Last month, I was invited to the members-only event by Water & Music led by Cherie Hu called Water Cooler, a biweekly interview series with innovators at the forefront of music and technology. The goal is to give members of the Water & Music community a perspective on cutting-edge music-tech innovation, equipping them with the vocabulary and business acumen to navigate the fast-moving landscape successfully. Water Cooler has previously featured TuneCore CEO Andreea Gleeson and the founders of startups like Audioshake, un:hurd, and Sound.xyz.
We will break down some of the topics discussed. However, to access the entire interview, you can subscribe here. Until then, you can read a recap here:
The relevance of the term “emerging markets”
The term “emerging markets” was coined by Antoine W. van Agtmael of the World Bank's International Finance Corp (IFC) capital markets department in 1981. So, the term is in no way new. However, it became a catchphrase in the music industry when Western markets sought new revenue opportunities upon reaching saturation. The concept came from wanting to create revenue models in these markets similar to the mature markets such as the US, the UK, France or Canada. “Emerging Markets” is a very colonial approach the music industry uses to create the same revenue models in these new markets that worked in traditional ones. These new markets do not have a similar music consumption or creation history, and most of these new markets have had very different cultural nuances in interacting with music. In the last few years, emerging music markets are diverging, which means cultural nuance is becoming the front and centre of new markets.
Glocalisation vs. Internationalisation
As emerging music markets start to develop and take control of their own industries, on their own terms, in the era of music streaming, the apparent next goal is to create or reach international fan bases. When music's movement into emerging markets started, it focused on exporting music from traditional markets and importing it into emerging markets. However, the focus must actively change so that music from emerging markets can attract global audiences without forcefully integrating foreign sounds in an inauthentic way. The approach towards glocalisation and internationalisation is distinctive - one focuses on breaking into a specific market while the other is a way of sharing a local music culture with the whole world. Youth all around the world, in a post-pandemic world, are more eager to travel the world through music and entertainment, if not IRL. As we move forward, authentic storytelling and repurposed subgenres are what will pave the way for emerging markets.
Importance of consumer behaviour - large and small
It is hard to find historical data from emerging markets primarily because the formalisation of the music industry only began a few decades ago. In many cases, online consumption habits away from piracy only began a few years ago. Mobile phone and broadband adoptions are very recent and must represent the entire market. Thus, for Hivewire, it has been more important to analyse small groups and social media conversations and raise points that drive a conversation rather than provide actionable insights. As the markets develop, there is no doubt that data availability will provide essential insights. However, in markets that are so culturally diverse and, as a result, fragmented, an approach that is qualitative and quantitative will be the only way to drive actual insights from emerging markets.
Local before Global, not the other way around
Participating in the music streaming economy today means having instant, global distribution to a potential audience of millions of listeners the moment a song is released. In sustaining an artist's strategy or music scene they occupy, it is first vital to grow a robust local fanbase and play an essential part in developing home market infrastructure. The home market showcases the right way to echo the culture for global audiences. Diaspora or international fans try to emulate the same behaviours that make them feel closer to the culture even while far away. Read here to see an example from sports on how the European Super League (ESL) showcases the risk of neglecting home audiences in an attempt to build international fandoms. There is much to learn about the ESL fiasco for the music industry. The music industry must answer questions such as why the Nigerian market is not developing as quickly as Burna Boy but BTS enlisting in military service has not impacted the K-pop industry. New K-pop artists are breaking the charts regularly.
Music discovery and the importance of Gatekeepers:
In a talk by Shawn Reynaldo while promoting his book First Floor Volume 1: Reflections of Electronic Music Culture in Bristol, he mentioned the importance of gatekeepers. Not Gatekeepers that close the gate on new people but Gatekeepers that enable the sharing of culture most authentically. These people can share the culture and the story as authentically as possible because of their constant association with it. Culture is meant to progress. It must evolve as the people in it evolve. Closing the gates on new community members only hinders a culture. In the days to come, curators, gatekeepers, and Culture enthusiasts will rise in different ways. Newsletters have been one avenue - blogs, Instagram pages and many others will come. For fans, this is an excellent opportunity to share their culture and their identities and meet more like-minded people through the lens of authenticity. This, in turn, is great for music cultures. It creates a flourishing ecosystem around artists across media formats.
Catalogue investments and acquisitions from emerging markets
We may not see a huge acquisition model in these markets, barring local legacy catalogues, because it is hard to say what will happen. There are only three big scenes from emerging markets - Reggaeton, K-pop and Afrobeats are just a few decades old from a global popularity standpoint. Most catalogue valuations are based on decades of data. Emerging markets catalogue investments will start small and from local catalogues such as Warner Music acquiring DIVO and Africori in India and South Africa, respectively or Reservoir’s acquisition of Mohamed Ramadan from Egypt. The financial models in emerging markets might look differently than we expected. For instance, emerging markets showcase more ad-supported streaming; therefore, other monetisation models may come up that drive engagement differently. Artists in rising scenes like Amapiano are creating their platforms, exploring these commercial avenues through partnerships with brands like Nandos whilst growing their/the genre’s cultural capital. How this will play into catalogue values, music rights, and live music will only be possible to evaluate as more emerging markets have sustainable music ecosystems.
To learn more about emerging markets and local music scenes, stay tuned on Hivewire!
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Other cool reads from the week
>>> Lessons Learned - 10 Years of Music, Cities & Travel - A Personal Post - By Shain Shapiro on Making Places Better
>>> The stylists shaping the look of Afrobeats - Vincent Desmond on i-D
>>> AI Is Remixing Music—But The DJ Is Still A Human - David Beiner on Forbes
>>> DGTL India announced a complete line-up today for Mumbai and Bengaluru! For tickets, visit here.
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Hivewire is an independent music industry publication launched in June 2023 by Srishti Das. This dynamic newsletter offers a unique perspective on the music industry, focusing on emerging markets and the burgeoning music cultures gradually making their mark globally.