Monday, May 2, 2016

Old Music Outsells New In 2015

Nielsen's latest music report is out and, as always, it's very revealing about what we listen to in the U.S. Perhaps it's biggest revelation is that, for the first time, old music (known as catalog sales) outsold new music in 2015.

Catalog is defined as a music release that's more than 18 months old. Of course, we're also talking about music sales and not streams, which is an entirely different matter.

That said, sales of older music came despite the huge sales numbers for Adele's giant 25 album, which was only available for sale and not as a stream. The album went on to sell 7.2 million copies in the last 6 weeks of 2015 in the U.S. alone.

But lest you think that CDs are completely dead, 2015 saw 125 million of them sold for about $1.52 billion in revenue, which is still a huge amount of money.

And that's only the CDs that were tallied by Soundscan. CDs sold privately on events and online aren't counted.

Beyond that, there were 103 million digital albums downloaded, and 11.9 million vinyl albums sold.

As you can see on the chart on the left, catalog music leads over new music in all facets of sales. I guess the "Long Tail Theory" must be working.


Thursday, April 28, 2016

Your Cover Songs May Not Be Streamed

Cover songs might not be streamed imageDoing a great cover version of a hit song has been a successful tactic in helping to raise the visibility of an artist or band for some time, but that practice may soon come to an end thanks to new efforts by iTunes, Spotify and other streaming services.

More and more, digital streaming services are either hiding or removing cover songs, sound-alikes, re-recorded songs and live performances in an effort to simply their catalogs and make it easier for users to find the song they really want.

And they have a point. Searching for a popular song sometimes turns up more than 50 choices, making it difficult to find the original that you're looking for.

The problem is that there are many unintended policies that come with this editorial decision.

For instance, it's been reported by Billboard that one service's "blacklist" of recordings that include 400 artists that range from B.B. King, Frank Sinatra, John Coltrane and Pete Seeger.

Re-records, the practice of an artist or band re-recording one of their hits so they own the recording instead of the record label, are also frequently marginalized as well, although many fans aren't all that unhappy as most prefer the original versions.

So beware if you're recording a cover song in the hopes of gaining some extra streams. While the practice may still work on YouTube, chances are your cover won't see the light of day on the other streaming services from now on.

Apple Music Up To 13 Million Subscribers

Apple Music 13 Million Subscribers imageIt looks like all the naysayers were wrong. Apple reported on its recent earnings call that its Apple Music streaming service was now up to 13 million paid subscribers and still growing.

Much of that growth has come recently in fact, as it was reported that 2 million subscribers signed up since February alone.

The present growth looks to be at around 1 million a month, which means that the tech giant should be battling Spotify for the top space in the streaming industry by the end of year.

Spotify claims to have 20 million current subscribers, but many are on a "student discount" tier at half the $9.99 monthly price.

One advantage that Apple Music has over Spotify is that it's available in 58 more countries than Spotify, including Russia, China and Japan. All in all, the service is available in a total of 113 countries, leaving Spotify to play catch-up.

One reason for AM's growth spurt has been albums from Drake, Coldplay, The 1975 and Gwen Stefani, where were releases to AM for a period before Spotify. Having an advert with Taylor Swift was also a big help.

Despite the recent hype around Tidal, it's Apple Music that seems to be making the most headway.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Tidal Exclusives Bring Back Piracy

Tidal Exclusives Lead To PiracyJust when you thought music piracy was dead and buried it comes roaring back as alive as ever. The reason? Exclusives by Kanye West, Beyonce and Prince on Tidal.

These exclusives have been great for Tidal, as they have helped it to jump more than 100 places on the App Store most downloaded app chart, where it now sits at #3 on the iOS list.

As a result, Tidal is now the most popular music app in the US, even above Pandora and Spotify (Apple Music doesn't chart since it's a native app).

That's the good part of the story. The bad part is that some people just don't want to pay a monthly fee to stream a single album, they're not fond of Tidal, or they already subscribe to another service, so they resort to piracy instead. As a result, it's been estimated that West's The Life Of Pablo was torrented over 500,000 times in just its first day of release!

It looks like the same thing all over again in the initial hours after the release of Beyonce's Lemonade, as it's already on top of the the charts of both Kick Ass Torrents and The Pirate Bay.

And while Lemonade may be getting all the credit for Tidal's sudden ascendancy, the fact of the matter is that it's the only place online (other than YouTube, of course) where you can stream Prince's entire catalog. After his passing last week, there's been a tremendous appetite for his music, again helping Tidal tremendously.

So it looks like the only one making out on these exclusive's is Jay-Z and his Tidal service. The artists lose sales and streaming royalties to piracy, and the entire industry loses a chance to further the streaming cause. It's a missed opportunity.

