The Disrupters: The Music Factory

Economist Films

Economist Films,

Economist Films is a new video initiative launched in 2015 to truly express The Economist brand within moving image

Digital technology has transformed every corner of the music industry, from creation to distribution and monetization. Watch to see how the big labels are surviving, and how new models are emerging

About The Disrupters

The Disrupters explores the pressures of change confronting some of the world’s most established industries. How do successful businesses evolve and turn threat into opportunity? Two-thirds of what we consume today was not invented twenty-five years ago….The pace of change, obsolescence and renewal is still accelerating. And entire industries are being challenged like never before to open up, innovate and reinvent themselves. In The Disrupters we’ll meet the men and women on both sides of history - the up-starts mounting the challenge and those charged with seeing them off. We’ll offer a sense of the restless, ceaseless nature of the disruptive change they face, and glimpse both the uncertainties and the transformative possibilities this offers.

The Music Factory

The unsurpassed reach of the internet and the emergence of data technologies have transformed virtually every aspect of the music industry – from music creation and recording to distribution and monetization. Throughout the rise of the digital economy, the world’s biggest music labels have survived wave after wave of dizzying disruption. In this film we find out how. We also explore the latest wave to hit them – artists propelling their own career outside of traditional label environments – all thanks to the empowering nature of data and new technology.

We meet digital music start-up Kobalt, which is tempting major artists to turn their back on the big labels. Kobalt enables artists to retain their own copyright and use data to capitalise on a much wider breadth of revenue streams. Kobalt has already signed Paul McCartney and Lionel Richie onto their books as well as a raft of other world famous acts. Also disrupting the power and control of the big labels is a new generation of social media stars who see themselves as their own CEO and are experts in something the labels can't teach them - how to cultivate an immediate and authentic relationship with their fans - who they acknowledge as their very own "shareholders".

In the wake of these changes the labels are fighting back and using the financial anchor of back catalogues to tempt artists back. But in an era when artists are empowered like never before, will it work? We ask some of the most established names in the business – from Radiohead to Moby. And we talk to the label bosses about how they are taking back the initiative and attempting to transform their industry’s relationships with the artists.


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This film and article were developed by The Economist Films, supported by EY.