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One of the most unique insights into the state of the music business today doesn’t come from a record label exec. Not from an agent. Not from an artist. No, it comes from Scottish economist Will Page, who served that role for Spotify from 2012 to 2019 — a period of explosive growth for the streaming giant. But if you ask Page about streaming’s future, he’s not nearly as optimistic as the rest of the industry. “The party has to come to an end,” as he told me on this episode of Trapital.
Page believes the music industry is transitioning from a “herbivore market” to a “carnivore” one. In other words, future growth will not come from brand-new customers — it’ll come from the streaming services eating into each other’s market share. Not only has subscriber counts possibly tapped out in Page’s opinion, but streaming services have also put a ceiling on revenues by charging only $9.99, a price that hasn’t budged in 20 years despite giant leaps in technology and music catalog size.
That against-the-grain prediction was one of many Will shared with me during our in-depth interview. But he has plenty more research- and experience-backed thoughts on touring, vinyl records, Web 3.0, and everything in between. Believe me, this is an interview you don’t want to miss. Here’s everything we covered:
[0:00] The 3 R’s in the business of music
[3:15] Will’s experience being a DJ
[7:10] Lopsided Growth Of Music Streaming In Global Markets
[8:59] Vinyl Records $1.5 Billion Recovery
[13:18] Will’s Bearish View About The Future Of Streaming
[15:22] Ongoing Price War Between Streaming Services
[22:59] The Changing Economics Of Music Touring
[26:16] Performing At Festivals Vs. Tours
[30:50] The Evolution Of Music Publishing
[34:32] How Music Revenue Gets Distributed To Publishers
[37:35] What Does A “Post-Spotify Economy” Look Like?
[40:00] Will’s Biggest Issues With Web3 3.0
[47:01] The Current Business Landscape Of Hip-Hop
Listen to Will’s mix right here: https://www.mixcloud.com/willpagesnc/we-aint-done-with-2021/
Check out Will’s Podcast, Bubble Trouble, where he breaks down how financial markets really work.
Read Will’s book, Tarzan Economics: Eight Principles for Pivoting Through Disruption.
Listen: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | SoundCloud | Stitcher | Overcast | Amazon | Google Podcasts | Pocket Casts | RSS
Host: Dan Runcie, @RuncieDan, trapital.co
Guests: Will Page, @willpageauthor
Trapital is home for the business of hip-hop. Gain the latest insights from hip-hop’s biggest players by reading Trapital’s free weekly memo.
Will Page 00:00
The best way I could do this is, I just talk about ratios. There are three R’s in this business, there’s share of revenue, there’s ratio, and as rates pool, they mean different things. Most experts get confused with the three R’s.
I’m gonna stick to ratios that is, if I give the label $1, how much do I give the publisher, the software, there’s collective management organization? So we stick to the conventional streaming model today, I would say that you get the record label $1, you’re giving the publishing side of the fence 24 cents, you know, a decent chunk of change, but still the poorer cousin of the record label. On YouTube, I think it could be as high as 35 cents, 40 cents even because there’s a sink right involved in those deals.
Dan Runcie 00:46
Hey, welcome to the Trapital Podcast. I’m your host and the founder of Trapital, Dan Runcie. This podcast is your place to gain insights from executives in music, media, entertainment, and more, who are taking hip hop culture to the next level.
Today’s guest is Will Page. He is the author of a book I cannot recommend enough. It’s called Tarzan Economics. It’s a guide to pivoting through disruption. This is a must-read if you’re working in music, media, or entertainment. He is also a Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics. He is the former Chief Economist at Spotify. So if you are interested in where the music industry is heading, where trends are going, this is the person to talk to. I was first put onto Will’s work, he had released this white paper called Rockonomics. And it was a breakdown on how artists were using Twitch. I wrote about the report in Trapital because I was fascinated by it. And then he and I started talking from there. So it was only a matter of time before he came on the podcast.
Will and I covered a bunch in this episode, we talked about the growth of streaming, we also talked about the growth of vinyl, and how that impacts the economics for a lot of artists and songwriters and publishers. We also talked about the price of streaming services. Most services are still $9.99 per month in the US. So we talked about why that is for music compared to video streaming, where Netflix Hulu, and Amazon have been increasing their prices for their respective services. We also talked about music publishing and why Will thinks that that catalog will continue to grow. We talked about live music and some of the potential constraints where now the next 24 months everyone wants to go on tour. But there’s only so many venues and so much money that consumers have unwillingness to see live shows. So we’ve talked about that we talked about trends in hip hop, we’ll have a bunch of exclusive numbers to share in this. And it was great to talk to him. It’s been great to also Jessica T to learn from him. I honestly do believe that he’s one of the sharpest minds in the music industry. And it was a pleasure to have him on this podcast. And I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did. Here’s my chat with Will Page. Alright, today we got the one and only Will Page with us. He is well known in the music and media space as an economist, but he also spent a lot of time as a DJ. And I feel like that could be a good place for us to start the conversation. Will, talk to me about your DJ experience and what you’ve been doing there recently.
Will Page 03:22
Well, I’ve been DJing since the age of puberty. And it was all inspired by one lyric by a rapper called Mike G from The Jungle Brothers from an album called done by the forces of nature, where he dropped his library. He said it’s about getting the music across the message across getting it across without crossing over. And unlike a 14-year-old kid when I hear this, and I just thought about those words, getting the music across without crossing over, how do you get out to an audience without diluting its integrity. I’m only 14 at the time. But that just resonated with me so strongly, and I just kind of dedicated a huge chunk of my life to trying to get the music across to an audience that would otherwise not have heard it. And I’m not diluting how it’s been presented. That’s what a DJ can do. You can thread songs together in a way that gets music across without its dilution without crossing it over.
Dan Runcie 04:11
And I feel like, for you, you’ve been able to carry that through, you had we’re not done we are done with 2021 I was able to do a quick drop for that as well. So I think what’s likely inspiring for a lot of folks is that there’s so many people that have music backgrounds and passions early on, but there’s a pause if they’re not able to continue that but you’ve been able to keep this as part of your charity, which I think makes so much of what you do with this space authentic because you yourself are someone who releases music.
