Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Will the blockchain free music from being free?

Written by Leora Kornfeld — The idea of a path of least resistance makes only too much sense, yet so often it’s not the path we find ourselves on. And don’t worry, this blog, whose focus is the media and entertainment industries in the digital era, is not about to go all self-help on you. Instead, I will bring you some wisdom gleaned from a talk I attended yesterday, given by Grammy-nominated producer and musician Darryl Neudorf.

His name may not ring a bell but one of these names probably will: Neko Case, Sarah McLachlan, The New Pornographers -- all artists with whom he's worked. Oh, and he co-wrote this song, a Top 10 hit for Hootie & The Blowfish in 1997.

Neudorf took us through a fairly quick but compelling presentation that outlined the state of the music industry today, namely musicians getting fractions of pennies for streams on services such as Spotify, then explaining how we got here, and then laying out his plan for a better tomorrow for the music business. Lofty goals and a big vision, but incremental thinking is probably not what’s called for, 17 years post Napster, and still no working business model for the music industry.

Whether obtained legally or illegally online, the advent of digital music has meant songs becoming unbundled from albums; and the music industry’s unit economics were traditionally based on album sales, which tended to be 1 or 2 songs you wanted and 8 to 10 you didn’t want. Too bad, you’re stuck with the whole pizza, even the slices covered in anchovies that you don’t want to get anywhere near. That’s just how it worked.

Furthermore, platforms aka streaming services, such as Pandora and Spotify, have a business model based on the freeconomy, in which tens to hundreds of millions of users, at aggregate, create an attractive market for advertisers. A small percentage of users pay for an ad-free service, which usually runs about $9.99 month, but most do not, paying, instead with data, not dollars. Also known as the great 21st century tradeoff.

The economics of streaming services is that they generally pay out 70% to rights holders and retain 30% of revenues for themselves. The problem for many artists is that they, the artists, are not the rights holders; it’s a label or publishing company, and that is therefore where the bulk of the money goes. This is just one part of the landscape in which musicians today exist. Another is all the songs uploaded to YouTube by non rights holders, with, in lieu of visuals, a slide show, lyrics on screen, or sometimes just a picture of the album cover. Music on YouTube is a whole other thing, and for today’s post we’re limiting the discussion to the situation with streaming.

As Darryl Neudorf pointed out in his talk:

From the mid to late 90s the narrative was one of empowerment through the Internet; that there would be a revolution based on a direct-to-fan model; and to some extent this came true, with companies such as CD Baby and eMusic arising out of the first wave of music freed from its physical form factor

Then came Napster. Talk about three words that don’t even begin to describe the upheaval and draining of revenue from an industry.

If you really want to dig into the full story, it’s recounted in detail in a book called “How Music Got Free: The End of An Industry, The Turn of The Century, and The Patient Zero Of Piracy

Post Napster came what Neudorf termed ‘the dark ages’, from 2000 to 2010, in which revenues for recorded music continued to dwindle each year, despite the emergence of the iTunes store and at least some people getting into the happen of paying for downloads.

The next phase was the coming of the streaming services, and 2014 was the first year that revenues from digital and physical sales were equal in the music industry; 2015 was the year streaming became the main source of revenues for music labels.

Streaming services have tens of millions of songs, so unless you know exactly what you're looking for, you're going to be at least somewhat reliant on playlists. And playlists on streaming services -- which are essentially what radio once was – skew to major label bands, pointed out Neudorf. In other words, the same gatekeepers that were in place in the world of radio airplay are now inhabiting the world of streaming.

But wait, there's more. Several years in, not a single streaming service is even close to becoming profitable. In fact, there’s evidence that they’re becoming less profitable with time.

As you can see, problems aplenty. But what about solutions? Sell t-shirts? Tour more? Do intimate gatherings for superfans? Yes, all of those things can and do help, but Neudorf has a more radical idea in mind, and he’s not the only one.

The idea is based on something called the Blockchain. If you’ve heard of Bitcoin – which, let’s face it, nobody really understands, then you’ve had exposure to blockchain, as it’s the technology that powers decentralized currencies, sometimes referred to as cryptocurrencies, the most well known of which is Bitcoin.

Boston’s Berklee School of Music published a report last year outlining the benefits of decentralization for the music industry.

All of this inspired Neudorf to start this project in mid 2014 – The POLR – or path of least resistance, which he calls a new model for a 21st century music industry. The model is based on the concept of A2A – artist to appreciator, working around the usual intermediaries. Is this direct to fan but with a different acronym? Not exactly. Because using blockchain technologies the licensing can happen at the point of upload, and with metadata added that lists writers, performers, producers, and any others with a stake in the sound recording, micropayments can go be paid directly to them. As long as only rights holders are able to upload, unlike the situation on YouTube and Soundcloud. This particular system hasn’t yet been built, but with the thinking in place, it’s probably only a matter of time. Imogen Heap is an artist already using blockchain; in fact she sold the first song using blockchain, so we know that part of things can work.

To conclude his talk Neudorf quoted software engineer Vinay Gupta, who said: “Whoever controls the database, controls the future of the music industry.”

And if music is going to be a service, not a product, the thinking of Gupta, Neudorf, Heap, and other forward-thinking individuals may be one way for the balance of power to be reclaimed by artists.

