SWOT: 2.7 Billion Opportunities to be Heard

Spotify Australia just released its second annual Loud & Clear report, providing valuable insights for artists, industry and fans.
SWOT: 2.7 Billion Opportunities to be Heard
Photo by Mark Rohan / Unsplash

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

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Trending: Piers Morgan teases interview with real-life Baby Reindeer stalker as Netflix responds to hysteria. Words by Chris Gardner. Source: The Hollywood Reporter

🎵 Music: Ahead of a key Universal Music Group (UMG) investor meeting, the massive pay package of CEO Lucian Grainge is facing sharp criticism. Words by Dylan Smith. Source: Digital Music News

📰 Media: Nine has been forced to pull its print editions of The Australian Financial Review from Perth after billionaire Kerry Stokes’ Seven West Media demanded a new contract that doubled the cost of printing. Words by Sam Buckingham-Jones. Source: The Australian Financial Review

💰 Advertising: Qantas has “admitted that it misled consumers” by advertising flights set to be cancelled, and selling 86,000 tickets to cancelled flights. Words by Nathan Jolly. Source: Mumbrella

📲 Tech: A photo of Katy Perry all glammed up seemingly attending the Met Gala has gone viral after being viewed millions of times. The only problem is, the photo is a fake. Words by Christine Estera. Source: News.com.au.

📜 Government: The incomes earned by professional artists are perennially low. New research, funded by Creative Australia, shows in the 2021–22 financial year, artists’ income from creative work averaged only A$23,200. Even when other sources of income are added – such as from teaching or working outside the arts – the average gross income of Australian artists was still only $54,500 in the year. Words by David Throsby & Katya Peteskaya. Source: The Conversation

🌶️ Spicy: B&T 30 Under 30 – Where are they now? Until recently, prison! Source: B&T.

Strength: 2.7 Billion Opportunities to be Heard

Spotify Australia just released its second annual Loud & Clear report, providing valuable insights for artists, industry and fans. Here are some key highlights: 

👉 In 2023, royalties generated by Australian artists from Spotify reached nearly $275 million – up almost 10% since 2022.

👉 Approximately 50% of all royalties generated by Australian artists on Spotify in 2023 were by independent artists.

👉 Australian artists were discovered more than 2.7 billion times on the platform last year.

👉 “There’s more money in the music industry than ever before and the data we shared today from our latest Loud & Clear report shows that more and more artists are sharing in that revenue and building careers," Spotify Australia's Head of Music, Alicia Sbrugnera, said via The Music Network.

👉 She added: “We have proudly championed Australian artists for 11 years through editorial programming, best-in-class data and marketing tools, and partnerships for artist education, all driven by our local music team. With nearly $275 million in royalty payments in 2023 and a growth of almost 10% since 2022, it is clear that streaming has been a key factor in the Australian music industry becoming bigger than it has ever been.”

Weakness: Turmoil at 10

If you read the headlines (and the articles) this week, it would appear Network 10 and its parent company Paramount ANZ are at a real crossroads. But are things really as dire at Network 10 as the headlines proclaim?

📌 Vivienne: Honestly, I think I’ve seen this film before (and I didn’t like the ending). Back when I was at Mumbrella, we covered the 2017 version of this story with the headline “Just how much trouble is Ten in? (Answer: A lot more than you probably realise)”. And even before my time there, the headline a decade ago was “What the axing of Wake Up says about Ten’s plight”. (Side note: It's quite jarring to see 2014 Tim Burrowes talking about the alarming erosion of Ten's free-to-air share, from 30.08% in 2009 to 21.52% in 2013 – numbers the executives could only dream about in 2024.) 

Since all this, the network has been through multiple owners and local leads, with international studio and streaming giant Paramount its current parent. (Perhaps step-parent is the better phrasing here though, as even that relationship could be set to change). The current headline cycle points to ‘turmoil at 10’ and speculation that Australia simply can no longer justify or sustain three free-to-air commercial networks. It’s a familiar pattern, and one which 10 executives and storytellers would argue it has heard – and beaten – before. But with an ever-shrinking share of an ever-shrinking pie, there’s no doubt that something needs to change, and if 10 doesn’t instigate the changes, market forces will.

📌 Zanda: As Viv mentions above, this is far from the first time that doomsayers are predicting the demise of Network 10. Outside of the obvious flow-on effects of being forced to axe flagship primetime reality shows, an aspect of 10’s struggles this time around can be seen in their lagging sports assets and coverage. In the past, when Network 10 was declared to be in a nadir, it could still point to successful coverage of various sports including the AFL (2002-2011), Big Bash Cricket (2013-2018), and even the Melbourne Cup (coverage deal ended last year). Clearly, 10 recognises the importance of having a flagship sport for driving eyeballs, attempting to win back the AFL in 2022. But not even the pull of having a subscription streaming service like Paramount+ as part of the bid was enough to wrestle the rights back from Seven and Foxtel.

