代写英语市场调研报告Having a ball; What's working in music
In the supposedly benighted music business, a lot of things are making money
EVEN by the elevated standards of such things, Lady Gaga's "Monster Ball" concert is over the top. The show, which is loosely organised around the theme of a woman's search for the ultimate party, features a fountain of fake blood, a burning piano and a host of dancing men. At one point Gaga is encased in a spin-ning gyroscope. Later she is done up to resemble a remote-controlled snowflake. At about $100 plus parking, nearly all the shows are selling out. Welcome to the supposedly doomed music business.
For the past ten years sales of recorded music have declined so steeply as to become a cautionary tale about the disruptive power of the internet. The rise of illegal file-sharing and the end of the digital "replace-ment cycle", in which people bought CDs to replace tapes and records, caused spending to collapse. Sales of CDs, tapes and records have slid by 40% in Britain since 2001, according to the BPI, which represents record labels. In Japan, the world's biggest CD sales market, the number of discs sold fell by 6% in 2008 and 24% in 2009. Price cuts meant that revenues dropped even more steeply.
The rise in digital music-sales is scant compensation. People tend to buy tracks, not albums, from sites like Apple's iTunes. They can obtain their favourite music much more cheaply than they could in the CD era. And even digital sales are now stalling. In Japan, mobile and online single-track sales rose only a shade during 2009. So far this year Americans have bought 841m digital tracks, mostly from Apple's iTunes, according to Nielsen Soundscan--down from 847m at this point last year. Apple now offers plenty of other opportunities to spend money, from iPads to more than 250,000 apps. Music executives believe the company is cannibalising the musical part of its own business.
Yet the music business is surprisingly healthy, and becoming more so. Will Page of PRS for Music, which collects royalties on behalf of artists, has added up the entire British music business. He reckons it turned over £3.9 billion ($6.1 billion) in 2009, 5% more than in 2008. It was the second consecutive year of growth. Much of the money bypassed the record companies. But even they managed to pull in £1.1 billion last year, up 2% from 2008. A surprising number of things are making money for artists and music firms, and others show great promise. The music business is not dying. But it is changing profoundly.
The longest, loudest boom is in live music. Between 1999 and 2009 concert-ticket sales in America tripled in value, from $1.5 billion to $4.6 billion (see chart 1). Ticket sales wobbled in America during the summer of 2010, but that was partly because some big-selling acts took a break. One of the most reliable earners, Bono, U2's singer, was put out of action when he injured his back in May. Next year many of the big acts will be on the road again, and a bumper year is expected.
It is not that more people are going to concerts. Rather, they are paying more to get in. In 1996 a ticket to one of America's top 100 concert tours cost $25.81, according to Pollstar, a research firm that tracks the market. If prices had increased in line with inflation, the average ticket would have cost $35.30 last year. In fact it cost $62.57. Well-known acts charge much more. The worldwide average ticket price to see Madonna last year was $114. For Simon & Garfunkel it was an eye-watering $169. Leading musicians have also, by roundabout means, seized a larger share of the mysterious "service" charges that are often tacked onto tick-ets.
Fans complain bitterly about the rising price of live music. Yet they keep paying for concerts. One reason is that the live-music experience has vastly improved. Lots of shiny new venues have been built since the mid-1990s, many subsidised by governments in the hope that they would revitalise decayed downtowns. And musicians are much more enthusiastic about performing live. The misery of touring was once a familiar musicians' gripe, inspiring songs from the Rolling Stones' "Torn and Frayed" to Ice-T's "Lifestyles of the Rich and Infamous". But those songs were written in the days when touring was a way of marketing recorded music. Now it is a direct source of profit.
However much fans pay to get into a venue (and thanks to ticket touts they often pay more than even the greediest artists charge) they tend to have cash left over. This they spend on merchandise. "We have grown along with the touring business," says Tom Bennett, the head of Bravado, which sells T-shirts and other pa-raphernalia. Bravado's revenues have more than doubled since 2007, when it was acquired by Universal Music Group--although that is partly because it has signed up new acts. And merchandise has moved well beyond the arena. Nearly all Bravado's turnover used to come from sales at concerts. Now about half comes from retail stores.
The re-release of the Rolling Stones' 1972 album "Exile on Main Street" in May was accompanied by a mer-chandising blitz that illustrates how far the business has evolved beyond selling black T-shirts. Bravado re-leased more than 100 items, from baseball caps to boxes containing signed lithographs. There were not only album-cover T-shirts but also a higher-priced "as worn by" collection, featuring reproductions of clothes that members of the band happened to be wearing in the early 1970s. The huge range of items at different prices meant products found their way into budget stores like Target as well as dearer ones like Bloomingdale's.
