Breaking Biz

Spotify, the biggest name in music streaming, has reached the big 5-0. The Swedish-originated business last week revealed it has passed 50 million paid subscribers, a landmark that was announced not with a homepage banner or a gloating press release but a single message posted from its Twitter account.

They’re solid figures, sure, but a glance at its subscription numbers over the past year provides a more thrilling picture. Spotify confirmed its 40 millionth paying customer back in September 2016, meaning the business added some 10 million users in less than half a year. And last March, the service claimed it had 30 million paying users.

Not bad. But not Netflix either. The streaming TV giant recently announced 94 million global subscribers, adding 5 million subscribers outside the US in the last quarter of 2016.

Check your diary and insert 2017 APRA Awards on the date April 3. The annual ceremony this year takes place at Sydney’s International Convention Centre. Nominations will be announced in the coming days.

Movers & Shakers

Niko Nordström, the incoming president of Warner Music Australasia, is raring to escape the dark Nordic winters for a new life Down Under.

Nordström, who is currently vice president of Warner Music Nordics and managing director of Warner Music Finland, was last week unveiled as the new boss for the music major’s activities in Australia and New Zealand. And Seventh Street Media exclusively chatted with the exec ahead of his arrival. “Obviously, this is a big change in my personal and professional life. I’ve never lived outside of Finland before and I’m so lucky to do it in Sydney,” he says. “I have a couple of friends who live in the city and they keep praising its beauty, its friendly and relaxed people and the many activities there are to do. Even though I love Helsinki, I won’t be missing its dark and cold winters.”

Nordström succeeds Tony Harlow, the company’s outgoing leader for Australia and NZ, who was recently appointed president of WEA Corp., based in New York. Though he’s “eager to get started,” Nordström will only assume duties “following the completion of normal immigration procedures”, according to a corporate statement.

The Finn may not be familiar with the lifestyle, but he’s done his research on the music community he’s about to drop into. “The Australian music scene is rich and vibrant with so many talented artists and I’m excited to be able see more of them in person. Australia has always been able to successfully export its artists’ music.”

Growing up in the ’80s, INXS was one his favourite bands and more recently Nordström caught Sia’s performance at the 2016 Flow Festival in Helsinki where she “really nailed it and showed why she is a global superstar”. Nordström’s 15-year old daughter is a massive 5SOS fan and attended the pop-punk band’s gig in Helsinki last autumn. “Illy has been one of Warner Music Australia’s artists that we have put huge effort to support up here in the Nordics,” he adds. “I hope to be able to continue to export Australian artists and music globally with the help of WMG’s international set up.”

Chris Maund has been elevated to the new role of chief operating officer, Mushroom Group Labels and Music Publishing. ‘Maundy’ has served with the Mushroom Group for more than 10 years and recently held a dual role as managing director of Ivy League Records and director of legal and business affairs, The Mushroom Group. According to a statement, he’ll report to Michael and Matt Gudinski and will oversee and drive the operations for all the Mushroom Group’s labels and the group’s music publishing arm, Mushroom Music. Ian James’ role as Mushroom Music Publishing managing director doesn’t change.

Maund will work closely with Liberation Music’s managing director Warren Costello and James to manage, oversee and drive the operations for all Mushroom Group master and publishing interests, a Mushroom Group spokesperson says.

In other news, LA-based independent publisher Big Deal Music has signed a sub-publishing agreement with Mushroom Music Publishing.

Departures

Bob Higgins, founder of America’s entertainment retail group Trans World Entertainment and its FYE chain, died March 1 of undisclosed causes. He was 75. Higgins launched Trans World in 1972 (initially known as Record Store) and built an empire which at its peak numbered more than 1,000 stores. The business today boasts about 300 stores with revenue of about US$300 million, though music now accounts for about one quarter of all sales.

Tommy Page

Singer-songwriter and music industry executive Tommy Page, best known for his hit 1990 single ‘I’ll Be Your Everything’, was found dead last Friday (March 3). He was 46. Page began his career as a recording artist for Seymour Stein’s Sire Records, highlighted by a No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with ‘I’ll Be Your Everything’. Page once recalled to this reporter the goosebump moment when he learned of his No. 1; he was onboard a flight over the country whose chart he was ruling. Page later joined Warner Bros./Reprise Records and in 2011 joined Billboard, where he rose to publisher. Page also served in executive roles with Pandora and Cumulus Media.

The Dotted Line

Welcome to the world: Holy Holy, the rising homegrown alternative rock outfit, has signed a global deal with Universal Music Publishing Australia. The deal coincides with the release of Holy Holy’s second album Paint, which this week opens at No. 7 on the ARIA Albums Chart.

Holy Holy

Staying with Universal Music Publishing Group, Grammy-winning, Russia-born EDM star Zedd has concluded his own exclusive, worldwide deal with the major publisher. Zedd has produced for many of the biggest names in pop, from Justin Bieber to Nicki Minaj, Ariana Grande and Lady Gaga, and he guests on Hailee Steinfeld & Grey’s international hit ‘Starving’. Through the new arrangement, UMPG will also represent two of Zedd’s frequent collaborators, Grey (AKA brothers Michael and Kyle Trewartha) and Lophiile.

Has it really been 15 years since Avril Lavigne pulled an ollie impossible with ‘Sk8r Boi’? Yup, it has. And she’s about to drop in again through a new pact with BMG which covers the world excluding Japan. BMG expects to release a new, sixth Avril album sometime later this year.