Will Page 04:40
Yeah, I mean, the mix cloud allowed me to scale what I was doing anyway, if I go back to university in the late 90s early noughties you’d make mixtapes mix cassettes. There’s a great way to date girls, but you could only do maybe like 50 100 at tops. Mix cloud allows you to take what you do and scale it scale what you love to do and the mixer UK only gave us a drop for weighing in dama 2021. That makes us no-hit 27,000 on Mixcloud meaning have overtaken Erykah Badu one of your former guests, I believe. So, you know, to get to 20,000 unique people with a mix that you care a year crafting together, that means the world to me.
Dan Runcie 05:15
It’s a lot. And that’s powerful, too. I imagined that you’re always not just finding the sounds that make the most vibe for the year. But you’re also thinking about, okay, what is the way that things are moving, especially at the pandemic? I feel like it’s such an interesting year to have something like that. Because I think for some people, it’s a year that they want to remember a year, they don’t want to remember as well. But I feel like you probably already have a few things lined up for the mix you’ll do at the end of 2022.
Will Page 05:45
Yeah, I mean, you’re always looking for the bands that are not on Spotify, not an Apple Music, I think about half of my mix this year, you will not find in a streaming service. And I’m proud of that you’re going to Discogs to find those rare white label bootleg vinyls, you’re going to the source to the artists who are in the studio recording. And to you know, profile bands like Sault, or London-based bands, S-A-U-L-T, on that mix. That meant the world because I’ve been watching them rise over the past few years now. And, you know, to this day, nobody has any idea what the band look like, who the band are made up of, you know, this, like punk music, they’re rejecting the system, they’re doing it completely separately. And they’re, you know, not hitting millions of people on Spotify with their music, they’ve let the music do the talking. So I often think about mixed culture as a break it down this way, the internet can scale just about anything, but it can’t scale intimacy, and a playlist or as an intimate, that’s just a bunch of songs straddle together and work them through the shuffle play feature, but a mix, a DJ mix of 60 minutes seamless mix, where you have vocal drops, you have beat mixing, you have layering, all those techniques that you’ve honed over the years, that’s intimate. So what I’m able to do with mixtape culture is to scale intimacy, and that goes out for every other DJ you’ve had on your show. That’s what we’re trying to do right.
Dan Runcie 07:05
For sure. And I feel like that’s a good segue to chat a little bit more about some of the work you’ve done for a company that is very heavily focused on playlists, which is Spotify. And I think more broadly, looking at the streaming ever we’re in right now, this is a great time to chat because we just saw the IFP results. And streaming is continuing to grow, as we’ve seen, but I feel like you’ve probably spotted a few interesting trends about where things are heading. And I think that’s a question of art for a lot of people streaming continues to grow, but how far can it grow? What are we seeing in terms of differences within genres or regions? What are some of the things that stuck out to you?
Will Page 07:43
I’ll give you a couple. The first one is the global business. Well, last time I looked at the United Nations, I think there’s 208 countries in the world, the global yearbook that we’re discussing here, has I think, 58. So we have to be careful what we define as global. I think Africa’s clubbed together as one continent with a need to work on that. But I think the global business is growing, but it’s also becoming more American. So if you go back to when Spotify launched, Americans made up 20 to 23% of the business round, about just over a fifth today, it’s 37%. So we have seen the business grow and become more American. And that raises questions, economic questions, like globalization questions, should poor countries catch up with rich ones, a theory says yes, the reality often says no, so we’re seeing this kind of lopsided growth where the business is growing, but it’s growing in favor of an American market, the biggest country is growing at the fastest rates. That’s a positive problem, but I just want to flag it, which is that’s not how it was supposed to play out. And then the second thing I’d want to point to as well as just vinyl, this vinyl recovery is just Well, I don’t know how much my bank balance is responsible for this vinyl recovery. But I’m telling you, is defying the laws of gravity. Now we’re now looking at Vinyl being worth one and a half-billion dollars, which is more than it’s been worth in the past 30 years. It’s worth more than CDs, cassettes, and downloads the three formats that were supposed to declare that vinyl is dead, but there’s two things you can kind of cut out the vinyl recovery, which I think will be of real interest to your audience. Firstly, on the consumer side, I saw a survey which suggested that the majority just over half of all vinyl buyers today don’t own a record player. I mean, something’s cooking here. So why are we buying it for now I’ll extend that as well. The cost of wall frames to frame vinyl on your wall often costs more than the record itself. So I’m willing to pay more for vinyl to be called New framed on my wall than I am for the record. And by the way, I don’t have a record player that a lot of people will take those bizarre boxes, but on the creator side, something else is interesting. It’ll take a little bit of working through but if we think about the streaming model is monetizing consumption, that’s what it does. So there’s an album A 10 songs, three killer and seven filler songs and an album Let’s say Dan runs, he wrote the three killer tracks, and we’ll page the seven Duff filler tracks. On streaming, Dan might walk away with all the money, and I’ll walk away with none. Because we’re only streaming the killer tracks and nobody’s touching the filler. As the album model kicks out from vinyl, I would get 70% of the cache. That’s crazy because nobody knows what’s being consumed. And it’s a lot of cash by just kind of do some rough math, you have a million fans streaming your hip hop record on Spotify. And let’s say they’re streaming it 200 times in the month when the album drops, you only need 20,000 of them of that million to make the same amount of money from vinyl than you would do from streams, which is entirely plausible. But then how do you pay the copyright owners from those songs on an album is very different from how you pay them on a stream. If you go back to the late 70s. The one most successful records of all time was Saturday Night Fever, the BGS, and a bunch of other people. It’s crazy to think that Ralph McDonald’s Calypso struck his record there, which nobody has listened to, but the same royalty as staying alive by the BGS. Because it was a vinyl record. So to reiterate, on the consumer side, I don’t know how many of these vinyl records are being played. And on the creative side, it raises questions about how these creators are going to get paid.
