Magazine article Variety

A Midstream Shift for Label Libraries

Magazine article Variety

A Midstream Shift for Label Libraries

Article excerpt

DURING THE SECOND HALF of the 1980s, the arrival of the compact disc turned the music business into a money-spinning juggernaut, with the format moving from essentially zero early in the decade to 400 million units produced in 1988 alone. But that explosive growth was driven less by superstars of the era - although Whitney Houston and Guns N' Roses sold many millions of the high-priced discs - than by people replacing their old vinyl albums and cassettes with a more convenient format.

The same syndrome has taken hold with streaming: According to BuzzAngle's 2017 year-end report, a whopping 51% of songs consumed are from "deep catalog" (music three or more years old), with an additional 12.5% coming from "catalog" (18 months to three years old). Which means that for all the discovery opportunities that a virtually unlimited pool of music can offer, people are using it far more to hear music they already know, or to explore previously untraveled corners of a genre or a favorite artist's oeuvre.

That trend was not lost on new Sony Music Entertainment CEO Rob Stringer. For 28 years, the company has been host to one of the most popular catalog labels in the business, Legacy which has won multiple Grammy Awards for beautifully curated collections from Sony's vast repertoire - which includes Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, Johnny Cash, Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jackson and many others - as well as new releases from heritage artists like Willie Nelson and Earth, Wind & Fire. But in recent months management found the business to be too oriented toward physical releases, and a major reorganization is under way. By mutual consent, Legacy president Adam Block agreed to step down earlier this year. Several other staffers have or will leave the company.

Yet Legacy, which is housed within Sony's Commercial Music Group under the direction of president Richard Story, is also staffing up in the digital space, with nine new roles and more likely to come. A source close to the situation tells Variety that the company felt renewed urgency in realizing it did not have sufficient staffers specializing in deep catalog, streaming, marketing and analytics. The insider stressed that the company will continue to release lavish boxed sets and other physical product, but it has moved to correct that imbalance.

Promoting catalog on streaming is a dramatically different proposition than pushing physical product, according to music-retail veteran Amy Dietz, exec VP and GM of global distribution and services platform InGrooves, who spent 15 years as an executive at Warner Music's Alternative Distribution Alliance. …

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