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January 17, 2017

Neutron Project Manager Matt Hines On The My Latest Inner Circle Podcast

Matt HinesiZotope’s Neutron is one of the new generation of DAW plugins that analyze the program audio and then make some pretty good suggestions as to the EQ and compression that will work for the track.

Many engineers find this somewhat disconcerting, and are maybe a little intimidated by it, while others embrace it as just another tool. Either way, I though you should get the scoop on the product directly from someone who knows the most about it, and that’s Matt Hines, the product manager for Neutron.

On the intro I’ll take a look at the brain drain that’s happening at the executive ranks of the music business, and the latest in the debate between the A=440Hz versus 432Hz tuning standard.

You can listen to it at bobbyoinnercircle.com, or via iTunesStitcher, Mixcloud or Google Play.

It’s True – Cassette Tapes Are Making A Comeback

cassette tapeIt looks like everything that was old is new again. It may seem hard to believe, but cassette tape, that once reviled music delivery system of the 1970s, really is making a comeback. There’s a new coolness factor in the format for artists, bands and fans that no one could have predicted.

Reports about the cassette’s revival have swirled in the past, but now a spike in sales is beginning to make the comeback look pretty tangible. Over the past  Christmas shopping season, there was a 140% increase in tape sales over the previous year, according to a new music industry report from BuzzAngle, while in 2016 artists on Bandcamp experienced a 46% increase in cassette sales, according to a spokesperson for the music service. Not only that, the National Audio Company (which is now the largest cassette tape manufacturer in the U.S.) saw a 20% increase in its commercial tape duplication business, and actually did its most business since the factory opened in 1969.

This is all well and good, but the total sales of cassettes still isn’t enough to even represent a blip on Nielsen’s music report. That being said, the major labels are beginning to release product on cassette again, which is always a sign that a format comeback is for real.

For artists playing in clubs, cassettes as a merch product make perfect sense. Besides the coolness factor, they’re cheap and easy to make, and can be sold at gigs for $5. Vinyl, which also has its own coolness factor, takes a long time to make, and because the costs are so much more, must be sold for a lot more as a result.

As far as music retailers are concerned, anything to bring people into the store to make a purchase is a good thing. There’s now even Cassette Store Day (held last October 8th) where artists prepare special releases just for the occasion.

Cassettes may never be a serious threat to streaming (which is taking over the music distribution world), but they’re not going away either.

Music Industry News Roundup For The Week Of 1/13/17

Music Industry News Roundup Here’s the Music Industry News Roundup for the week of January 13th, 2017. Everyone is back from holiday vacation and the year is starting to get busy. Let’s see what’s in the news.

Pandora lays off 7% of its workforce. Things are getting tough in streaming land as the company tries to overcome a cash crunch.

Deezer’s Chief International Officer jumps ship to newspaper publisher and SoundCloud’s co-founder takes a new position as well. The big shakeup in streaming is beginning now. There will be far fewer players by mid-year.

Instagram is dropping ads into stories. Not a lot of people are happy about it. Will it kill what until now has been the golden goose? Will musicians make money?

Snapchat is trying hard to make itself important to the music business. You know what? It’s succeeding.

YouTube is running a contest to find someone to create the official music videos for some of Elton John’s biggest songs. “Bennie And The Jets,” “Rocket Man,” and “Tiny Dancer” never had videos but now they will. Don’t forget that Elton recently publicly railed against YouTube for its tiny payout, but he’s in bed with them now.

iHeart Radio officially launched it’s subscription service. $5 and $10 per month tiers, but will people actually pay a monthly fee for radio that they can get free?

Universal and Sony Music lead in streaming market share. Tunecore leads in indies, which is the only surprise here.

Ed Sheeran breaks the all time Spotify record 3 times in 2 days. 46.5 million streams from latest two releases in just 4 days. Boy, that guy is scorching hot.

Labels are rereleasing classic albums to try to skirt copyright law. In the EU, older albums can go to the public domain under the right conditions, and the major labels are exploiting it.

It looks like the era of print music critics has come to an end. The few that are left (it’s estimated there are only 10) are given multiple jobs on the paper or magazine outside the arts. There’s no sense trying to get a magazine or newspaper review anymore.

