Artist Interviews The Great Escape 2014

Q&A: Dan Le Sac

By | Published on Tuesday 29 April 2014

Dan Le Sac

At next week’s Great Escape one of the half-day insight strands will focus on Global Digital Markets, looking at how digital is evolving in different regions around the world, at whether streaming services can go mass-market, and what the future of digital music holds. But at the top of that agenda will be the debate that has rumbled on in the artist community this last year about the royalties paid by the big streaming platforms to rights owners and their artists.

Dan Le Sac will be reviewing what the UK artist community is saying, and ahead of that CMU Business Editor caught up with the man himself to find out about what he thinks, and why he reckons it’s important for artists to participate in industry conferences like The Great Escape.

There’s still a chance for artists to take part in our survey on the streaming market – to get access to the quick questionnaire email your details to insights@unlimitedmedia.co.uk

CC: You often attend The Great Escape as a delegate, why?
DLS: Being in a small(ish) band, on a dinky label, and being completely self-managed, taking part in the Great Escape Convention gives me the opportunity to learn more about the guts of the industry that pays my rent. And it’s always a surprise how many people you can bump into around the convention venues. Although some of these chance encounters invariably end up with you tipsy on the seafront, the rest of them can lead to production work, collaborations, gigs, syncs and so on. Ultimately it can lead to my landlord getting his rent on time!

CC: Last year you wrote a column for CMU encouraging other artists to participate in the convention side, why do you think they should do this?
DLS: It’s a simple idea for me, the music industry is becoming a place where artists are empowered to self-release and self-manage, the convention gives me the opportunity to meet the people and gather the information I need to do these things well.

CC: If an artist was coming into The Great Escape Convention for the first time, what would you recommend?
DLS: For the first time, I would recommend heading along to some of the meet and greet events. Everyone is there in the same spirit, wanting to meet new people and hear about which convention sessions are worth attending. Plus there’s usually a free drink!

CC: Streaming royalties have been much debated this year, do you think this was an issue that had been brewing for sometime in the artist community, or were people just responding to Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich?
DLS: Honestly I feel like both statements are true. Yorke and Godrich have certainly helped to bring the debate back into people’s minds but it was definitely something that was already being debated by bands. It’s just a shame that it takes established and financially stable artists to focus people’s attention when the issue more heavily effects newer and less successful acts.

CC: Some high profile critics of the streaming services argue they just aren’t paying enough to artists and rights owners, would you agree?
DLS: Yes and no. For example, Spotify pay a larger percentage of their revenues out to rightsholders than iTunes does, which is great, but we focus on Spotify as those revenues are so much lower.

CC: Others – most prominently Billy Bragg – argue that it’s more the size of the cut of streaming money being paid by labels to artists that is the problem, would you agree with that argument?
DLS: This is definitely a huge issue for me. Obviously it depends on the label, but when it comes to all digital services, the record companies are the ones who have to do the least amount of work, so why should they take a larger cut than they would of traditional CD sales, for example?

CC: There actually seems to be quite a lot of confusion in the artist community about who is paying what to whom in the streaming domain, would you agree?
DLS: 100% agree! But it’s not just the artist domain! Ask the average indie label what they earn from a monetised YouTube video and they couldn’t tell you. The issue with ad funding is that the fees advertisers pay are often variable, so from the top down there’s no clarity of rates. Introducing various flat rates across the board would help matters, but there would be too many hoops to jump through to make that work.

CC: Do you think the streaming services and labels could be doing more to explain their deals and business models, and if so what?
DLS: Indeed they could, but that clarity needs to be given to the users of their services as well as artists. Though it is quite complex and rates will differ from label to label, and distributor to distributor, so I’m not entirely sure there is a simple form this could take.

CC: Given what you said about artists being reluctant to participate in events like The Great Escape Convention, do you think they’d really engage with streaming services and labels on royalty issues, or are many artists too busy or too removed from that side of things?
DLS: It’s not so much a reluctance, it’s often that artists are rarely invited to take part in the debate. There’s an assumption that artists shouldn’t be bogged down in the mundanities of the industry BUT it’s the artists who understand the industry who have the better chance of survival, in my opinion.

CC: There has been a mixture of gloom and glee about the digital music future in both the artist and label community this year – where do you sit? As an artist, are you optimistic about the future of the record and wider music industries?
DLS: Weirdly, for one of the grumpiest people on earth, I’m fairly positive about the future. Ultimately the entire industry survives off the back of our creations so in the end things will balance out in the artists favour, well as long as artists keep fighting to make themselves heard that is.



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