Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Music Industry Rips YouTube Rips w/ First Stream-Ripping Lawsuit

Written by Marc Hogan — The record industry is finally going after “stream ripping,” the process of turning a stream into a downloadable file. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), and the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) have announced their first stream ripping lawsuit, against Youtube-mp3.org, which the organizations said was the world’s biggest website for the practice. Groups representing independent labels also endorsed the lawsuit, according to the announcement.

Youtube-mp3’s press contact did not immediately reply to Pitchfork’s email seeking comment.

The lawsuit, obtained by Pitchfork, was filed today in a federal court in California. According to the complaint, the plaintiffs are UMG Recordings, Capitol Records, Warner Bros. Records, Warner Music Latina, Sony Music Entertainment, Sony Music Entertainment US Latin, Arista Records, Atlantic Recording Corp., Elektra Entertainment Group, Fueled by Ramen, Kemosabe Records, LaFace Records, Nonesuch Records, WEA International, and Zomba Recording. The lawsuit accuses PMD Technologie UG, the German company that runs Youtube-mp3, of copyright infringement. The lawsuit asks for a jury trial and seeks monetary damages.

According to the lawsuit, Youtube-mp3 “is one of the most visited sites in the world, has tens of millions of users, and is responsible for upwards of 40% of all unlawful stream ripping of music from YouTube in the world.” The site has more than 60 million unique users per month, the record industry groups said.

In the lawsuit, the labels contended that Youtube-mp3’s “provision of an easy-to-use service for copyright infringement has caused and is causing plaintiffs significant and irreparable harm.” They added that Youtube-mp3’s “business unlawfully profits from copyright infringement and free rides on the creative efforts and investments of others.”

Earlier this month, the IFPI released survey results that showed 49% of internet users between the ages of 16 and 24 reported stream ripping within the six months that in April. That’s up from 41% a year earlier, according to the IFPI, which represents the record industry globally.


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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Songwriters: Why Are Your Rates So Low? Just Follow the Cash…


Written by Jody Dunitz — Digital Music News and Mark Mulligan reported that Spotify paid the three major labels “MINIMUM GUARANTEES” equal to $144 million for just one three-month period in 2016. That’s in addition to the basic royalties paid to the labels.

That $144 million equates to an extra 12% share of Spotify’s revenue – above the labels’ 55% base royalty rate.

Mulligan explains why this payment is significant to the labels:

“They get streaming revenue regardless of how well the marketplace actually performs … If the music service wins, the label wins, if the music service loses, the label still wins.”
Guess who doesn’t win?

This financial analysis shines a bright spotlight on several issues swirling around song royalties.

Spotify doesn’t pay “minimum guarantees” to the publishers. That’s why the publishers are desperate for Direct Licensing. They want some of this action too.

But, very little of that cash would flow down to the songwriters – no matter how much the publishers vow to do so.

Advances and guarantees could only be shared on some retroactive, pro-rata basis, analyzing the number of streams per writer relative to all streams reported to the publisher for the period. It’s very hard to do properly. It’s tedious to do for those songwriters whose share might be just a few dollars. The publishers won’t do it. They’ll keep the cash and that’ll be nice for them.

It’s not even clear that Spotify could come up with more cash to pay publishers such guarantees. Total royalty (and guarantee) payments already account for 82% of revenue. The well is dry.

Song rates are low because payments to the labels are high. If just the cash used to pay Minimum Guarantees was redirected to songs, song rates could significantly increase — from the current rate of 15% to 27%.

Low song rates are the legacy of yesterday’s label economics – when the labels paid all the costs and bore all the risks.

When physical records were made and distributed, song rights (mechanical royalties) were a label’s cost of doing business. Songs were an expense component just like cassette tape, discs, artwork, album jackets, distribution centers, marketing, and advertising.

Today, there are no manufacturing plants or tapes or discs or packages. Today, the labels are not the distributors. Mechanicals are not a label cost in the streaming world.

