Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Soundcloud Subscription Tier Is Coming

Soundcloud icon image
It's been rumored for months, but it looks like a subscription tier for Soundcloud will soon be a reality, as the company CTO recently confirmed.

While the exact details haven't been revealed yet, it's believed that the service will offer a free tier with a capped number of streams and downloads per month, and a paid tier where both are unlimited.

One of the challenges is changing current users into paid subscribers, since the service has long touted itself as a free service. In fact, Soundcloud has used that as a selling point from the beginning.

The company is currently under pressure both from investors to make money, and from the major labels pay royalties, however, so it looks like this will be changing soon.

That said, Soundcloud hasn't been entirely free for some time, as it offers both Pro ($6 per month) and Pro Unlimited ($15 per month) tiers for creators that want increased storage and analytics.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A List Of Every City's Favorite Song

Musical City Map image
Spotify recently did an analysis of its users to find out which songs were being played the most in each city. The results are pretty surprising to say the least.

Needless to say, tastes are very different in just about every region of the United States, which when it comes down to it, is really a good thing.

Here's what Spotify found:

Atlanta: Lil Donald, "Juice"
Austin: Bob Schneider, "Honeypot"​​​
Baltimore: Young Moose, "Dumb Dumb"
Boston: Thundercat with Flying Lotus, "Them Changes"
Chicago: King Louie, "B.o.n."
Houston: Slim Thug with Joel Osteen, "Chuuch"
Los Angeles: Grupo Maximo Grado, "Unas Heladas"
Miami: Chocolate, "Guachineo"
Nashville: Elliot Root, "Punks and Poets"
New Orleans: Showboy Cj with Sissy Nobby, "Josephine Beat"
New York City: ​Thundercat with Flying Lotus, "Them Changes"
Philadelphia: PnB Rock, "Fleek"
Portland, Oregon: Sylvan Esso, "Wolf"
San Francisco: Nef the Pharaoh, "Big Tymin'"
Seattle: Sam Lachow, "Banana Goo Pie"
St. Louis: Vega Sills with La4ss, "Momma"

Agree or disagree?
Agree or disagree?

Thanks to Jesse Jaye for the heads up.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Labels Considering Removing Artist Videos From YouTube

YouTube image
In a dispute that's reminiscent of what happened with MTV in the 1980s, the 3 major labels are considering removing videos of their most prominent artists from YouTube, according to various reports.

Out of all streaming sources, YouTube pays the lowest royalty rate and the labels are looking for what they consider a more fair split (it's currently 55% labels/45% YouTube).

The platform has long been a source of frustration for the majors, since YouTube has a firm grip on the ad policy, sales channel and monetization and the labels have very little say.

Perhaps throwing fuel on the fire, YouTube recently announced that the number of advertisers increased by 40% last year, with the average spend up more than 100% over a year ago. What's more, YouTube's revenue was over $6.6 billion last year, but the music industry only saw about $150 million of that, according to the RIAA. YouTube disputes that figure and states that it's really "in the billions," although no hard figures are given.

While the majors are quietly increasing their support of other platforms like Vessel and Snapchat, they're being careful about removing support from YouTube just yet. The platform is still where most people consume music (especially new music), and it still provides a significant source of income.

Plus, with YouTube's Music Key subscription service around the corner, that income could possibly increase even more, although most top level label execs are skeptical.

However it shakes out, this bears watching.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Have Apple And Spotify Already Lost The Chinese Music Market?

Alibaba Music sign image
Most Western music streaming companies look at China as sort of a golden goose. It’s not laying any eggs at the moment, but you think that one might come at any time. That goose may be stolen even before it makes its first deposit though, as the Chinese mega-company Alibaba recently announced that it will combine two of its music properties, Tiantian and Xiami, into a new as-of-yet unnamed music service.

The Chinese music market is potentially huge, with an estimated 471 million people currently listening to music online already. That said, the revenue is relatively minuscule at only $91 million last year compared to $3.5 billion in the U.S, according to the IFPI.

The reason is that Chinese consumers are used to getting their music for free, thanks to over a hundred pirate sites in the territory. Yet in a country of nearly 1.4 billion people, it wouldn’t take a significant portion to really make a difference in the music industry’s bottom line if they indeed did pay for their music.

Western companies know that, of course, and eye China as the final frontier of music distribution. That’s easier said than done though.

For instance, Spotify is available in over 50 countries, but it’s still not officially available on the Chinese mainland (it is in Hong Kong). Some premium tier users who have subscribed to the service elsewhere say that coverage around the country is spotty at best, with speculation that it may be due to government censorship. Even the recently launched Apple Music is available just about everywhere in the world except China at the moment. 

