January 31, 2023

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Brit Beat: The Top 10 UK Music Industry Stories of 2022

8 min read

Politically and socially, the UK has just passed its most tumultuous year ever. But while nothing the music industry has been through can compare to the departures of the nation’s longest-serving monarch (goodbye, Queen Elizabeth II) and its shortest-lived prime minister (see, Liz Truss), the music biz still had a lot going for it. More than its fair share of attention-grabbing moments.

So, as executives prepare for their first non-COVID-disrupted Christmas since 2019, Brit Beat counts down all the stories that have gossiped about Britain’s VIP bars throughout 2022… in time-honored reverse order, of course.

10. Public (Out of) Service Broadcasting

One of the few advantages of changing government ministers every 15 minutes is that some of the previous incumbents’ more, um, interesting policies may be reconsidered. So, Boris Johnson’s administration’s surprise decision to privatize Channel 4 — greeted with outrage and glee across the arts — now looks set to be shelved. And the current government has also softened some of its predecessor’s animosity towards the BBC, although the license fee funding model is still under review, while cuts are already affecting local radio and threatening its contributions to launching the BBC, an influential platform for new artists. The music industry is hoping that both the BBC and C4 will outlive anyone in charge this week…

9. Meet the new boss

Of course, politicians aren’t the only ones changing positions in 2022. UK trade chiefs have also played musical chairs. A few highlights: #brokenrecord streaming promoter Tom Gray replaces Crispin Hunt as chair of songwriters’ organization The Ivers Academy; Association for Electronic Music boss Silvia Montello to become CEO of Association of Independent Music; and Naomi Pohl resigned as general secretary of the Musicians’ Union after Horace Trowbridge resigned. Meanwhile, the industry is still waiting to see who will be the new head of BPI’s label body, after Geoff Taylor decided to leave the role after 15 years. Rumors swirled with speculation about who might take over the call, with a decision expected soon… Record labels were also busy: EMI and Capitol UK merged under the joint leadership of Rebecca Allen and Joe Charrington, and Polydor continued its recent run under sole responsibility of Ben Mortimer. Great success, after vice-president Tom March left for America to become president of Geffen Records. Most interestingly, this month Dipesh Parmar and Amy Wheatley of legendary dance powerhouse Ministry of Sound moved to run Columbia Records, Sony’s storied rock label. Must be interesting…

8. Off target practice

Brit Beat’s most surreal night of the year was undoubtedly the ABBA Voyage premiere, held in a purpose-built arena near London’s Olympic Park, surrounded by both pop and actual royalty. But any doubts about whether Brits would actually pay to see the digital avatars of Sweden’s (pre)Fab Four (or, if you really insist, the ABBAtars) were soon dispelled with a flick of the Pixel, as the show proved to be a smash hit. . With rave reviews and bookings recently extended to November 2023, taking a chance on Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid proved to be a very good bet indeed. The only question that remains is: Which elder law will follow first?…

7. 20/20 vision

ABBA, of course, rose to fame in 1974 after winning the Eurovision Song Contest in the UK. But few British entrants have gone on to be anything other than musical scraps in recent years, given the country’s somewhat fragile relationship with our European neighbours. “Zero Point” score storm. This year, however, everything changed. Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra may have won with “Stephania,” but Britain’s Sam Ryder came in second with the anthemic “Space Man” and a No. 1 album (“There’s Nothing But Space, Man!”) and a Foo Fighter. /Queen guest appearance (at a Taylor Hawkins tribute concert) already to her name, she looks set for a proper career. And with Ukraine unable to host next year’s competition for obvious reasons, the UK has stepped in as host for 2023, with the event set for May 13 in Liverpool. By next year, of course, everyone in Europe may hate us but, until then, the British Eurovision dream lives on…

6. A PIAS of action

Independent giant PIAS also has European origins, but the company has long been an important part of the UK indie scene. Will that change now that the world’s largest major label, Universal Music Group, has taken a 49% stake? Co-founders Michelle Lambot and Kenny Gates insist that won’t happen. UMG and PIAS already had a “strategic alliance” and, while the two admit they once viewed the majors as antagonistic, they preferred a venture capital alternative to a staunch investment from a music company. The two companies have already announced their first archive partnership, with Universal-owned Spinefarm Records now going through PIAS’s integral services division, but indie is sore because Universal has no seat on the PIAS board. And, while the deal has raised plenty of eyebrows in the indie scene, if anyone knows how to weather the storm, it’s Lambott and Gates, who recently celebrated 40 years of their company.m Anniversary An exciting indie year lies ahead…

