SWOT: Superfans, Again

In an economy where music fans are tightening their belts, superfans are a rare segment of growth and opportunity.

Welcome to SWOT by Sound Story, your weekly inside track on the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats looming for the entertainment industry.

⚡️ Trending: A Willy Wonka themed event in Scotland has been shut down by police after children were left screaming and crying, and parents demanded refunds in the hope that the money can be better used on future therapy sessions. Words by Lachlan Hodson. Source: Pedestrian

🌏 Global: What Disney’s film executive shuffle really means for live action reboots, corporate culture and Iger succession. Words by Matt Donnelly. Source: Variety.

💰 Money: Spotify just dropped some interesting statistics from its latest data-scrape, revealing that independent artists and labels generated nearly $4.5 billion on the platform in 2023 – roughly half of the big green streamer’s musical revenue for the year. Words by Ellie Robinson. Source: TheMusic.com.au.

🌶️ Spicy: Microsoft CEO’s reaction to iPhone launch in 2007 has not aged well. Words by Joshua Nair. Source: LADbible

📰 Media: The 64th TV WEEK Logie Awards’ categories and judging panel will be revamped “to ensure the Awards evolve and prosper as well as reflect Australia’s vibrant, dynamic and world-class television industry, alongside the viewing habits of Australians”. Words by Nathan Jolly. Source: Mumbrella.

Strength: Superfans, Again

This week, Fred Again landed on our shores for a surprise gig, with some hysteria, excitement and “told you so’s” thrown in for good measure. Then he announced some more shows in Sydney, Melbourne and the Gold Coast, and social media was awash with screenshots and sarcastic excitement about once again being stuck in the dreaded Ticketek Lounge. 

This explainer here from The Guardian’s Michael Sun describes Fred Again as “the Taylor Swift of the dance world: a musician and DJ who attracts fearsome love and scepticism in equal measure”. Last year, his Melbourne gig sold out in 3.4 seconds. With the announcement of the surprise Sydney gig this week, there were over 125,000 people waiting in the virtual ticket queue at one time.  

So, are we in our Super Fan Era?

📌 Vivienne: Taylor Swift has only just left Australia, and we’re already going nuts over another international music star. This focus on superfandom, has revealed some interesting behaviours and ignited layered conversations. Some people have been dismissive of “Swifties” – their dedication, their screaming, their outfits, their attendance at multiple shows – describing it as “hysterical”, “cult-like” and “bizarre”. Why though, do we use this language around (female) music superfans, but not, say, those who don a red and white jersey every week, lose their minds to “Sweet Caroline” and who have a team song proclaiming “Honour the name by day and by night”? Fred Again’s casual fans, standard fans and superfans alike have probably been a good reminder to commentators that musicians in many forms can have a wild impact on our behaviour! 

📌 Zanda: Over the last 12 months, we’ve seen publishers, DSPs, music labels and the industry change its tune on superfans. Superfandom was traditionally dismissed, and on occasion, mocked, but in an economy where music fans are tightening their belts, superfans are a rare segment of growth and opportunity. As if on queue, British producer Fred Again… arrived in Australia this week and, just one year on from his first-ever shows in the country, is selling out shows next week in a matter of minutes (and with almost zero notice). In 2023 it would have cost you just under $60 to see him perform at the Hordern Pavilion in Sydney. The cheapest tickets for his shows next week at Qudos Bank Arena cost almost triple that. Fredflation is real and so is the superfan opportunity.

📌 Jane: It’s surprising it’s taken the industry, music labels and the media so long to recognise the power of the superfan. Music is the soundtrack of our lives, with songs reigniting memories, lifting moods and combating loneliness. The bond between fans and artists drives careers. Artists strive to create a deeper connection that extends beyond one song or album, drives fans to stream their music, attend their concerts, mimic their style and even defend their reputations. Artists like Taylor Swift nurture these relationships, rightfully earning rewards for their loyalty. Now, with a dollar value attached, everyone wants a cut of the action!

Weakness: Speak Now, Or Maybe… Don’t?

Our biggest advice this week would be for powerful people to stop saying such abundantly ridiculous things. It would truly solve a lot of problems. 

