Welcome to SWOT by Sound Story, your weekly inside track on the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats looming for the entertainment industry.
⚡️ Trending: X hit the number one slot among free apps on Apple’s App Store Wednesday, just as another celebrity image scandal was going viral on its platform. Words: Lauren Feiner. Source: The Verge.
🌏 Global: Disney+ lost 1.3 million subscribers in the final quarter of 2023 amid a hefty price hike that went into effect last fall, but managed to narrow its streaming business’ losses by $300 million during the October-December period. Words: Jennifer Maas. Source: Variety.
💰 Money: News Corp chief executive Robert Thomson says the media giant is close to being paid for its content by artificial intelligence companies, siding with OpenAI boss Sam Altman in his stoush with rival publisher The New York Times Company. Words: Sam Buckingham-Jones. Source: The AFR.
🌶️ Spicy: Jacob Elordi’s mum has brutally shut down a Daily Mail Australia journalist after they arrived at her house to probe her on her son’s alleged altercation. Words: Rebekah Manibog. Source: Pedestrian.
📰 Media: Shameless Media has this week announced a new content series and expansions to its existing pillars at its inaugural upfront events in Melbourne and Sydney. Words: Lauren McNamara. Source: Mumbrella.
Strength: The Era of Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift is almost in Australia. And while negative headlines abound – about everything from her excessive private jet usage to the restrictions fans will face when entering the various venues – The Eras Tour will help bolster Australia’s live sector offering, and strengthen how they communicate any shortcomings in the future.
👉 The sheer scale of The Eras Tour, and the logistics, planning and infrastructure it requires, has shone a spotlight on the strengths and weaknesses of some of Australia’s largest live music venues and touring offerings.
👉 Weeks out from Taylor’s arrival, fans are ‘fuming’ at the list of items they cannot bring into stadiums. There was significant confusion about Frontier Touring’s “ban on battery packs”, which many took to mean they couldn’t bring portable phone chargers. Turns out, they can bring their phone chargers. Phew. The whole thing also spiralled into a much-needed conversation about fan safety and accessibility.
👉 The unprecedented demand for tickets to this tour has also spotlighted the ever-increasing issue of ticket scammers (and allowed the usually-to-the-point and conservative ACCC to try its hand at punny headlines: Swifties beware: scammers are in their Cruel Summer Era).
👉 There’s also been a lot of focus on whether venues are adequately prepared to host such large-scale events, particularly ones with such a passionate audience, dominated by females. Even simple questions such as “Are there enough female toilets?” are finally getting their time in the sun.
👉 As Thomas Mitchell from The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age reports, “Taylor-gating” is also being watched closely. “As Swift’s tour continues around the world, fans who missed out on tickets have taken to congregating in streets and parking lots near the concert venues to sing along to their favourite songs without having to enter the stadiums… Fans are calling it Taylor-gating, and it’s becoming increasingly popular. Swiftiws rock up with all their supplies – snacks, drinks and even air mattresses – and then recreate the buzz of the concert from the comfort of the car park”.
👉 All the issues inadvertently highlighted by Taylor and her tour mimic those brought to the fore by Sound Story client Cedar Mill Group in its inaugural Australian Live Music Census. The Census revealed that punters are frustrated by toilet queues, accessibility issues and a lack of purpose-built live music venues.
👉 So could The Eras Tour not only boost the economy and physical activity, but also strengthen Australia’s live music offering, accessibility, safety, resources and support infrastructure?
Weakness: Festival Fizzers
Still with the live music sector, and it would appear that perhaps the local festival scene isn’t faring as well as Taylor’s tour.
👉 As reported by Christie Eliezer in The Music, the live sector is in talks with governments about short-term solutions as cost-of-living pressures took down five small-to-medium festivals within the first weeks of 2024.
👉 “Costs are up 40% across the board, and we’re just not able to raise ticket prices to the same level. So just the economics of festivals are becoming more difficult in this environment. The margins were already so tight, and the substantial increase in costs have made them even tighter,” Australian Festival Association’s Managing Director, Mitch Wilson, said.
👉 Christie’s article also highlighted that in 2023 Bluesfest lost 30,000 punters, Splendour in the Grass failed to sell out, and Falls, Dark Mofo and Goomfest all took a year off.
👉 Coachella is also seeing its slowest ticket sales in 10 years.
👉 Perhaps compounding this trend, is the view that people are “underwhelmed” by recent headliners and that we’re seeing a homogenisation of lineups and festival experiences.
👉 The conversation about the size of this problem, and the difficulties in solving it, is the subject of a deep-dive on Consequence.