Dan Runcie 11:16
That’s a good point. But that I don’t think is being talked about as much about the vinyl search, because there’s so much like wow, about just how much has been purchased. I think I haven’t saw the stat that Adele’s 30 albums sold 8000 cassettes or there’s a self-titled stat about that. And I think the similar thing that you said lines up, I think those people actually still own a Walkman or whatever type of cassette player that they have. So I do think that that is something that probably there could be a deeper analysis on. Because a lot of the people that write the filler songs, how do they feel whether you’re a songwriter, whether you know what’s behind it, especially when you know that there’s so much clearer path to be able to determine, Okay, this is going to be the lead single that this is what we’re going to push most from this album, it really shifts the exhibit more to where things are going in terms of a single market and like the way that people have talked about pop music for a while now. Right. And I guess that brings me back to the streaming trends that you mentioned, overall, we’re in this area, as you mentioned, streaming itself that US penetration has grown from 22%, I believe you said is now 30 to 3537, somewhere around there. But where do we go from here because as you’ve written before, the price of music streaming, at least the monthly subscription hasn’t necessarily been increasing. The average revenue per user overall, because of the international growth is decreased. And you have plenty of people that are still trying to get their fair share of what they can. It’s streaming. So it’s in like 510 years from now, if you could see into the future. Where do you think streaming distribution is I think the good thing is that people have smartphones, and there’s more and more growth from that perspective. So streaming is going to grow. But on the other hand, the economics of these things do have some theoretical point where we’ve maximized the global penetration of this. What do you think about where that is going?
Will Page 13:17
Let me unpack it in two different lanes. Firstly, I’ll deal with the saturation point question which is, you know, how long can this party keep going for it’s three o’clock in the morning, who’s going to call time on it? And then secondly, I want to deal with the pricing point on its own lien as well. But on saturation point, you’re now in a situation where I’d put it as in America, we’ve had herbivores we’ve had Spotify growing Apple growing, Amazon growing, YouTube growing, everybody’s reporting growth, Pandora even is growing. What we’re gonna see at some point soon is carnivores, which is Apple will grow by eating into Spotify as growth or YouTube will grow by eating into Amazon’s growth. So the key question we got to ask is, when do we go from the herbivore market we’re in today to a carnivore market of tomorrow, and output Spotify as your subscriber number right about 45 million, Apple at 49 million, you dump on top YouTube, Amazon Pandora, you’re well past 110, 120 million. Now that’s important because I reckon there’s around about 110 million qualifying households in America that has at least one person who could pay for a streaming service. This is crucial, because if you look at what Apple one’s bundle is doing $30 a month for news, music, television, gaming, fitness, and two terabytes of storage per six accountholder is a household proposition. They’re saying to the home, I got you convenience. Everyone under this roof is covered with Apple products. So when you have 110 million households, and you have more than 110 million subscribers in the United States, then we’re in a race to the finishing line before herbivores turn into carnivores. In oil. We have this expression called Peak Oil, which is we know that we’ve extracted more oil in the world and has left to extract an oil All that’s left is going to be even more costly to get out of the ground. I think we’re in peak subscriber territory where at some point soon we’re going to start seeing growth happen through stealing other customers as opposed to finding your own. So I just want to put that warning flag out there just now we’re partying like it’s 1989 Fine, but at some point, the party has to come to an end and growth is going to come at the expense of other players that then flips Neil from the east side to the B side of this record, we flip it over to price. And then pricing debate is interesting. I published this work called MelB economics, which we can cite on your wonderful website there, which was to look at the 20-year history of the 19 price point. And it’s crazy story back in the third of December 2001. Over 20 years ago today, Rhapsody got its license for 999 offerings which had 15,000 songs first point, the origins of 999. Bizarrely deep back to the blockbuster rental card, some cooked-up label executive would have said that it cost 999 to rent videos from blockbuster. That’s what it should cost to rent music. Secondly, there was only 15,000 songs with limited use case there was no smartphone back then no apps, no algorithms, that was all a weird world into the future. So you just had 999 for 15,000 songs we’re now checking in early April 2022. And it’s still 999 in dollar and euro and Sterling. But we’re offering 100 million songs. That’s the crazy thing. So in the article MelB economics what I do is I, strip inflation out in the case of the UK 999 has fallen down to six pounds 30 pence. Remember, you know family plan makes music cheaper to have 2.3 people are paying 4099, that’s six pounds, 50. There’s way too many numbers in this conversation for capital. But still, we’ll stick with it. Student plan makes it cheaper to sew music in real terms has fallen to six pounds 30 which is less than a medium glass of Malbec wine. So 175 milliliters of Malbec wine costs more than 100 million songs, which is available offline on-demand without adverts that for me is certified bonkers. I don’t understand what we’ve done. We’re offering more and more, and we’re charging less and less. And you only have to leave the ears to the eyes on the video streaming to see what they’re doing on the other side of the fence. Netflix has got me from 799 to 899 to 1299, to now 1499 In the space of 15 months, and I haven’t blinked Disney plus, the reason I’m paying for 99 and Disney plus is because I paid 1999 to get Cruella live on-demand. So they’re charging more and more, but only offering part of the world’s repertoire set for eyeball content. We’re charging less and less and offering more and more of the wells, your whole content says like two ships passing each other in the night. It’s a very interesting dilemma.
Dan Runcie 17:49
It’s intriguing because when you look at the way that video is structured, as you mentioned, you have all these price increases. And I think Netflix for some plans is you know, at 99 It’s approaching that level. But in music, it’s this thing where yeah, there’s some price differences where I think I saw today that Amazon music is increasing $1 But that’s from 799 for Prime subscribers to that being 899. So, Ross that
Will Page 18:17
I wonder if like what caused that?
Dan Runcie 18:21
I mean, honestly, I feel like there’s something here because when I think about this, I think about a few things, right? Obviously, you do have this fight where the artists want to get more and the labels want to get more, you know, not just for the artist, but for themselves. And obviously, Spotify wants to earn more logically you would think, Okay, if you increase the price, and people just understated the economics of what’s likely, if Spotify increased up to 1299 a month for the standard base rate, how many folks would blink. But to your point earlier, I have to imagine that the fear is looking at the trends and where that penetration is, if they jump up to 39 or 1299, then they’re going to lose those customers to the other streaming services that have been shoved there yet, because of that thought of, you know, shifting to that carnivore mentality of competing with each other. So because for roughly 80% of the content that they do offer, it is roughly the same between each of the services, it’s in when’s it to be more of a price war, then in video streaming, where most of them do have some differentiated content
Will Page 19:26
100% And two things to hold on to a very eloquent point there. And firstly, let’s just remind ourselves that Apple launched superior sound quality, you may remember the commercial of lossless audio, you buy your air pods, which cost two years of Apple Music or Spotify to put in your years and you get superior sound quality, the subtext underneath it said at no extra cost. That was the actual marketing message. So there again, we’re improving the offer. We’re supplying more, but we’re charging less in real terms. And that’s a really interesting kind of point can occur. into it. The second thing and we should get balanced into this discussion, because it’s delicate is we have to remind ourselves that, you know, there’s 120 million subscribers in America, there’s still another 100 and 20 million to go. But we know they’re not they’re interested in paying for music because they haven’t paid yet, the best way to attract them is not necessarily to raise price. So we got to remember that there’s still no oil to extract, it’s not going to be easy oil to extract, the best way to get to it might not be to raise the price. But there’s a catch to this. I can remember, in the early noughties, right up to 2010 piracy, ripping the asset out of this business. And concert promoters were saying, We love piracy because the kids are getting music for free so they can pay more on concert tickets. I wonder if now they’re saying we love Spotify because they don’t raise prices, which means we can raise hours, this is not a discussion of how to rip off the customer. This is a discussion about value exchange. And I just wonder whether recorded music is leaving value on the table. That’s the key point to hammer home.