Click here to read from this article's source.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

How Big Is The Music Business, Really?

Written by Daniel Adler-Golden — Despite music being more accessible than ever before, feelings of unfair treatment and unfair compensation are rampant among musicians at all levels. Although Spotify takes the brunt of the blame, there are a lot of factors at play (the jury is split on the effects of piracy) and this isn’t the first time musicians have felt unfairly compensated for their music.

The 1942–44 Musicians Strike
In 1942 The American Federation of Musicians went on strike against recording music due of disagreements over payments with the major American record companies, led by union President James Petrillo.

The strike was not about the sale of records, per se, but about royalty payments for recordings used during radio airplay. Live musicians had been employed to provide music on-air, but recorded music was starting to replace those musicians. This was eventually resolved, but it took pressure from the National Labor Relations Board, the National War Labor Board, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Artificial Supply and Demand
Historically, the cost of creating and bringing an album to market were so significant that only few artists outside of the major labels could do it. Additionally, the major labels supported a limited number of artists, as they needed to reach a certain scale to make good on their investments. As a result, consumers’ access to music was artificially constrained. During this time, a handful of artists received the majority of consumer music expenditures: top artists like The Beatles and Michael Jackson produced the years’ ‘must have albums.’

Note: Artists received one-time payments for album sales, rather than indefinite royalties.

New model introduced
For years, the recorded music industry’s value was inflated due to the bundling of music via albums, rather than consumer demand. Consumers were forced to purchase albums with tracks they didn’t want in order to get the tracks they desired.

iTunes was the first major widespread disruptor to this model with a la carte music purchasing for (99 cents/track). As a result, the same consumer spend was spread across dozens of artists, with each one paid for the specific tracks the consumer picks.

How does it work now?
The economics changed dramatically in the last few years, even though the core service is essentially the same: listening to music.

One of the major changes for artists in the streaming economy is indefinite royalty payments; previously, musicians received a one-time upfront payment for an album sale, regardless of the number of times it was played.

Also, because musicians can simply go online and upload their music to YouTube, record labels no longer tightly control distribution. As a result, vying for consumer music expenditures is now more competitive than ever.

While it’s hard for many artists to embrace the new economic landscape, the business of music has experiences a fundamental shift in both supply and demand. As a result, the business practices and industry metrics need to change.

Room for Growth
Streaming vs Terrestrial Radio

Streaming services such as Spotify depend on subscriptions for the bulk of their revenue, whereas radio generates revenue only from advertising.

Terrestrial radio advertising is worth $17bn/year, where combined advertising for streaming services is predicted to reach $1bn next year. This huge discrepancy provides possible opportunities for streaming services to significantly increase future revenues.

America is one of only three countries that does not pay performers for terrestrial radio airplay; the other countries are North Korea and Iran. Streaming services do compensate the performers, but as the value of one album can be spread out over months (even years), this often leaves artists feeling unfairly compensated.

Note: Government regulation is far behind the advances in technology and industry practices, which has led to complicated and confusing sets of rules regarding compensation and payments.

Concert revenue: A bright spot
Despite the rapidly decreasing number of recorded music sales, the US concert industry has tripled since 1999. This increase is not felt by the top 100 acts; in 1999 they took 90% of revenue, today it’s dropped to 44%.

Independent musicians account for this large increase, as they are making considerably more from concerts than at any point in recent history (+$3.2bn, or +1,150% since 1999) and are capturing an increased % of recorded sales.

However, many major artists have embraced the new landscape and have moved away from the major label system.

Talib Kweli: “Making the initial investment for Gutter Rainbows myself while simultaneously removing several hands from the pot allowed me to increase my profit exponentially and to receive it almost instantly. Gutter Rainbows is still not one of my most famous albums, but it is one of the few that I saw an immediate profit on.”

Although you may not agree with the execution of Amanda Palmer’s Kickstarter, she was able to successfully engage directly with her audience and monetize that experience, raising $1.2m on Kickstarter (approx equal to 200,000 album sales)

The shift from AM/FM to satellite and web radio (both of which pay writers and publishers as well as performers) will have a profound effect on not only how much a “listen” or “play” generates in revenue, but who receives what portion of that revenue.

The intangible value created from music
When discussing the modern music industry, it is important to take into account the impact music has on other industries. Nearly 40% of YouTube ($100bn company) views come from music videos and music is the most talked about topic on Twitter, yet this intangible value is not taken into account in discussions measuring the size of the music industry.

Beats Electronics, which was acquired by Apple for $4bn, owes much of its success to widespread access to music on smartphones. Additionally, consumers have had to increase their cell phone and internet bills to keep up with their streaming consumption.

Music has a large impact on many non-music industries, and we need to create new tools to measure the business of the modern music industry.

Click here to read from this article's source.

Monday, May 2, 2016

This company says it can help musicians find the money the web owes them

Written by Peter Kafka — It’s hard to make any money at all on the web. But if you do make money, we can help you make sure you get your hands on it.

That’s the pitch from Stem, a startup that promises to help content makers collect money they’re owed when their songs and videos are played online.

The Los Angeles-based company, which started last year, has raised $4.5 million in a round led by Upfront Ventures, along with backing from angels including Mark Cuban, Vayner Capital and Justin Bieber manager Scooter Braun.

