Australia’s Music Industry Posts Solid Growth

Australia’s music industry is on the up, with labels trade body ARIA and authors’ rights society APRA both reporting strong gains.

Wholesale figures published this week by ARIA show total music sales in the market leaped by 6% to A$195.6 million ($140 million) in the first half, ignited by a digital sector which saw a 14.2% bump during the period, to A$162.5 million ($116 million).

It’s another confident result, coming off the back of double-digit full-year growth for 2017, which represented the greatest spike Australia’s industry had experienced since 1996.

Streaming is, once more, a big part of the revival. In the first six months, subscription revenue exploded by 35.1% to A$105 million ($75 million) while ad-supporting streaming revenue grew to $12.7 million ($9.1 million), up 31.9%.

There were continued sharp falls for CD albums and singles, and digital track and album sales are, apparently, on the way out. The CD albums market was the Australian industry’s engine-room until recently, but today generates less than 20% of total revenue. In the six months to June, CD albums accounted for just A$32 million ($23 million) in sales, down 30% from the year-before period.

With streaming brands Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube Music and others connecting with Australian consumers, execs are confident of more growth in the years to come. “If we compare our penetration with markets around the world where streaming is more mature, for example Sweden, there is still considerable room for growth in the Australian market,” ARIA CEO Dan Rosen tells Billboard. “It is also expected that new devices such as smart home speakers will drive the next phase of growth.”

Last year, revenue from streaming services topped A$213 million ($165 million) in Australia, up 55% from A$137 million ($106 million) the previous year, and generated the largest slice of the overall market (54%) for the first time.

In other news, APRA AMCOS is on the verge of posting its own solid set of results. During a breakfast meeting at the Bigsound conference last week in Brisbane, Australia, the organization’s CEO Dean Ormston said Australia’s music market is in great shape.

Full year revenue should come to about A$420 million ($301 million), up by 8.7% on last year, with a record high foreign revenue of $43.7 million ($31 million) for the reporting period. “It is fair to say we are a very strong growing, healthy music industry,” Ormston said.

Via Billboard.

Eminem Takes NZ Political Party to Court

There was a time when Eminem filled stadiums and arenas around the globe with his incendiary style of hip-hop. This week, the self-styled “Rap God” lit it up in a New Zealand courtroom.

The Oscar and Grammy-winning rapper’s 2002 hit “Lose Yourself” was dropped in a trial targeting NZ’s conservative National Party which, it is alleged, ripped off the song for an election campaign.

Eminem’s Detroit-based music publishers Eight Mile Style launched litigation when the National Party rolled out its Eminem Esque ad to add muscle to its 2014 election campaign (which the party won).

The political party has previously claimed it legally acquired rights to the track, which like the “8 Mile” original opens with a tense guitar lick and pushes forward with a sense of urgency.

After the lawsuit was filed, campaign manager Steven Joyce offered a unique defense of his party’s use of the song as “pretty legal”, and that Eminem’s team “are just having a crack and a bit of an eye for the main chance because it’s an election campaign”. Eminem’s reps didn’t see it that way and U.S.-based British political commentator John Oliver took Joyce to task for his dubious word flow: “Pretty legal? That’s not a concept that exists. That’s like being sort-of dead,” Oliver quipped back in 2014.

Speaking in court this week, Garry Williams, lawyer for Eight Mile Style, quoted from National Party emails including one in which the updated track was described as an Eminem “sound-alike” and another in which an agent for the party wrote: “I guess the question we’re asking, if everyone thinks it’s Eminem, and it’s listed as — Eminem Esque, how can we be confident that Eminem doesn’t say we’re ripping him off,” the Associated Press reports.

And did the judge and nine jurors wave their hands in the air when “Lose Yourself” was played in Wellington’s High Court. Hardly. Footage snapped inside the courtroom shows them all listening politely to the famous hype-up tune.

