People on a street playing music
John R Rogers
2021 has been a difficult year. That’s true. But there are reasons to be cheerful as we look toward 2022. One main reason is of all years, 2021 was a banner year for music. I don’t mean exclusively for the music industry, but for the entire music ecosystem in many countries around the world. In 2021, music was incorporated into global policy. In some countries, artists were prioritized by policymakers. Countries that had never invested in their music economies began to and pandemic support for artists, venues and music businesses increased. This is a start and there is a long way to go, but all in all, 2021 gives us reasons to be hopeful for 2022. I thought I would list a few of these reasons.
The music industry, however inequitable it is, continues to grow:
In most countries, any time music is listened to or used in any way, someone gets paid. A lot of music was listened to in 2021. As a result, the commercial recorded music industry grew by 7.4% at last count and the total value of music, according to economist Will Page, increased by $2.1 billion USD to a total value of $31.6 billion. Those that make their money from copyright are benefitting, which has prompted a fire sale of music rights, led by Wall Street. Blackstone has launched a $1 billion USD fund to invest in music rights. KKR, another hedge fund, bought Kobalt, an independent music publisher’s catalogue for $1.1 billion USD. This is not just happening in North America and Europe. African artists are seeing record investments. We have also seen the rise of independent management entities, or IMEs, which are private companies disrupting copyright, offering paths to income in countries that lack robust or transparent copyright management frameworks. Money talks, and in some circles of the music industry, there is more of it. And with it, the industry is being forced to confront a number of hard truths, which is the second reason why 2021 offers reasons for optimism.
The Exploitation of Artists & Equity Are Finally Being Addressed
What will change is still to be seen, but the fact that the rights of artists and songwriters have become more of a priority in 2021 is worth celebrating. The U.K. Government’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s Committee Enquiry into its music streaming market and the #BrokenRecord campaign led to a debate in the House of Commons, the launch of a Competitions and Market Authority investigation into music sector monopolization, and an extensive debate into the value of music creators and how to equitably distribute revenues. Regardless of the side one is on, it is heartening to see a debate focused on artists’ rights grow to reach the House of Commons. This is not a uniquely U.K. phenomenon. Similar debates have accelerated in 2021 to address the inequitable payment structure that governs terrestrial radio in the United States, for example.
2021 has also seen positives in terms of making the sector more diverse. A sector-wide plan has been …….