Dan Runcie 20:57
That’s a good point. And I think that also made me think too, could there be some notion of maintaining the perception of Spotify as something that still has high pricing power is still as high consumer surplus because then that helps the stock price. And then seeing that the major labels are all invested in Spotify itself. It’s about like having that perception of you know, the future growth and whatever it is. So what you’ve just said made me think about that being a factor, potentially to the 100%.
Will Page 21:27
And of course, you got to distinguish the Spotify, Apple Music cost structure from that of the video streaming companies, in that they have a kind of variable costs, you double your business, you double your cost base, whereas Netflix, you jump up costs, and you have you jumped up your revenue, you raised me from 799 to 1499, the cost of that content was fixed. And I’m still consuming the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air on Netflix to this day. That is a fixed-cost deal that he did to get that content. And that’s margin to Netflix. So you know, the cost structure matters in this one as well.
Dan Runcie 21:59
Definitely. And you mentioned like music there. And I think there’s a lot to think about from that perspective. I feel like we’re in this post-pandemic. I mean, we’re still not out of it. But we’re in this post-quarantine era, art more artists than ever are trying to tour and get out there try to capture what’s there. But also from an economic perspective, from that most people are only going to go to a certain number of live events per year. And we have this 18 to 24-month run coming up where everyone wants to make up for what they couldn’t do in the past two years. How will that shift not just who that goes on tour together? And then how they may split those profits, what the availability looks like. And if they’re not able to do what they may have done on tour in the late 2010s. How does that affect future touring? I think that’s a piece of it that, you know, we still haven’t necessarily seen the impact of but it just feels inevitable based on where things are heading.
Will Page 22:58
You did absolutely know on touring. I was lucky and I got to do some great work on the UK live industry. And I can only speak for the UK here. I know a lot of your audience knew us, but I think these points will carry across. The first one was to work out how much is spent on concert tickets in Britain during the normal year of 2019. And the answer was 1.7 billion pounds. That’s more than was spent on recorded music a lot more than was spent recorded music which makes sense, you know, you pay 120 pounds on your Spotify account, you’re paying 240 pounds to go to Reading Festival for two days in a muddy field and reading costs more than 365 days of all the world’s music. But what I noticed there was the industry is changing in its growth. I showed that between 2012 The year of the London Olympics, and 2019 the live music industry in this country had exploded and grow but it was lopsided. All the growth came from stadiums, festivals, and to a lesser extent arenas, the theaters, the 2000 3000 capacity theaters like the Fillmore West over where you are, they were getting crushed. They were actually shrinking in size. So we have this lopsided live music industry which is going right in the direction of the head as opposed to the long tail. The stadiums or festivals The arena is as opposed to the theater as the club’s the university venues. And that’s interesting because that’s going to change the dynamics of how you make money from live. Do you go from doing your tour of an album to doing a tour of your festivals for that record? And what does that mean for the cost structure for the insurance and all those things that bands have to consider when you’re hitting the road? I mean, credit to trap tool. You’ve had some great podcasts recently on this topic. But as there’s a big rethink coming along in this live music market is not the same as we had back in 2019. It’s changed fundamentally and it is the breadwinner for most artists’ income I think it makes up about 70% of what an artist has to live for comes from the road that vanished. How do we get it back?
Dan Runcie 24:49
I feel like Cardi B has been a good case study on this specific point here, right. It’s been four years now since she released an album and she’s yet to go on a true proper tour in that time, that said she’s done plenty of festivals where she served more on those festival guarantees that she liked what on tour. She’s also done many private events where she’s likely earned that same amount, if not more. So, there’s a whole economic argument to be made. And I think there’s also some risk involved, too, right? I think that festivals do give you the opportunity to get that nature back, you get the high number, the revenue that comes through, but maybe your fans will be a little bit more forgiving if you’re set-piece at your festival isn’t the most extravagant thing, especially if you’re not the headliner at it. But on a tour, I think it changes it’s a little bit more pressure. Everyone wants to see that Instagrammable or tick talkable moment to then sell future tickets, and just the production costs and everything with traveling. It still is something that is very worthwhile, but I think we’ve just started to see some of that segmentation there, especially for someone like her I would have to go residencies to I know she’s done a few different things in Vegas here and there. But yes, I still yet to do that. 30-city worldwide tour?
Will Page 26:12
Yeah, I think you got to think of your head and your heart. Your head says like you point out the economics fevers, festivals, your back lines are your insurances cover travels already covered. I have numerous Hip Hop bands perform at festivals in Europe. And that’s one of the big advantages. The costs are all taken care of by the festival. But your heart says what does that do to intimate relationships with your fans, right? You’re staring at 50,000 Strangers in the muddy field. That’s different from staring at 2000 friends in the Fillmore West. So the heading the horror is going to come into play here. What I would add, though, is that there are rumors I would say here in the UK, at least that the promoters are saying I’ll pay you a ton of money to film at the festival to make sure that you don’t go on tour. And that’s an interesting situation. If you build one too many houses, you collapse the property market. If you have one too many tours or one too many festivals, you collapse like the music industry. So there’s ways in which people are trying to restrain the market to festivals at the expense of the theaters that certainly is coming through in the data. We’re seeing the theater business, take a kick in well, festivals go on a roll.
