Radar Report 2022: Developing music export in Europe


It’s very likely to be the dream of every artist and creator to make the world their stage and to find their audiences among communities from across the globe. The phrase ‘music export’ captures what artists, creators and the surrounding teams of professionals and music companies set out to achieve: sustainable success on international music markets. Reaching larger and more diverse audiences offers both cultural and economic gains – for the artists, creators and entrepreneurs, as well as for European music sectors at large. The importance of music export has been consistently recognised also in the Music Moves Europe initiative, spearheaded by the European Commission.

By Virgo Sillamaa
Research Coordinator, EMEE

The alleged democratising effect of the internet aside, accessing international audiences is not a small feat. The music export capacity of artists, creators and music entrepreneurs is made up of various factors, some reflecting the specific national constraints, such as the size of the local market. Other restricting factors can be improved, such as the differing levels of music ecosystem development or policy support across European countries, or access to international professional networks and knowledge.

To support the growth and development of music export capacity in the music sector, music export organisations have been set up in most European countries – with new ones being formed as this is written. The way each of these organisations work is very different, reflecting the specific needs of their national or regional music sectors, but the overall vision and mission is the same:

Talent, creativity and initiative is intrinsic and potentially everywhere. An artist, creator or a music entrepreneur should have the means and ecosystemic support to realise their full international potential regardless in which European country they are born and set out to achieve their vision.

This is far from true in Europe, however, as several findings have shown over the past years. There are significant disparities in how well the music sector ecosystems have evolved and to what degree crucial knowledge, education, professional networks and financial support is available to young talent and professionals. And Europe as a region is competing on a global music market that is strongly led by the US and UK repertoire.

Streaming and Radio: Average Listening Share

While small markets will always be somewhat limiting, music sector ecosystems can be developed and better policies can be designed. The key is multilevel European cooperation. To achieve this, the European Music Exporters Exchange (EMEE) was founded in 2018 by a network of 29 members from 25 European countries. Through several projects over the past four years, EMEE has been developing a European Music Export Strategy: a framework for coordinated strategic action for multiple stakeholders, from the music sector organisations to member states and European institutions. The strategy puts forward a six-step development path to organise the various policies, programmes and actions and suggests new blueprints for European level cooperation. Several pilots have been carried out in the EMX project (2021–2022), including a European capacity building programme for music professionals and export organisations, as well as two trade missions; a digital one connecting European hip hop and rap professionals with their peers in Canada, and another inviting a group of European electronic music professionals to visit Mexico.

The organisation’s immediate future plans include conducting more market studies, continuing the development of a European music export resource centre and increasing European music sector presence in international markets.

The music export organisations are not doing it alone. The many showcase and conference platforms across Europe and internationally are of crucial importance – providing emerging artists with stages and an audience of music industry professionals. ESNS has partnered up with music export organisations for over 25 years, making sure that the artists programmed are set up to take the maximum benefit from their short presence on the showcase stage. The ESNS talent development system – that cleverly includes festivals, media partners, export organisations and the professional community – aims for both immediate impact for the artists on stage, but also long-term strategic development across European music sectors.

The one conspicuously missing piece of the puzzle for the music sector has for a long time been consistent and rich data about the sector, markets and music usage. A lot of data exists in various institutional and corporate vaults, and bringing these resources together is faced with many hurdles. This is what makes ESNS launching its Radar and Analytics initiatives a significant step forward. This could very well be the nucleus we can build a European music data initiative around. More insights into the actual impact of artists performing at ESNS, being listened to on streaming platforms, followed on social media and booked for festivals will give valuable tools for the artists and their teams, but also to music export organisations to develop their programmes and seek to shape effective policies.