Stem’s software is supposed to make it easy for musicians and anyone else who makes online content to distribute their stuff to platforms like YouTube, Apple and Spotify, track the revenue that content generates and bring it back to them. The company takes a 5 percent cut of all the cash it distributes.

Stem will find itself competing against a variety of services and tech platforms that say they can do similar things, including Kobalt, the very large music publishing tracker funded by Google and many others. All of them are trying to navigate a landscape that gets continually more complicated as new digital platforms, and revenue-sharing arrangements, crop up.

The bigger issue may be the royalties themselves, or lack of them. Many musicians, and music labels, still grouse that their work generates tiny payouts on online platforms; this year YouTube is everyone’s favorite target.

But at least YouTube shares some revenue when people play its videos. Facebook, which has gotten very serious about building up its video offering, has yet to get serious about paying the people who supply it with videos. If it does, it will generate more work for Stem.

Click here to read from this article's source.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Music Business Growth Hacking 101: How to Scale Your Fanbase & Revenue Sustainably

Written by Bas Grasmayer — How can "the intersection of creative marketing, automation, and smart use of data" help you grow? Read on...

Instead of hiring marketing managers, startups are recruiting growth hackers to work on more sustainable deliverables than just ‘dumb traffic’. How can growth hacking be used by artists and labels? Let’s start with the most common growth hack in the music business.

Chart manipulation

Being at the top of iTunes or Beatport charts can make such a big difference in sales that the act of getting a big group of fans to buy a track or album simultaneously has been turned into an art. The phenomenon has also become subject to dodgy practices akin to buying followers for social media accounts with countless companies popping up offering to get you into digital music store charts for a fee. This is a poor strategy, because if caught, you’ll be removed from the charts completely and perhaps suffer further penalties for breaking the store’s terms of service.

A more sustainable strategy for influencing the charts, with no marketing budget, should include building engaged followings on various social media platforms, so that you can create hype prior to release, get the release date into everyone’s heads and give people a feeling that they’re part of something larger than themselves come the release date rush to play or purchase your music. That’s not really growth hacking though, because for any strategy to be scaleable, you need to be able to automate it.

What is growth hacking?

There are a lot of definitions for growth hacking, but the clearest is probably Growth Tribe’s (top image), which explains growth hacking as the intersection of creative marketing, automation, and smart use of data.

Famous examples of growth hacking include Airbnb’s crawling and reposting of Craigslist listings, and Dropbox’s encouragement of word of mouth and referrals.

To hack growth successfully, you need to set clear goals. For this, you can use the AARRR framework, which divides growth into the following steps:
  • Acquisition
  • Activation
  • Retention
  • Referral
  • Revenue
It’s a more practical model than the AIDA model most marketers are familiar with (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action), because it’s easier to define actionable goals by it.

Since the AARRR framework is usually applied to services, we have to redefine some of the words to make sense when applied to the music business. To make it easy, we’ll follow the ecosystem approach of developing your business as an artist, which means building up a fanbase (henceforth referred to as tribe), keeping it engaged and monetising it by carefully listening to it and understanding opportunities.

Acquisition & Activation

The first step is to get your music discovered and then having a way to get back onto the radar of the people who discovered your music. Nowadays most music platforms have a Follow function, so it has gotten significantly easier than just a few years ago. Other than that, make sure your music ALWAYS has complete metadata. Having a very recognisable sound also helps. Now let’s growth hack.

Don’t believe the hype: email newsletters are still a valuable tool for communicating with your tribe. Posts made on social media platforms are fleeting and can be missed either through noise or because of algorithmic filtering. Just jump into your Twitter analytics panel and compare the number of impressions with your total number of followers. It’s likely around 10%. Even quite poor newsletters have higher open rates than that. Besides this, email newsletters give you great data, so that you know who opened your newsletter, what links they clicked, and more.

Setting up a newsletter

Since you need to automate your processes, you won’t be sending your newsletters from Gmail with your mailinglist in BCC. Use a good tool, like MailChimp or Revue. Decide about what kind of content you want to feature and how regularly you want to send something out. Consistency is key.

These tools will give you a bit of code that you can use to easily subscribe people to your mailinglist through Twitter Cards. Twitter Cards are a type of ad format which allow you to collect people’s email addresses with 1 click. You can keep campaigns paused, so you can use these Twitter Cards completely free of charge.

They can be a bit tricky to set up, but persevere. It’s worth it!

Twitter Cards can be linked to, just like individual tweets can be linked to. This means that in your welcome email, you can ask people to retweet your Twitter Card so that their followers can also subscribe with 1 click. Now, every time someone subscribes, you have a good chance they’ll refer new subscribers.

You can pin your Twitter Card to the top of your profile so that everyone sees it. You can also use a tool like Zapier or IFTTT to automatically tweet to new followers to make them aware of your new release, newsletter or simply to strike up a conversation. Just don’t be too spammy about it.

Now you have set up a simple hack that:
  • Helps you stay in touch with your tribe through email
  • Converts Twitter followers to email subscribers
  • Helps you get referrals
  • Engages new Twitter followers


Online services usually measure retention by looking at repeat users or customers, such as weekly or monthly active users. Unless an artist app is central to your strategy, you will probably have to define retention in a different way.