Dan Runcie 27:12
Yeah. Because I think about you look at the artists that are touring stadiums now whether it’s your Taylor Swift or Beyonce is they wouldn’t be able to do that if they didn’t have the individual tours, that smaller venues when they were starting out being able to build that intimate fan base, like you said, like you get to that point, right. And I do think that as good as festivals can be it is much more of a lucrative cash grab that is I don’t want to say necessarily short-term thinking. But I think you ideally want to have some type of balance there, right? Get the big bag that you can get from something else. It’s almost no different than I think running a business right? Okay, sure. You may be able to do a speaking fee or do some type of you know, the thing here or there. But you can’t do that all the time, especially if it’s not an audience are tapped into. You still need to do some of the things that could set you up for the long game.
Will Page 28:05
Yeah, and there’s an infographic that I’ll share with you to pass on to your audience here. I wrote an article in The Economist called smells like Middle East spirit, as opposed to teen spirit and ice play on words had to Dave Grohl and Kurt Cobain, but what I was looking at was the average age of festival headliners over time. This is a doer pessimistic Scottish economist, this is what you do is your spare time. Okay. So in 92, and Radiohead did Glastonbury, the average age of a festival headliner was 2526 years old. And all these hot bands were coming through the Britpop era. You know, there was so much development of new talent by 2012. I think it got up to 58. And I got a lot of criticism for that article, but then Glastonbury that year had the who and Lionel Richie headlining, which I think was 70 and 73 years old, apart, and then you can see the conveyor belt problem, which is okay, it’s a quick cash grab, it makes sense. But that’s not the conveyor belt of how we develop talent for tomorrow. That’s just how we cash in our chips at the casino today. So it does raise questions. And I’m not saying it’s like the doomsday scenario here. But we just need a healthy balance of, you know, a seedbed for future growth. And then the big stage of exploiting that moment today, which could be the permanent stage at Glastonbury, the headlights siege up on a roof and mistakes. So I just think we’re getting a little bit lopsided here. We’re a bit short term system, how this business needs to develop
Dan Runcie 29:25
Agreed on that. Switching gears a bit. One thing that you wrote recently that stuck out to me you did this deep dive on music publishing, and I think this is another area that kind of has some of that short term, long term perspective on it, because you look at the people who get the share of the copyright pie, at least today. And from a music streaming perspective, a lot of that has been much more in the favor of the recorded side and then the people getting compensated on the recording side. But with that the songwriters and the PA brochures. A lot of them necessarily in that timeframe didn’t get a lot of that. But I think in this wave now where we’re seeing more catalog deals, and we’re seeing people understand the value of that things may be starting to shift and there’s likely other things as well. But what do you think about the way that the publishing side has been seen and what the future opportunities are for that side of the business?
Will Page 30:23
Well, the way that labels and publishing were taught to me in terms of what makes them distinct from one another goes back to my Aunt Doreen Lauder, who worked in the music business from 1959 at Decca Records right the way through to 2012. She went enzyme records with Nigel Grange loosens half brother, they were responsible for Sinead O’Connor who sold 11 million albums based on the prints cover. And she once said to me, Will, this is how the music industry works, the record label piece of your drugs and the publishing pays for your pension, just kind of as a nice succinct way of summarizing how the business works. That was then this is now clearly times have changed, I think. But it reminds us about you know what makes the business different. And that piece of work that you cite is something called global value of copyright, where I’m really keen to educate this industry, regardless of whether you’re coming from a label perspective, a manager or an artist or songwriter, there’s a C with a circle on it called copyright. We get that and it involves record labels. It involves SoundExchange involves artists involves ASCAP, BMI, GMR says EQ involves publishers, David Israeli, and the great folks at the NMPA, and Wall Street, but the whole thing together for me all this spaghetti and straightened out. And what I was able to show was that in 2020, copyright was worth 32 and a half-billion dollars, way bigger than what you’ve just heard I FPI, way bigger than what CS EC would say, this is the entire thing. And the split was about 65% labels 35% to the publishers. Now if you go way back to 2001 when we used to sell CDs by way of pallet and cocaine capitalism, these have no record labels. Back then, the split was much more in favor of labels no more than three quarters labels less than a quarter to the publishers. And what we’ve seen happen in the years in between is quite an interesting story. Labels went from boom time with CDs to bust with piracy, and now they’re booming again with streaming. And the inverse the opposite happened publishers as labels went bust, ASCAP, BMI, kept on recording record-breaking collections. So you ever hear the toys analogy here of labels going really fast and falling off a cliff publishes as trundled along with record-breaking, not massive record-breaking collections, but he kept on growing their base. So the question he threw up is, what type of industry are we moving towards? Are we going back to our business model which paid labels over three quarters of the pie and publishers less than a quarter? And is that a good or a bad thing? Or in this post-Spotify economy where we’re seeing companies like peloton Twitch, TikTok comes to the business is that gonna have a completely different balance. Now, why this matters to your audiences, not just on the creator side. But also on the investment side, you pointed out catalog valuations we can dig into that if you want. But just a high-level point is let’s say that in a few year’s time, I go into my Batcave again, calculate the global value of copyright, and instead of 32 and a half billion is 40 billion, I’ll come on traps or make an exclusive announcement cooperate today is worth 40,000,000,007 and a half billion new dollars have come into this business, I want the audience to start thinking about who gets what share of that marginal new dollar, is that going to split publishing side? Or is that going to split the label side. And if you’re investing in catalogs, be the master rights be the author rights that really matters. There’s a huge educational drive here to understand the balance of this business of copyright.
Dan Runcie 33:45
So there’s a few things you said there that I wanted to dig into, of course, for streaming Spotify and its competitors around 75% is going to the recorded side a quarter to publishing but from a breakdown what does that look like for the Tiktoks? The Roblox and the peloton what is that share of revenue from those plays look like?
