THE FACT OF THE MATTER
The global music industry is worth more than €50 billion annually, with two major income revenue streams. Live music makes up over 50% of total revenues, derived mainly from sales of tickets to live gigs. The other, recordings, sees revenue from streaming, downloads, physical sales and synchronisation revenues, that is licensing of music for movies, games, TV and advertising. Streaming makes up almost half of that revenue.
In the wake of the pandemic, physical sales, which represent a quarter of recorded music income, are down by one-third – not surprising, given the closure of record stores – while digital sales have fallen around 11%. This aligns with general decreases in discretionary spending.
Spotify, which has added tens of thousand of followers during the pandemic, has noted a change in consumers’ routines, saying that daily habits are now reflective of weekend consumption, as well as relaxing genres rising in popularity.
It seems we find daily solace in music in these times of uncertainty.
In terms of the amount of music consumed, initial data shows a reduction in streaming of 7 to 9% in some markets, although this appears to have recovered. At the same time, on demand music video streams have risen due to a change in our behaviours: the pandemic has intensified our focus on news media (especially TV), while fewer commuting and the gym closures have shifted listening to different times of the day.
Not just now, with the pandemic, but all my life has been as audience to music, of all genres. I have an insatiable appetite and each period in my life has been soundtracked by it — Rock when I rolled with the punches as a young man, Country when in the good years of a wife and children, Jazz when those years came unstuck and the melancholia of middle age kicked in. And always the Great Masters to which I have notably returned the past 16 months.
From early Baroque to the Romantics, they have been around a long time through many a plague and pandemic — and triumphed. Indeed, from as early as ancient Egypt, Greece and the Babylonians, music has been an instrument for spiritual healing.
Whether live gigs and stadia sell-outs — which can account for 75% of an artist’s revenue — triumph again any day soon is anyone’s guess, although the Government is to examine the plausibility of such and already there have been a few concerts with limited, curtailed attendance.
There was a time, aeons ago, when you’d be lucky to get a major act to darken out doorstep, but in the last four decades every major draw either kicks off or ends a world tour in Ireland. And, despite our size, we have more than our fair share of venues. Not least Nolan Park or the sylvan setting that is Slane Castle.
On August 16, 1981, 30,000 music fans converged on the grounds of Slane Castle. Thin Lizzy headlined Slane’s first concert, with other Irish bands such as U2 rounding out the bill. Henry Lord MountCharles worried that, as Ireland was on edge politically, violence might erupt. Thankfully, fears were unfounded and Slane Castle’s first concert was a joyous, peaceful smash hit that paved the way for decades of legendary concerts.
Until the time of the coronavirus, that is.
I like the story Henry was fond of telling about when the Rolling Stones first played Slane in 1982. (They returned in 2007). Frontman Mick Jagger had asked Henry if he could visit the then popular night club in the castle basement that was a regular for young people for some years.
When the gig had finished — legendary newspaper editor Vinny Doyle had sent Irish Independent classical music critic, the late Mary MacGoris, to cover the concert, just for a ‘different angle’, and word was she was never the same afterwards — Henry took Jagger to his club, around midnight.
The venue, a renowned restaurant by day, was in full flow. There was a local farmer who was, although no spring chicken, allowed saunter over the road and sit by the bar and avail of the late night extension; sitting there with his Guinness, eyeing up the young women dancing the night away.
As Henry and his guest passed the old farmer at the bar, MountCharles stopped momentarily to acknowledge his neighbour. The farmer returned the greeting and eyeing the lank Rolling Stone up and down said, matter-of-factly: “Do people ever tell ya, you’re the spit of that Mick Jagger fella?”
To which the Stones frontman replied: “Yeah, I get that all the time.”