So why are song rates stuck at relative values that reflect an ancient cost chain?

Because the labels like it like that.

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Friday, September 23, 2016

What makes for a No. 1 album in the age of streaming music?

Randall Roberts — The Grammy-winning R&B singer Frank Ocean recently released two albums and a full-color, high-gloss magazine over the course of two days. In doing so, he injected enthusiasm, confusion and yet more chaos into an ever-evolving music business.

The unveiling, the latest in a line of innovative, high-profile maneuvers, disrupted the U.S. album charts. Where did Ocean end up on the chart? At No. 1, but how he got there is not as simple as it used to be.

On Monday’s Billboard Top 200 album count, the Apple Music-released “Blonde” debuted at No. 1, with a first-week tally of over 275,000 “equivalent album units” sold — note the wording in quotes.

So, what, exactly, is an equivalent album? It’s a complicated mash-up of streaming and sales data, where 10 digital-track downloads sold and 1,500 songs streamed are equal to one album.

In Ocean’s case, he sold 232,000 digital-album downloads of “Blonde,” according to Nielsen Music. The album then accrued 65 million streams of its individual tracks. That number in turn is divided by 1,500 to arrive at what, for charting purposes, essentially amounts to an additional 43,000 albums sold (individual tracks from the release were not made for sale).

Got all that? You’re forgiven if not.

“It’s kind of the Wild West and it always has been. People are just trying to figure it all out,” says Tim Smith, who as founder of Blood Company manages major electronic artists including Skrillex, Zedd and Boys Noize.

In recent years the task of tabulating a record’s success and popularity has grown more complicated. What used to be an album sale is now an “equivalent album sale.” Each component — that is a song — of a release — otherwise known as a project — is measured and weighted using industry-approved equations.

Simple math? Far from it.

Whereas one album plus another album once equaled two albums, in an on-demand era of streaming and instant downloads, one better bring a calculator to unravel the new chart language. What was once as simple as adding up the sales of a few different formats has now become an SAT-worthy calculation.

Trying to distill it all are companies Nielsen Music and BuzzAngle, which track physical and digital sales and stream numbers in order to gauge success in an evolving, fluid business.

“When you say it’s the top album, you have to clarify that,” says Jim Lidestri, CEO of Border City Music, which owns BuzzAngle. “What does that mean?”

This whirlwind year has seen superstars Beyoncé, Kanye West and Chance the Rapper unveil new work through a variety of avenues, including exclusives with streaming services and surprise album drops.

And with them, consistency has become a thing of the past.

The year’s biggest album, Drake’s “Views,” premiered exclusively through Apple Music and iTunes — but only after the artist played it in full on his OVO Music radio show on Apple’s Beats 1 radio platform. At the end of its first week, “Views” had sold over 850,000 digital albums and generated nearly 250 million audio streams, according to BuzzAngle.

The album, which spent much of the summer at No. 1, debuted on the Billboard chart with what Nielsen said was 852,000 albums sold and 1.04 million equivalent album sales.

The Canadian rapper eventually expanded its availability to other streaming platforms, the accumulation of which kept the record in the No. 1 slot for three months.

“There are a lot of creative strategies being tried out there," says David Bakula, who oversees chart tabulation for Nielsen as senior vice president, analytics and client development. The problem, however, is quantifying success in an era with dozens of distribution platforms.

“I don't think there's a great sense from everybody out there of, ‘This is what it takes to get to No. 1,’ or ‘This is even what a level is for No. 1,’" says Bakula.

For his part, Ocean's competing release strategy was prompted by his first new music in four years. His long-gestating album, once thought to be called “Boys Don’t Cry,” turned out to be two albums — “Endless” and “Blonde.” Only the latter is eligible to be counted on the album chart. Because it’s a video album, “Endless” is excluded.

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Did Frank Ocean 'Endlessly' Fool The Music Industry with 'Blonde'?


