Friday, February 5, 2016

Warner Music May Give Spotify Windfall Back To Artists

WMG throwing artists a bone imageMajor record labels aren't known for being particularly generous to their artists, but in at least one case, that might change a little. Warner Music has made it known that should it ever sell its stake in Spotify, at least some of the proceeds will go to its artists, according to a post on Music Business Worldwide. WMG CEO Stephen Cooper made the announcement when speaking to investors yesterday.

This is an unprecedented step as any income from these types of equity sales have traditionally made their way directly to the label's bottom line in the past, bypassing the artists.

The major labels own around 15% of Spotify, which came as part of the company's negotiations for licensing rights to the major label's catalog. It's estimated that WMG owns between 2 to 3% of Spotify, which at its current $8 billion valuation, is worth around $200 million.

Spotify has signaled its intention for an IPO (Initial Public Offering - where shares of the company are offered to the public for the first time) this year, which would mean a windfall for its shareholders, including the major labels.

Knowing the potential blowback from artists should they not see any money from the sale of the company they helped build, WMG decided to get on the right side of the situation instead of having to react to it after the fact.

Any resulting bad publicity from a Spotify IPO could harm the streaming side of the music business, which has grown into a major source of revenue for the industry as is quickly replacing physical sales.

As a result of this story, Sony Music announced that it would also give back a piece of the proceeds from any sale (no word on exactly how big a piece). The question now remains, will Universal Music feel compelled to follow?

Thursday, February 4, 2016

SoundCloud Rolls Out Its Own Version Of Pandora

SoundCloud Stations imageSoundCloud is angling to become a full-fledged streaming service, and it just took a big step towards that goal with the introduction to what it calls Stations.

Stations takes the the previous "Related Tracks" feature one step further by simplifying it and improving the recommendations. The result is what the company hopes will be increased music discovery.

If this sounds familiar, that's because it's just what Pandora has been doing for a number of years now,  as well as Spotify and Apple Music, but this is a first step to get SoundCloud into the same game as those large services.

Essentially, a station is generated from any track, search term, or content stream in your Collection. All you have to do is tap the three-dot menu next to a track and select "start track station" to begin. After the first track plays, SoundCloud uses your listening habits and track selections to determine the songs you'll hear next.

The feature works on both Android and iOS devices but hasn't made it to the web app yet.

My guess is that it won't have too many people giving up their Pandora accounts just yet, but it's a good first step.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

1500 Track Streams Now Equals 1 Album Sale

1500 Track Streams = 1 Album SaleThe RIAA announced that it will now count 1500 track streams as 1 album sale when it comes to qualifying for awards like gold records.

This means that 150 streams now equals 1 track sale, thus 10 track sales (1,500 streams) then equals 1 album sale.

It's nice that there's some metric, but there's a big flaw in this logic.

1500 plays of the same song now equals 1 album sale, which is hardly the same thing as a true album sale.

When you buy an album you pay for 10 songs, and although you may not listen to them all as much as the ones you like, you did pay for them all and are exposed to them all.

That's far from the case with the 1500 = 1 logic.

Another thing is that until the announcement on Monday, 100 streams was considered 1 sale, so the bar for a sale has been raised (probably rightfully so).

It's great that the RIAA has announced this metric to reward performance, and although it doesn't seem to be as fair as real sale once was, I can't think of (nor have I read) a better idea of how to measure this.

Ideas anyone?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Best Way To Live Stream To Multiple Platforms

Joicaster imageLive Streaming is becoming an important part of an artist's social repertoire, but until now it was limited to one platform like YouTube or Ustream. Wouldn't it be great if there was a service like OneLoad where you could upload your video to multiple services from one platform?

It turns out there is and it's called Joicaster.

Joicaster allows you to stream to up to 67 live streaming platforms that range from popular ones like YouTube and DailyMotion, to gaming (Twitch, Hitbox), New Media (StreamUp, Roku), Sports (CBS Interactive, TheCube), Faith (StreamingFaith, SundayStreams), Production (MakeTV, SnappyTV) and CDN (Akami, Amazon Media Services).

The service features a simple dashboard that allows you to stream your high-definition broadcast to one or more platforms, and provides chat, social sharing and live analytics as well.

There's actually a free plan that allows up to 4 concurrent streams, with the paid plans providing more streams and features. They start at $4 to $30 per month, with a custom enterprise plan also possible.

If you're into live streaming, check out Joicaster to help you expand your audience.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Artist Management Consultant Mike Gormley On My Latest Inner Circle Podcast

Mike Gormley imageMy guest on this week's Inner Circle Podcast is artist management consultant Mike Gormley.

Mike was head of PR for Mercury and A&M Records before he headed into management, where he worked with acts like The Bangles, Oingo Boingo, Wall of Voodoo and Danny Elfman, and now heads up LA Personal Development.

We'll discuss the differences between PR and management from the classic days of the 80s and 90s to today, and you'll hear some good war stories as well.

