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Music in France finds the right tempo

Among the artists produced in France, the Belgian singer Angèle is one of those whose streaming sales results have been pectacular. XAVIER LEOTY / AFP

The continuous growth of streaming, combined with the success of artists produced in France, gives “Renewed momentum” to the music industry in France in 2019, says the National Union of Phonographic Editing (SNEP). According to its annual study released on Tuesday, February 25, the French recorded music market posted growth of 5.4% last year, bringing its turnover to 772 million euros. A much more significant jump than in 2018 (+ 2%). If, since 2016, the sector has been growing again, the euphoria is not yet in order: the market is just catching up with its low water level of 2010, but represents only 44% of that of 2002, its peak.

Streaming continues its breakthrough and now accounts for 59% of sales. “This is clearly what drives the market up,” says Olivier Nusse, president of SNEP and CEO of Universal Music France (UMG). Paid subscriptions, the heart of the reactor, are growing at a fast pace (+ 18.5%, to 285.7 million euros).

Spotify, Deezer, Amazon Music or Qobuz attract new customers every day. For the first time, more than 10% of the French population, or 7.2 million people, subscribed to a paid subscription (i.e. 1.7 million more than in 2018). “This consumption usage has more than doubled since 2015”, notes Mr. Nusse. “The penetration rate of streaming could still be doubled. How fast? It will take a few years “, he said.

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With the exception of France, physical sales (CDs, vinyls, etc.) still occupy a significant place (37% of sales), thanks to a network of more than 4,000 points of sale. Just over 4 million black patties sold in 2019.

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The SNEP highlights the spectacular results of artists produced in France – including Angèle, Nekfeu, Johnny Hallyday, PNL, Ninho, Soprano, Vitaa and Slimane, Lomepal or Aya Nakamura … who signed nineteen of the twenty best-selling albums. Listening to music in streaming benefits the French-speaking repertoire: 80% of French productions appear in the top 200 best sellers of 2019. And young talents manage to emerge in this competition.

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Thanks to the under 24s, consumer enthusiasm for urban music continues: 44% of the same list of winners. SNEP considers that “The enlargement of the population of streaming subscribers should gradually correct the phenomenon of overexposure of the rap, hip-hop and R'n'B repertoire, by reinstalling in the rankings a diversity more in line with the reality of music consumption, whatever the generations ”.

This renewed confidence in the music industry can be seen worldwide within companies. Vivendi's nugget, Universal Music Group (UMG), will, like Spotify, go to market, the group having announced, in mid-February, a plan for an initial public offering “No later than early 2023”. Valued at 30 billion euros, UMG has already promised to sell 10% of its capital to the Chinese Tencent. Major Warner Music (owned by billionaire Leonard Blavatnik's Access Industries fund, also a shareholder of Deezer), filed its initial public offering in New York in early February.

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Increase in podcasts

Several camps clash in the area. The platforms (Spotify, Deezer, etc.) want to counter the ambitions of GAFA (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple), who have every interest in easily distributing their own music services on their connected speakers. In March 2019, Spotify filed a complaint with the European Commission against the apple brand, accusing it of favoring its Apple Music service at the expense of other platforms on its App Store.

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In addition, the majors defend their interests against the platforms. Both Sony Music and UMG or Warner Music fear the harmful effects of the growing importance of background music (yoga, gymnastics, running, etc.) prescribed by algorithms. Their rights do not belong to the majors. The more their listening grows, like the growing number of podcasts, the less these majors will be paid.

Bruno Crolot, managing director of Spotify France and Benelux, denies it: “Podcast lovers are the ones who listen to the most music. Podcasts can increase our repertoire, our audience, it is a growth driver much more than an economic calculation. ” Everyone sees noon at his door. Moreover, in its IPO document, Warner Music notes among its risk factors a “Substantial dependence on a very limited number of streaming services”. This situation is “Likely to significantly influence the price of online music”.

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