Written by Dan Rys — Frank Ocean's four-year sabbatical from the public eye following his 2012 album Channel Orange ended emphatically and dramatically last week with back-to-back releases: the visual album Endless, released as an Apple Music video stream via Def Jam/Universal Music Group; and the 17-song album Blond, released as an Apple exclusive a day later on Ocean's own label, Boys Don't Cry, without Def Jam's -- or Universal's -- involvement.

After an interminable wait (in music industry standards, at least), Ocean fulfilled his contractual obligations, sources tell Billboard, and increased his potential profit share from 14 percent to 70 percent of total revenues from Blond within a 24-hour period, seemingly pulling a fast one on the biggest music company in the world in the process. Def Jam and its parent Universal, stuck with an overshadowed visual album that isn't for sale, and cut out of any revenue from the "proper" album that's headed to the top of the charts on the strength of 225,000 to 250,000 equivalent album units earned in the week ending Aug. 25, were left with what amounts to a very long music video and without one of their marquee artists.

UMG chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge reacted swiftly by informing the heads of his labels that Universal was done with streaming exclusives on one platform and on a global basis, which has been at the center of the streaming services' arms race in the last 18 months, though it remains unconfirmed whether or not Grainge’s policy change was a direct result of Ocean’s strategy behind Blond. But regardless, the damage was done.

Now, the question is, how did Ocean win this battle? Did he? And what does it mean for the other labels, streaming services and the industry at large?

In July, Billboard reported that Def Jam had spent as much as $2 million on recording costs for Ocean's album, at the time thought to be called Boys Don't Cry. Now it appears that Ocean, perhaps through an advance via his new deal with Apple (though one source suggests a separate, private benefactor), paid that amount back to Def Jam, absolving him of any recoupable claims from Def Jam/UMG and essentially buying Ocean his own recordings back. Ocean delivered Endless instead, fulfilling his deal and severing his contractual ties to the major.

But to release another full-length, fully-realized album outside the label's purview just 24-hours later is controversial, to say the least, and a source tells Billboard that while UMG hasn’t taken any legal action against Ocean or his team, the label group may have grounds to do so. (Sources close to the situation at both Def Jam and Universal Music say that no legal action against Ocean is currently being considered.)

For one, many record contracts are based on minimum-delivery clauses, meaning that if Ocean's deal was just for two albums, he typically would have had to deliver them within a set time frame, and at a label-acceptable level of quality, in order to fulfill his contract. In addition, most recording contracts stipulate a window of time during which an artist can't release music on any other label, so as not to compete with the current project -- in this case, DefJam's Endless. By delivering Blond within just 24 hours, it raises the question of whether Universal even knew it was coming -- and what they could have done about it regardless.

The Frank Ocean release follows two other highly unorthodox rollouts from Def Jam artists, both via Jay Z's Tidal service: Rihanna's leaked Anti album and Kanye West's extended-streaming/eventual U-turn of a strategy for The Life of Pablo. Those two LPs at least went to No. 1 on the Billboard 200; with Ocean, Def Jam won't even have that consolation.

That makes Grainge's umbrage understandable. But it doesn't necessarily represent a coup for Apple Music, either, as the ire of the industry -- and the biggest label in the world -- turns toward the house that Jobs built. (Def Jam and Apple Music did not immediately respond to requests for comment.)

Spotify, one of the industry's favorite punching bags over the past few years due to its free tier and the low royalty payments that it generates, has long eschewed exclusives as bad for artists and bad for fans. And privately, many executives at major labels have agreed with that position, saying that, in addition to fostering piracy, the strategy segments off an artist's fan base into the smaller pools of Apple Music (15 million subscribers) and Tidal (estimated to have 4 million subscribers) rather than allowing the broader paid on-demand streaming subscriber base (68 million people worldwide, according to the IFPI) to tune in. To that end, UMG insiders critical of exclusives vocally muse that such artists as Ariana Grande and U2 would have seen much more significant debuts.