The result of the NZ court case will be closely watched by the international music biz. Led Zeppelin last year defeated a lawsuit that accused the legendary rockers of stealing the opening riff in “Stairway to Heaven” from a song by the psychedelic rock outfit Spirit. And in 2015, a judge ruled against Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke, finding their track “Blurred Lines” infringed on Marvin Gaye’s 1977 hit “Got to Give It Up.” The judge in that case awarded US$5.3 million in damages plus 50 percent of the song’s future royalties to Gaye’s heirs, though the case has since been appealed. Tom Waits has won several “soundalike” legal battles, including a $2.5 million case against Frito-Lay in the United States for using his vocal style in an ad for Salsa Rio Doritos chips.

Barry Weiss Talks Hits, Trump and Lessons Learned

By Lars Brandle

Hits, superstars, majors, indies, divas, captains of industry, legends. Barry Weiss has worked with them all, and learned from the best.

The American record label veteran was a key lieutenant for Clive Calder, whose independent powerhouse Jive/Zomba launched the careers of Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys and ‘Nsync in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The enigmatic South Africa born-Calder completed the sale of the company to BMG in 2002 for a whopping $2.7 billion, and has remarkably managed to stay out of the spotlight ever since. Everyone wants time with Calder. Few in the media have ever seen him, let alone met him.

Born and bred in New York, Weiss is himself a member of an American music dynasty, the son of the colorful hitmaker Hy Weiss, who produced and released records through the 1950s and 1960s. And Weiss’ sons are now part of the framework of the U.S. music business, the world’s largest market.  It was Hy Weiss who coined the “$50 handshake. Back in the so-called “golden age” of radio when labels embraced the dark art of “Payola,” the once widespread practice of paying broadcasters to play their music, Weiss senior simply refined the process. Payola is now history and the business Hy operated in is an alien landscape compared with today’s fragmented digital world. But Barry Weiss sees a golden future.

“We’re getting back to the golden years, but we’re not quite there now,” notes Barry. “There’s light at the end of the tunnel for the first time in many years with what’s going on with streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music and Deezer. It’s growth. The American industry was up 8.1% in revenues in the first half of the year last year. It’s amazing to see growth again, even if it’s single digital growth. “

Barry Weiss has pulled the levers at major labels, and indies.  He served in executive positions with BMG (which later merged with Sony Music), before bolting to Universal Music Group in 2010 to run its East Coast label group, which comprised Republic Records and Island Def Jam. Weiss left the company in April of 2014 and set about building his own business. Weiss launched RECORDS in a joint venture with New York-based SONGS Publishing (which represents The Weeknd, Lorde, Diplo, X Ambassadors, DJ Mustard, Desiigner, Duran Duran and others), and with distribution handled by Sony RED. RECORDS has already scored hits with Nelly’s gold-certified “The Fix” and ILoveMemphis’ “Hit the Quan,” which reached No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100, and Weiss is confident of launching another artist into the mainstream, with a name already familiar to most: Noah Cyrus.

Cyrus, a member of another famous American music dynasty, is the younger sister of Miley and Metro Station guitarist Trace, and daughter of “Achy Breaky Heart” singer Billy Ray. Earlier this month, RECORDS released ‘Stay Together,’ which Idolator pegs as a “Song Of The Summer contender”. It’s the second track from Noah’s forthcoming album NC-17, and follows the 2016 release “Make Me (Cry)” featuring Labyrinth.

TIO spoke to the entrepreneur about his lessons learned and Australia’s growing confidence in the global music market.

What’s the vibe on the Australian music business from the U.S.?

The bottom line is, Australia is a great place to find talent and a great place to break talent. It’s a great market, it’s like the way the record business used to feel in the ‘80s and in the mid-1990s in America. There’s an element of risk-taking from an A&R point of view, and from a media point of view. There’s so much on the line, the stakes are so big in America. Every quarter point rating on radio there means thousands upon tens of tens of thousands of dollars, or hundreds of thousands of dollars, so they have to get it right. In the same way where Netflix and Amazon Prime TV have unleashed this creative genesis, they’re calling it the “golden age of TV”, I think it’s the golden age of music in the Australian and British marketplace, with Australia in particular. There’s more risk taking because maybe the stakes aren’t quite as big. People really go by their gut here. And the public still loves discovering new artists.

