We’re back with Part 2 of our talk with award-winning music journalist Cherie Hu, “who has been covering the intersection of music, technology and business for over five years.” Here, we get into her hot takes on recent headlines and the future of the music business, from the TikTok ban to virtual singing competitions and Kanye West.
Cherie looks into the future with her music business crystal ball, sharing her predictions about Kobalt Music, audio on Amazon and Audible, and songwriting artificial intelligence.
Finally, we get into how Cherie has grown her 9K+ member newsletter Water & Music and 900+ member Patreon community, which supports her ability to provide independent insights and cultivate a “like-minded community of innovators.”
Trump's TikTok Ban and China's Influence on the Western Music Industry
Cherie has covered Chinese business influence on the music industry for some time, and she elaborates when discussing Trump's ongoing feud with China, especially with regard to the TikTok ban:
Whether it's through TikTok being [formerly] connected to ByteDance or like Tencent owning a stake in Universal, which has shares in Spotify ... there are definitely significant geopolitical consequences.... Chinese money, to an extent, runs the biggest companies in the music industry.
Kanye West's Recording Contract Reveal Party
Rapper Kanye West's tweeting of his major label recording contract and subsequent call for a modernization of the legal agreement for artists, seems to be well-intentioned, according to Hu, but it's also an outdated way of solving the underlying issue of artists being treated fairly:
Almost no other artist would be in a position to do that.... That said, his contracts are from 2005-2016.... Ironically, the whole situation around Taylor Swift as well ... both of those celebrities, their first deals that were instrumental in their careers came up in a super different time.... I think with a younger generation of artists there's a lot more savvy.... Maggie Rogers is one example; Cuco is another ... definitely younger, indie-leaning artists who are major-label signed, but it's all just like a licensing and services deal.
Predicting Kobalt Music's Fate
Since Cherie is one of the few music journalists who consistently performs meta-analysis on headlines over time, she's always looking at the bigger picture. We asked her to predict a few headlines of her own:
Recently, there have been a lot of companies that have rumors around them potentially exploring a sale.... One of them is Kobalt.... I've asked where [some people] thought Kobalt may sell, and my sense is it would be one of the bigger publishers.... I could see Concord Music Group or Round Hill ... or Hipgnosis ... those are the three potential paths for that headline.
The Water & Music "Community of Innovators"
Cherie's way of describing her following as a "community of innovators" positions her work as having more value than just trying to be the first to a particular headline. She ends up being the first in her own way, taking a group of headlines over time, and then being the first to connect all the dots. She's a music industry detective, in a sense. It lends her insights to a very strategic type of mindset.
Something I do care about, and it's my editorial guarantee for my newsletter, is that I really want to write articles that have never been written before, and I take that very seriously as one of many points of differentiation ... actually providing new reporting or analysis that you are not going to find elsewhere.