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Rap groups once reigned supreme. What happened?


Written by Elahe Izadi — De La Soul is an anomaly in the hip-hop world. Here’s an act that’s been together for nearly three decades and, with last week’s release of “And the Anonymous Nobody,” is still releasing innovative and forward-looking work, rather than trying to rehash a previous sound.

And they’re doing it as a rap group.

Such hip-hop acts were once the norm, topping the charts and garnering critical acclaim. But by 2016, the big-name rap group has nearly vanished, a throwback to a bygone era. Gone are the days of N.W.A and A Tribe Called Quest dominating rap. We can only wait for reunion performances or the possibility of one final album.

By its nature, hip-hop has always been a collaborative art form. We still have labels (Young Money) and collectives (Odd Future), that have crew-affiliated artists. Some groups (Migos) still do come on the scene. But most of today’s top rap artists are solo acts. Why don’t we have major cohesive groups like those of the past?

The typical drama that breaks apart a music group in any genre — money, drugs, ego, personality clashes — has split up the most beloved rap groups. Last year’s “Straight Outta Compton” dramatized many of those forces.

Just the logistics of getting a bunch of individuals, each with their own quirks, priorities and solo projects, can be a monumental task. Look at the 10-member Wu-Tang Clan, who spent years trying to corral everyone to make one last album.

Some groups, such as Public Enemy, have reincarnated with new members and continue to tour. Others, such as Outkast and A Tribe Called Quest, have had breakups and hiatuses result in successful solo careers. As tempting as it is to recapture the magic of the past or satisfy nostalgic fans, it can feel gimmicky to get the band back together.

Andre 3000 — who still puts out exhilarating raps, like the 78-second, rapid-fire track on Frank Ocean’s new album — didn’t actually want to go on Outkast’s reunion tour in 2014 and said he “felt like a sell-out.”

“We hadn’t performed in 10 years,” he told Fader in 2014. “It was old songs. I’m like, How am I gonna present these songs? I don’t have nothing new to say.”

Andre 3000 said that he “felt weird about going out on stage and doing it again. I felt like people would be like, ‘Y’all are doing all these festivals, y’all are just doing it for money.'”

Today, it’s easier than ever for artists to collaborate remotely, exchanging verses or beats online. And there can be a monetary incentive for going it alone.

“It’s more money in the solo play,” Ice Cube, once a member of N.W.A, told the Wall Street Journal in 2015. “The royalties don’t go up for how many members you have in the group.”

It’s in this climate that we have the beloved and revered Long Island trio, De La Soul. With each new album, Pos, Maseo and Dave push their work forward, presenting different and fresh concepts still laced with their trademark humor and introspection. While De La Soul may be most widely known for their 1989 debut, the Prince Paul-produced “3 Feet High and Rising,” they followed up that “flower power” vibe with a harder and more mature album, “De La Soul is Dead.”‘

Throughout the years, they’ve evolved together and remained together, remarkably drama-free. How?

“I think a part of it is… those groups, at one point, there was a disconnect,” De La Soul’s Dave told the Daily Beast in 2015. “Not to say a begrudging disconnect, but — the Wu has always had the opportunity to break apart and each member become a solo artist. And maybe that kind of gets in the way.”

De La Soul has never split and tried to reunite, perhaps sensing the limits of solo work.

“Through thick and thin, through good and bad — we’ve always been a unit,” Dave said. “We could probably go out and do solo albums. I’m sure we can. But we don’t feel that. We’ve recorded solo records, but we don’t feel like that’s as important as the unit. So it kind of gives us a beautiful place to work with.”

The trio’s friendship predates De La Soul’s formation. They’ve learned to work with each other, “and understand each other’s fault as well as strengths,” Pos told the Daily Beast. “We’ve been blessed to be three individuals who don’t let ego run who we are as individuals. We can do things without each other but it’s with the respect and the support of the other members.”

