Dan Rosen shares five emerging trends from the COVID-19 crisis
ARIA released the 2019 figures for the Australian market today, showing $550 million in revenue with an annual growth of 5.5%. In normal circumstances, the headline would be that our industry has achieved five straight years of significant growth and there was good reason to believe we were on track for the sixth year.
Of course, 2019 seems a very long time ago.
Projections for where we thought we would be in 2020 are now open to question as we are definitely in uncharted waters. But just because these waters are uncharted, it does not mean we cannot navigate our way out.
Our industry is no stranger to disruption. We spent the last decade dealing with digital disruption, curtailing unlicensed online use and embracing innovative new business models. We learnt our lessons and came out the other side stronger. Now, we need to transform again. We are only one month into this crisis, but we are following the trends and adapting. There are some key themes that ARIA is seeing emerge.
One, audio streaming volume is holding rather than growing, next to an increase in audio-visual streaming, with a rise in music consumption on YouTube.
Many had expected that the audio streaming business would dramatically increase with social isolation. This has not been the case. As people’s behaviour has changed, so too have their listening habits. Peak listening times of the work commute and gym sessions are no longer available. There is less private listening as we work from home in shared houses and shared kitchen tables. Families are likely to have increased their consumption of news and current affairs reporting on television and radio as they seek to stay informed on the pandemic.
It is still too early to tell what the prevailing trend will be. People will adjust and music will continue to play a significant role. In a world where we are competing with Netflix, podcasts, news, and gaming for attention, our challenge is to keep music front of mind.
Second, fans are shifting to buying physical albums and merch from their favourite artist websites. Traditionally, Australia has been behind the US and UK when it comes to mail-order culture. But we are pivoting fast. As a music industry, we need to encourage the best tech, distribution and services to deliver our physical music and merch to music fans.
Third, we must support local content. In 2019, the Australian public embraced Tones And I as she took over the country, and that was evident with her four ARIA Award wins, and then she took over the world reaching the number one spot around the globe. In recent weeks on the ARIA Album chart, Violent Soho gave us back-to-back Australian Number Ones following 5 Seconds Of Summer achieving the feat the week before (giving the band a total of four albums at #1). We are seeing growing support for Australian music from fans. It’s not just because it is the right thing to do – it is because our music is world-class.
Together with our colleagues at APRA AMCOS and Support Act, we launched the #Aussiemade campaign to encourage all radio stations, TV networks and streaming services to support Australian creators during this crisis. I applaud Foxtel’s music channels which are switching to ‘All Aussie’ on Mondays, and Southern Cross Austereo for extending Ash London’s oz music show to two nights a week.
Apple Music, Spotify and YouTube Music are all working towards enhancing their support and championing of Australian music over this period, and community radio continues its stellar support of local artists. We believe there is more to be done, and we look forward to continuing to work with our partners across radio, TV and streaming.
Four, the rise in live streaming of performances is exponential. Artists are performing across YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter with music fans becoming more accepting of low-fi production. People are going back to appointment viewing – this time on IGTV and YouTube. We are being introduced to new online platforms like House Party, Twitch and Triller.
As an industry, we need to have a conversation about the monetisation of live streaming. We fought long and hard to demonstrate the value of music and the need to pay for it. It would be tragic to once again give it away for free, or find it monetised by others without the artist’s permission. That is why we are monitoring new monetisation models like OnlyFans and StageIt, and encouraging more of the existing platforms to offer paid options for artists.
Five, we need the support and partnership of Government. The impact of COVID-19 on our music community is immense. ARIA is working closely with Government at all levels to provide support to our industry to get through this crisis. The Morrison Government recently announced a $10M package to help Support Act and I thank Arts Minister Fletcher for championing this initiative. This funding will help provide a safety net to those who may not qualify for JobSeeker or JobKeeper, and importantly provide mental health support for artists and industry workers during this difficult time. For over two decades Support Act has provided crisis relief to artists, songwriters, crew, and workers in our industry. Never before has its work been more important.
There now needs to be an ongoing dialogue with Government on a bounce-back strategy.
Our industry will be FILO – first in, last out – from the crisis. We must ensure our venues, promoters, crew and artists can get to the other side and be ready and able to put on shows when we can gather in groups of 100, 500 and greater. As international touring is curtailed, there will be an opportunity for our local artists to fill venues around the country. We need to back in our artists and live music sector to harness this opportunity.
2019 was a strong year for the Australian recording industry. 2020 will be a year like no other. Our creativity and resilience will be tested. There is no return to normal, and we will have to transform and innovate again. And we will do it by coming together as a music community and set ourselves up to return to growth in 2021 and beyond.