Will Page 34:08
So the best way I could do this is if I just talk about ratios, there’s three R’s in this business, there’s share of revenue, there’s ratio, and as rights pool, they mean different things. Most experts get confused with three R’s. I’m gonna stick to ratios that is if I give the label $1, how much do I give the publisher, the software, there’s collective management organization. So we stick to the conventional streaming model today, I would say that you get the record label $1. You’re giving the publishing side of the fence 24 cents, you know, a decent chunk of change, but still the poorer cousin of the record label on YouTube, I think it could be as high as 35 cents 40 cents even because there’s a sync right involved in those deals. And then when you take that observation of imposing the sink right into a deal and you expand it to peloton or tic tock potentially even more, and then you can flip it and say well what happens in the future of TiC tock Because karaoke not saying it’s gonna happen, but it’s not implausible if that was the case that favors publishers even more. There’s all these weird ways the business could develop, which could favor one side of the fence, the labels, and the artists continue getting three-quarters of the cash. On the other side of the fence publishers and songwriters start enforcing their rights and getting a more balanced share. And that’s what we need to look out for when we’re investing in corporates. That’s what we need to look out for. If you’re a singer and a songwriter. And you’re trying to understand your royalty statements.
Dan Runcie 35:27
Like how much higher Do you think I mean, if you had to put a percentage on it for the Tiktoks or the pelletize? And I guess as well, you made me think up sync deals, right? Like for the folks that are selling, or their saw gets placed on one of these Hulu series or one of these HBO Max series? Like what is that ratio look like, you know, from a ballpark for those?
Will Page 35:50
So I think a 50-50 split would be the upper end of the goal. If a song is placed in a Hulu TV show or you know, an artist I’ve worked with for many years Eumir Deodato, Brazilian composer, his songs now in this famous EasyJet commercial over here in Europe, the artists and the publisher would see around a 5050 split of those revenues. Now would that happen in a world of streaming? Unlikely, but I think if you can get to a stage where you’re giving the record label $1 and the publisher 50 cents as a ratio, and I got to repeat the word ratio here, you know, that’s potentially achievable, that listen, post-Spotify economy, I don’t think it’s going to happen with the business we’re looking at today. But I think that’s a potential scenario for the business developing tomorrow. That’s the thing is, if I can quote Ralph Simon are a longtime mentor to me, he always says, this industry is always about what’s happening next. And then he goes on to say, it always has been as a great reminder of just your will restless souls in this business, we’ve achieved this amazing thing in the past 10 years, we’re streaming got that bank there. What’s coming next, who would have thought peloton would have had a music licensing department 18 months ago now they’re like a top 10 account for major labels.
Dan Runcie 36:59
It’s impressive. It really is. And I think it’s a good reminder. Because anytime that you get a little bit too bullish and excited about what the current thing is, we always got to be thinking about what’s next. And you mentioned a few times about a post-Spotify economy. And what does that look like? From your perspective, I think there’s likely a number of things that we’ve already talked about with more of these other b2b platforms or with these other platforms, in general, having licensing deals, but what do you say? Or what do you think about post-Spotify economy? What comes to mind for you?
Will Page 37:32
Let me throw my fist your words, your joy, and try and knock you out for a second. We talked about price for a minute. And we talked about streaming. We haven’t talked about gaming, but you noticed that Epic Games just acquired Bandcamp, I learned a fascinating stat about Bandcamp, which relates to my book tours and economics. There’s a chapter in the book called Mako by, where I sat down with the management of the band Radiohead, we went through the entire in rainbow story for the first time ever a real global exclusive to explain how that deal worked out what they were really achieving when they did their voluntary Tip Jar model. And by the way, can I just put a shout out to one of your listeners, and fly from the Ben-Zion I bet remix of Radiohead have ever heard in my life is live. We’re fishies Hip Hop version of the entire album. But Radiohead tested voluntary Tip Jar pricing. Now check this out. If you put your album out on Bandcamp could be a vinyl record. Remember, it’s the people who are paying to stream who are also buying vinyl. So if you put a band and album out on Bandcamp, and you say a name, your own price, no minimum, and there’s a guidance of 10 bucks, the average paid is 14 People go about 40% asking, and that could be for a super-rich blockbuster artists who try something out on Bandcamp there could be for some band who’s broken Brooklyn Robin and cons together trying to make them breed people go 40% above asking when you say name your own price. And that’s interesting for me, and there’s a great academic paper by Francesca Cornelli from Duke University, she asked how should you price a museum and intuition says top-down mindset, the museum should set the price adults 10 bucks kids, five bucks pensioners, some type of discount arrangement, but she said no, let the visitors set the price because that way rich people will give you even more and poorer people can attend. And you’ll see more cash overall. And I would like to see a little bit more of that experimentation around pricing compared to the past 20 years where we’ve had a ceiling on price where if you really love a band, all you can give a platform is 999 and not a penny more. I think that’s we’re suffocating love. We’re putting a ceiling on love. We need to take that ceiling smash through it and let people express love through different means. But I love that Bandcamp story whatever you suggest I’ll give you 40% above because it’s our we’re not dealing with commodity we’re dealing with culture and that’s what we got to remind ourselves.
Dan Runcie 39:43
It’s like the Met model right where at least the last time I went it was like $20 was the recommendation but to your point it at least at some variable threshold, but the people a lot of the people that go there that have a lot of money end up giving much more so I hear you on that I, I noticed though, when you’re talking and thinking about the future of this, I didn’t hear many of the typical buzzwords and things that you hear about the music industry. Now whether it is NFTs or Web 3.0 or Metaverse, well, maybe to some extent with the Epic Games comparison, but what is your take on that piece of the puzzle, Spotify era.