Should you focus on your newsletter, then it’s important to understand how you can get more people to consistently open your newsletter and click where you want them to click. This is not about the total subscriber count, what matters is the percentage of subscribers that open, and the percentage of openers that click. Actions performed post-click may matter too (eg. sales).

Should you prefer to focus on music playback, you can use Spotify’s Fan Insights platform (for instance), to understand the sizes of segments of your listener base, such as:
  • Streakers: people who’ve listened to your music every day in the last week
  • Loyalists: people who’ve listened to you more than any other artist
  • Regulars: people who’ve listened to you on the majority of the days in the last month
Knowing this data, you can then set up experiments, such as scheduling tweets throughout a month that promote a particular release, to see if you can influence these numbers positively and attain more regulars, loyalists or streakers. You can use this simple guide for effectively gathering and scheduling interesting things to post to your social media channels using Pocket and Buffer.

You will be able to see the click through rates through your Twitter or Buffer analytics, so you can experiment with different messages to see what works best. You can also sign up to Bitly to generate unique links that give additional data.


If you’ve ever tried to download a ‘free’ track on Soundcloud, you’ve probably come across tools that make you follow accounts and repost tracks before you get access to your download. It seems like a good growth hack. A download for some exposure sounds like a fair trade. However you need to consider the experience of this fan who likes your music so much that they actually want to save it offline.

These people have invested a lot of time in following artists and curators to get a great feed of music that they can check out when they want to hear something new. Users go on discovery sprees and afterwards go to their liked tracks to grab the free downloads. Having to go through 10 different platforms, following scores of random accounts and curators and spamming your friends with reposted playlists when you only liked one track in there… that’s a pretty crappy experience. There goes their carefully curated feed.

Here’s the awesome thing about referrals: when people really love something, they want to share it. When people share your music, they deepen their commitment. When you force people to share things they would have shared anyway, you take away all of the meaning in the act. You need to channel the love people have for your music, make people feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves and drive them to perform an action with purpose.

Let’s say your goal is to create buzz around a certain release, so that you can get high on the charts on release date. Your incentive: an exclusive pre-release livestream where you present your new project. The method we’ll use is “Flock to Unlock”:
  • You get people to retweet a certain tweet;
  • You set up Zapier to automatically reply to retweeters and send them an invitation code (can be as simple as tweeting a link to a Typeform which collects email addresses);
  • The reward only gets unlocked after you’ve reached a certain number of retweets.
The fact that the retweet count is public, makes people feel like they have a shared goal; that they are part of something bigger than themselves… a movement!

Yes, people who keep a close eye on your feed might be able to get into the stream without retweeting. You don’t lose anything. Don’t worry about that. You could add a bit of text to the Typeform and appeal to people that if they haven’t retweeted, it would mean a lot to you if they would do so anyway. Reciprocity is a powerful dynamic.

During the unlocked livestream, you can thank everybody and tell them it’s important to you that if people want to buy your release, they do so on the day it comes out. If they want to support in other ways, explain how they can share social media posts on the day itself. Again, make them feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves. This helps you hack the charts and get new fans and more sales.

Another example are Yellow Claw’s mixtapes, which promote highly anticipated unreleased music. The mixtapes are so popular that the group even makes creative trailers to promote their mixtapes. Hype upon hype upon hype. It has worked well for them.

If you’re clever, you can create a simple tool that lets fans connect their Twitter accounts and then they’ll automatically retweet one of your tweets on the day of release. It’s quite likely that such tools actually exist, but make sure to do a little bit of research into the company before you ask your fans to connect their accounts to them.

Make sure to test your tweets! By spending $10-20 through Twitter Ads, you can easily test which messages get the most engagement, so that on the day itself, you’ll know exactly what the best things to tweet are.


If your goal is to be able to make a living as an artist, then ultimately all of these steps should lead to increased revenue. If you can activate your following, it means more sales and more streams both directly and indirectly through network effects.

Having an engaged following gives opportunities for more exciting types of business models. You can create a fan club with all kinds of exclusives for anyone who’s a member. Look at Kickstarter, Patreon or PledgeMusic for great examples of the type of things you can offer to your most hardcore fans. Having a membership model opens up a lot of options and experiments you can do to better monetise your following, such as:
  • Significant discounts on annual membership plans
  • First month free trials
  • 15% discount for life
  • Temporary discounts with countdowns to give people a sense of urgency
It also changes what types of products you can offer, because you can go way beyond music streams and sales.

Fan clubs can be set up with tools like Drip, Fullscreen Direct, and SupaPass. They offer different pricing models, so take some time to figure out which tool best suits your short and long-term needs. This list is not exhaustive, so also look at similar services and competitors.

How to decide what to do first

Any growth hacking starts with brainstorming. There are a million things you can be doing. What goes first? The answer is PIE.
  • Probability: how likely is this to succeed?
  • Impact: how big of an impact will it have on my core metric?
  • Ease: how easy is it to setup or implement this?
Understand that you’re building funnels, so focusing on getting more revenue out of your total of 2 fans is probably not the right priority.

Double down on what works

If you’re trying out 10 things with mixed results, but you’ve verified that 1 or 2 channels are performing really well, then scrap the other 8 and focus on these 2. The goal is not to be doing as many things as possible. The goal is to measure what works best, so that you can focus on that and move on to the next experiment. Remember: Build, Measure, Learn.