In 2021, 10 and Paramount+ bought the rights to Australia’s domestic football competition, the A-Leagues, a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate it could still do sport well. Instead, Paramount+ has left a lot to be desired as a live streaming service, paling in comparison to competitors like Kayo and Stan. The network also failed to capitalise on the unprecedented interest and opportunity that the Women’s World Cup brought to Australia in 2023, (having inexplicably allowed Seven to outbid them as the free-to-air TV partner for the competition). From here, it’s hard to see 10 winning back a flagship sport in the near future, and if that’s the measure of a stable FTA TV network, it is well and truly failing the test.

Opportunity: The One Rule to Rule Them All (Michael’s Version)

With the spotlight on how we can better support Australian artists and the local live music scene, there’s some real momentum this week to make a big change.

👉 As The Australian’s Andrew McMillen reported: “When Taylor Swift played to about 630,000 people on her seven-date stadium tour in February, Paul Kelly watched from the crowd. Missy Higgins, too. Then an old initiative was reborn.”

👉 At the annual AAM Awards, held by the Association of Artist Managers, it was decided that they would reignite an old initiative, and rename it “Michael’s Rule”, after Michael McMartin, a Canadian-born manager who guided the career of Sydney-born rock band Hoodoo Gurus for nearly 40 years.

👉 Many in the industry have now come out in support of the rule, which calls on promoters to do three things.

👉 Firstly, every international artist must include an Australian artist among their opening acts, and they must be announced at the same time as the tour so that they benefit from all the marketing and promotion. In addition, that Australian artist must appear on the same stage as the international artist using reasonable sound and lighting.

👉 Maggie Collins, Executive Director of the AAM, said: “Everybody knows that there are less Australian songs on the charts right now than at any time since the early 1960s. Local artists and their managers are also facing other historic challenges including a slew of recent festival cancellations. These challenges have been recognised by governments across Australia in recent years. Promoters received significant public funding during the pandemic and they understandably continue to receive public support for some of their major events. We think it is only reasonable that, in return, they should ‘do their bit’ to help give Australian artists a leg up by the simple means of including at least one local act on every international tour.”

Threat: When One Door Closes, Another Door… Closes?

It’s been a tough few weeks/months/years for live music venues, with recent news not making the picture any brighter.

👉 Iconic Sydney mainstay Selina’s is set to say goodbye, with plans to redevelop the Coogee Bay Hotel with a six-storey apartment block and boutique accommodation getting the green light.

👉 As reported by The Sydney Morning Herald: “The approval means owner C!NC Hotels, led by Chris Cheung, will be allowed to demolish several buildings within the venue, including the famous Selina’s nightclub, and add more rooms to its hotel accommodation.”

👉 The news comes not long after it was revealed Brisbane venue The Zoo would be closing after 32 years.

👉 The owner cited cost of living pressures and the trend of younger people drinking less alcohol.

👉 “The model is broken, unfortunately, when it comes to music venues,” The Zoo’s owner, Shane Chidgzey, said. “We only make money on alcohol sales. You’ve got a cost-of-living crisis in Australia, which is huge … And there’s a new trend of not drinking, which is a wonderful trend for health but not so good for bars.”

The Fun Stuff

Quote of the Week: “If Vanessa Hudson changed Qantas’ unbelievably aggressive revenue management practices, I would agree with her pretension to be ‘restoring confidence in the national carrier’. Until then, it looks to me like just another chapter in Qantas’ storied history of image management,” Columnist and author, Joe Aston, on Qantas ‘perfecting the art’ of the non-apology. (Via The SMH).

🗞️ Read of the Week: Columnist Joe Aston may have left his posting at The Australian Financial Review, but he certainly hasn’t stopped flinging barbs (and truth bombs) at embattled national carrier Qantas. Teasing his new book The Chairman’s Lounge, due out later this year, Joe has penned a column for The Sydney Morning Herald, taking aim at Qantas’ poor communication, self-congratulations, delays, profits, CEOs and everything in between. You can read the piece here, and the book will be out later this year.

Team Tidbit: Sydney-based team member Zanda Wilson braved the mud and rain to take part in the Runaway Sydney Half-Marathon last Sunday, setting a personal best time! He claims being unable to walk for the next three days was worth it, but the rest of us aren’t so sure. A full marathon next, Zanda?

Written by
Sound Story
Sound Story is Australia’s leading strategic communications consultancy for the creative industries with clients spanning music, media, advertising and technology.
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