What are some of the great lessons learned from your dad?

One of his favorite expressions was, ‘a hit record is like a tennis ball in the water, you can’t keep it down.’ It’s not quite as simple these days, because there’s a lot that goes into making sure a record gets enough oxygen to really rise to the top. But it’s still all about A&R. It starts and ends with A&R. It sounds obvious but it seems to have got lost in the sauce in the last 20 years.

Denis Handlin talks about hits and stars. It really is, and Denis knows what he’s talking about. It’s not about us, the industry. It’s about the artists. Take a back seat, let the artist be front and centre.

Your son Mike works with Larry Rudolph and Adam Leber at Maverick Management. What lessons did you pass on?

Stay close to the talent. There’s nothing more important than supporting the talent and making sure they’re secure and can feel they can trust you. That’s when they’ll make their best art. The power lies with the talent. That’s the mantra I’ve given my son and that’s why he’s edged toward being in artist management rather than the label side. This is such a niche business, the skill set is not that transferable. It’s not a business for civilians.

And of course, you learned from the mysterious Clive Calder.

I learned 100 lessons, 1000s of lessons from Clive. Clive was a certified genius. I think he’s Michael Jordan, he’s the best that ever played. I don’t think there’s anybody I’ve met in the music industry in 34 years who can come close to his brilliance. His problem solving ability. His left brain, right brain creative instincts coupled with strategic business instincts, his A&R vision. He truly had the ability to see around corners. And he could really see the future. He was as close to anyone I’ve seen who was literally anointed enough where he could see the future.

Have you had a lot of luck?

Yeah, but need to have a lot of luck. As my sons embark on their own careers, I tell them what I’d tell anybody: you have to work your ass off. And you make your own luck. You work hard and put yourself into a position to step into good fortune. If you don’t work hard, you’re not focused and passionate, the odds are dramatically decreased that you’ll have good luck.

Finally, Donald Trump is in the White House. How was his election victory received in the U.S. record business?

The vibe not only in the record business but in the east coast and west coast of America was stunned and disappointed.  A day after the election, you could almost feel it in the streets how disappointed New Yorkers were. It’s still early days, and the artist community is up in arms. But it’ll probably lead to great art.


Australia’s New Generation of Global Stars

This article originally appeared at the official Music Australia Website

“You Aussies can have your sport, we’ll have the culture.” A bit of friendly banter between an English music executive and an Australian journalist in the early noughties over a pint at the Brixton Academy, the south London citadel for bands who’ve made it. A throwaway line, with perhaps a nugget of truth. The English hadn’t done much in sport to that point, not since that famous final across town in the 1966 World Cup. Likewise, the Australians could rely on a few music heavyweights in their corner — Kylie Minogue, Nick Cave and AC/DC (when they’re in cycle) — though the conveyor belt never delivered the goods in predictable fashion.

There was the odd international hit (Madison Avenue, Josh Abrahams), the shooting star (Avalanches), and the tease of an “Aussie Wave” (the Vines and Jet, then later Gabriella Cilmi, Wolfmother, Pendulum and Sam Sparro).

And then something odd happened. The Brits started beating us in sport, all too regularly. And Australia’s musicians were seemingly landing a few blows of their own, more regularly and from new voices.

If Gotye and his monster hit from 2011 “Somebody that I Used to Know” was indeed “ground zero” for Australia’s so-called “golden generation,” a cadre that included Sia, Vance Joy, Tame Impala, Flume, Iggy Azalea, Alison Wonderland and others, the ripple-effect hasn’t weakened. Gotye is no longer hot news, though the spotlight on new Australian acts has arguably intensified.

So what’s changed? Technology has changed. Perceptions have changed.

