Industry Spotlight: Paul Pacifico, CEO Association of Independent Music

Paul Pacifico is CEO of the Association of Independent Music (AIM) which represents over 800 UK independent music companies. Paul recently attended one of our Sector Expert boot camp and is an enthusiastic supporter of CLOCK. We talked to Paul about how the music industry is responding to recent challenges, hear his thoughts on what lies next, and why he wants to lead the charge for CLOCK’s expansion across the UK’s music industry.

From your perspective, describe the main challenges the music industry and the workforce has faced over the past several months? What challenges or opportunities do you see going forward?

So obviously the live industry has taken the biggest hit along with businesses whose main source of income is from the live sector as well. I think the only people who are insulated are the big record companies who have annuity revenue now from streaming as well as a deep catalogue, so they have been less affected. But yes, anyone who is reliant on front line releases and live has struggled. That said, they do say that in every crisis, there is an opportunity. We have seen a few things, first of all, that independent labels distributing through independent distributors have seen physical format sales hold up very resiliently. 

AIM investigated and found that independent distributors have close relationships with independent record shops, and those same record shops have close personal relationships with consumers. The most passionate fans are the ones that care. They go to their local record shop and talk to the people working there and ask them what they recommend and so on. We found that even those shops that may have to close during COVID, their web traffic to their online stores grew massively.

So the same people that would go into the store and chat with the people behind the counter immediately transferred their business to these web stores. They went back to their local record shop online and are still really active in asking for recommendations. So what we saw were the independents that were still releasing had very resilient sales. In fact, in the first week of lockdown sales dropped to 50% of pre-COVID levels, two weeks later they were back up to 75%, and now ahead of where they were this time last year!

Some AIM member labels who distribute through major label distribution channels will now reassess the back office of their business and supply chain. The reason is they see the value and the value of the relationships within the independent network. 

The second silver lining as well has been the accelerated conversation around live streaming. Live streaming rights area is extremely complicated. It doesn’t replace the rights landscape of a live show since the performance is captured. You cross over between the rights as they relate to the live show and the rights as they relate to the recorded side of the music industry. 

There is a third dimension on top of that, there is visual and video rights as well, a very complex area. No one is quite sure how to fix it or solve it and make a one-stop solution to it. So licencing to broadcast live streams is a nightmare. When the AIM awards were broadcast on YouTube, we had just over 100 rights clearances to make it all work. It’s not too bad when you’re AIM, and everyone wants to make it work, but it just illustrates how difficult it can get if that isn’t the case. 

But the upside is that instead of an attitude of we have to do that before we can fix the problem, it flips to we have to put this thing on, so we figure out the rights issue as we go. So it’s a real catalyst for innovation and more forced flexibility from some other rights holders who would otherwise be inflexible. I think it will push us to a better digital music economy overall. 

You recently signed up for a CLOCK boot camp. When did you first hear about CLOCK and what motivated you to sign up?

I first heard about CLOCK directly through Liz and the team who reached out to AIM because they thought we would be a great partner. I have a deep commitment to social justice, diversity and inclusion and making sure that there is a level playing field. AIM exists to fight against monopoly practice. We are there to make space for new entrants to the market and for people who have come from unexpected places and suddenly come out of nowhere, and do something brilliant. That’s what we’re all about. 

We’ve seen the data for years, under-represented groups in the workplace are less likely to apply for jobs that they should be applying for. Many people in the independent music sector might not have done well in the traditional education sector. They may not have had the opportunity to go far in education, and all of those things put in place reasons why not to do something or why not to apply for a job. 

For me, CLOCK is this amazing mechanism that enables people to have their skills and experience recognised in a way that quantifies it and allows them to show empirically, what they have achieved. I think that if we can make CLOCK high profile in our industry, people will I hope go through the process to get their skills recognised and then apply for those positions in the industry they wouldn’t normally.

Now, I’m a firm believer in putting my money where my mouth is, so I thought the only way to do it, was to do it. I’m now seeing it through to full masters at Middlesex University, and I’m excited to show to other industry professionals how valuable it is no matter if they’re a senior executive or in an entry-level role.

Please describe your experience of CLOCK in one sentence.

I did the boot camp and could’ve just ticked the boxes, but the CLOCK programme requires a lot more introspective reflection. It was that process that made it such a well-crafted programme that ensures you don’t just go through the motions. I know, that’s two. So hopefully, that’s ok!

What would you say to other organisations and professionals interested in CLOCK?

I would encourage them to do it. It’s not a huge time commitment in terms of the boot camp, and I think people will be surprised just how much they get out of it. I think anything we can do in our sector to benchmark professionalism, skills and knowledge, the better. 

Whether or not people remain in music for the rest of their lives, the skills you need to work in music are so transferable, a lot of them are undervalued and under-recognised. CLOCK is a mechanism by which you can have those transferable skills recognised. 

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