Although you can almost hear the corporate wheels turning in board rooms of streaming countries everywhere in the West, China remains a tough market to crack, and with Alibaba entering the picture, it just got tougher. Read more on Forbes.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

8 Social Media Mistakes That Artists And Bands Make

Social media mistakes image
SocialTimes recently ran a post about the 8 social media mistakes that you can make, but the post was aimed strictly at traditional marketers. I've reposted them here with a music twist that specifically looks at artists and bands. Here we go.

Mistake #1. Having no social media strategy. Randomly posting without a reason is only a little better than not posting at all. In order to get the most out of social media promotion, you have to have a strategy about your goals and how you're going to accomplish them.

Mistake #2. Creating accounts on too many platforms too soon. No one can be on everything and do them all well. Pick one and get good at it, then add another, etc. Choose the social networks most used by your fans or potential fans.

Mistake #3. Paying for fake followers. Those follower or viewer counts sure look good when they climb overnight, but your real followers won't be fooled and neither will record companies, management, agents or anyone else in the business. Get your followers the old fashioned way - earn them with great content.

Mistake #4. Talking about nothing but yourself. You're using social media as a promotional tool but your posts get boring if it's all about you, your band or your music. Talk about your followers, ask questions, throw in some relevant news and generally change it up to keep the interest and engagement high.

Mistake #5. Using irrelevant and excessive hashtags. Hashtags that don't mean anything are useless for promotion. Using more than two on a Twitter post (more for Instagram) actually decreases engagement, so choose them carefully.

Mistake #6. Sharing too much in a short amount of time. Dominating a feed is a great way to lose followers. If you're going to post a lot in a short period, at least warn your followers beforehand.

Mistake #7. Forgetting to proofread. People judge you by your grammar and spelling. Check it first before posting.

Mistake #8. Neglecting the “social” aspect of social media. Remember that engagement goes both ways. Be prepared to respond to comments or questions on any post.

If you're not sure how to develop a social media strategy, or want more information on using social media as a promotional tool, check out my book Social Media Promotion for Musicians. You can read some excerpts here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Most Music Discovery Still Happens Traditionally

It's very easy to believe that good social media promotion will get your name out there, and it certainly will, but when it comes to having your music heard there's still nothing like traditional media.

According to a new study by EvenBrite, most people still discover new music through traditional means like radio, television and word of mouth at 68%. Streaming came next at 42%, while social was way down at 14%. Live was even worse at only 8%.

This study corresponds with others in that radio still comes out #1 for music discovery, although YouTube seems to be catching up (at least for the moment).

Streaming does have another huge positive effect though. 51% of people that buy tickets to concerts do so because they discovered the act on a streaming service.

Music Discovery Channels

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Amazon Now Selling Concert Tickets With No Extra Charges

One of the things that everyone hates is the service charge attached to a concert ticket when you buy it from a broker and even directly from the box office.

Amazon may finally put an end to that as it's trying to get into the ticketing business, promising full transparency and no extra charges in tickets purchased from the site. In a pilot program launched on Amazon Local, the company is selling tickets to the Bestival shows on the Isle of Wight in early September.

Amazon will offer more shows in the UK through the end of the year, then after the bugs are worked out, will roll it out to the US as well.

One of the little known secrets in the concert industry is that it's not the venues or promoters inserting this extra charge though - it's the acts themselves. Instead of raising the ticket price to where it seems too high, it feels more acceptable if there's that service charge on the back end.

Many acts actually hate the idea of doing that to their fans, and these are the ones that usually allow paperless ticketing, a practice that has yet to gain tracktion in the industry.

If Amazon ticketing catches on, it might finally put a stop to the insane extra charges that we so reluctantly pay.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Will YouTube’s Music Key Streaming Service Be A Hit Or A Miss?

YouTube Music Key logo image
Now that the Apple Music launch has come and gone the next shoe to drop in the ongoing music streaming wars may be the one swinging the heaviest hammer. That’s Google’s YouTube Music Key, which has been hinting at a launch for months now with very little solid information about its final form forthcoming.

Until last week when YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki spoke about it at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech event, the silence around Music Key had been so deafening that you get the feeling that Google (which owns YouTube) was waiting to see what would happen with Apple Music before it committed itself to a launch. If ever there was a strategic pause, we’ve just seen it, as the company could only be sure of the hand that Apple was playing by watching Apple Music’s actual entry into the market.

Now that all of Apple Music’s features are out in the open, YouTube is free to tweak its service to either take a different approach from the rest of the competition or attempt to do some of the same things.

Music Key has been in a limited beta since late last year at an introductory price of $8 per month, but we’ve already been told that the final price will be more in line with the rest of the streaming industry at $9.99. That’s not Google’s choice (nor was it Apple’s) even as the general feeling in the tech industry is that $5 per month is actually the ideal price point.

