Berlin Music Week : good and bad news from the music industry

BMW14_bisTo get your bearings at the Berlin Music Week, it’s best to come with a very open mind and pair of ears. The 5th edition of this music fair, a prelude to the Berlin Festival, is diveded into two parts. Part 1, « Music », offers a plethora of new artists performing in clubs along both sides of the Spree (between Warschauerstrasse and Ostbahnof).

Part 2, « Word », offers conferences, debates and round table discussions featuring influential people from the music industry. All these fine people are here to scratch their heads, explore new possibilities, give advice and find solutions to save a market which is in a never-ending downward spiral.

Here below are some points of interest that I came across during the two days of conferences and brainstorming sessions.


The record market continues its long and inexorable downfall

You’re lucky to come across any record shops in France or Germany because digital sales have almost completely replaced the disc. In Norway, 65% of music sales revenue is due to streaming platforms. Now it’s not even a question of downloading… The membership system of Spotify or Deezer & co only generates an insignificant revenue for artists who aren’t already very well-known.

In a conference entitled « Surviving Streaming », Professor Arnt Maaso presented the results of a research project, “Clouds and Concerts” , carried out at the department of Musicology at Oslo University. Having been given access to WiMP data, (a streaming platform which offers its listeners HiFi sound quality), he studied the behaviour of the users and looked for ways of improving what the system offered. His studies found that the most popular user days were Friday and Saturday (but not Sunday). 66% of users listened to music on their headphones from their Iphone or tablet device and discovered new tracks by following other people’s playlists.

 The prorata redistribution of money by streaming platforms is unfair

BMW14_4In other words, the largest part of the money lands in the hands of a few international stars. Hooray for globalisation ! Among the many negatives of such a system, let’s note the most important one : if a big star brings out an album at the same time as a newly-emerging artist, the newcomer will be totally eclipsed and will hardly get anything, despite having a loyal fan base or being already known on a local or regional basis.

 Different ways of remuneration could be envisaged

Arnt Maaso and his team suggest a new model of redistribution based on the user. Let’s imagine, you’re signed up to Spotify for the sum of 10.- per month, but each month you only listen to a few tracks by groups who are relatively unknown. Your contribution will be exclusively paid to the groups you’ve listened to, it won’t go into the big pot along with all the other members’ fees to then be distributed prorata based on the most listened to tracks of the month. This system would allow up-and-coming artists to be better remunerated and to be able to count on their local fan base.

 The two other ways of building fan-loyalty are crowdfunding and paid-up memberships

No need to remind anyone about the importance of crowdfunding, a system that never ceases to prove its worth. However, let’s talk about something that a lot of musicians find difficult to grasp : crowdfunding cannot be done from scratch ! The most important thing is to make your fan base loyal, communicate with them and build your community of fans step by step. Only once the fanbase is big enough can you think of starting crowdfunding or asking for paying members. To confirm this, watch the debate called « Revenues, Discoverability, Distribution, Transparency » (filmed live from Berlin Music Week) and chaired by Andrea Leonelli, activator of since 2009. Also taking part are Janine Wuelker (, Benjamin Lebrave (, Phiona Okumu ( and Michael Krause ( Highly recommended viewing !

With regards to becoming member of an artist’s club, it’s simply involves a membership deal put forward by a label, an artist or a collective of musicians for their most assiduous fans. In exchange of a monthly fee, fans have access to an exclusive internet site containing videos or audio reserved just for the fans, the possibility to chat live on line, etc..

A conference held by Andrew Apanov, CEO of Dotted Music, a music website which offers online marketing tutorials for artsist producing electronic music unde the name of We spin.

It’s still possible to earn money from making music, but more than ever before the artist has to become as entrepreneurial as possible and simply work, work and work at it.

Berlin Music Week took place from 3rd to 7th September 2014. Click here for the website : ici!

(This article was originally published in French, translated in English by Beatrice Venturini)

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