As Australia matures, its musical export are reshaping stereotypes of a sunburnt country where sweaty bands once played rock ‘n’ roll in pubs carpeted with sawdust.  For an outsider looking in on today’s crop, Australia doesn’t represent a cohesive scene. There’s something for every taste, from EDM to country. From Courtney Barnett, with her raw indie rock energy which earned a Grammy nomination for best newcomer (she lost out to Meghan Trainor) to Hiatus Kaiyote, the future-soul group which can boast Prince as a fan and a recent Grammy nomination.  Tame Impala’s story keeps building. Kevin Parker’s psychedelic-rock outfit did in February 2016 what few Australians have managed by winning a Brit Award for best international act (beating U2 in the process). Tame Impala’s third album “Currents” peaked at No. 3 in the U.K. and No. 4 in the U.S. and became the first No. 1 on the U.K.’s prog albums chart when it launched in April 2015.
As Australia matures, its musical export are reshaping stereotypes of a sunburnt country

Pop-punk gang 5 Seconds of Summer joined some lofty company when their sophomore set Sounds Good Feels Good vaulted straight to No. 1 in the U.K., U.S. and Australian album charts in 2015, becoming just the third Aussie act in history behind Men At Work and AC/DC to have simultaneous No.1 albums in those three markets. They also became the only band — not vocal group — to see its first two full-length studio albums debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart.

Electronic-pop boy-wonder Troye Sivan made the leap from YouTube star to big-league recording artist/producer, delivering top 5s on the Billboard 200 chart with “TRXYE” and “Wild” and earning adoring praise from Taylor Swift and Sam Smith (“Wild” also peaked at No. 5 in the U.K. in 2015). Meg Mac signed a co-publishing arrangement with BMG and Pulse Music Publishing in early 2016, while Tonight Alive’s “Limitless” and Matt Corby’s “Telluric” are impacting in the U.K. In an offbeat success story, Empire of the Sun’s “Walking on a Dream” finally cracked the Billboard Hot 100 in January some eight years after its release, thanks to the power of a TV U.S. commercial.  The 2008 release also reigned atop Billboard + Clio Music’s Top Commercials chart thanks to Honda’s use of the Australian electro-pop song.

The Australian accent, once deemed so harsh the distributors of “Max Max: The Road Warrior” dubbed the classic film for American audiences, became accepted in the U.S. as Australian actors swept into Hollywood. Apparently the accent is mellowing just fine with European audiences. The European Broadcasting Union and Swedish broadcaster SVT has welcomed Australia back to participate in the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest, with reality TV star Dami heading to Stockholm in May as the nation’s rep.

The twang, notes Henry Rollins, is working to Australians’ favour. The American punk-rock hardman and radio DJ is an Australian music enthusiast with a borderline obsession which can be traced-back to the Saints’ trailblazing 1977 recording“(I’m) Stranded”. “There’s myriad reasons why music is so good from Australia,” explains Rollins. “It has a lot to do with geography and being left alone. But also the way you sing and speak makes it interesting. If you have sympathetic productions, the Australian twang and accent does a beautiful thing with the English language. If you put that to rock ‘n’ roll, with fast-paced, slow-paced, single guitar and singing, it is so beautiful and it works so well it just melts over the notes in a natural unforced way. With the Australian lilt of the language of English put to any instrument, it just wins.” Rollins’ obsession extends to such acts as Blank Realm, Jonny Telafone and Eddie Current Suppression Ring.

Barnett might just possess the winning formula Rollins speaks of. The singer and songwriter has made the leap from Melbourne pubs to major international festivals and the upper tiers of sales charts with “Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit” (which reached No. 16 in the U.K. and No. 20 in the U.S.) With a knack for storytelling, always delivered in her own
accent, Britain’s “Independent” newspaper, like others, has described Barnett as “Australia’s answer to Bob Dylan.” Barnett, whose debut album has won major domestic honors the J Award and Australian Music Prize and a swathe of ARIA and AIR Awards, admits technology has made the leap “a little easier” for acts who in days past rolled the dice and relocated abroad. “There’s always been good music, but the Internet has made it easier to be heard.” Barnett’s route into the U.S. began with a stint at CMJ and a few appearances on late night TV which “nudge you into another realm”. There’s been no magic marketing campaign. “We just keep doing what we’re doing and people come. Maybe it’s been word of mouth,” she says in a laconic style which breathes across her songs.