It might all seem overwhelming, but over the next days, look at all the things you’re already doing. What social media channels are you using, how do you distribute your music, what kind of info do you collect from your fans, etc. Look at small things you can improve, such as better use of hashtags or more consistent posting schedules. Then try to automate something.

It’s a learning process and you need to make it fun for yourself. Let your curiosity drive you. None of the above examples might be relevant for you and your fans, so find out what works for you. Constantly look for ways where a small investment of time will save you loads of time in the future. There is always something to improve, something new to try out.

Enjoy the journey.

Click here to read from this article's source.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

What a Label With 2.5 Million YouTube Streams Actually Earns

Written by Paul Resnikoff — The most difficult part about the debate over streaming royalties is that nobody seems to know what streaming services actually pay. Which is why Digital Music News started an initiative to collect streaming data from anyone who would share their royalty statements.

Now, statements are starting to roll in, with a rock band from France kicking things off. Now, the latest rights owner to come forward is an independent label based in Canada with a roster of roughly one dozen artists, a group that racked up more than 2.5 million YouTube streams over a one-year span (July 2014 through June of 2015).

The label also had some plays on Spotify, Deezer, and now-shuttered ZIK. Additionally, the label also had a small amount of downloads across iTunes, Google Play, 7digital, and Archambault, which only served to highlight the utter imbalance between streaming and download payouts.

Focusing on the YouTube portion, here’s a quick breakdown of what the video platform paid per stream. These are all in Canadian dollars (one CAD is currently worth 0.79 US dollars).

YouTube (proper music video plays): $0.001005 Canadian ($0.000794 US) per stream.

YouTube (Content ID): $0.001342 Canadian ($0.001061 US) per match.
The biggest surprise here is that Content ID (which involves recognizing content and sharing ad revenues) actually beat proper music video plays. Less surprising is that despite more than 1.1 million YouTube music video plays over a year-long period, total royalties were just $832.99 Canadian ($658.06 US).

On the Content ID side, the numbers are equally miserable: despite more than 1.4 million positive Content IDs, the label earned just $1,411.32 Canadian ($1,114.95 US).

Which means that in total, this label earned just $2,244.31 Canadian ($1,773.00 US) for more than 2.5 million YouTube streams in a year.

Click here to read from this article's source.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

How Beyonce, Tidal, and Prince Can Save The Music Industry

Written by Don Saas — I've been the Managing Editor of Baeble Music for one year, one month, and just over one week, and if there's one lesson that I've learned in that time, it's that the music industry is being knocked around like they're Joe Frazier in the fourteenth round against a murderous Muhammad Ali during the Thrilla in Manilla. And while it's easy (and not inaccurate) to blame piracy for the problems facing not just the music industry but the entire media world, there are bigger problems to bear, and it begins with record labels devaluing and exploiting their artists.

When Prince passed away on Thursday, a significant amount of attention was given to Prince's music...and rightfully so. Pop genius is a word that is bandied around too liberally some days, but alongside Brian Wilson, David Bowie, and Paul McCartney, he's one of the unequivocal geniuses to work within and transcend the realm of pop music. And a lot of attention was given to his visual aesthetic...and rightfully so. He reshaped notions of masculine presentation in contemporary society.

But aside from rare mentions here and there (our own memorial piece included), one of the most important part of Prince's legacy was elided over. Prince was a staunch defender of an artist's right to see the fruit of their musical labors in an age where the studio system has systematically exploited performers for decades. He became the artist formerly known as Prince and adopted the love symbol to protest being shackled by the weight of Warner Bros. who he felt weren't properly compensating him for his work and weren't releasing the work he did have to his satisfaction. And in an age where recorded music is devalued to the point of almost always being free, Prince's music was only available to those who were willing to pay for it.

That's a revolutionary act in 2016, and one that only a few artists can get away with...Adele, Taylor Swift, and now Beyonce. As someone who's worked in a record store both at the beginning of the streaming craze and then again when it reached peak market saturation, I can tell you the affect it had on sales firsthand (and that's with no frame of reference for the halcyon days that existed before Napster and piracy beyond the remembrances of better times from my old boss). Young people, myself included, don't buy music anymore (unless it's on vinyl), and considering the subatomic royalties that streaming sites like Spotify pay to performers (while the studios pocket the vast majority of the profit), it has become virtually impossible for a musician to make a living on their records alone.

And that brings us to Saturday. On Saturday, Beyonce released her sixth studio LP, Lemonade, as a "visual album" on the HBO network. While the album (and accompanying video) are available for purchase on iTunes, it is streaming exclusively on Tidal. Rihanna's ANTI streamed exclusively on Tidal. (For a while anyways) Kanye West's The Life of Pablo streamed exclusively on Tidal. And Tidal was the only place where you could stream the library of Prince.

So what does it mean that an artist like Beyonce is making her music exclusively available only to those that are willing to purchase the entire record through iTunes or to those who are subscribed to her husband's music streaming service? It means that Beyonce (and the other artists who are working with Tidal) are taking back the value of their work from an industry that's told them it isn't worth all that much, and, at the end of the day, that is better for everyone.