The Stones are wily old businessmen: they were among the first to realise that fans would pay more for concert tickets. But even up-and-coming acts now try to build livelihoods around merchandising and live performance. Scorcher, a rapper from London who recently signed his first record deal, set up a clothing label even before he made his first video. He invariably wears his own products in the music videos that he gives away on websites like YouTube. Scorcher is not so much selling music as using music to sell. "If you buy into me musically, you will also buy into the clothing and the lifestyle," he explains.
Music's cachet and emotional pull also make it a potent weapon for businesses that want to build their own brands. The Rolling Stones (again) led the way in recruiting tour sponsors, from Sprint, a phone company, to Ameriquest, which sold mortgages. Sponsorship can lead to musicians wearing a company's clothes and naming songs after it: Rascall Flatts, a country music band, has done both for American Living, a label car-ried by JCPenney. IEG, a firm that tracks the market, estimates that the value of tour sponsorships in North America will reach $1.74 billion this year, up from $1.38 billion in 2006.
Music's best business customer is television. "Watch an evening's worth of TV and count how many times you hear music in the background," says Jeremy Lascelles, chief executive of Chrysalis. Your correspondent tried, and found that a new tune appeared, on average, every 40 seconds. Many necessitated payments to songwriters and the music publishers, like Chrysalis, that represent them. Publishers have become increasingly adept at hawking their wares to programme-makers. And music is not always in the background of TV programmes. Some of the most popular shows of the past few years--"American Idol", "Glee" and "The X-Factor"--have been music shows.
Because it derives revenues from business as well as consumers, publishing is much more stable than re-cording. Record companies' publishing departments, which once seemed rather dowdy next to sexy, tal-ent-spotting A&R, have become vital cash machines. Publishing supplied 29% of EMI's revenues and 45% of its profits in the year to March 2010. The outfit's new boss, Roger Faxon, comes from that side of the business--a reflection of how the economics of music have shifted.
On television, music is either supported by advertising or bundled invisibly into the cost of pay-TV subscrip-tions. That model is spreading from the box to the web. Free music-streaming services like We7 and Spotify have proliferated in Europe: the latter claims 10m users. America has Vevo, a music-video website linked to YouTube and owned in part by Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment. Because Vevo's con-tent is consistently professional, it draws advertisers. Rio Caraeff, who runs the outfit, says companies pay $25-30 to reach 1,000 viewers. That is more than television networks tend to get, although Vevo reaches fewer people and runs many fewer ads (just 15 seconds every six-and-a-half minutes).
The free music-streaming services have not yet brought in money commensurate with their huge audiences. In 2009 ad-supported digital music earned just £8.2m for British record companies, less than 1% of total revenues. But some have started charging fans for tunes on mobile phones--charges that may be bundled into monthly voice tariffs. Some music executives view the streaming services as the industry's best hope.
Whether they are or not depends on where the new users of free streaming websites come from. If Spotify and Vevo are drawing people away from the CD racks and the iTunes store, they are undermining the indus-try. If, on the other hand, people are streaming music online rather than downloading it illegally from a Bit-Torrent site, the industry gains. It has converted a user who is worth nothing to someone who is worth a little. And the pool of pirates is so huge at present (IFPI, an international trade group, reckons that 19 out of every 20 tracks downloaded are illegal) that it ought to be possible to make serious money from persuading people to make the switch. The growth of legitimate streaming services has driven overall revenues up in South Korea and Sweden.
The possibility that music-streaming websites will turn CD buyers into freeloaders is a concern only in coun-tries where people still buy music. That is not the case everywhere. Rampant piracy means just $19m-worth of CDs were sold in China last year--about the same as in Hungary. In such countries it makes sense to give away music, surrounding and interspersing it with advertisements. Websites like Top100.cn and Google are doing that. Record labels have also licensed music to Nokia, which bundles it into the price of its mobile phones.
The proliferation of FM radio and multichannel television in emerging markets is also driving revenues from copyrights. At the same time, restaurants and clubs are being strong-armed into paying for the music they play. CISAC, an umbrella organisation for collection societies, has reported steady or rising receipts in the past decade (see chart 2 on the previous page). But there is still a long way to go before collections reach European levels in emerging markets or elsewhere in the rich world. In America, for example, radio stations do not pay performance rights, although there have been legislative efforts to change that.