The real smart move here would have been to make the exclusive's available only on the paid premium tiers of every service to give consumers a reason to sign up or upgrade. It could have happened with Adele's 25, it could have happened with The Life Of Pablo, and it could have happened with Lemonade.

Instead they've resurrected a scourge to the music industry where no one benefits except the pirates.

(This post was first posted on Forbes)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

What Do People Listen To On Their Smartphones?

Smartphone listening imageEdison Research recently completed a study on smartphone usage and discovered that the listening habits of users isn't quite what we believed it to be. in fact, the results were pretty surprising.
  • 54% listened to a radio channel
  • 16% listened to music they own
  • 15% listened to Pandora or other radio-like streaming services
  • 7% listen to Sirius XM
  • 5% to TV music channels
  • 2% listen to podcasting
Heavy listeners (those defined by listening to 2 hours or more per day) have a slightly different consumption pattern.
  • 43% listen to music they've downloaded and own
  • 37% listen to streaming audio
  • 9% listen to AM/FM radio
  • 7% listen to podcasts
Finally, 87% of adults from 18 to 34 never let their smartphones leave their sides.

All that said, we're under the impression that the listening world belongs to exclusively to streaming, but that's far from the case, according to the study. While radio listening and downloads may be dropping, they're still a vital portion of our listening day.


Monday, April 25, 2016

Prince Passes, Record Store Day and Songtradr CEO Paul Wiltshire On My Inner Circle Podcast

Paul Wiltshire imageAs those of you who are songwriters or copyright holders know, you make money when people use your songs, especially on television, films or commercials. It's not easy to get placement though, but it's getting easier thanks to Songtradr, a marketplace that matches songs and cues to people and brands who are looking for them.

Paul Wiltshire's the founder and CEO of Songtradr and he's my guest on this week's podcast. Prior to coming up with the idea, Paul was an award-winning songwriter and producer in Australia, and he's also had some big successes in the US with the likes of the Backstreet Boys, so he knows what it's like to be on the creative end of things.

In the intro I'll take a look at a part of Prince's legacy that not many see, his business acumen that changed the music industry in many ways. I'll also give you a report on the backlash by record retailers at what was once their biggest day of the year - Record Store Day.

Remember that you can find the podcast at BobbyOInnerCircle.com, either on iTunes, Stitcher and now on Mixcloud and Google Play


Major Labels Say That Content ID Not Effective Enough

YouTube Content ID and CopyrightThe 3 major labels are furthering their attack on YouTube, the platform they love to hate.

With licenses up for renewal soon, the majors are trying their best to gain some leverage in the negotiation, so they have filed a submission to the US Copyright Office claiming that YouTube's Content ID is ineffective in identifying uploads using content illegally using their copyrights a great deal of the time.

Content ID is YouTube's secret sauce in that it's the content recognition technology that allows the copyright holder to identify and monetize unauthorized uploads of copyrighted material.

Universal Music Publishing claims that it fails to identify as much as 40% of its compositions, according to an article in the Financial Times.

YouTube, of course, claims that Content ID is successful 99.5% of the time. Even if that were true, 0.5% still represents hundreds of thousands of unlicensed uploads, so there's a lot of money being left on the table.

Ultimately, the labels would like the 55/45 revenue split with YouTube to be increased, since all other music streaming platforms are in the 70+% range. YouTube has little incentive to change, however, since even if the labels pull their licenses, the user generated uploads will continue, so the label's vast catalog of music will still remain on the platform.

If it's true that Content ID doesn't catch 40% of the unauthorized uploads, that only puts YouTube in a stronger negotiating position. One should never bet against the major labels in a negotiation, but in this case, my money is on YouTube coming out on top.


Friday, April 22, 2016

How Long Should Your Teaser Video Be?

Best teaser length imageMany artists and bands will post a teaser video of their album before it's released, or as a brief sampler afterwards. The problem is that there's several schools of thought on how long the teaser should be.

One school has it that shortest is best, since YouTube attention span is around 8 seconds. The second school says that you should make it as long as necessary to get the point across, even up to several minutes long.

It turns out that neither may be right. According to a study done by Think With Google, good old fashioned 30 second ads performed far better than either 15 or 60 second ones when it came to people viewing it all the way through. This allowed the viewer to get more detail about the product without the dreaded viewer fatigue.

This contradicts what happens on television, where 15 second ads are up to 75% more effective (and cheaper) than their longer counterparts. No surprise since online advertising has proven to be substantially different because of its random access nature.