If that doesn't make sense, look at film as an example. The major Hollywood studios use their big blockbuster releases as a way to help finance smaller pictures that might represent too much of a risk to finance on their own. When something like Christopher Nolan's Interstellar is pirated 46 million times (that's a number that is so big that it's hard to soak in at once so look at it this way; 46 million is eight million more people than live in California), that means money that could be used to finance smaller, independent features doesn't exist which means those films don't get made. It's the same in music. When music is pirated or streamed for free, the artists that make hundreds of millions of dollars touring and with licensing deals aren't suffering a ton, but it means that riskier bands aren't being financed by the major label system which means it's your fault when you complain that the major labels don't take risks anymore or that even the indie labels are becoming too transparently commercial because they no longer have the capitol to take those sort of chances.

When Tidal was first announced, it was mocked for the hubris of its manifesto and public introduction, and while those initial sentiments still ring true, we find it much harder to harbor that sort of ill-will to the enterprise a year later. The days of millions of physical (or digital) album sales are done unless you're named Adele, but Tidal represents a possible panacea to the "music should be free" epidemic in contemporary media consumption. By forcing any user to pay for the service, they ensure artists are actually getting paid for the music that fans consume. And...I'm sorry. But if you aren't willing to pay $10 a month (which is what I pay for Spotify) for essentially the entirety of modern music, you're cheap and you don't actually value the labor involved in the art you love.

If major artists like Beyonce and Kanye and Rihanna and Taylor Swift continue to exclusively post their music behind actual sales/streaming sites with mandatory paywalls, it won't be long before Spotify follows suit and guts its own free tier. And, honestly, that should have happened ages ago. Streaming isn't some distant future. It's our inexorable present. And while I sympathize with kids who can't afford the music they want cause you're a kid and you don't have money (though I suspect family account tiers for streaming services are on the cusp of being the next big thing), nobody is entitled to the labour of someone else's art for free, and we salute Beyonce and Prince and Tidal for reminding the world of that fact.

Click here to read from this article's source.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Alibaba Just Changed the Music Streaming Game & No One Noticed

Written by Nathan S. — Call up B.o.B., wrap yourself in solar blankets and head for the nearest bunker, because things are about to get real illuminati around here.

Except not really. There's nothing secretive about the launch of Alibaba's new music streaming app, Planet. The rollout's been massive, Billboard's covered it. It'd be more accurate to say that Americans think that the world revolves around them - Madagascar could sink into the ocean and New Yorkers would shrug and go back to talking about pizza rat - and so what's glaringly obvious to the rest of the world can feel like a secret.

But for the 92.4% of the world who don't reside within the 50 states, Planet is now a far bigger deal than TIDAL. How big of a deal? For starters, Alibaba, perhaps best described as the Amazon of Asia, is worth as much as $200 billion dollars, putting it only slightly behind companies like Visa and Chevron. It's also the 12th most trafficked site on the planet and now owns Youku Tudou, the Chinese version of YouTube. You might not recognize the face of Alibaba founder Jack Ma, but he's worth almost 50 TIMES MORE than Jay Z, and now he wants in on the music streaming game.

Much more than the big five streaming services we usually talk about - Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, YouTube and Tidal - in addition to streaming video and music, Planet also enables artists to sell merchandise, stream live concerts and connect directly with other artists. For example, a producer could sell a beat to a rapper through Planet.

"The platform is... open to composers, music producers, merchants, and other companies related to the music business that are looking for business opportunities. For instance, singers will be able to find songwriters and merchants will be able to seek out celebrity endorsements." - via Billboard

It should go without saying that China, India and Asia at large are a potentially massive market. If Planet can capture even a fraction of the increasingly digitally-equipped population of those countries the results could be massive. While artists fight with Spotify over fractions of a penny, it's not unreasonable to think they could sell merch to hundreds of thousands via Planet, a potential game changer in the same way cracking the international market radically changed major movie studio releases.

At the same time Planet has the potential to be a gold rush for artists, it could also be a great depression. The music industry is constantly railing against what it perceives to be unfair compensation and practices by U.S. streaming companies, and Chinese regulations are much foggier by comparison. The company says it has licensing agreements with publishers BMG and Universal Music Group, the terms of which have yet to be revealed, and it doesn't appear particularly concerned about striking deals with other major publishers like Warner Music Group or Sony Music. Prince may have been able to keep his music off U.S.-based streaming services, but Planet is a whole different story.

As we saw with BitTorrent, there are millions, in fact billions, of music consumers outside of the mainstream music distribution channels we usually talk about, all capable of being converted in paying customers. The first to truly tap into those new consumer bases stands to reap enormous rewards, are already reaping enormous rewards, even if you wouldn't recognize their face if they were sitting courtside at the Lakers game along with Kanye and Jay Z.

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Monday, April 25, 2016

Beyoncé's Lemonade is a piracy smash - but it's taken TIDAL to No.1

Written by Tim Ingham — Some wrote it off after a series of gaffes and high-profile exec exits.

Yet after the biggest week in its short life so far, Jay Z’s TIDAL is proving its mettle as an effective rival to Spotify.

In fact, it’s just climbed above Daniel Ek’s brand on the daily chart of most-downloaded music apps in the US.

But at what cost?

The background: Yesterday (April 23) saw the much-anticipated release of Beyoncé’s first studio album for three years.