Rising income from live performance, merchandising, sponsorship, publishing, online streaming and emerg-ing markets has come to counterbalance losses from declining CD sales. As a result, some musicians are singing a different tune. Last year a new group, the Featured Artists Coalition, objected to government plans to punish file-sharers by suspending their broadband connections. Its leaders, including established artists such as Billy Bragg and Annie Lennox, argue that file-sharing is a useful form of promotion. But not every-body agrees.
The sharpest rebuke came from Lily Allen, a songwriter and pop singer who was then 24 years old. File-sharing was fine for long-in-the-tooth bands that "do sell-out arena tours and have the biggest Ferrari collections in the world", she noted. But for new acts it is a calamity. As revenues dry up, record companies are becoming unwilling to invest in young artists, apart from those who have built an audience by winning talent shows on television.
Ms Allen's intervention went down badly with the digital libertarians who dominate discussion of file-sharing on the internet. She was nonetheless right--and she could have gone further. Music piracy is fundamentally a generational issue. Polls have consistently shown that teenagers and young adults are the most likely to acquire music online illegally. They naturally prefer music made by people of their own age (such as Ms Allen), who write about the sort of things they experience. So the young steal from the young, while middle-aged fans continue to buy CDs put out by middle-aged musicians.
In a sense, the recorded-music market is not so much dying as greying. In 2002 people aged 12 to 19 ac-counted for 16.4% of all spending on albums in Britain, according to TNS Worldpanel. That was almost double the share of people aged 60 or over (8.8%). The two groups have now switched positions. By 2008 teenagers accounted for just 12% of spending on albums, whether digital or physical. By contrast, the older fans' share had gone up to 13.8%. The over-60s do not just spend more on music albums than teenagers. They spend more on pop-music albums.
The consequences can be seen in the pop charts. America's bestselling album since 2000 is "1", a collection of Beatles hits from the 1960s. At one point last year four of the top ten albums in Britain were Beatles re-cordings and the number-one album was a collection of songs by Vera Lynn, who was then 92 years old. The bestselling album worldwide last year was "I Dreamed a Dream" by Susan Boyle, a middle-aged Scot. Universal Music's bestselling album in Japan in the first half of this year was "Vocalist 4" by Hideaki Toku-naga, Japan's answer to Harry Connick Jr. If most of your fans are middle-aged, CD sales are holding up well.
The ageing of the recorded-music market has been accelerated by trends in retailing. As independent record shops and specialist media stores like Zavvi (formerly Virgin) have closed, supermarkets have emerged as leading outlets for music. Britain's four big supermarkets--Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Morri-sons--accounted for 24% of all music sales in the country last year. By comparison, Amazon.com had 13% of the market and iTunes only 11%.
Supermarkets are patronised disproportionately by the middle-aged and the old (see chart 3, also on the previous page). People aged 40 and over account for 62% of spending on music in Tesco, according to Kantar, a research firm. Partly because of their clientele, partly because supermarkets are mass-market en-terprises, they tend to stock mainstream fare. "People who are shopping for Midlake or The National won't find them in a supermarket," says Geoff Taylor of the BPI, referring to two American indie bands. "But I bet Kylie Minogue's album is there."
The growing clout of middle-aged and old listeners extends beyond recorded music. "Many of the acts selling out stadiums are old," says Rob Hallett, the head of AEG Live. The top three American touring acts last year were U2 (average age: 49), Bruce Springsteen (61) and a double bill of Billy Joel (61) and Elton John (63). And that raises a worrying question: what happens when their knees give out?
Many of the acts that now draw huge crowds emerged in an era of multi-album record contracts, lavish marketing and radio payola. They built their brands gradually, overcoming the occasional lousy album. They "invaded" other countries when they felt the time was right. As a result, they have legions of fans who are prepared to stump up for concert tickets. Because their songs appeal to several generations of listeners, they are attractive to advertisers and TV programme-makers. The young dreamers in shows like "The X-Factor" commonly perform songs that are more than a quarter of a century old.
Some music executives fret that the stadium-filling acts will not be replaced. It is true that the starmaking machines run by the record companies are creaking. But this does not mean there will be no more popular acts. Musicians will build fan bases in other ways--through social networks, by recording music for TV or simply by trekking from gig to gig (which is how bands became famous for much of the 20th century). Some will rise with a speed that would have /shocked their predecessors--witness Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber, a 16-year-old singer who was almost unknown a year ago. Those who doubt their staying power may wish to consider that adults have long believed the music their teenage children listen to will not endure as long as the tunes they grew up with.
LOAD-DATE: October 7, 2010
GRAPHIC: Springsteen's still the boss; Springsteen's still the boss