“There’s no doubt that the Internet has lowered the barriers to entry. Songs can cross borders instantaneously now. You no longer need access to big promotion budgets and suchlike to get things started,” notes John Watson, the Sydney-based president of Eleven: A Music Company and John Watson Management. Watson has guided the careers of Silverchair, Missy Higgins, Cold Chisel and Gotye among others. “That’s why you see great local talent like Courtney Barnett, Troye Sivan, Tame Impala and Chet Faker getting discovered internationally at much the same time as they’re establishing their careers back home. Once upon a time it would have taken several years for them to get heard overseas but now blogs and Soundcloud are exposing them to millions before they get their first mainstream radio airplay.” Cheap flights and price-competitive online travel services (Airbnb, Uber) are also softening the punishing cost of touring.

Watson has a message for acts wanting the big prize. Work hard, think smart and keep going. “If you look at the history of Australian music you can see that the artists who made serious international forays tended to make better music for longer than those artists who settled for being big frogs in a small puddle and typically became a bit complacent.” Great artists will somehow always find ways to form deeper and more enduring connections, he adds. The challenge now is “not so much getting attention as sustaining attention.”

The impact of Australia’s music exports is measurable.  For the year 2014-15, APRA AMCOS reported a 26% year-on-year revenue increase to $34 million for the performance of Australian works overseas.  Double digit growth is again forecast for the 2015-16 reporting period.  The likes of Barnett, Sia, Tame Impala, 5SOS and Sivan have “in no small way” contributed to the total, notes Head of Member Services Dean Ormston.

The dearth of cold, hard empirical data on Australian artist’s economic contribution should be addressed in a major Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage project, which will ascertain the value of Australia’s net export against GDP.  The three-year study began in recent months with a research team including Sounds Australia, the Australia Council for the Arts, and Newcastle and Monash Universities. It’s also understood AIR is poised to launch a research project with Deloitte that may offer additional insight.

As tastes have evolved and technology forced every industry to adapt (or die), the disruption has arguably created opportunities, particularly so for alternative English-language repertoire
sources like Australia.

“The potential pool of buyers has considerably broadened. And there’s more interest today in North America to what is happening in Australia,” notes Larry LeBlanc, the award-winning Canadian music industry journalist who pens the “In The Hot Seat” column for “Celebrity Access”. “But that interest is part of a bigger picture in which there’s more general interest in acts from abroad that might fit the North American touring and radio landscape.”

The Australians have a reputation for getting out there. LeBlanc notes the presence of Australia’s music export office and the tireless work of Sounds Australia’s Millie Millgate “draws a strong applause with North Americans for providing a bigger picture of Australian acts.” LeBlanc also cites the work of such promoters Michael Chugg, and Michael Gudinski and artist managers John Watson, Bill Cullen, Catherine Haridy, and Craig Lock as being “instrumental in holding up the banner of Australian music to those outside the country.” Among those artists from Australia now being tracked by North American music industry executives,  says LeBlanc, are Megan Washington, Avalanche City, the Rubens, Lime Cordiale, Gypsy and the Cats, the Griswolds and Dan Sultan.

Australia’s strong showing comes at a time when the powerbase of the music business has gone global in scope. “Go-to songwriter Max Martin is from Sweden, Adele rules the world from her home in England and the EDM movement has opened up opportunities for artists from many corners of the globe,” notes L.A.-based music business consultant Geoff Mayfield, formerly VP of business analysis and market research for Universal Music Group and director of charts/senior analyst at Billboard. “You have to wonder if we owe some of this globalization to the fact that of the three remaining majors, the largest one is now run by a Brit and another is owned by a Russian. Back when we still had four, only the smallest of them was run by someone who wasn’t American.”

Mayfield has the last word. “I don’t know that we’re at a point where being Australian represents an A&R advantage, but by the same token, Five Seconds’ avid fan base and the inescapable hit of Gotye proves that a Down Under passport doesn’t limit an artist’s potential.”