👉 Police Commissioner Karen Webb is facing serious questions, criticism and concerns at the moment. Rather than address them, she chose to invalidate them by (incorrectly) quoting Taylor Swift.

👉 "There will always be haters. Haters like to hate. Isn't that what Taylor says?" she said on Tuesday morning. (“Haters gonna hate” is the correct lyric).

👉 Not to be outdone, former Prime Minister Scott Morrison then used his farewell speech in Parliament to clunkily and clumsily crowbar in as many Taylor Swift references as possible. 

👉 “It is true that my political opponents have often made me see red. Often when subjected to the tortured poets who would rise to attack my reputation. In response, I always thought it important to be fearless and speak now,” he said.

👉 Swift is widely recognised as one of the most talented lyricists and songwriters of our time, but her words should not be co-opted and corrupted in this way. These were moments for Morrison and Webb to be taking more seriously and using their own words.

👉 Another out-of-touch person who could have bitten their tongue this week was multimillionaire Kellogg’s CEO, Gary Pilnick. He didn’t quote Taylor Swift, but he did suggest families struggling economically could cope by eating cereal for dinner.

👉 Our advice? Respect the moment, give it the gravity it deserves and stop making it so easy for journalists and social media commentators to create content from your talking head. 

Opportunity: Live Music Soars Worldwide

Live Nation released its full-year results this month, revealing its biggest year ever in 2023 and a strong start to 2024. 

👉 The conglomerate’s results revealed its total revenue increased 36% to US$22.7 billion. It also generated sponsorship revenue of over US$1 billion, a climb of 13% year-on-year.

👉 Ticketmaster, meanwhile, sold 620 million tickets, also up 13% YOY.

👉 Already (as of mid-February), Live Nation has sold 57 million concert tickets.

👉 The results also revealed Live Nation’s Venue Nation will be expanding its global venue portfolio with a focus on large theatres and international arenas.

👉 It will be spending US$300 million on new venues and renovations this year, and venue acquisitions will continue.

👉 There is, it seems, still strong demand for venues of various sizes, as reported by Music Business Worldwide

Threat: Another Digital Darling Bites the Dust

We’ve already written about various changes, closures and cuts in media this year, but it seems like there’s more to come. 

👉 Vice Media has revealed it will lay off hundreds of employees and stop publishing on its website. 

👉 Instead, it will move to a “studio model”.

👉 This all comes amidst attempts to sell the business, and after it was already saved from bankruptcy last year.

👉 It’s hard to handle these things properly, but it’s a terrible outcome when editors meet with their staff and reveal they have asked management for clarity – requests which appeared to be ignored.

👉 According to The Hollywood Reporter: Vice News’ top editor Josh Visser addressed staffers on a midday Zoom and said he had given senior executives of the company, including CEO [Bruce] Dixon, an opportunity to deny rumours the site was shuttering, but he had not heard back, which he described as “very upsetting.”

👉 Let’s remember this was a business which was once valued in the billions, backed by Rupert Murdoch’s Fox and allowed its co-founder, Shane Smith, to boast about having a US$380,000 dinner (plus tip) in Las Vegas.

👉 As per The SMH, Enders Analysis’ Joseph Teasdale said: “It looks like we’re at the end of the road for a generation of digital media companies.” 

The Fun Stuff

Quote of the Week: Our digital world empowers artists to develop global followings, while inspiring fans to crave in-person experiences more than ever. At the same time, the industry is delivering a wider variety of concerts which draws in new audiences, and developing more venues to support a larger show pipeline,”  – Michael Rapino, President and CEO, Live Nation Entertainment. Source: The Guardian

🎥 Video of the Week: It seems we’re not the only ones questioning the behaviour of the major supermarkets. Other than that though, we don’t really know what to say about this one!

🙌 Team Tidbit: Meet our newest team member, Goose! Goose is the latest addition to Zanda’s family after being adopted from a rescue centre. Goose is five months old, and is passionate about empty boxes and laser pointers. Hello, Goose!"

Written by
Sound Story
Sound Story is your trusted comms partner! Strategic PR and comms for ambitious brands disrupting the global entertainment industry.
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