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"Hopefully in five years' time, people will have got fed up of X-Factor"

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James McLaren James McLaren | 15:02 UK time, Wednesday, 1 June 2011

"It's going to be difficult to keep this positive!" said Graeme Park to me as we wandered, post-interview, back into the grand foyer of the new Creative Industries Centre of Glyndŵr University. Graeme, a DJ of international repute, is a lecturer at Glyndŵr, and is the host of a series of seminars that are taking place in the swish surrounds of the on-site TV studio.

Park was joined last Thursday by Simon Gavin, a music industry veteran and current head of Verve records, and Mancunian legend Peter Hook, of Joy Division and New Order. The three of them were in Wrexham to discuss the state of the music industry in 2011, in this new digital world we find ourselves, with all its well-rehearsed arguments, its pros and cons. But get anyone together who make their livings from music and it's par for the course that the conclusions will be maudlin at best, hand-wringingly woeful at worst.

But in the end, in front of an appreciative, rapt audience, the three music heads swapped thoughts, anecdotes and laughs that showed that while there are challenges to the way people make and sell music, things are to a large degree as they ever were: passionate, good songs are always the priority.

However, this event gave me the opportunity to probe a little deeper into the issues with the panel prior to the seminar itself (and let's be honest, the chance to talk to Hooky should never be passed up).

Take a listen to what these three music big cheeses have to say about where they are in the music business, their attitudes towards the web and its implications for their business, and where they think we'll be in five years' time:

Peter Hook
"For a lot of new bands coming now they will never have the commercial success that [I] had because it doesn't exist; because people take your music without paying for it."

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Graeme Park
"Technology is fantastic... out of that has sprung some amazing things. But unfortunately out of that has mainly sprung a load of tedious, unoriginal, poorly-produced nonsense that would never have seen the light of day as recently as the 90s."

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Simon Gavin
"It's such a tiny business now."

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  • Comment number 1.

    Interesting that these three old men all have negative comments to make about technology's influence on the music industry ... maybe a younger perspective would have balanced the discussion more!
    Fans are just as passionate about good music today as they ever were ... AND are equally passionate about supporting the acts they love. The big difference is that they are savvier and won't spend their hard-earned money on supporting someone else's "rockstar lifestyle"!
    Yes, they download music, and generally speaking it's to give it a couple of listens, discover it's crap and then be grateful they didn't spend any money on it. On the few occasions they discover something they really love, it will more often than not be from an artist they really want to support, and so then they will go out and spend their money on that artist ... whether it be buying the "hard copy" of the album to demonstrate their support, or more likely, buying tickets to hear the artist live. I think that is the way it should be!
    In the old days, an artist disappeared into a studio for 6 months, brought out an album, and earned more in the next 6 months than most of us do in our entire lives. These days, they rely more heavily on the proceeds of live performance for their income, and I think that's good. Their earnings are still far higher than any of the people that are buying their tickets, and they are doing more like a regular full-time job to earn it!

  • Comment number 2.

    I am sure there will be new programmes to entertain people.[Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 3.

    I think Philip Osborne is completely missing the point. If you listen to what Graeme, Peter and Simon are saying, they're not being negative about technology at all. They may point out the negative side of it, but I've seen Graeme DJ and I think he uses Serato. I know for a fact that he embraces technology and I'm pretty sure that he lectures on it at Glyndwr University in Wrexham too. Technology has transformed the music business from top to bottom and that's a good thing. However, as Graeme pointed out, that has lead to massive amounts of poor quality music being released. I totally agree with that.

  • Comment number 4.

    I think it's interesting what Philip has to say about the way the industry now operates but I would like to challenge him on a couple of points in his argument.
    He is quite right about the fact that the live sector is now a musicians main income stream, which is why Simon Gavin and Peter hook spoke at length about the importance of 360 deals and why they are now so prevalent. The big problem with this is how much a band can actual earn without a record companies support. Without exposure, it is very difficult to sell out venues that are large enough to provide a good enough return for a band and associated road crew and technicians to make even the minimum wage. Simon Gavin said in the event that he regularly provides 150k in tour support, enabling bands to build up enough support to break into this level of touring.
    The second aspect is the longevity of the career. Without royalties generated by back catalogue sales, the touring revenues will ultimately dry up and the musician will be left with nothing but great memories. Unless of course you are the rolling stones or an ex member of joy division!
    The try before you buy argument about illegal downloading is probably apt for a small percentage of 'savvy' buyers but is not supported by statistical evidence of record sales.
    I think one of the most interesting parts of the event was when the panel discussed the revenues from online streaming from the likes of spotify etc. Peter revealed the absolutely pitiful amount that he received for the joy division/ new order catalogue and also mentioned the small amount received by lady ga ga who had been listened to millions of times. The fact that so much money appears to be going missing in the accountancy trail down to the artist is very worrying for future creators of music.
    By the way, I don't disagree with the comment about 'doing a real job', I just worry that the collapse of the existing business model is going to impact upon the young up and coming bands more than the established older acts with healthy PRS returns?
    If record sales continue to plummet, record labels will withdraw tour support. Small venues will likely close, cutting off the route to larger better paid venues for new bands.
    I am sure things will still be vibrant, but without the income from sales and record labels, it will just be more difficult for newer artists to get to a level were they can even make the minimum wage.

  • Comment number 5.

    The music business is constantly evolving, a 100yrs ago a musician made no money from sales...just performance, we are moving back to this model like this.
    Graeme contradict's himself totally throughout...the mainstream (adele etc...) will always make money, the underground won't, it never has....nothing has changed...the power in a+r hands has changed..have you looked at the single charts lately Graeme, do you think the current bunch of A+R labels are doing a great job of finding this talent...i'd take a hundred self supported mp3's over the cheesy dross in the charts...why are you so obsessed with sales, it is no barometer of class. your main complaint is that you receive too much stuff.
    Simon Gavin is relying on established old artists (who came through old revenue stream) and has realised that hip cool bands make no money...their fans are to internet savvy and will get the music for free...better to go for the older middle aged crowd who are willing to pay for it via itunes and cd sales in Tesco etc...his advice is basically bring me a fully functioning established band and i'll sign them.
    the old models in new clothes...the three people you used are all from the old models and not really providing a balanced argument


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