He added: “Sometimes individuals have their own agenda and saw being a group as an approach to get them closer to their own agenda, as far as solo records or whatever.”

It’s not that De La Soul hasn’t been without challenges. Their most commercially successful work is owned by Warner Music and isn’t available on digital streaming services or for purchase on iTunes. Prior to last week’s release, their most recent album was 2004’s “The Grind Date.”

In making “And the Anonymous Nobody,” De La Soul turned to their fans, not record companies, and asked them to directly finance the project via Kickstarter. And in order to avoid having to pay for samples, which marked a lot of their previous music, they instead recorded more than 200 hours of live musicians jamming, and sampled from that.

The result is a 17-track record that may not be on Spotify’s top streaming albums, but is receiving critical acclaim and climbing international charts; it is currently No. 2 on the U.K. top R&B album list. An eclectic mix of artists that spans eras and genres make cameos (David Byrne, 2 Chainz, Snoop Dogg, Usher, Roc Marciano, Little Dragon and Damon Albarn all feature).

“‘Cause we’re still here now,” the trio proclaims on one track. And indeed, they still are.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Are Artists Spending More Time on Social Media Than on Their Music?


Written by Jamie Lamberski — Social media has shifted power back to the artists. These outlets can serve as powerful self-promotion tools, allow artists to market their music and directly connect with and find new and existing fans. As a result, aspiring producers and musicians don't necessarily need a major label, huge record deal or boatloads of money to get their careers off the ground.

We now live in a music world where social media stats have joined play counts to become more important than ticket sales or record sales.

A recent lengthy post from trance and progressive house producer/DJ Gareth Emery has sparked an interesting debate, however, on how much time and effort artists should put into their social media. Emery explained that he's handing over his social media accounts to Sergei on his management team and turning in his iPhone for a good old fashioned Blackberry. Why? To put this time towards his music.

Do I want to be the guy who made music that people still were listening to after he was dead?
Or the dude who posted many immaculately edited picture of his meals which got tons of likes but were old news before he'd even shat them out.
For Emery, this wasn't even a question. He's keeping his accounts active to make sure they remain outlets for fans to keep up with shows, new music and report things like outstanding merchandise orders or ticket scalping.

In addition to putting his music first, and giving it his utmost attention, Emery cites other benefits that come with kicking social media - being more present when he's with his kids, making more time for reading books, etc. We certainly can't argue with Emery on these.


There are reasons why many companies often hire professional social media managers. This stuff takes time! Even with managing software, the energy required for these platforms is enough to be a full-time job.

Of course, handing over your social media to someone is often not an option for aspiring artists. But if you can't afford to hire someone, it couldn't hurt to put feelers out and see if you have a friend or can find someone looking to get into marketing. They just might be willing to help with your social media simply as a resume building experience.

For artists that already have their careers in motion, is the time it takes to keep up with all of these platforms really worth it? There are certainly exceptions. Dillon Francis, we're talking about you.

We've seen several artists get very caught up with their online persona and lose momentum and relevance because of what it took from their studio time and the constant interruption and distraction from the creative process.

No amount of viral posts, however, can make up for music that can come from hard work, from hours and hours in the studio and from a determination to put evolving and improving as an artist the absolute top priority.

While Emery is going cold-turkey, this is not the only way. Emery even admits that he may miss it and return sooner than anticipated. Another solution for artists could be to set up a system for time management which designates certain days or hours for social media.

No matter what dream you're working towards - whether it's music related or not - just being more aware of your social media use could make a huge difference in your ability to harness productivity and creative flow.

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Music Platform Raises $2.5 Million For Blockchain-Based Music Rights Technology


Written by Jacob Timp — Last week music startup Revelator raised around $2.5 million by offering a new kind of tracking for music rights and for allowing royalties to be more efficiently distributed to the correct owners.