Five bucks won’t fly with the major labels though, and the streaming services can’t distribute something that they don’t own the rights to, so Google, like Apple, will be forced to toe the line and charge $10 per month when Music Key is finally introduced. The place where it can make a difference in price however is with a “family plan” that extends additional subscriptions to family members. Read more on Forbes.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Chicago's Cloud Tax Could Affect Your Music

Cloud Tax image
Most large cities claim to be in a money crunch these days and Chicago is no exception. In order to create a new income stream, the city has instituted a "cloud tax" that targets online databases and streaming entertainment services.

This means that you now may be taxed on your entertainment from Spotify, Apple Music, or Netflix at a rate of 9%. If you're currently paying $100 a year for a service, it will now cost you $109 if you live in Chicago.

But how can this happen, since none of those services are based in Chicago and for the most part are global entities? The cloud tax is actually comprised of two taxes - one covering "electronically delivered amusements" and the other covers remote computing databases and platforms that are aimed at those consuming the media, not providing or distributing it.

Some ISPs are already implementing collections of the tax, but that may also make them eventually leave the city limits to keep the bookkeeping costs down and their customers happier.

Many attorneys are gearing up for a fight as well, claiming that the tax violates both the Federal Communications Act and the Tax Freedom Act as it discriminates against services delivered on the Internet.

Of course, with people reluctant to pay for a subscription music service already, adding even a few dollars more could be a deal breaker.

Here's hoping that the cloud tax doesn't catch on beyond Chicago, since before you know it we'll all feel the pain as the local taxes pile up on our Internet use.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Why Would Facebook Start A New Music Service?

Facebook Music image
Don't look now but Facebook has been in talks with the major labels and many believe that's because the company is seriously considering launching a music service to compete with Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, etc.

One advantage for Facebook is that, unlike Spotify and Pandora, it wouldn't have to rely on the income from music to keep the lights on. Of course this is a strength of both Apple and Google.

That said, there's another more likely scenario at play.

Facebook has recently dedicated itself to making video a bigger part of the service, providing better engagement and ad rates than YouTube to start the ball rolling. While major brands have tried Facebook videos with some success, the platform is still having trouble getting smaller brands and page owners to post.

The most watched content on YouTube is music, so by just getting the official music videos of stars and superstars on the platform, Facebook believes it can make some giant strides in taking a chunk of viewership from YouTube, and hopefully prime the pump for more user generated content.

Reportedly a pilot program to post some music video trials will launch as soon as the licensing deals have been sewn up.

The ad revenue split is supposed to be identical to YouTube, with 45% going to the rights holder (in this case, the major labels) and 55% going to Facebook.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

7 Tips For Tweeting A Live Event

Twitter event tips image
Adweek recently ran a great post about tips for Tweeting a live event. They were thinking more about a business conference than a gig, but many of the tips apply to a live show anyway. Here they are, but with a music spin.

1. Use the right hashtag(s). If you have a following that regularly attends your gigs, start your own hashtag that you can consistently use. Something like #(yourband)live could work. Also find out if the venue has a hashtag and include that as well.

2. Let your followers know. If there's going to be a flurry of activity in a short period of time, let your followers know beforehand. No one likes their feed dominated by one poster, but at least they can tune you out if they're not interested if they know its coming.

3. Be interesting. Try to give a unique perspective that only you can give. What's the venue like? Did you meet anyone interesting (give them a  shoutout)? Is there a meet and greet or something happening preshow or aftershow?

4. Retweet others. If there are others tweeting about the gig, retweet them as well.

5. Take pictures. Tweets are a lot more interesting when a picture is included and the engagement is increased as well.

6. Follow other tweeters. This includes the promoters, venue and other bands on the bill.

7. Use Vine and Periscope. Twitter is more than just text, so don't forget to share a video about meeting a fan, what's happening backstage, from the stage, etc.

Twitter is especially cool for communicating at events, and that's the perfect time to engage your fans. Follow these tips and you'll keep everyone happy.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The BBC Will No Longer Play The Classic Rockers

MCPS logo image
In the wacky world of music copyrights, what's normal and useful in one country may not extend to another country that has a whole different set of copyright laws. The result can mean it's difficult for even classic superstar acts to get paid or played.

Such is the case with Neil Young, The Doors, Journey and Bonnie Raitt, who have all withdrawn from Britain's Mechanical Copyright Protection Society (MCPS) over the terms of its licensing agreement. As a result, the BBC has announced that it will no longer player their music, because there is no way to properly pay them.

The MCPS is like the UK's version of ASCAP or BMI in that it collects royalties for radio performances in that country.

The fact of the matter is that the BBC really doesn't play these artists all that much anyway, but it might disrupt a few newer artists who happen to use a sample from their records.

The BBC also took a long time to make this decision in that Young had bowed out from the association way back in 2002, The Doors in 2006, and Journey in 2013.

The lesson here is to make sure that you have your international licensing deals sorted out, especially in these days of streaming, because you might be missing out of royalties from airplay that you're not aware of, or not being played at all because you're not part of the system.


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