Five Things I Know: Dan Rosen, CEO of ARIA

Next year, Dan Rosen will mark a decade at the helm of the Australian Recording Industry Association as its CEO. He tells us how COVID-19 will affect the Australian music industry’s upward trajectory, how TikTok is another example of the symbiotic relationship between music and tech, and why physical sales will endure

COVID-19 will unquestionably impact industry revenues for 2020

All of our projections for 2020’s industry revenues that we had at the beginning of the year are definitely under review and being knocked around by COVID-19. It’s not something anybody was predicting. We were certainly gearing up for another strong year of growth off the back of five straight years of growth and having our best year in 2019 since 2004. We were looking incredibly positive and optimistic for the year, and 2020 had started very well.

But there’s no doubt that things will be impacted. Certainly, the recorded music side has been less impacted than the live sector, just by virtue of the fact that you can’t put on a live event but you can certainly still listen to recorded music. We’ve seen that with subscription services, where demand continues to remain incredibly strong and has grown even across audio-visual services like YouTube. So, we are working hard to ensure we can still have a good year, but there is no doubt that there will be a material impact from COVID-19.

Streaming has the lion’s share of the Aussie market but physical sales will endure

There’s no doubt that streaming will remain a dominant force and will continue to take market share away from physical sales and digital downloads, but we believe that physical will certainly be a part of the industry for the foreseeable future. And we think it’s a really important, healthy part of the business, in particular for local Australian artists who can sell direct to fans online.

I think that is one behaviour that will continue post-crisis: artists having this communication with their fans and selling direct to consumers through their websites or through third-party sites like Bandcamp. People still want to touch and feel a vinyl, CD or t-shirt, and that’s a really healthy and exciting trend.

ARIA CEO Dan Rosen
Dan Rosen. Credit: Press

Plan for scenarios with agility in mind and one eye on Government guidelines

Everybody is looking at scenario-planning and what needs to be moved, what needs to be changed and try to be as flexible and agile as we can so that we can continue to deliver what we need to for music fans and our artists.

ARIA is in scenario-planning at the moment for the 2020 ARIA Awards. We want to look at the best possible result and are working with stakeholders and the authorities to make sure we can put on what would be the best event come November. We’re very encouraged that by July under the Government’s current roadmap that we’ll already be able to have 100 people in the room. So by November, we’ll be in a very good position to celebrate and honour what would’ve been a very challenging year, where artists and the music community as a whole has had to be very resilient, resourceful and creative.

Music has historically helped drive the growth of tech platforms

There’s no doubt that as new technologies come along, and they’re embraced by the public, music has always been a driver. If we look back into the early days, even with YouTube, Twitter, Facebook music helped drive early adoption. Even now, 19 of the 20 of the most viewed videos on YouTube of all time are music videos. Music drives these platforms and they help drive music. It’s a symbiotic relationship.

TikTok is an increasingly popular platform this year. It may be something else next year as technology continue to evolve. But music is eternal, and that’s the wonderful thing about great music and great art – it lives on, regardless of the platform. We need to make sure we invest and protect that artistry and that creativity.

ISOL-AID livestream Australia
Elspeth Scrine from the band Huntly live-streams a performance for ISOL-AID. Credit: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images

Advocacy to ensure artists get compensated for virtual performances is crucial

Artists have suffered a distressing loss of live income, but during this crisis many artists have been performing online for no money. That to me cannot be a sustainable model. That to me cannot be a sustainable model. We need to make sure that artists are getting paid, or are performing in paid or sponsored environments where money flows back to them. We’ve worked for years to make sure that artists’ intellectual property is protected online and that people pay for music and recognise its value. It would be tragic if overnight we lost that.

Some big players like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube have started to put in more paid elements, and there’s emerging platforms like StageIt and VEEPS where artists can choose how they perform live and sell tickets, or have tip jars. So it’s emerging, but it needs to happen quickly, because without live shows, we have to replace that income for our artists and our industry.

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