5. Adele and back

Adele has always been that rare breed of British superstar: one who has not had any kind of backlash against them. In early 2022, however, he faced an unusual amount of criticism. He started the year in tears, by canceling his Las Vegas residency at the last minute (leaving some British fans stranded on the Strip with nowhere to go), quickly followed by an uproar over (some) ticket prices for his London shows at Hyde. Park, but he won over fans at that gig, and eventually returned to Sin City, where his “Weekends with Adele” show is dressing them up. Looks like Britain’s golden girl isn’t ready to lose her shine just yet…

4. Field of Dreams

As for the crown jewel of UK live music, we haven’t seen much of the Glastonbury Festival in recent years. In fact, before 2021, it was only staged once every four years – after a fall year in 2018, the 2020 and 2021 events were canceled due to the pandemic. But in 2022 it finally returned in all its glory: with Billie Eilish, Paul McCartney and Kendrick Lamar as headliners, 210,000 people in the crowd and millions more watching on the BBC, it was the symbolic moment that said live music was returning to something close to normal. . And, buoyed by the comeback, hosts Michael and Emily Eavis are pushing ahead. Sir Elton John is already confirmed to headline what will be the last show of his final UK tour next year, with some big rock names rumored to potentially join him on the bill. Most ticket-buyers won’t really care who plays, however, as long as the festival returns well…

3. From a whisper to a flow

In Brit Beat’s 2021 round-up, we jokingly predicted that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee’s inquiry into the economics of music streaming could return to the top of the list in 2022. No, quite — but only a recent DCMS committee catch-up session revealed that various working groups have made dangerously little progress over the past 12 months. Some interested parties – mainly the labels – are probably quite happy about it, but the logjam is frustrating for #FixStreaming and #BrokenRecord promoters who saw momentum last year. Things changed in 2022: a Competition and Markets Authority study of the streaming sector concluded that it was doing well enough not to require a full investigation – although it held the government accountable for any changes to artist and songwriter remuneration. Campaigners are now looking to pressure the government to find the “political will” to intervene with the law, but given Britain’s current economic mess, many insiders doubt the issue will be in the long grass. In fact, the only thing that seems certain is that we’ll probably still be talking about it at the end of 2023…

2. Beat around the bush

If your 37-year-old Kate Bush track is the most popular song in the world on your 2022 bingo card, you’ve done a better job of being a better socializer than anyone else in the music industry. When “Running Up That Hill” exploded onto streaming services after a logical sync placement in the Netflix phenomenon “Stranger Things,” it caught even the UK’s official chart company off-guard. The song was denied the No. 1 spot by Harry Styles’ “As It Was” due to chart rules around streams for older tracks versus newer releases; A scream begins, and the song status is reset. It hit No. 1 a week later and went on to top charts around the world. But Bush’s success also inadvertently highlighted the UK’s shortcomings new Such superstars are capable of global dominance. Our classic rockers are still in great demand; The likes of Genesis and Sting have signed huge catalog buy-outs this year, although the warring members of Pink Floyd have been unable to agree a similar deal for their recordings, despite a rumored half a billion dollars on the table. And while the established group of modern Brit superstars (Adele, Ed Sheeran, Harry Styles, Dua Lipa, and others) are still crushing it on streaming, new global breakthroughs are in alarmingly short supply. The only bright spot seems to be a return to the UK’s one-time ’90s specialty: the launch of new alternative groups. Glass Animals hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with “Heat Waves,” Idols received a couple of Grammy nominations, and Wet Leg was the go-to indie act at every award show and festival this year. But with streaming competition from Latin America, Africa and Asia increasing, British business insiders expect the next Ed Sheeran to be unveiled in 2023…

1. Got Live – But Do People Want It?

On the face of it, UK live music boomed this year. After a quiet start as the country pondered the Omicron outbreak, it enjoyed its first full festival season since 2019, and perhaps its biggest summer of live music, with multiple stadium shows running across the country at the same time. But the UK heads into winter with considerable concern about the future of travel. A toxic cocktail of already existing problems (Brexit, post-Covid staff and equipment shortages, struggling financially after two years of inactivity) have recently been spiked with Britain’s rising inflation rate and the impact of the energy crisis. While grassroots venues have received some government support to keep the lights on as bills mount, organizations such as the Music Venues Trust warn that such measures are unlikely to provide enough support in the long term. And while promoters, agents and artist managers – all grappling with rising touring costs – publicly put on a brave face, privately many say diversity Ticket sales for shows outside of that very hottest tour are already under pressure. With another packed gig program booked for 2023, many expect more casualties if the situation doesn’t improve soon. Beware, the UK’s cost-of-living crisis could easily turn into a cost-of-gigging crisis in 2023…

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