In the intro I'll discuss how Spotify will now stream video but not for the reasons you might think, the latest music streaming platform called Cur Music, and the latest in the labor dispute between Guitar Center and its employees.

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


Small Webcasters Forced To Shut Down Thanks To Royalty Increase

Goodbye Small Webcaster imageA number of issues seemed to have doomed thousands of small webcasters who use the Live365 platform, which closed down today. The webcasters include everything from one man niche programmers dedicated to new music discovery, to smaller radio stations like Smooth Jazz Chicago and Pulse 87 NY.

One of the main issues that caused the Live365 to close is the recent Copyright Royalty Board ruling to increase the royalty rates webcasters must pay to artists and songwriters.

In 2009 SoundExchange (which collects the royalties and then distributes them) negotiated a rate based upon the amount of revenue generated by a webcaster which helped the smallest webcasters stay on the air. A webcaster with no revenue could pay a flat rate to Live365, which then passed it on to SoundExchange.

That agreement terminated at the end of 2015 however, which now means that smaller webcasters are subject to the same per stream rates as major entities like iHeart Radio and Pandora. With a massive royalty commitment and little revenue to count on, most small webcasters can't afford to stay on the air, and even medium sized webcasters find that all their revenue will be eaten up.

The Live365 platform had additional issues, as it never turned a profit, and now with the new CRB ruling, faced a loss of much-needed investor backing.

This is actually a very complex issue, as there are multiple rates for commercial versus non-commercial webcasters. The fact is that many small webcasters were responsible for exposing new music while paying a very low royalty rate.

Musicians and songwriters now make marginally more, but to what end? If there are fewer outlets for your music, there seems like no winner in this decision, but many with a lot to lose.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Philly Musicians May Have To Register With The Police To Play A Gig

A city councilman in Philadelphia isn't exactly showing much brotherly love to musicians, as he's introduced a bill that would require venues like bars, restaurants and clubs to collect the contact information from bands, rappers, DJs and other performers, then hand it over to the police.

“Giving performers’ information to police when requested enables them to review past performances to see if there were any public safety issues during their events,” Councilman Mark Squilla, the sponsor of the bill, told the website Billy Penn via email.

The bill is an amendment to the "Special Assembly Occupancies" section of the Philadelphia code that would grant the police department the ability to approve or revoke a license for gatherings or screenings of more than 50 people.

The bill also raises the license application fee from $100 a year to $500 every two years.

This is just another assault on bars and clubs that has been happening everywhere. Without these venues, not only will it be tougher for musicians to make a living (like it could get any harder), but also make it much more difficult for the next generation of performers to attain the stage time required to learn their craft.

Clubs have it tough enough these days just coping with rising rents and keeping the neighbors happy, but increased police scrutiny for some mystical issue that no one can figure out shouldn't be one of them.

There's a Change.org campaign to stop the bill. I encourage you to sign to help not only support Philly music, but music everywhere.

UPDATE: Councilman Squilla has withdrawn his bill after the public outcry, so score one for Philly musicians and all those who have supported them.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Different Age Groups, Different Beatles Favorites

The Beatles 1965 imageThe Beatles music truly transcends generations, and it's even more apparent now that the Fab 4 have embraced streaming. What's interesting is that each generation has its favorite Beatles songs. Here's a list from Spotify Insights that shows the top 10 for each age group.

17 & Under
  1. Here Comes The Sun
  2. Let It Be
  3. Hey Jude
  4. Come Together
  5. Twist And Shout
  6. Yellow Submarine
  7. Yesterday
  8. I Want To Hold Your Hand
  9. Love Me Do
  10. Penny Lane

18-24
  1. I Want To Hold Your Hand
  2. Here Comes The Sun
  3. Come Together
  4. Penny Lane
  5. You Never Give Me Your Money
  6. With A Little Help From My Friends
  7. Twist And Shout
  8. Hey Jude
  9. Let It Be
  10. Yellow Submarine

25-29
  1. I Want To Hold Your Hand
  2. Penny Lane
  3. You Never Give Me Your Money
  4. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
  5. Love Me Do
  6. From Me To You
  7. A Hard Day’s Night
  8. Something
  9. Can’t Buy Me Love
  10. Get Back

30-34
  1. She Loves You
  2. Paperback Writer
  3. Ticket To Ride
  4. The Long And Winding Road
  5. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
  6. Hello, Goodbye
  7. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
  8. Day Tripper
  9. Can’t Buy Me Love
  10. Blackbird

35-44
  1. We Can Work It Out
  2. A Day In The Life
  3. Ticket To Ride
  4. The Long And Winding Road
  5. She Loves You
  6. Paperback Writer
  7. Back In The U.S.S.R.
  8. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
  9. Please Please Me
  10. Something

45-54
  1. Back In The U.S.S.R.
  2. We Can Work It Out
  3. Ticket To Ride
  4. A Day In The Life
  5. Yesterday
  6. Let It Be
  7. Got To Get You Into My Life
  8. I Feel Fine
  9. She Loves You
  10. Help!