Chart Geek

Brit Award-nominated grime artist Stormzy is now a chart-topper. The rapper’s debut set Gang Signs & Prayer opened at No. 1 on this week’s Official UK Albums Chart, ending Rag ‘n’ Bone Man’s multi-week reign at the top with Human. Charts compiler the OCC notes Gang Signs & Prayer is “arguably the first pure grime album” to top the UK albums survey. Ed Sheeran’s Shape Of You (Asylum/Warner Music) enters an eighth week at the summit of the singles chart. Expect to see Sheeran’s name attached to the UK charts for some time yet: his new album Divide dropped last Friday and is expected to blast to No. 1.

Future carves out a piece of US chart history by becoming the first act to score back-to-back No. 1 debuts in successive weeks on the Billboard 200. HNDRXX, his fifth chart-topper (on the chart dated March 18), replaces his own self-titled album which opened at No. 1 a week earlier. Rumours that Future would drop a third album in as many weeks turned out to be wide of the mark.

Also noteworthy: Nirvana’s classic 1991 album Nevermind returns to the Billboard 200 at No. 134 for its 350th nonconsecutive week on the big chart. Nevermind is No. 8 among albums clocking up the longest stints on the chart, with Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon the all-time leader with a whopping 927 weeks. Nevermind has sold 9.46 million copies in the US.

The US charts also have an Australian flavour. Pop newcomer Starley starts at No. 38 on the Dance/Mix Show Airplay chart (dated March 11) with ‘Call on Me’, which climbed to No. 6 on the Official UK Singles Chart. The song has a peak at No. 70 on the Billboard Hot 100. Also, Bag Raiders make an impression on the U.S. charts with ‘Shooting Stars’ from 2009, which hits No. 7 on the Dance/Electronic Digital Song Sales chart thanks to those buzzworthy memes you’ve clicked on more than once.

Three Aussie acts go high on the latest ARIA Albums Chart, led by The WaifsIronbark at No. 1. Just one place behind is King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard’s Flying Microtonal Banana while Horrorshow’s Bardo State is new at No. 4. On the ARIA Singles Chart, Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape Of You’ lords it for an eighth straight week.

The Waifs

Crossing Borders

Guns N’ Roses‘ concert in Singapore last month is still a hot topic of conversation, but not for the right reasons. The Gunners’ Not In This Lifetime Tour concert at the Changi Exhibition Centre on Feb 25 was blasted for long queues, transport issues and challenges buying food and drink through the event’s cashless payment system; some ticketholders are reportedly still chasing refunds for food and drink credits which they bought but never used. Concert promoter LAMC Productions last Friday issued a press statement addressing “various complaints” and noted it’s now consulting with lawyers on the next step.

After taking a break in 2016, Singapore’s hip hop festival Summerdaze returns March 19 at The Great Escape with a bill featuring DJ Shortkut and Canadian deck-master Skratch Bastid (you might have seen his tributes to David Bowie and Prince).

Guns N’ Roses

The Big Stage

Adele has pretty much done it all. Her three albums have dominated sales charts around the globe; she’s scooped Oscars, Grammys, Brits. Her album 25 was the best- selling album of the last two years in the UK and Australia and she was the IFPI’s Global Recording Artist of 2015. Ten years into her career, few would deny her the status as the biggest pop star on the planet. But until now, Australia was on her ‘must-do’ list.

Adele

The Londoner has now scratched that one off, and the long wait hasn’t diminished her star power with Aussie fans. Adele’s trek pulled into Brisbane Saturday night for her first East Coast date (and just her second Australia show last Tuesday’s opener at Domain Stadium in Perth), playing ‘in the round’ for about 60,000 fans. There were more tears than on Grand Final day as the singer shared her tales of patting a kangaroo and conceded how she was struggling mightily with the heat and jetlag.

And she managed a crack at the Brisbane City Council over concerns the venue would create traffic chaos. “I know there’s been a lot of controversy about me playing at the Gabba,” she said. “Quit moaning. I’ve come from London. It’s my first time here” (for the record, exiting the venue was a serious drag). The tour has powered all three of her albums to climb the ARIA albums survey this week. 25 is up 4-3 in its 67th week on the chart, 21 rises 17-10 in its 181st week and 19 improves 45-20 in its 72nd week. Adele’s tour, produced by Live Nation, moves on to Sydney’s ANZ Stadium on Friday.

If you’re heading to SXSW and you’re not organised, best crack on. The mega-festival and industry pow-wow that is SXSW kicks off Friday in Austin, Texas with another bumper Aussie contingent. Starley, Hockey Dad, Alex Lahey, Vera Blue and Kasey Chambers are among the acts who’ll represent at the popular Aussie BBQ, which expands over two days from next Thursday. All told, upwards of 40 Australian acts will perform at his year’s annual gathering, which runs until March 19. Keynotes for the daytime conference stream include Kiwi-born broadcaster Zane Lowe, Chic co-founder Nile Rodgers and country superstar Garth Brooks.

Final Word

Ed Sheeran‘s ÷ sold 232,000 copies in the first day of release in the UK. Note the word ‘sold’. The figure, published by the Official Charts Company, includes CDs and permanent downloads but doesn’t count streams. Platinum certification is 300,000 units in the UK.