Denis Ladegaillerie, founder and CEO of Believe: “Nobody imagined that digital music would become such an important turning point in the industry. “

Almost twenty years have passed since Denis Ladegaillerie entered the world of music with Believe, a tricolor nugget that has become a unicorn and that has made its listing on the Paris stock exchange official. in June 2021. Present in 50 countries, Believe supports artists at all stages of their careers in the digital world such as Jul, Jeanne Added, Naps, Djadja & Dinaz, Gims or even Marc Lavoine, Avishai Cohen, Valentine, Don Broco.

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

Denis Ladegaillerie: To consider this transition obvious was to say that the revolution would be played on the side of mobile phones. At the time, most believed that the Internet would not replace the musical discovery made by artistic directors. No one imagined that digital music would become such a major game changer in the industry.

However, there are three things that gave me a tip… from my experience at Vivendi Universal, where I was in charge of the eMusic digital music service and the social network. At that time I realized the experience that music consumers have acquired with the purchase of their first Walkman, Ipod or Archos.

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

What differentiates Believe in the music market in France? Which musical currents do you identify, which artists do you want to talk about?

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 on around 200 artists who captured 80% of the value. So there were a lot of opportunities on the CD market.

With digital and the development of social networks, millions of musicians have been able to access the means of distribution overnight. This is how, at the request of her fans, artist Lauren Spencer-Smith decided to share her song “Fingers Crossed” on Spotify and it reached the top 5 of 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 their living thanks to the platform. All marketing and promotion therefore takes place on the Internet, regardless of the genre of music: from hip-hop to afrobeat to classical music.

Is the artist destined to become a musician-influencer? Isn’t there a risk of the flu taking over?

Audience relationship management is essential in the age of music streaming and I don’t think it will 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 visible the compositions of our artists, like the latest album by Avishai Cohen.

Likewise, new artists have appeared with a more 360 ​​° vision of audiovisual creation, such as the youtuber Mister V and his album MVP. But these are exceptions because we always need creators who have a strong connection with music.

Obviously, the artists who break through the most are those who have a very strong ability to influence: Jul has undoubtedly managed to sell his albums very quickly thanks to his “reach media” and his YouTube channel.

In Believe, we appeal to artists who have already integrated the idea of ​​retaining ownership of their creations. Focus on creation and we help you grow online

Make the move to digital revenue means isn’t it a financial loss for him?

I think it matches the perception ofartists accustomed to the physical medium. In fact, they mostly have an audience that is their own age and not very used to digital tools. Mylène Farmer, for example, is a great artist who continues to sell many albums on CD. But if we ask Jul, who earns a large part 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, or roughly one and a half CDs purchased each year. Record companies traditionally pay 65 to 70% of the CD value. But in the digital age, that $ 35 has grown to $ 60. Spotify’s or Apple Music’s capture of value remains relatively the same, but consumers are spending more.

Artists like Taylor Swift are very much against this world, where labels traditionally have masters. Where are you in the debate on rights holders ?

Artist contracts are much less common in France than in the US or UK. It is this type of contract that allows record companies to own their music, which leaves less autonomy and control to the artists. Independent artists like Taylor Swift or Jul before her want to keep ownership of their works, be involved in the decision-making process in terms of marketing investments and album publishing, as well as benefit from better distribution of value.

In Believe, we appeal to artists who have already integrated the idea of ​​retaining ownership of their creations. Focus on creation and we help you grow online.

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

The concert activity at the Believe is very limited and appears to be very separate from that of recording and music production. In general, the crisis has accelerated the digital consumption of music and our business has been amplified at all levels. We have signed more contracts than ever: we are just preparing the album for Izia Higelin, who joined us in 2021.

We have the ambition to become the protagonist of the Indian music market. We have been there for about ten years and currently occupy the third position

Why did you choose to enter the Paris stock exchange rather than the Wall Street one?

The stock exchange listing is above all an event at the service of a strategy. Over the next few years, the three largest markets for the music industry will be Asia, Europe and the United States. Europe therefore appears to be the smartest place to easily manage a global business, while staying focused on both the United States and Asia.

What about your factory in Asia? Will these artists be released exclusively in India or will you also promote them in Europe?

To give you an idea of ​​our territorial presence: we have a hundred people present in China, we are the third distributor in Japan and the first in terms of local Filipino and Indonesian artists. Sumatran artist “Tulus”, for example, is not well known in Europe, but his clip made it into the Top 10 most viewed videos on YouTube.

We have the ambition to become the protagonist of the Indian music market. We have been there for about ten years and we are currently in third place. It’s a perfect market for us because the music consumption there is almost 100% digital and platform. Asian populations are also relatively young – the average age in India is 26, 24 in the Philippines, etc. – and are therefore heavy users of digital media.

The second reason for settling there is that India will become the fourth largest music market by 2030. Admittedly, the US market remains the world’s leading market, but it is just behind China, Japan and India. We therefore bet on Asian countries like China, the Philippines or even Indonesia, supporting local artists to find, not the next Ed Sheeran but the new July of Southeast Asia.

New strategic partnerships knotted by Believe in 2021:

  • November 2021 : with Play Two, TF1’s independent music label (Believe stake up to 25%)
  • January 2022 : with music and video production house Jo & Co (51%)
  • December 2021 : with Viva Music, a leading Filipino label in the Southeast Asian region (15%)
  • November 2021 : with Think Music, an Indian label specializing in movie trailers for South India (76%)

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