The media landscape is incomparably different than it was a decade ago; the consumption formats have and will continue to change at a crazy pace. When I discuss the development of music content in SE Asia one inescapable point that I continuously raise is the scarcity of media focused on emerging culture and entertainment. The little press that exists is often inconsistent and mediocre. There’s coverage of major shows which engage a mass audience. Usually, this is paid for and wholly uninteresting to creative communities. New music’s column inches or pixels have lost out in the battle for eyeballs to selfies, ’epic fails’ and food. The void left is sad for several reasons, not least because it means that the conversation around music, the debate, never really stood a chance.
There is good news on the horizon however as we see major music streaming platforms beginning to go big on editorial. Whether it’s in the form of playlists, reviews, podcasts, video content or even radio shows we see a more consolidated music ecosystem develop, it’s exciting for the following reasons.
STORY - Fans can buy into the 'music story' more, develop interests around the music. Be it the characters, events or fads. It provides context and allows people to engage with music in a more meaningful way.
DISCOVERY - People who listen to music can learn more about the genre and scene. They can learn about the different acts and influences that stand alongside their favourite musicians. They can also learn about other shows or happenings relevant to their tastes.
CREDIBILITY - Music fans can also develop a sense of credibility with the music they’re consuming. As they buy into the story, they form a more profound connection with it and therefore in many cases respect it more. Supporting talent is what being a fan is all about, so taking pride in this is positive.
ORGANIC GROWTH - Having a media framework means there’s a multiplier effect. As fans see more music content, and better music content, they’re developing behaviours that advocate this by sharing it and commenting on it. Many of the streaming services such as NetEase in China have vast amounts of comments which support the ecosystem. There are issues around authenticity and bots, but much of this is undeniably real engagement. This activity further encourages more home-grown user-generated content and builds a more fertile environment for the entire industry as artists and audiences join the broader conversation.
OPPORTUNITY - With this rise in editorial and content production we can also see more opportunities for people to work in the industry. The lost art of editorial and curation is coming back to life. Many of the best music writers and curators are being encouraged to go into music by providing expertise, insight and opinion.
MORE ARTISTS GETTING STREAMED - As streaming services roll out curated playlists and editorial they encourage the audience to listen to new music (often algorithmically personalised). It makes the experience simple, and listeners can find themselves streaming new artists they’ve not heard before. A good thing when you consider 10% of most streamed tracks account for 99% of all streams.
Some say that music blogs are dying as a result of playlists being rolled out by streaming platforms. However, I'd argue these blogs never really had a business model to support themselves and can use the legal resources in better more user-friendly ways in producer their playlists. Playlist curation from the platforms themselves along with their algorithms does allow room for bias, but it's a necessary evil to push things forward.
We are also seeing big technology companies such as Tencent, Google, Amazon and Facebook developing serious music strategies across a number of their products. What this does is create access to music in a new and exciting way. Targeting consumers with music is becoming more prominent and exploiting data from audiences is becoming more productive. Whenever we talk about data and 'big tech' there are arguments for and against, however, it's promoting competition, music listening and richer music content. Apple Music has choreographed a big-name roster of radio DJs led by the Zane Lowe to drive the conversation in a more literal sense. This has given rise to an increased global debate (yet to hit Asia notably) on emerging music. It's now time for Asia to step up and deliver localised content that resonates and promotes the region as well as playing a roll on the debate mentioned above. Podcasts are gaining a foothold in the media landscape and it's an area we see a mass of opportunities, get in touch to learn more.
SE Asia, China and Hong Kong have seen many international media brands start to develop more Asia content and in some cases syndicate/ franchise themselves into new Asia versions. Billboard China, MixMag Asia/ China and VICE China have done this to varying degrees of success, but in many instances, they have struggled to develop a robust business model. Hard working small enterprises like Bandwagon, Still-Loud and Boom are working hard to keep up as creating original material for music fans in a way that works for a balance sheet is very hard in a resource-heavy industry. The news platforms like SCMP or Apple Daily have dedicated culture sections, but music doesn’t get the same emphasis as food or other culture pillars, it doesn’t attract the level of ‘clicks’ from readers. However, as the ecosystem grows both the smaller independent channels and more prominent news platforms should be presented with opportunities as audiences develop a more discerning global outlook as a result of the more solid editorial offered by streaming services who have the resources to make it work. There will also be a plethora of opportunities for brands through branded content and smart alignments beyond the programmatic ads driving revenue for streaming platforms. The conversation is developing - watch this space.