongside long-term girlfriend Cath Mason

Skinner was in his 30s when he decided to give stand-up a shot, while working as an English lecturer, and he soon found himself winning the coveted Perrier Award at Edinburg Fringe Festival in 1991.

In the 1990s he became a household name, flying the flag for the (slightly) more intellectual end of lad culture alongside David Baddiel on the cult TV show Fantasy Football League, en route to getting his own chat show.

The teetotaller admits he used to live it up when he first got famous but says the effects soon wore off, and as a result he now has few actual showbiz friends as a result.

For this he blames his “lack of Class A drugs credentials” during an era of mass hedonism in British pop culture.

Although he didn’t fully large it up like the Gallagher brothers he did have similar chart success thanks to the England Euro 96 football anthem Three Lions, which he wrote with Baddiel and Lightning seed Ian Broudie (both of whom stepped out to see their old pal perform this week).

As his beloved England made it to the 2018 World Cup Semi-Finals, the song broke a chart record by returning to the top for a fourth time. Sadly though it broke another one soon after, by becoming fastest-falling number one of all-time, dropping to number 97 after Gareth Southgate’s men were knocked-out by Croatia.

Through bleary eyes, Skinner – who thinks England’s Euro 2020 forwards look “deadly” – was at least equipped to see the funny side.

“It’s beautiful that it was by 96 places. Couldn’t be better.”

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Three Lions was written by Ian Broudie of the Lightning Seeds, Frank Skinner and David Baddiel

Frank Skinner’s stand-up show Showbiz runs at London’s Garrick Theatre until 15 February

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