At the heart of their proposed technology is the Blockchain which can be used to effectively record any kind of transaction or event. Similar to other companies, Revelator is finding applications for the Blockchain in other unrelated industries - in this case - music. The drastic efficiency and real-time updating of Blockchain allows Revelator to track the use of digital goods and distribute royalties to their owners when they’re due.

Prior to Revelator, musical artists did not receive their owed royalties for weeks and often months. The difficulty and corresponding time period is increased when multiple people split the royalties of the very same song. In fact, Revelator says that half of the royalties owed never get processed because of outdated systems and software.

Bruno Guez, CEO of Revelator, stated in a press release:

"If you have data every day, why can't we make payments every day? If you had 1,000 downloads, I can pay you $700 tomorrow."
Blockchain is a disruptive technology for the music industry

Blockchain is completely behind the speed increase, and the target audience are any key players in the music industry: artists, rights holders, managers, etc. The technology can be used to track downloads, streams, etc. all to one single platform which can always be relied upon.

"The Blockchain technology does provide a truly disruptive technology for the music industry. It’s not the only thing that matters and it won't solve all the problems in the industry, but I do believe our current offering introduces new features for music." said Guez.

As you can probably imagine, Blockchain technology could be applied to almost any scenario where it fills the context, and in any other industry.

"By experimenting now with a small proof-of-concept music library, we're going to be able to open new windows of opportunity for public radio in the future, through experimentation on the Blockchain," stated Meg Siegal, Head of Public Radio BizLab.

In its first round of funding, Revelator pulled in around $2.5 million led by Exigent Capital. Exigent was joined by the revered Digital Currency Group, which invests in Bitcoin and other similar Blockchain companies.

Originally a music company, Revelator has completely transformed because of the implementation of the Blockchain technology, so who knows in which other industries this could also occur in the future. Currently, Revelator is trying to solve the piracy problem for its industry with many more endeavors into the future.

Click here to read from this article's source.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

5 Things Streaming Music Data Can Teach Marketers That Top 40 Radio Can't


Written by Liv Buli — Top 40 radio is notorious for spinning the same small list of tracks over and over and over and over again, rendering any tuned-in road trip of substance a literal carousel of Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande.

But do these artists truly reflect all that listeners want to hear? Sure, they're extremely popular and have significant fan followings, but they represent only a fraction of the music that's available today.

Analytics service Next Big Sound—now owned by Pandora, where I work as the company's first data journalist—aggregates social, streaming and event data into a single platform, with each data point representing an unfiltered interaction between an artist and a fan. Given how indicative this data is of what listeners really want to hear, there's plenty marketers can learn by taking a closer look at what we've found.

Finding social influencers among emerging artists

Beyoncé, Kanye West and Katy Perry are all household names, artists who have amassed behemoth audiences across social media channels and dominated terrestrial radio. But the list of music's most powerful social influencers goes far beyond this elite group. Just look at young electro pop artist Halsey, who is relatively new to the scene, but whose follower growth on Twitter outranks the more recognizable Top 40 darlings like Iggy Azalea, Adele, Justin Timberlake, and even Britney Spears. Not to mention that spin activity on Pandora indicates women ages 18 to 24 just can't get enough of her.

With music's top social media influencers hot on the radar of marketers everywhere, it's vitally important for campaign strategists to search beyond Top 40 radio for the more subtle social media superstars who may ultimately provide better access to highly sought-after audiences.

Streaming platforms provide a path to niche audiences

Niche marketing has long supplanted simply casting the widest net possible. When you're looking to reach a specific demographic in a diverse market, streaming music platforms and social media channels provide the more direct and uncluttered path.

Latin artists now account for one-third of the most popular artists on YouTube. Half of the top 20 artists on Pandora are most popular with 25- to 34-year-old women. These are just some of the insights marketers seeking to target a specific demo can use to tailor their strategy. Brands looking to collaborate with artists who reach highly desirable audiences can rely on the latest industry data and research to help identify marketing opportunities not available through Top 40 radio.