Lemonade – which features the likes of Jack White, Diplo, James Blake, Kendrick Lamar and The Weeknd – was premiered via a TV special on HBO.

Introduced as a ‘visual album’, this one-off spectacular was essentially a series of music videos, linked together by words from Somali-British poet Warsan Shire.

At the end of the HBO show, fans could finally gain access to Lemonade the album – but there was a catch.

For the time being, the Columbia-issued LP (and its accompanying TV special) has is officially exclusively available on TIDAL– the streaming service owned by Beyoncé’s husband.

This windowed release has sent fans surging in two directions: to TIDAL, and to piracy sites.

First, let’s monitor the legitimate option.

According to market monitor App Annie, Beyoncé’s exclusive propelled TIDAL up 134 places yesterday on the chart of the most-downloaded free iOS apps in the US (across games, music, utilities and more).

So far today (April 24), TIDAL has jumped up another 14 places and is sitting pretty at No.10 on this all apps iOS list.

It’s enough to mean that TIDAL is currently the most popular music app on the US App Store – above both Pandora and Spotify. (Apple Music is a native app and so isn’t counted).

TIDAL’s subscription appeal was given another big boost this week, in tragic circumstances.

Following the sad news of Prince’s death aged 57 on Thursday (April 21), TIDAL became the only streaming service to host The Purple One’s full catalogue of around 270 songs.

Interesting to note, then, that on a chart Jay Z will particularly care about, the past week has seen TIDAL solidify its position as the third highest-grossing iOS music app in the US – behind Spotify (No.1) and Pandora (No.2).

Not bad, considering TIDAL was the fifth highest-grossing iOS music app on App Annie’s last available monthly rankings from February, and the fourth most-downloaded.

In the UK, another breakthrough: thanks to Beyoncé, TIDAL has today risen above Deezer and Sing! Karaoke as the second highest grossing music app on iOS, behind Spotify.

Yet as TIDAL knows better than anyone, when you score a big online exclusive with a superstar’s album these days, you’re bound to drive people to piracy sites.

Lest we forget the last big TIDAL exclusive: Kanye West’s The Life Of Pablo.

Released in February – and another album that pushed TIDAL to the top of the US app charts – TLOP was believed to be torrented half a million times in its first day.

So far, Beyoncé’s Lemonade looks to be on a similar trajectory.

Despite only being available for less than 24 hours, Lemonade is already top of the piracy charts on both Kick Ass Torrents (KAT) and The Pirate Bay (TPB).

On TPB, Lemonade takes both the No.1 and No.4 spots on the most-torrented music files of the past 48 hours. (Prince has three entries on this Top 10 – with his entire discography appearing at No.6.)

Over on Kick-Ass Torrents, believed to the world’s biggest piracy portal in existence, Lemonade is towering over all-comers.

The album is currently the most ‘seeded’ music file on the entire site. (‘Seeders’, for those that don’t know, are individuals who jointly make files available on torrent sites through a shared P2P folder on their device.)

The most popular torrent of Lemonade already has 1,395 seeders on Kick Ass Torrents – and it’s just four hours old.

Another version of the Beyoncé album appears at No.8 on KAT’s most popular music torrents, with a further 539 seeders.

There are at least five versions of Lemonade currently being shared on the site.

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Friday, April 22, 2016

How Well Your Genre Sells on Streaming, Downloading, and Physical

Written by Paul Resnikoff — Here’s another critical thing to consider when strategizing your release: genre. Because genre audiences are oftentimes wildly different when it comes to how they listen to music, all of which can have giant ramifications on how they pay for music (or, don’t pay for music).

Here’s a breakdown of what percentage of revenues each genre generates from different platforms: streaming, downloading, and physical (CDs and vinyl). The data comes from Nielsen Music, measured across 2015.

I: Genres That Perform Best on Streaming

(Percentage of overall sales within each genre that come from Spotify, Apple Music, SoundCloud, YouTube, Deezer, Rhapsody, Tidal, et. al.)

source: Nielsen Music; 2015.

II: Genres That Perform Best on Downloads

(Percentage of overall sales within each genre that come from album downloads from iTunes, Amazon, et. al.)

source: Nielsen Music; 2015.

III: Genres That Perform Best on CDs & Vinyl

(Percentage of overall sales within each genre that come from CD and vinyl albums; sorry there isn’t a vinyl-only breakdown yet!)

source: Nielsen Music; 2015.

A few notes on this data.

These graphs measures the percentage of overall genre revenue derived from specific platforms. Many of these genres are niche, but certainly generate income for well-positioned artists.

All genre determinations and categorizations were made by Nielsen Music.

In terms of overall impact, the largest genres (across all formats) were Rock, Hip Hop, and Pop, in that order, with each generating double-digit percentage shares for 2015. Specifically, those shares were 24.5% for Rock, 18.2% for Hip Hop, and 15.7% for Pop, according to the dataset. Country and Latin claimed fourth and fifth, with 8.5% and 4.5%, respectively.

Nielsen also offered a breakdown for track downloads, though they are measured as ‘TEA,’ or ‘track equivalent albums’. TEA refers to an aggregated ten downloads, which would equal an actual album. That can distort actual download statistics, as it aggregates songs from a specific album only, instead of creating loose buckets of 10. Billboard, which uses Nielsen data, explained this during an announcement in 2014:
“The updated Billboard 200 will utilize accepted industry benchmarks for digital and streaming data, equating 10 digital track sales from an album to one equivalent album sale, and 1,500 song streams from an album to one equivalent album sale.”
The download measurement above involves actual digital download purchases, which are distinct.

