Denis Ladegaillerie, Founder and CEO of Believe: “No one imagined that digital music would become such a major turning point in the industry. »

Almost twenty years ago Denis Ladegaillerie entered the music industry with Believe, a tricolor nugget turned into a unicorn and which formalized its listing on the Paris stock exchange. in June 2021. Present in 50 countries, Believe supports artists at all stages of their careers in the digital world like Jul, Jeanne added, Naps, Djadja & Dinaz, Gims or even Marc Lavoine, Avishai Cohen, Valentine, Don Broco.

When you decided to release Believe in 2005, did the music industry’s transition to digital seem so obvious?

Denis Ladegaillerie: Considering this transition as obvious was equivalent to saying that the revolution would be played on the side of mobile phones. At that time, the majority considered that the Internet would not replace the musical discovery made by artistic directors. No one imagined that digital music would become such an important turning point in the industry.

Anyway, there are three things that alerted me… from my experience at Vivendi Universal where I was in charge of the eMusic digital music service and the social network. At that moment I realized the gain in experience that music consumers obtain with the purchase of the first Walkman, Ipod or Archos.

Then there was a new wave of fully digital music, released on streaming platforms like Spotify, Deezer or SoundCloud, which are suitable for artists who rely more on digital marketing. Finally, this transition also greatly affects distribution – the cost is much lower compared to CD logistics – and favors the democratization of access to the music market.

What differentiates Believe in the music market in France? What identified musical currents, what identified artists will be discussed?

Our differentiation depends on having built a model that speaks to all artists and labels. Previously, the French market was quite small and monolithic, ultra-concentrated in about 200 artists who captured 80% of the value. So there were quite a few opportunities in the CD market.

With digital and the development of social networks, millions of musicians have been able to access distribution media overnight. That was how, at the request of her fans, the artist Lauren Spencer-Smith decided to share her song “Fingers Crossed” on Spotify and reached the top 5 listeners in the same week. We see examples like this every week.

In the presentation of Spotify’s financial results for the year 2021, we learn that thousands of artists make a living thanks to the platform. Therefore, all marketing and promotion is done on the Internet, regardless of the music genre: from hip-hop to Afrobeats and even classical music.

Is the artist destined to become a musician-influencer? No risk of influence taking over?

Audience relationship management is essential in the age of streaming music and I don’t think that’s going to change. Today, platforms act as filters and mediators to access content in an orderly manner. There is a real editorial work that is done and that allows, with the help of recommendation algorithms, to make our artists’ compositions visible, such as Avishai Cohen’s latest album.

In the same way, new artists have appeared with a more 360 ​​vision of audiovisual creation, such as the YouTuber Mister V and his MVP album, for example. But these are exceptions because we always need creators who have a strong connection to music.

Obviously, the artists that break through the most are those that have a very strong capacity for influence: without a doubt, Jul has managed to sell his albums very quickly thanks to his “reach media” and his YouTube channel.

At Believe, we target artists who have already embraced the idea of ​​retaining ownership of their creations. Focus on creating and we help you grow online

Does the shift to digital revenue it means is not a financial loss for him?

I think that corresponds to the perception ofartists accustomed to the physical medium. In fact, they mainly have audiences of the same age as them and who are not very used to digital tools. Mylène Farmer, for example, is a great artist who continues to sell many CDs. But if we ask Jul, that she gets a lot of her income from digital, she will have a completely different opinion.

In the world of CDs, an average basket is around $35 per year, that’s about one and a half CDs bought each year. Record companies traditionally pay 65 to 70% of the value of the CD. But in the digital age, that $35 has turned into $60. Value capture by Spotify or Apple Music remains relatively the same, but consumers spend more.

Artists like Taylor Swift are very much opposed to this world, where the labels traditionally own the masters.. What is your position in the debate on rights holders? ?

Artist contracts are much less common in France than in the United States or the United Kingdom. It is this type of contract that allows record companies to own their music, leaving less autonomy and control to artists. Independent artists like Taylor Swift or Jul before her want to retain ownership of their works, participate in decision-making in terms of investment in marketing and album releases, as well as benefit from a better distribution of value.

At Believe, we target artists who have already embraced the idea of ​​retaining ownership of their creations. Focus on creating and we help you grow online.

How to explain that its growth did not weaken during the crisis when cultural events and concerts were paralyzed?

Concert activity is very small at Believe and happens to be quite separate from recording and music production. In general, the crisis has accelerated the digital consumption of music and our activity has been amplified at all levels. We have signed more contracts than ever: we are only preparing the album of Izia Higelin, who joined us in 2021.

We have the ambition to become the leading player in the music market in India. We have been around for ten years and we currently occupy the third position

Why did you choose to enter the Paris Stock Exchange instead of Wall Street?

Going public is first and foremost an event at the service of a strategy. In the next few years, the three biggest markets for the music industry will be Asia, Europe and the United States. Therefore, Europe seems like the smartest place to easily run a global business, while remaining focused on both the US and Asia.

What about your establishment in Asia? Will these artists be exclusively released in India or will you be promoting them in Europe as well?

To give you an idea of ​​our territorial presence: we have a hundred people present in China, we are the third largest distributor in Japan and the first in terms of local Filipino and Indonesian artists. The artist from the island of Sumatra “Tulus”, for example, is not well known in Europe, but the clip of him managed to enter the Top 10 of the most viewed videos on YouTube.

We have the ambition to become the leading player in the music market in India. We have been around for ten years and currently we are in third place. It is a perfect market for us because music consumption there is almost 100% digital and on platforms. Asian populations are also relatively young (median age in India is 26, 24 in the Philippines, etc.) and thus are heavy users of digital media.

The second reason to settle there is that India will become the fourth largest music market by 2030. It is true that the US market is still the largest global market, but it is followed by China, Japan and India. Therefore, we bet on Asian countries such as China, the Philippines or even Indonesia, supporting local artists to find, not the next Ed Sheeran, but the new Jul of Southeast Asia.

New strategic alliances knotted by Believe in 2021:

  • November 2021 – with Play Two, TF1’s independent music label (Believe’s share up to 25%)
  • January 2022 : with music and video production company Jo&Co (51%)
  • december 2021 : With Viva Music, a major Philippine label in the Southeast Asia region (15%)
  • November 2021 : With Think Music, an Indian label specializing in movie trailers for South India (76%)

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