As an already reeling music business is hit by the coronavirus, the owner of UK publication NME says the pandemic has introduced challenges and alternatives.
Singapore-based BandLab additionally owns music manufacturers starting from guitar-making to retail and digital platforms.
The virus got here at a time of already seismic change for the business as companies search new methods to make earnings.
In current years, the recording business has been revolutionised, whereas instrument and journal gross sales fell.
The final twenty years have seen the enterprise mannequin of conventional document labels massively disrupted by digital downloads, whereas the marketplace for musical devices and magazines has been hit by radical adjustments in client behaviour.
As the coronavirus pandemic compounded this already hostile enterprise setting, many firms within the music business have seen their companies hit arduous.
BandLab Technologies’ chief govt, Meng Ru Kuok, says that whereas elements of his music-focused agency have confronted coronavirus-related disruptions, different areas of the enterprise have thrived.
He says that throughout the pandemic, his music gear retail enterprise has seen its finest e-commerce efficiency since he purchased it in 2012, as social distancing measures imply folks have had extra free time.
“We’ve seen a 300% rise in monthly online sales at our South East Asia music instrument retailer, Swee Lee,” he mentioned.
Print vs digital
Some of BandLab’s most high-profile investments have been in music journalism, an business that has been turned the wrong way up by internet-driven adjustments in how folks devour information.
Although the dwell leisure and publishing industries have been hit arduous by the coronavirus, NME – which BandLab purchased in 2019 – was launched in South East Asia final month.
That announcement got here after NME entered the Australian market on the finish of final yr.
Even as plummeting promoting revenues and circulation numbers power growing numbers of publications to desert print, NME has not too long ago restarted bodily publishing with a month-to-month journal in Australia, its solely present common print version.
Mr Kuok says he has a way of responsibility to guard the NME’s legacy: “We feel there is a responsibility not just to the brand, but also there is a responsibility of being a credible brand.”
And he hinted at new NME-related launches each within the UK and internationally, with bulletins anticipated later this yr and in early 2021.
The firm purchased a 49% stake in US rock journal Rolling Stone in 2016, however bought that holding much less three years later after failing to purchase the remainder of the enterprise.
Mark Mulligan from MIDiA Research sees potential for NME as a digital model: “When NME went totally digital, it was seen by many because the demise of the model. But after all, within the digital period, print can really be a hindrance, decreasing your potential to achieve actually international audiences.
“BandLab has a chance to completely re-imagine the model for a brand new technology of music followers, with a worldwide attain it beforehand lacked,” he added.
At the identical time as the corporate is continuous to broaden NME, it is usually seeing important progress in customers of its digital music manufacturing platform, BandLab.
“Today we have more than 22 million people who are using our product around the world. More than eight million songs are being recorded and released a month on the platform,” he mentioned.
In one other signal of how the music business as a complete is having to adapt to the brand new regular of social distancing, BandLab is that this weekend holding a digital guitar present.
Guitar.com Live is a three-day occasion combining a commerce present with interviews, panels, workshops and performances by world-famous guitarists.
Jamie MacEwan from Enders Analysis mentioned: “A music enterprise like BandLab that connects folks with digital manufacturing instruments and dwell streaming is nicely positioned to develop its person base beneath lockdown.
“Using the NME model to achieve fanatics world wide is a stable technique. My query could be, how does BandLab intend to monetise and construct on its enterprise from right here?”
The pandemic has additionally brought about important disruptions in BandLab’s group of companies.
Uncut, one other UK-based music journal owned by BandLab and the agency’s solely newsstand-focused product, noticed its gross sales take successful as folks stayed at dwelling due to Covid-19.
Meanwhile, the agency’s US-based guitar producers, Heritage and Harmony, have been pressured to droop manufacturing for eight weeks owing to lockdown measures.
Production has now restarted and the corporate says it has seen a surge in orders, which it’s now working to fulfill.
As the son of Kuok Khoon Hong, the chairman and chief govt of Asia’s main agricultural manufacturing group Wilmar International, he’s usually requested about his billionaire father.
While the youthful Mr Kuok is fast to level out that his firm is separate from the household enterprise, he’s additionally eager to focus on the debt he owes for the steerage he has acquired over time.
A key piece of recommendation he says he at all times retains in thoughts is: “When things are going well, don’t be too happy. When things are going badly, don’t be too sad.”
From Muse to the blues
So which artists does a music entrepreneur like Mr Kuok hearken to when he isn’t working?
He nods to his mother and father encouraging him to study the violin and piano as a toddler, however credit his time at certainly one of Britain’s prime public colleges, Winchester College, after which Cambridge University for his love of guitar music.
Growing up listening to British indie bands akin to Radiohead and the Libertines, he says his favorite band in his youth was various rock group Muse.
But now his tastes have matured to incorporate one of many nice American bluesmen: “My favourite artist is BB King.”
“He is someone who has a personality, had trouble in his life and he played to his very last day. Incredibly hard working and had the respect of the entire industry.”