Which musical genres actually resonate with listeners?

From Bieber to Blake Shelton, terrestrial radio is saturated with pop and country. But that's not necessarily representative of what America is actually listening to. There is an audience for every genre, from death metal to bluegrass, and this is almost entirely overlooked in mainstream marketing campaigns.

Pandora, for instance, with over 78 million active listeners, skews heavily toward hip-hop—60 percent of the top artists in July were hip-hop artists, compared with just 15 percent on terrestrial radio during the same period. Streaming music platforms wield enormous potential for marketers seeking to have their messages resonate with a targeted audience whose tastes in music are largely ignored on Top 40 radio.

Underground EDM and hip-hop fans are the most engaged

The artists with the most engaged followings on Instagram can often differ from the most popular, and a lot of them are hip-hop and EDM acts.

Vinny Cha$e, Marshmello, Logic—these are artists who are largely strangers to mainstream radio play, but the relationship between the size of their social media followings and the rate of daily follower activity make these artists among the most engaging to fans in all of music today, a reality about which most marketers are completely unaware.

Marketers looking to reach the most engaged fans may want to think twice about which music genres they align with.

Older hits (even Nickelback) are still hitting

Perhaps the most astounding insight derived from this snapshot of data, is that America is still listening to Nickelback—at a significant clip. A whopping 140,000 station adds on Pandora in July is comparable to what contemporary artists like Kanye West, Katy Perry and Lil Yachty are pulling in. And it's not just Nickelback. Legacy rock artists ranging from Journey to the Eagles continue to perform well in the modern age of streaming music.

The unmistakable nostalgia of America's streaming audience overlooked by Top 40 radio presents new opportunities for marketers to reach and engage with listeners not willing to part ways with music decades removed from the Billboard charts. Top 40 radio may have put its hits out to pasture a long time ago, but oldies are still goodies (and completely new again to some audiences) on streaming radio.

Click here to read from this article's source.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Music Industry’s Latest Piracy Threat: Stream Ripping


Written by Hannah Karp — Apps and sites let users turn streamed songs into MP3s.

Earlier this year, a federal judge shut down the free music-download site Mp3skull.com and awarded $22 million to the record companies that had sued it for copyright infringement. But Mp3skull.onl, which has surfaced in its place, is touting a service even more worrisome to the music industry: stream ripping.

That practice, which involves turning a song or music video played on a streaming service into a permanent download, is growing fast among young music fans, even as other forms of music piracy wane. The site’s community manager didn’t respond to requests for comment.

As music-streaming services blossomed over the past decade, so have mobile apps and sites allowing users to create MP3 files from songs streamed on free services such as Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube. Fans can listen to the songs without YouTube’s ads—and without having to buy the songs or pay for a subscription service such as Spotify AB and Apple Inc.’s Apple Music.

While streams can potentially be ripped from any music-streaming service—paid or unpaid—the most popular sites and apps allow users to convert YouTube videos into ad-free, audio-only downloads with a single click.

According to new data from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, 49% of internet users between the ages of 16 and 24 reported stream ripping within the six months ended in April, up from 41% in the same period a year prior. Meanwhile, 30% of internet users of all ages reported stream ripping this year, a 10% increase over last year.

The trend is particularly troubling because the music industry—which has lost 60% of its value since its peak in 2000 and has barely expanded over the past five years—is banking on paid streaming services to fuel its growth.

YouTube’s terms of service forbid users from downloading, reproducing and distributing its content without its written consent, and its process of taking down the sites that violate these terms is improving, a company spokeswoman said. In some cases YouTube also takes legal action against policy offenders, while Google’s search results demote sites that receive large numbers of copyright complaints.

Apple and Alphabet have generally been removing stream-ripping apps from their app stores when they receive complaints, but nearly identical apps tend to appear in their place.

