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Monthly Archives: August 2018
By: Billboard Staff
When independent record executives gathered at the Libera Awards in New York in June to honor their label’s best releases, they had more than artistic achievement to celebrate.
Independently owned labels — ranging from small, artist-owned imprints to multimillion-dollar organizations like BMG, Big Machine Music Group and Concord Music Group — now claim 37 percent of the U.S. recorded-music market, according to a report released by MIDiA Research last October.
When the American Association of Independent Music, the independent-label trade group that presents the Libera Awards, was founded in 2005, that market share was 29 percent, says A2IM CEO Richard James Burgess.
The MIDiA report, which was commissioned by the Worldwide Independent Network, a trade group of the independent music business, found that the indies’ share of the global music market is even marginally higher — 38 percent — and that indies generated $6 billion in worldwide sales.
“It speaks volumes for the tenacity, passion and entrepreneurship of independent labels and the public’s desire for musical diversity, that even in these times of global dominance by major corporations, almost four out of every 10 dollars spent on music goes to the independent sector,” said Martin Mills, founder of Beggars Group and WIN vice president, commenting on the MIDiA report.
In addition to expanding their market share, independents are growing revenue for their artists through their collective clout as Merlin, the global digital-rights organization for indie labels, negotiates with streaming services on behalf of their artists.
Billboard’s Indie Power Players report recognizes achievement at independently owned record labels, music publishers and distributors — but also distribution companies owned by the three major music groups that play a significant role in bringing indie-owned repertoire to market. In a volatile time for the music business, these executives assure the continued growth of indie music.
Founded in 2006 by Florida music producer Brea in a spare bedroom of his parents’ house, Latino-owned Symphonic is a key conduit to Spotify, Amazon and other streaming platforms for indie acts of all genres. Last November, the equity firm Ballast Point Ventures put $4 million into the Tampa, Fla.-based firm, which also offers design, audio mastering, marketing, merchandising and licensing services. “People were wondering, ‘Why are you taking money now? Is everything all right?’” says Brea. “I told them, ‘Everything’s more than all right.’ We want to invest more aggressively and hire more people.”
Regular readers know that we’ve often covered the limits of decision models, the importance of chemistry, and what makes a team work well together. And that we’re baseball fans (especially of our Rays).
A recent review of “Astroball” in The Wall Street Journal. covers that same ground with the terrific story of the 2017 World Series champs. Astros GM Jeff Luhnow figured out how to get scouting and analytics to work together and combine that with team building to go from last place to World Series champs in 3 short years.
It was no easy task, “(B)ut it was done, and the team made a series of sound, even brilliant, choices as it drafted, traded and signed players.”
This roster-creation, all by itself, did not bring home the championship. Building an exceptional team is one thing, but making it work as a team is another. “Fault lines” exist in all complex organizations—including baseball teams. If these lines can be bridged or eradicated, a team is likely to win more ball games. To use another bit of old-fashioned terminology, a team needs chemistry.
Carlos Beltrán, the veteran outfielder signed by the Astros after the 2016 season, immediately took on the role of chief chemist. Among other things, he created a postgame ceremony that awarded prizes for excellence in the field and instituted a postgame “court” for those who failed to attend: The fine was $500. Mr. Beltrán also had a singular ability to study opposing pitchers and determine their “tells”—gestures and small changes in behavior that signaled whether or not the next pitch would be, for example, a breaking ball or a fast ball. Finally, Mr. Beltrán had a strong desire to close the gap between the English and Spanish speakers.
His biggest ally in this quest was Alex Bregman, who professed to speak perfect Spanish. In fact, it was far from perfect, but Mr. Bregman worked hard to communicate with his Spanish-speaking teammates, including going out of his way to befriend first baseman Yuli Gurriel, who joined the team in 2016 after coming to the United States from Cuba and who spoke no English at all. Mr. Gurriel was exactly the sort of player who can become isolated and resentful in many American clubhouses. But Mr. Bregman refused to let that happen. As Mr. Reiter explains, “The two yammered at each other in Spanglish all day long.”
Add to all this the signing of pitcher Justin Verlander, acquired during the 2017 season, and a dash of good luck, and there’s no reason why any of us should have been surprised that the Astros won their World Series right on schedule. Mr. Reiter’s superb narrative of how the team got there provides powerful insights into how organizations—not just baseball clubs—work best.
We have previously suggested that in baseball there’s just a slight correlation between more analytics and more success. It remains tough to eliminate the usefulness of having more money than other clubs, and with technology and best practices so widely disseminated and articulated (in baseball, at least) the early Moneyball advantages may have been arbitraged away. So excellent teamwork or a hot stretch of cluster luck can make the difference.
The fan inside us is fascinated by new thinking on the topic, and the prospect of advantages to be gained in the short term, but over the long term our conclusion remains the same: big data may help make accurate predictions or guide knotty optimization choices or help avoid common biases, but it doesn’t control events. Models are useful in predicting things we cannot control, but for those in the midst of the game – players or entrepreneurs – the results have to be achieved, not just predicted.