55+
  1. Rock And Roll Music
  2. Back In The U.S.S.R.
  3. Mean Mr Mustard
  4. Nowhere Man
  5. Drive My Car
  6. Glass Onion
  7. We Can Work It Out
  8. Long, Long, Long
  9. Do You Want To Know A Secret
  10. A Day In The Life

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Spotify To Begin Streaming Videos

Spotify Video imageSpotify is introducing streaming video to its users, first on the Android platform and shortly followed by iOS. What's interesting is that the videos look to have more to do with advertising than music.

The company's various video partners include ESPN, Conde Nast, Comedy Central, BBC, NBC, Harper Collins and Vice Media, and the videos will all be short and curated at first, which sure sounds like commercials. In addition, Spotify will also launch podcasts from Radiolab, American Public Media and WNYC.

Adding video commercials is a way for the company to increase its advertising revenue while maintaining its current user base. Video adverts are acknowledged to be the most lucrative form on online advertising.

The videos will be rolled out only in the US, the UK, Germany and Sweden as part of the beta test.

Spotify admits that it doesn't quite know what to do with video yet (besides advertising), so the beta test will help identify usage and demand patterns.



Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Finally, A Streaming Service At A Reasonable Price

The major record labels have been largely responsible for the $9.95 per month prices being charged by the streaming services, even though most industry experts see that as a barrier to entry, meaning that it's just too high. Ideally you want more people paying a monthly charge, even if the price is lower, since it will ultimately mean more revenue at the end of the day.

There's at least one new music service that's managed to keep the prices low though. The new Cur Music has two low priced tiers that break the $9.95 mold.

The first Cur tier is called "Octo" for $2.99 per month, and the higher priced "Inked" tier is $6.99 per month. Both tiers are ad-free, with the only difference being that Inked lets you listen offline.

Cur has a library of 10 million tracks, and emphasizes playlists and radio rather than on-demand streaming, so it's competition is more Pandora than Spotify. It also has an internal messaging system that lets users attach photos or videos to songs before sharing them.

There's a free trial that you can check out here.


Monday, January 25, 2016

AM Radio May Soon Be A Thing Of The Past

AM Radio imageFor most of the last century, AM radio is where new music broke. It was local due to the limited range (depending upon the wattage of the station) and reflected the musical tastes of the area (not to mention open to local music) as a result. In fact, many of the most enduring hits and superstars were made when a small station in Maryland, or Pittsburgh, or Chicago, or Florida began playing a record that then slowly caught on with the rest of the country.

Sadly, the days of AM radio may be coming to a close.

One of the reasons is that electric cars like the Tesla Model X or BMW i3 don't install them since the AM reception is impossible due to the internal electrical noise of the car. That said, the demand for AM has been way down as almost everywhere in the country AM stations are almost always at the bottom of the Arbitron ratings. It's now the place for news, talk radio and sports, but not music. In fact, even sports is abandoning the band for FM.

In Europe, AM stations are being rapidly shut down on a national scale. Norway and Germany have discontinued all AM broadcasting, and even perennial heavyweights like Radio Luxembourg and Armed Forces Radio have shut down their AM signals.

In some cases, even FM may go dark as many countries opt for Digital Audio Broadcasting instead.

What you'll see in cars more and more is an internet connection which will enable you to connect to a much greater variety of online stations from around the world. In fact, the idea of "stations" may fall to history as well, since with no broadcast frequency to worry about (nor government issued wattage limits), only the URLs are necessary. Restrictions on what to play may be looser too.

While on the face of it this seems like an exciting idea, losing the local musical flavor of radio is a sad twist of fate that will ultimately be bad for musicians, artists and bands everywhere. The cultivation of local talent and the ability to give them that first break will be sorely missed.


Friday, January 22, 2016

Adele Fastest To 1 Billion YouTube Views

Adele 1 Billion Views imageWhile everyone has marveled at Adele's physical sales power, her online video views are nothing to sneeze at either. Her "Hello" video has now been crowned the fastest to 1 billion views (that's with a "b") ever, reaching the landmark in just 88 days.

Psy's "Gangham Style" was the previous leader at 159 days, followed by Wiz Kahlifa's "See You Again" at 186 days, and Taylor Swift's "Blank Space" at 238 days.

"Hello" has been an online video powerhouse ever since it was released, hitting a record-breaking 27.7 million views within the first 24 hours, then hitting 100 million just 5 days later. The video has added around 10 million views a day almost every day of November and December.

Only 14 artists have songs that have reached the billion view mark, and most have taken anywhere from 6 months to 5 years to do so. Taylor Swift is the only artist to have 2 songs at the billion view level, with the other song being "Shake It Off."

This just goes to prove that a million views (or a million of anything) just isn't that much in our new Music 4.0 world. A song only becomes a hit when it reaches 50 million (and a minor hit at that), and a real hit at a 100 million. It's only the superstars that hit that coveted 1 billion mark.

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