👉 As Wren Graves, Features Editor, so brutally put it: “Who wouldn’t love more healthy small venues? All we have to do is fix the real estate crisis, break up ticket conglomerates, and create a robust social safety net so small business owners can take risks without ending up destitute forever.”
Opportunity: The Fall of X, The Rise of… Everything Else?
A bit like Taylor Swift, barely a day – nay, an hour – goes by without X being in the headlines, but it’s hard to remember when there was a good news story around the platform.
👉 As the platform continues to be plagued by mismanagement, distressing content, clunky and faulty algorithms, and just generally bad vibes, more and more prominent people are chirping their goodbyes to the platform formerly known as Twitter.
👉 P!nk is just one such example of a megastar leaving the party, saying: “Have you ever been at a party with a bunch of salty old people that never realized their dreams?Where the liquor ran dry ages ago,there’s no music-no one’s dancing-you would’ve had more fun at home with your blind cat? That’s twitter these days-or whatever it’s called now. Byeeeeeeeeeee”
👉 And as Amanda Meade reported in The Guardian, Australian journalists are also abandoning the platform.
👉 The report showed that 10% of Australian journalists had deleted or ignored their accounts professionally in 2023, while a further 26% said they still had an account but rarely used it for work.
👉 While one empire falls, another rises.
👉 TikTok usage among journos has reportedly increased 6% in 12 months, and chatter (chirping?) on LinkedIn sure seems to be surging.
👉 We’re not the only ones who’ve noticed. Check out these headlines:
🖇️ LinkedIn Really Is The Best Social Network (Slate) and I Found the Perfect Replacement for Twitter. It’s LinkedIn (Wired).
Threat: A Public Spat With No Winners?
PPCA (Phonographic Performance Company of Australia) versus CRA (Commercial Radio and Audio, formerly Commercial Radio Australia). Acronym versus acronym. Industry body versus industry body. CEO versus CEO. Perhaps not on the same scale as the fight between Universal Music Group and TikTok, but still one worth watching as it’s another important, large-scale music industry battle being played out via a war of words in the media. Where did it all go so wrong?
📌 Jake Challenor: This is no optical illusion. It’s a clear case of she said, he said. Yes, it’s hard to argue that a 1% cap is fair. But it’s even harder to argue that this fight is really worth the reward. If successful, any additional revenues will only be exported into the already-deep pockets of the big three catalogue owners (who each enjoy the lion’s share of radio airplay). Meantime, the rift between radio and music widens and the Australian music industry is left with the very same problems it had yesterday. Whichever way you spin it, this fight is a dud.
📌 Zanda Wilson: What’s interesting is not necessarily ‘why’ this is happening, with both sides’ arguments playing out in the media in excruciating detail, but the ‘why now’. We live in an age where music directors are no longer the tastemakers they once were, and for labels, breaking an act is no longer as simple as marching into a station with an artist and guitar in tow. Instead, new players have disrupted the market and, ultimately, broken up that symbiotic relationship between music and radio. This all screams of two players seeing the world they tightly controlled changing in front of their very eyes, and not being too pleased with a future where their relevance may be fading.
📌 Vivienne Kelly: Open letters. Industry body posturing. Petitions. Public accusations of “smear campaigns”. When we were journos, these moments were gifts from the News Gods. My own portfolio showcases a particular penchant for this subset of news – whether it be related to sports, the need for more local music on radio, JobKeeper ending, or more support for the Arts. Sometimes the strategy of fighting publicly works. It adds pressure. It galvanises people. It exposes your opposition. It forces action. Sometimes, though, you can overexpose your own shortcomings or hypocrisies. You might take the spotlight away from those who need it. And you might end up losing a bigger battle.
The Fun Stuff
Quote of the Week: “I think we need to see some holistic changes in the touring world happen before the benefits can trickle up to festivals. I want to see more investments in smaller and mid-size venues, where artists can make a living touring without being signed to a major label or having a viral TikTok hit. Make artists want to tour and play festivals.” – Abby Jones, Associate Editor, Consequence.
🎥 Video of the Week: Ahead of the Super Bowl, Uber Eats has released the full version of its TVC with Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer, and more. It’s well worth a quick watch.
🎂 Team Tidbit: This Week our GM Brian Lawlor celebrated a milestone birthday. Never one to take the limelight, Brian (who also goes by Chief Tech Support Officer) went to great lengths to ensure his birthday was just another day - even removing the reminder from our shared calendar. Unlucky for Brian, we didn’t skip a beat. Here he is enjoying a celebratory lunch with the biggest blue balloons we could find!