Technically, Nielsen also counts streaming according to ‘SEA,’ which refers to ‘Streaming Equivalent Albums’. That measurement also involves some distortions from the more straightforward counting of single streams. Similarly, lumping all streams into one bucket, instead of differentiating between free and paid, can also hide critical and important data trends.

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

7 Lessons All Musicians Should Learn From #Prince - #musicbusiness #news

On behalf of all of us at the Freedom Radio Hour, we are deeply and profoundly saddened to learn of the passing of an icon, Prince. While he is no longer with us, his words and actions will continue to teach us for an eternity. Below are 7 lessons all musicians should learn from Prince:
Written by Christopher DeArcangelis -- There are musicians, and then there’s Prince. The uncompromising iconoclast formerly known as Prince Rogers Nelson has been starting parties and baffling critics since the day he stepped out onto the Minneapolis funk and rock scene in the late 1970s. Combining elements of wailing guitar rock, funky R&B, and psychedelic funk music with sexual and political lyrics put Prince at the top of the charts and made him a high priority for conservative politicians in the White House and Senate.
In his prime, Prince dominated the charts, sold out tours, starred in the feature film Purple Rain, was nominated for Grammys, and wrote breakout songs for up-and-coming performers. All this while being one of the most divisive performers of the time, polarizing the pop world with his in-your-face attitude and unique approach to making music.
Much of Prince’s success can be attributed to his blending of classic pop music concepts with modern and post-modern ideas. Prince is still one of the most enigmatic musicians around, causing controversy and speculation with his every appearance. He has enjoyed over 30 years of success creating many different kinds of music for many different people. Indeed, there are many things we can learn from this pioneer of pop music. Here are seven things that all musicians should learn from Prince.

1. Take risks

Prince was a pioneer in what you might call "shock rock," taking the androgynous concepts created by Alice Cooper and David Bowie into funkier territory. He regularly took somewhat shocking images of himself in compromising situations. He was no stranger to high fashion, appearing just as tough as he was beautiful. This also translated to Prince’s music. He rarely repeated himself in his songwriting, moving quickly from style to style on each record he made. His lyrics covered taboo and risqué subject matter, sometimes getting highly liberal in his politics. Many people were outraged, but many more were inspired and listened closely to his incredibly witty and clever lyrics.

2. Play multiple instruments

While Prince’s antics and persona often got the most attention, his musicianship remains unrivaled. Capable of playing just about any instrument, the majority of his recordings feature him playing all of the instruments. He would take it even further, developing techniques performing with new musical technologies like drum machines and synthesizers. On top of this, he has firmly established himself as a guitar god, playing some of the most intense guitar solos and leads this side of Jimi Hendrix.

3. Learn how to produce and engineer recordings

Prince wasn’t just amazing at playing instruments – he led the production and engineering on nearly all of his recorded output. And he didn’t just push faders: Prince created wholly unique ways to multi-track, pitch shift, and create sounds that would influence an entire generation of musicians. His ability to use the studio as an instrument, crafting entire landscapes of pulsating sounds and vocals, remains unrivaled by all but the best in the business.

4. Embrace new technology

Don’t mistake Prince for someone who simply had enough money to afford to crack open expensive machines. Because of the success of Prince’s bare-bones third album Dirty Mind (which was recorded by Prince himself, at his Minneapolis home, with little of the synths and drum machines that would define his sound on the recordings), Prince finally made some money. And like a wise musician, he turned around and updated his gear with the most modern sounds he could find. He would go as far to rewire and hack his Linn LM-1 to create wholly original drum sounds and hand claps that would become a part of his trademark sound.

5. Expand your songwriting horizons

Prince had a wide range of musical tastes, crafting everything from hardcore dance songs to silky smooth ballads and all points in between. He could be shredding a high-gain guitar lead in one song and then playing a lilting piano chord progression in the other. This sort of dynamic in songwriting is beneficial to listeners, giving them something to listen to when they're feeling certain moods and offering them reasons to reexamine and revisit an artist’s repertoire.

6. Collaborate with other people outside your project

Prince played with an amazing number of musicians considering he mostly recorded his music by himself. In addition to the many musicians who have played in his live band, Prince made a very large name for himself crafting some of the greatest songs for other artists to sing. People like Sinead O’Connor, Sheila E, and the Bangles had massive success on the charts with songs penned by Prince, even at times when his own self-released songs were dominating the charts, too.

7. Take the time to craft your image

Many musicians shy away from crafting a sort of persona or even dressing up onstage. There’s many a reason to go either direction, but there's a lot to be said about how Prince handled his persona. By creating a larger-than-life image of his own extremes, Prince added a convincing legitimacy to his music and lyrics. Instead of being merely a cartoon character (though there is much humor in Prince’s music), Prince could challenge your views on sex, gender, racism, classism, and art itself without letting you miss a beat at your favorite dance club. This is largely a result of how people perceived his persona. 
By giving the audience something to understand, Prince connected with many more people than if he came out and directly said, "This is me."
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