NY:LON Connect conference talks streaming prices, indie successes

Music Ally and the Music Business Association’s NY:LON Connect conference yesterday gathered experts and leaders from the music business to discuss some of the industry’s top topics. One session debated the prices for streaming music access and asked whether a lower monthly rate would help bring in more paying listeners. Several executives from labels and streaming services participated in the panel, and perhaps unsurprisingly, they were uniformly opposed to lowering subscription prices.

“I don’t think we need to cut the top to bring in the bottom,” said Scott Cohen, founder and VP of international at The Orchard. “We need to have a clearer division of ‘here you can consume all of it for free’, and it’s too blurry about what gets you to where it is paid.” Pandora VP of global content licensing Elizabeth Moody noted that the audience focus thus far has been on hardcore music fans, with much larger audiences still to reach at the current price points. “We really haven’t touched mainstream yet,” she said.

However, there was some support for alternative models. Jonathan Dworkin, SVP of digital strategy and business development at Universal Music Group, pointed to mid-tier services such as the one in Amazon Music Unlimited. “I really think it might end up being one of the best funnels to fully on-demand,” he said.

Another session focused on labels and how they can address the large share of media consumption given to video. This included a presentation by Charles Caldas, CEO of indie label network Merlin. His talk was largely positive about the role of streaming for independent artists, noting that indies have a larger market share in subscription tiers than in free services. Caldas also noted that even though YouTube’s audience is much larger than Spotify’s, YouTube is funneling through “less than a tenth” of the money to Merlin that Spotify does.

“This obsession with per-stream rates and replacing the value of the album are things we’re learning to measure better as the paradigm shifts,” he said. “We need to rethink all of those preconceptions about where power, control and value sits in the business.”

Anna Washenko