Will Page 40:20
I need $1 and a glass every time I hear these words. So I’m just back from Austin, Texas, South by Southwest, a vague recollection of what happened over there. But I’m telling you, those words were bouncing around more than anything else. Here’s a way of capturing of your listeners. This is the first time I’ve been to South by Southwest where nobody asked me what band did I see last night? Everybody asked me what VR headset that, I try this morning. And that’s a sign of the times there and that is a sign of the times. Hey, did you try the Amaze VR headset? You know the make the stallion booty tour? Yeah, I tried that this morning, what Band-Aid nobody wanted to know about bands with pulses. Everybody wants to know about VR headsets. So we live in interesting times. And I think we’re in a bit of bubble trouble here. I really do. I don’t think this whole thing has been thought out correctly. Firstly, I’ll give you an example of where I think the problems gone wrong. And secondly, I want to give you an example from history to show that we’ve been here before. So with NF T’s, it is not. It’s not an example of a woman who is happy to spend 1000s 10s of 1000s of dollars on a handbag because they can walk up and down Sixth Avenue and people will see that woman carrying that handbag, the signaling value isn’t there. You know, I can buy a token that says I’ve seen the Mona Lisa on this day and put it in my locker. And if I show you my locker, you can see that I’ve seen the Mona Lisa that day, and you could buy a token and put it in your locker and you could show your friends that you’ve seen the Mona Lisa that day, but nobody can buy the Mona Lisa, we can just buy this NFT adaption of the Mona Lisa, but we can’t share it across platforms. And that’s where I’m struggling. That’s where I’m struggling as irrational as that might be to spend 20 $30,000 on a handbag that makes you feel good having the world see you were fine. Do what you got to do. But with NF T’s is not a cross-platform token. I’m worried that that’s a problem with the model with the price of NF t’s just very quickly, there is a term I want to introduce to your show called wash trades, which will meet a legal of 1936 which is basically if you’re selling your house, you might employ an estate agent on the buyer side as well as the sell-side to cook up the price. And you can see if you try to do this in the stock market, you spend a lot of time and the chokey six years in jail for manipulating prices. Wash trades have been illegal since 1936. I think there’s a problem with wash trades, manipulating the price of NF T’s because they’re unregulated. So I don’t want to be the doer pessimistic, Scottish economist, in the room here pour cold water on this hype machine. But I have some issues with the product. And I have some issues with the price the product is docked to your locker and your locker only the price can be manipulated by ways which be declared illegal in financial markets. Conventional financial markets by wrapping that up. Here’s my lesson from history. No Dan, in your record collection. Do you remember a rock band called kiss? Oh yeah. Were you a member of Kiss Army by any chance?
Dan Runcie 43:08
I was on the show.
Will Page 43:11
Right so if we go back to before I was born 1975, Kiss one of the biggest rock bands in America had something called Kiss Army for their super fans. So you could have kiss wallpaper because models. You could even have Kiss toilet paper. That was one of their top sellers. You could wipe your butt who key with Gene Simmons. That was one of their biggest sellers. And in 1975 They ran a competition on the competition was to say Hey fans, if you want to see a picture of the band with the makeup off there does famous black and white makeup. And we’re going to have this competition you pay to enter and five lucky winners will be sent a photograph of the band for the makeup off. Now you’re thinking NF TS kiss 1975 Where’s he going? Follow me. Hysteria breaks out all these kiss fans in the kiss army want to see Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley with a makeup off. So crazy hyperemic competition the winners are announced the envelopes are sent out. There was five lucky winners get the envelope. They need scissors to open the envelope a pill it is black and white photograph of Kiss with makeup off. And after five seconds of exposure to natural light. The picture feeds genius, genius marketing incredible. But I’m struggling to see the difference between that and 1975 Kiss. You’re competing for photographs, which feed in natural light and NFTs today so something I stress my big tours and economics is when you stare into disruption. It’s really important to remind yourself that you’ve been here before and I think Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley have been here before.
Dan Runcie 44:37
It’s an interesting take. And I do think about the first piece of what you’re saying just in terms of something that stays in your wallet. And how do you share that elsewhere? I have seen some of the social platforms making it easier to be like oh hey, you could connect your Coinbase wallet to this whether it’s Instagram or I think they’re working on it now or to Twitter and you could make that your profile Make sure or you know the people that of course, you know will right click copy paste and save it put that as their profile pictures in different places. So I guess in their minds that’s their version of being able to walk down fit that with the duty at Birkbeck, right.
Will Page 45:15
That’s interesting. That to your point, that takes you back into handbag territory that corrects for the problem. Let’s see if it goes but equally does the NFT lose its exclusivity when we do that as well. So it might work in the short term and might lead to the demise of NF T’s over the long term because they’re not that special. After all, they’re just an icon for your profile picture. So is great to hear that there’s that type of thinking going on that justifies my, justifies my view.
Dan Runcie 45:41
Who knows? I mean, we’re still early right but I do think that if I see your profile on social media, you turned into a board ape, we may have to have another podcast conversation I did.
Will Page 45:55
But I tell you asked him was obsessed with these topics. Even Austin, Texas Music conferences, get obsessed with the next big thing but this year, it was just bizarre how many references I heard to web three NF Ts, but if they can just give a quick shout out to the company amaze VR who are doing the mega stallion tour I watched make the stallion four times in Austin, Texas, I saw more VR of Nicholas Deleon and I saw of any live bear. But you know, they had the longest queues of the entire conference. If you judge success by queues demand exceeding supply, they won South by Southwest for the longest queues.
