Reflecting on 10 years working in music & digital marketing

October 2015 marks the 10th anniversary of my first paid job in the music industry. University gave me 4 years of volunteer experience at UCT Radio, but in October 2005 I stepped into the office at Musketeer Records, earned my first regular paycheque and officially started my career in recorded music.

I am writing this with some trepidation because 2005 doesn’t feel that long ago, but recounting tales of the olden days, this piece makes me sound incredibly old.

It’s unbelievable how much has changed in the music industry over the last 10 years. Those changes are primarily driven by technology, which is where I’ve focused my career. I could go on forever about the differences between 2005 and 2015, but here are a few significant areas where I’ve seen major changes during my working life.

My career

Paul Almeida-Seele Employers 2005-2015
My first position at Musketeer Records had me working as a sales rep, driving around Gauteng and making phone calls across South Africa trying to convince retailers to take more stock of our albums.
I am now based in London as the 'International Web Product Manager' for Warner Music Group. While it is a varied role, my core focus is developing and looking after centralised tools and systems to help labels with their digital marketing efforts across the world.
What happened in between:
During my four years at Musketeer, I progressed to finally become Head of Marketing for the indie label - running the head office in Johannesburg. Working for an indie label in the SA industry meant that I needed to be a Jack of all Trades, covering radio, press, TV, marketing, advertising, label relations, A&R and digital.

As the music industry shifted from physical sales to digital, so did my career. I always had an interest in web development and dabbled while building the label website and making multimedia EPKs. It wasn't until I moved to London where I needed to specialise and focussed on digital marketing to further my career. I spent a year working for Beatroute Records who invested in Communion so I had the pleasure of building the first version of communionmusic.com.

In 2010 I was offered a position at Warner Bros Records UK as Technical Coordinator. I spent 4 years building digital marketing campaigns for the label and was promoted to Technical Manager during that time.

In 2014 the international part of the company created a new role with me in mind. I became the International Technical Manager, looking after the technical side of digital marketing for our stakeholders in territories around the world.

Within a year I was promoted to my current role as International Web Product Manager with more emphasis on globally managing the tools, systems and a production team that power the company's digital marketing needs.

Top selling albums of the year

UK: James Blunt - Back to Bedlam
USA: Mariah Carey - The Emancipation of Mimi
2015 (so far):
UK: Ed Sheeran - X
USA: Taylor Swift - 1989

The Demise of Myspace

Back in 2005, Myspace was humming. In July that year NewsCorp purchased the site for $580 million.
A&R scouts relied heavily on the service to discover the next big thing in music while the general public customised their profiles with hideous colours and kitch animated gifs. In the glory days, everyone was friends with Tom.
Now Myspace is occasionally referenced in jokes about being out of touch. Surprisingly it is still reported to reach 50 million people each month.
What happened in between:
Following the success of Myspace, countless social network platforms sprung up and many have met a similar fate. Under the new ownership the site performed well; financially peaking at $12 billion in 2007. But from a user perspective, the service failed to innovate as it became over-run with spam. When Facebook opened up to the public, Myspace saw a very swift exodus, the site's value plummeted and in 2011 it was sold for $35 million. The site has rebranded and relaunched a few times but even with Justin Timberlake's support, it has failed to re-capture the powerful position it once held.

The Rise of Facebook

Still called 'The Facebook' at the time, the social network was less than two years old and only available to university students. In October 2005 the network expanded to 21 universities in the UK.
Facebook is now a multimillion dollar publicly traded company driven by massive advertising revenue and over 1 billion users worldwide. Facebook is more than a website, having bought a number of startups including Instagram, WhatsApp and Oculus. Zuckerberg is currently working on controversial plans for Internet.org to bring affordable (but limited) internet access to developing nations.
What happened in between:
After opening up to the general public in 2006 Facebook has grown from strength to strength. Constantly improving the service and even opening up their data points for external developers to build apps on top of the service's infrastructure. Facebook login and like buttons are ever-present across websites and apps. Even Myspace lets you sign-in with Facebook.

The rise of smartphone usage has only strengthened Facebook's position, making it easier for people to share life events and photos on the go.
The story is so remarkable that it spawned an Oscar winning film; The Social Network released in 2010.
Time Magazine has an interesting gallery of evolving Facebook profile layouts over the last 10 years.


YouTube 2005-2015
The first YouTube video ever was only 6 months old when I started my professional career. The company was still a start-up and playback depended heavily on Flash.
YouTube is firmly established as an integral part of any musician's campaign. This month Google announced YouTube Red in the US, the paid subscription service that has been due for well over a year. The company has also come under a lot more fire recently for terribly low payments to rights-holders.
What happened in between:
YouTube expanded rapidly in the fist few months eventually being purchased by Google in 2006. Since then it has steadily grown to become a part of everyday life. Conversations are regularly littered with references to the latest viral videos. There is even a funniest home videos type TV show called RudeTube that does nothing more than compile YouTube clips. Thanks to the service, vloggers, reviewers, comedians and musicians have had a platform to launch very successful careers with some YouTube stars earning more than TV stars.