Youtube-mp3.org is a popular site, with hundreds of millions of monthly visitors. Apple’s app store has carried apps such as TubePlayer, which it removed in August after complaints, while Alphabet’s Google Play store offers a range of “tube” downloading apps, though many apps caution that they either cannot or shouldn’t be used on YouTube videos.

YouTube said that “once notified of an infringing tool, or service that violates our Terms of Service, we take action.”

“It has now become a major problem,” said Recording Industry Association of America spokesman Jonathan Lamy, whose record-label trade group has been filing complaints to remove stream ripping sites from the internet and pressuring advertisers not to support such platforms.

With the top 30 stream-ripping sites receiving 900 million visitors in July, by the RIAA’s count, the practice “displaces lawful sales and streams, depriving artists, songwriters and labels of the royalties they deserve and undercutting the licensed digital services, too,” Mr. Lamy said.

The industry has made headway in combating the original type of online file sharing that tipped CD sales into decline, with downloads from so-called peer-to-peer sites falling by about 50% over the past 12 years, according to research firm MusicWatch Inc.

But stream ripping is proving harder to combat. Whereas in the past, experts have often been able to trace unauthorized music online to an original source that they could block, stream-ripping sites source tunes from legitimate streaming services. YouTube, for example, has licensing agreements with the major record labels as well as protection from liability under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

One of the reasons stream ripping appears to be gaining so much traction is that many offenders don’t think they are doing anything wrong, antipiracy experts say. In a report earlier this year by MusicWatch, 73% of survey respondents who reported stream ripping or using other illegal music apps said they assumed their actions were legitimate.

Corrections & Amplifications:
According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, 49% of internet users between the ages of 16 and 24 reported stream ripping within the six months ended in April. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated those internet users had reported stream ripping in the first six months of the year.(9/13/2016)

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Jay-Z's streaming service Tidal 'post huge losses' of $28 million


Written by AFP — Jay-Z's music streaming service Tidal reportedly posted heavy losses and struggled to make payments on time last year.

Tidal's parent group Aspiro had a loss of $28 million (239.5 million Swedish kronor) last year, according to the Norwegian business daily Dagens Naeringsliv.

The outlet discovered the huge losses after examining the accounts of the Swedish-based company.

Tidal is Aspiro's core holding.

According to the newspaper, Tidal received about 100 payment default records since Jay-Z bought the company through his holding group, Project Panther Bidco, for $56 million in March 2015.

It also has 3.6 million Norwegian kroner (390,000 euros, $438,000) in outstanding payments due, DN claimed.

Aspiro, a Norwegian company headquartered in the Swedish town of Malmo, was not immediately available for comment.

The New York rapper turned mogul's lawyers have reportedly accused Tidal's former owners, including Norwegian media group Schibsted, of overstating the number of paying customers it had ahead of last year's sale.

The accusation has been denied.

Tidal has made headlines in recent times after it was reported Apple was in talks with the company about a possible purchase, which was designed to beef up its streaming service, Apple Music.

Tidal soared in popularity early this year after Beyonce - Jay-Z's wife - released her latest album 'Lemonade' exclusively on the service.

An accompanying film version of the album was broadcast on HBO, and the album was quickly made available on iTunes.

Tidal, which had a mixed reception after its relaunch last year, has also heavily promoted exclusives, such as albums by Rihanna and Kanye West.

The company said its subscriber base had grown to more than 3 million in March this year, an increase of about 2.5 million from when it first launched in the U.S. a year earlier.

According to Billboard, about 1.35 million - or 45 per cent - had signed up for the company's premium 'hi-fidelity' service that costs $19.99 a month.

The remaining customers had the standard $9.99 subscription.

And while official updated figures are yet to be released, it was estimated Beyonce's Lemonade added about 1.2 million new customers, which would mean about 4.2 million people are signed up with the service.

Tidal is still behind the two market leaders for streaming, Spotify and Apple Music, which have about 30 million and 11 million subscribers respectively.

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