Dan Runcie 46:27
That’s impressive. And of course, it makes a big star she’s been doing a lot. I’ve heard a lot of good things from base VR too. I think that though, it’d be a great point to pivot and talk a little bit more about hip hop, the as we know, hip hop has been able to see a lot of its potential even more so. In the streaming era with us, given the popularity that’s there. We’ve seen the numbers, we’ve seen the growth as well. And I know that you’ve studied this a lot, especially on the international perspective, just seeing how hip hop is growing in other countries. But I think some of that growth is looking different than what we may be used to seeing in the US. So what is your perspective right now on the state of hip hop with regards to streaming,
Will Page 47:09
you speaking about something that’s close to my heart, but if I can start by saying, one thing that your podcast has done for me over the years, that reminds us of that famous quote, which has been reiterated by many rappers, which is rap is something you do hip hop is something you live, and we can forget that from time to time can drink a bit too much Kool-Aid and forget those golden words. Rap is something that you do. Hip hop is something that you live, you don’t have a choice with hip hop, you live it, rap, I mean, you could play a jazz track, then you could do a rap track, you have a choice there, but hip hop is an eighth. And I want to pull those words up. Because when we talk about the genre of hip hop, I wonder whether it’s really a bit of a square peg in a round hole here to take words, which means describe a lifestyle and their attitude or mentality, and then say that it’s now a genre. Maybe rap should be the genre and hip hop should be the culture. So I just want to throw that out there for your listeners. And I’d love future guests to come on and pose them that question. If we’re discussing the genre of hip hop, are we missing a trick that aside, some stuff which has been popping with hip hop mean, firstly, just the size of the audience in America, just north of 90 million people, there’s 90 million regular listeners of hip hop that is phenomenal. If you think about how far the genre has come, the culture has come in 30-plus years. And secondly, who’s out there in front. I mean, I would put YouTube as the number one venue for hip hop in the United States, Spotify, Apple, Amazon, they’re all doing their things. But I think it’s worth just reminding ourselves how important YouTube is to our culture. As opposed to Amazon Spotify. Apple is depressing your thumb on a piece of glass during a track. Repeat. Rap is something you do hip hop is something you live and you’ve had to Mercer, one of my longtime mentors on your show, just we’ll back to that past podcast to get to where I’m coming from on that point. I think the interesting thing for me speaking as a non-American on a podcast with a large American audience to watch how it’s growing out of the countries and one of the most interesting things for me was non-English speaking hip hop. Now, my sister who’s a French translator, Annie, she introduced me to a rapper called MC solo way, way back in the day, back in the 90s. Even and I don’t speak French, but the rap was just incredible, like the way that the French language flowed over a beat. He certainly won’t recall any tempo. That was incredible. So, you know, I’ve always had an appreciation for how hip hop travels beyond its borders, playlists. Without Borders. Hip hop is without borders. So I just wanted to introduce your audience to a very interesting backstory in Holland and the Netherlands, where Spotify the first country, we scaled him outside of Norway and Sweden was the Netherlands. We got big there really quickly 2011, 2012 era and because we got big we could put some local foot soldiers on the ground to help with curation. And for the first time ever in the company’s history. We started taking Hip Hop curation seriously outside of our core markets and because we’re supplying curation that was met with demand and all of a sudden, we started seeing these Dutch language hip hop artists explode in Holland, Ronnie flex being a great example. I think around 2018, we ran the data. And we learned that Drake was the number one artist in the world on Spotify. Yet in Holland, he was an eighth biggest hip-hop artist. And the seven above him were Dutch rapping in a local language of Dutch. And that was just jaw-dropping to think about globalization, culture, back to the Jungle Brothers the lesson they taught me in 1989, getting the message across without crossing over how you can have local language, hip hop travel, like no other genre there is across the world. And you’re seeing that happen in Germany, France, you’re seeing it happen in Asia. And so it’s important to apply a global lens to hip hop and ask what is it about this culture, which is leading it to travel in a way that other cultures are not traveling is that the expression is that the belief is that the conviction that comes through hip hop, and that’s that there’s a book on that topic, and then you’d be a perfect person to try and write it, I can get you an agent. And I’d be out of my depth, but just so really important see to so which is why is this culture traveling, like no other culture, I can see on a music platform.
Dan Runcie 51:12
It’s fascinating. It’s something I’ve thought about a lot. I’m glad you mentioned that, because I think about a rapper, like Devine from India, or I think about some of the artists from the Middle East as well. And I think there’s similar trends there where hip hop is still the most dominant thing, but they’re artists that are from their regions are the ones that are the most popular. And I think it stems back to thinking about the origins of hip hop and looking at where a lot of those other countries may be. Now you look at what the public enemy had done, or even look a bit earlier, like Grandmaster Flash and have done their share of realities of the environments that they’re in their storytelling in a way that isn’t being done by the mass media. And we’re in an era now, you know, more than ever, we see everything happening in the world where, what a lot of the heads of states, or what a lot of the governments or main distribution, communication platforms in these countries are sharing isn’t necessarily reflecting what’s happening in those places. So because of that, you have people wanting to speak out on that. And I think that because people realizing what the public enemy was able to do in some of those other groups here by them saying, you know, we are the black CNN, we are the voice communicating that I think you saw a lot of that in these other countries. So even if it’s different artists, you’re seeing them share their version of what’s happening on the ground. And I think, like anything else, the evolution of that continues to grow over time. It’s been, it’s been really fascinating to see that. And I think that is what, at least for me always makes it feel like this is the global language that keeps everyone connected in this space. Even if people are speaking clearly different languages from artists you don’t know there’s that common theme that you can tell even if you’re watching a music video or getting a vibe of what they’re doing. There’s so many through lights there.
Will Page 53:02
Those comments are deeper than Loch Ness, so they can quickly top it up with two thoughts, just thinking aloud here. This is why I love about your podcast is with the way you take the conversation with just firstly, just a historical point. And as I mentioned with my book tours and economics, when you’re staring at the disruption to remind yourself that you’ve been here before, when I hear stories about suppression by governments leading to a rise of hip hop as a culture rap as an art form. You just got to go back to 1877 New Orleans and remind yourselves how jazz came into being your Creole people. You know, when Jim Crow laws were reintroduced through the backdoor before since the African American community overnight, so you took classically trained middle-class Creole people brought into a culture which had the blues and African drumming, and out of that suppression came the creation that was jazz. And it’s just I love when you alluded to government suppression resulting in creativity. It’s just interesting to think how we keep on you know, history doesn’t repeat itself, it rhymes. And it’s rhyming here when you start to think about the origins of jazz to what we’re seeing happen with hip hop. And then the second thing I mentioned earlier that, you know, the internet can scale just about anything you want, but it can’t scale intimacy. I wonder whether that’s what hip hop is doing because it’s, it’s a postcard its storytelling is beginning with the word imagine and asking you to imagine the picture these words are creating, you know, that’s doing something which I don’t think your conventional verse-chorus, verse, chorus, rock or pop song is going to deliver. So the message getting the message across without coordinate crossing over. The message that we’re getting across with hip hop is different from other forms of music. And that might explain a little bit about success at home and overseas that we’ve seen on streaming.
Dan Runcie 54:43
Definitely. Well, well, this is great. Thanks again for coming on. If you’re listening, definitely make sure that you check out Tarzan economics. I can’t recommend this book enough. I think that will is extremely sharp. And he’s a thought leader in this space and it’s been great to learn from him. So well. Thanks for coming on. And before we let you go, is there anything else that you want to plug in or let the travel audience know about?
Will Page 55:07
I have gotten no more travel plans to the States this year. But if they can just ask the audience to check out the mix on Mixcloud we ain’t done with 2021 with a shout-out from Dan Runcie, himself, and many others, Mike G is on that mix Lord is on that mix. But I just hope that your audience because the show trapped will mean so much to me. I just hope the audience sees me as a DJ first and an economist a distant second that I can just land that point at the end of this podcast, I’d be happy.
Dan Runcie 55:33
That’s a great note to end on. Well, thanks again.
Will Page 55:36
Thank you so much.
Dan Runcie 55:38
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