On-demand music services

On Demand Music 2005 - 2015
The iTunes Store was only 2 years old in October 2005, and had only been available in Europe for a few months. It sold nothing but music and the idea of buying songs a la carte was a unique and a genuine threat to the profitability of full album sales. Napster had been shut down but digital piracy was rife, along with all the potential viruses that came with downloading dodgy files.
Digital downloads are declining and streaming is very much on the rise. Spotify is the market leader in streaming but there are numerous other services worldwide. This year Apple launched Apple Music. Deezer was preparing to file for a public IPO but postponed plans this week. The IPO put a spotlight on the financials for streaming models, causing many to question the long-term viability for the music industry. While many musicians and songwriters complain about royalty payments, labels have accepted streaming as the way people will consume music and are heavily focussed on increasing consumption to grow their piece of the pie.
What happened in between:
While the iTunes model helped to curb piracy due to lack of access, pirates who simply undervalue music continues to download music illegally. Spotify launched in 2008 with a bold plan to change that. The concept of listening to anything you like for a small monthly fee or even for free with occasional adverts made streaming a cheap and easy way to access music, without the risks of illegal downloads.

The iPod, iPhone & iPad

Apple Devices 2005-2015
In October 2005 Apple released the 5th generation iPod. That year they introduced 1st edition models of the iPod Shuffle and iPod Nano, as well as the 2nd generation iPod Mini. The iPod gave Apple a new lease on life, but there was a lot more to come.
The latest range of Apple's portable devices include the iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPad Pro, iPad Air 2, iPad Mini 4, iPod Touch 6, iPod Nano 7, iPod Shuffle 4, Apple TV 4 and Apple Watch.

The death of Flash

Flash 2005 - 2015
If you wanted animation, interaction, video or dynamic design, Flash was the way to go. In 2005 Flash owned the creative web and Macromedia owned Flash. That year Adobe purchased Macromedia becoming the home of web design when they launched the Adobe Creative Suite of software.
Flash is basically a relic that's been put out to pasture. In July 2015 a number of security vulnerabilities lead to Firefox blocking the plugin until users updated it and Facebook's head of security calling for Adobe to announce an end of life for the product. YouTube has switched to HTML5 as the default playback method.
What happened in between:
After Adobe purchased Macromedia they slowly shout down a number of old products but Flash was still a powerful tool. Flash filled the web with unique designs, interactive websites, streaming video, addictive games and crazy animations. That all took a turn with the rise of smartphones as Flash proved to be a major battery hog. In 2010 Steve Jobs announced that iOS devices would never support Flash in a long open letter, setting the wheels in motion for the platform to start withering.

Web fonts

Web Fonts 2005-2015
In 2005 there were very few options for displaying text. If you wanted to use a fancy font the only option was to render the text as an image or build your website in flash and embed the font that way.
Thanks to the @font-face CSS property, designers and developers have far more creative potential when it comes to text. There are still some limits due to licensing restrictions. Most web font providers charge subscription or usage fees for access to their font libraries. Strangely enough that power has been treated with a relative sense of responsibility and most websites still rely on easily readable serif or sans-serif fonts.
What happened in between:
As flash's popularity decreased, a number of clever ways to dynamically render text surfaced. Images could be created on page load using PHP's ImageMagick or JavaScript plugins like Cufon could render text using a font on your server. Both solutions, however, were only dynamic to a point; the text would need to be known before loading the page so user input was not possible and the text also became static, rendering it impossible to select or search for text on a page.

Top selling mobile phones

Top Selling Mobile Phones 2005 / 2015
2005: Nokia 1110
It's hard to think iOS and Android didn't even exist 10 years ago. Back then Nokia was the king of mobile, dominating globally. In 2005 the Nokia 1110 was apparently the top selling device.
2015: Apple iPhone 6
While Android is the dominant operating system across multiple devices, the latest iPhone has been the best selling device for most of 2015.

My Camera Gear

I was onto my second digital camera, the Fuji FinePix S5500. It was a 480 gram superzoom compact camera with a 4MP sensor, max ISO of 400, a built-in flash and 10x optical zoom. All my photos were shot in JPEG and the only time I spent processing images was to delete the bad ones.
I am now shooting with a Canon 5D Mark III. A 950 gram, 22MP, full-frame DSLR with an ISO range up to 102,400. I have 4 lenses but primarily shoot with my Canon 24-70mm f2.8 USM II. All my photos are now shot in RAW and I spend a good deal of time sorting, tagging and developing them in Adobe Lightroom.
What happened in between:
In 2008 I treated myself and upgraded to my first DSLR, the Canon 450D. I slowly grew my collection of lenses and finally upgraded to a Canon 5D Mark III in 2012.

Buzz feed, listicles and clickbait

Blogging 2005 - 2015
Back in 2005 bloggers were far more verbose, as people poured their ideas out onto the web. Mainstream media had just started accepting blogs as valuable sources for information. In September 2005 The Guardian even started including a digest of blogs on the news site.
The listicle dominates online media these days. Even 'credible' news sources have resorted to listicles over actual news articles. Clickbait headlines have become so commonplace that Facebook updated it's algorithm to penalise links that don't engage readers beyond the headline.
What happened in between:
The birth of Buzzfeed, Gawker, Huffington Post, Distractify, Bored Panda and other sites driven by shareable content has influenced the web and journalism incredibly. Social media referrals have outgrown search-based traffic driving the value of clicks over content and a tl;dr reading culture.

Things that were things then but aren't things now or things that are things now but weren't things then.

There are so many other major changes in music and technology that I could keep writing this article for another 10 years. So to finish off, here is a quick list of differences between 2005 and 2015.
Now That's What I Call Music! 62
Different territorial release days
Paul Harold Seele
Spotify (all streaming)
Smart Watches
Now That's What I Call Music! 91
Global Release Day
Paul Harold Almeida-Seele