Adele’s record-breaking deal with Sony has made history in the music business. According to German musician Dieter Gorny, the British singer is one of the few European stars able to appeal to people around the world.
DW: Last week, British singer-songwriter Adele signed a contract with Sony Music worth 90 million pounds (117 million euros, $131 million), one of the biggest deals ever in the history of the music business. Should this be seen as a real coup, a potential game-changer for other musicians – or just a clever move by her management?
Dieter Gorny: First of all, it should be seen as the latest success for a super-successful artist – or in other words, a much sought-after product. Adele is one of the few big European stars able to appeal to people and fans worldwide, something that has become increasingly difficult as a result of the digitalization of music, the explosion of choice when it comes to music and the ensuing development of new niche markets.
Adele is countering that trend, and that’s why she enjoys a high market value and a very special status in the music industry.
The deal also shows that even nowadays, music and art continue to have a high value. After all, a singer could hardly be so successful if her fans weren’t buying her records and thereby increasing demand.
Adele is known for her very special approach toward music marketing, and has firmly put her foot down against the online streaming culture. Is she a particularly headstrong artist in her refusal to let herself be controlled by the laws of the market?
Music marketing is always an important decision for artists. In any case, I think we need to get rid of the idea that, in a completely digital world, everything needs to be available for everybody, everywhere. When you look at Adele’s sales volumes, you’ll see that she focuses on traditional media – CDs, for example. And when she says that, to a great extent, she plans to stay away from streaming platforms in favor of a more traditional approach, that’s completely legitimate.
That restrictive approach is nothing new. The same trend exists in TV, where digital platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime make exclusive offers for series and TV content. And it’s the same with music, when artists decide to restrict themselves to certain specialty channels. It makes sense, as the strongest demand comes from there.
To what extent should this be seen as a return to CDs or records, away from digital streaming? Does that say something about Adele, who at 28 is still a relatively young artist?
No, it doesn’t really say anything about Adele, but about ourselves – as music consumers and fans. We need to say goodbye to the idea that developments always follow a clear direction. Records became CDs, and now CDs are developing into something intangible, such as music streams and the like.
In Germany, CD sales make up almost 60 percent of current music sales, and the percentage of vinyl and digital productions is growing. I think it’s important not to measure the value of music in terms of its form. Adele will always be Adele, no matter how we experience her music. The decision of how to listen to music should be left to consumers.
It’s up to the artists and the music business to offer music in the form in which people want it. It doesn’t make sense to claim that digital is always cool, or that CDs and records are incredibly old-fashioned. There’s a wide range of different offers out there, allowing fans and music lovers to make their own choices.
Dieter Gorny, a German music manager and musician, founded the music TV channel Viva in 1993. He’s been a member of the executive committee of the German Music Council since 2004, and head of the Association of the German Music Industry since 2007. In March 2015, German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel appointed Gorny as cultural representative for the creative and digital economy.