The bottom line is that 30 seconds is a sweet spot in that it's neither too long nor too short, giving you enough time to get the point across while the viewer doesn't feel like she has to sit through too much information.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

6 Best Practices For Using Facebook Live

Facebook Live imageFacebook Live looks to be a boon to artists and bands everywhere who want to reach their Facebook fans. That said, there are some best practices in using the platform, according to Facebook's Media Blog. Here's what they suggest:

   1. Alert friends and followers in advance about plans to broadcast live, in order to build up anticipation.

   2. Ensure that you have a fast enough connection to broadcast live video, preferably WiFi or 4G. Be aware that the “Go Live” button will be grayed out if the signal is not strong enough to support Facebook Live.

   3. Post a description of what you are about to share before going live.

   4. Ask friends and followers to sign up for notifications so that they are aware of your Facebook Live offerings.

   5. Respond to comments by saying hello and mentioning the names of users who comment.

   6. Stay live for longer time periods: Facebook recommends at least 10 minutes, and the feature supports broadcasts up to 90 minutes.

There are plenty of live video platforms out there, and you may be successfully using some of them already. That's fine if you're sure you're reaching your fans, but keep in the mind that Facebook has more users outside the United States than in. If you want to reach those fans, consider using Facebook Live.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Tidal Subscribers Sue Kanye West For Posting On Other Services

Tidal - $84 million in personal data imageHere's an interesting twist in the Kanye West/Tidal story. He's getting sued by Tidal subscribers who claimed they were duped into paying for the service.

It all stems from when the performer released his latest album The Life of Pablo exclusively on Tidal. At the time, West claimed that the album would never appear on another streaming services, and as a result, some two million people flocked to Tidal to pay at least $9.99 a month to have a listen.

Alas, that exclusivity was to be short lived as TLOP is now available on both Apple Music and Spotify - for free.

That's part of the reason why West has been named in a class action suit against him. Perhaps because that might be a flimsy case to present, the plaintiff's attorneys are leaning more heavily on a privacy issue instead.

"Mr. West's promise of exclusivity also had a grave impact on consumer privacy," the lawsuit states, mostly because user credit card information, music preferences and other personal information were collected.

The lawsuit contends the value of new subscribers and their personal information could be as much as $84 million for Tidal.

The album was reportedly streamed some 250 million times within 10 days of its release.

This will be an interesting one to watch.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Amazon Prime Music Takes Another Baby Step

Amazon Prime Music logoIf you've been following this blog for any length of time, you know that I've been saying all along to watch out for Amazon Prime Music as the next big disrupter in the streaming music space.

Why? Prime Music is part of the popular Amazon Prime subscription service that already has a reported 75 million subscribers (although Amazon isn't saying just how many). Amazon is also dabbling in its own record label, and is generally getting into the mainstream music distribution waters one toe at a time.

Well, maybe two toes, as the company recently dropped a few new nuggets of what might come next.

First of all, T-Mobile must added Amazon Music to its data-free music streaming program called Music Freedom. This is the first instance of Prime Music being available to off-the-platform users.

What might be more an indicator of the future is the fact that Amazon just made it's Prime Video service available as a stand-alone product for $9 a month. For $11 a month you could also buy the full Amazon Prime membership complete with Amazon Prime Music and 2 day shipping (which is more expensive than just paying the $99 a year fee for the same thing).

Although this last move has little to do directly with Prime Music, it's another baby step in the direction that we inevitably know Amazon will take. Don't be surprised if there's a big announcement about a free-standing Prime Music service in the next few months.


Monday, April 18, 2016

Facebook Finally Launches Its Version Of Content ID

Facebook Rights Manager imageContent creators have been complaining for months that many of their YouTube videos have been showing up on Facebook posted by someone else - an action called "freebooting."

In an effort to alleviate the situation, Facebook has now officially launched its version of YouTube’s Content ID called Rights Manager

This is an admin tool for Facebook Pages that lets them upload video clips, then monitors Facebook news feeds for copies of these videos that might be later illegally posted to Facebook. It can then either automatically report them as violations to be deleted or notify the original publisher.

Rights Manager allows copyright owners to set up whitelists of Pages that are allowed to distribute their videos, and upload unpublished videos they don’t want anyone else using even if they haven’t posted them themselves.

It will also show what Page posted a video, how many views it has gotten, and sort alerts about freebooting by these parameters, too.

Live videos can be monitored as well, which is designed to prevent people from rebroadcasting pay-per-view TV content like boxing matches, which has become a huge issue that has put Periscope in the television industry's crosshairs.

Rights Manager isn’t available to all Facebook users yet, although content owners can now apply for access.

Interestingly, there's been no discussion about monetizing Facebook videos yet, although it seems like only a matter of time now that Rights Manager is in place.



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