Pandora’s stock dropped like a rock after reports that Sirius XM’s acquisition was unlikely. This is a company in trouble, and it doesn’t look like any help is on the way.

Music is the fastest growing form of entertainment in the UK. Streaming is leading the way, but I’m not sure what that actually says about the health of the industry.

That’s the Music News Roundup of what went on in the music industry last week. Have a great week ahead!

High-Resolution Streaming Might Be Getting Closer

high-resolution music logoI’ve been predicting for over a year that the streaming world would eventually move to high-resolution audio, and a recent announcement from a group of large industry players makes it look like things are finally moving in the right direction. All 3 major labels, Pandora, Rhapsody/Napster, HD Trax and the RIAA announced their support for the high-quality format through the Digital Entertainment Group (DEG), an industry association dedicated to hi-res releases. Interestingly, Apple Music and Spotify were absent from the announcement.

While the DEG didn’t specify exactly what “hi-res” meant, Apple has been collecting high-resolution masters for its Mastered For iTunes program for the last 4 years. Although Apple would prefer masters at a 96kHz/24 bit resolution, it considers any master that’s 24 bit to be hi-res, regardless of the sample rate.

Since Apple has been at the forefront in collecting high quality masters, it would stand to reason that Apple Music would have no problem implementing a new hi-res tier. There’s been no hint of that, however, although the company is notoriously tight-lipped about new developments. Spotify doesn’t seem to want to go that route yet, having enough trouble getting people to buy up to the $9.99 per month paid subscription tier, although it does have 41 million current subscribers, about twice that of its nearest competitor Apple Music.

Tidal and Deezer both have hi-res tiers, but neither has made much of a impact on music consumers. That said, there are numerous online services like HD Trax that specialize in 96/24 and higher products available for download at a premium price. These are more for the audiophile sector, however, and don’t get much traction from mainstream consumers.

That said, the natural progression is to high-resolution streaming, and all services will eventually go that way (you’ve heard it here first). I predict that what we’ll eventually see is the standard subscription tier at $4.99-5.99, and the hi-res premium tier at $9.99 per month. That’s not going to happen soon though, but 5 years from now there’s a good chance that it will be the norm when it comes to streaming.

Facebook To Start Running Mid-Video Ads

Facebook mid-video adsContent creators have been complaining about the fact that there’s no way to monetize their content on Facebook the way you can on YouTube. Those days look to be coming to an end, however, as industry insiders now say that Facebook will start testing mid-video ads soon. As with YouTube, the revenue from the ads will be shared with the content owner. The bad news is that the revenue split is the same as YouTube, with Facebook taking 45%, a figure that artists and labels feel is way too low.

The catch is that the viewer has to watch the video for 20 second before the ad runs. It will be interesting to see how many people abandon the video at that time. The length of the video must be at least 90 seconds long to be able to insert an ad.

Why, mid-video? Apparently that directive came from the top, as CEO Mark Zuckerberg hates pre-roll ads and forbid them from happening on Facebook videos.

This will again bring up the question of what exactly constitutes a “video view” on Facebook. Right now its any time a viewer watches a video for at least 3 seconds, even with the sound off or if she didn’t click on it. With the new 20 second metric, you can be sure that video views will be looked at differently in the future on the platform.

The good news here is the fact that Facebook will finally reward content creators with some revenue for sharing their work. The bad news is that the split is controversially low and will certainly be a major talking point in licensing discussions with labels and publishers.

January 10, 2017

Strings Guy Stevie Blacke On Episode #143 Of My Inner Circle Podcast

Stevie BlackeStevie Blacke is a multi-instrumentalist known around Hollywood as the “strings guy” because he’s often called upon to record full string sections of violin, viola, cello and double-bass (up to 40 tracks!) all by himself. He’s much more than just an orchestral string player though, as he also does sessions on mandolin, dobro, sitar and virtually anything else that has a string on it.

Stevie has played or recorded with a wide variety of music superstars, including Beck, P!nk, Madonna, Snoop Dog, Ludacris, Gary Clark Jr, Rihanna, Colbie Callait, and many more. He’ll talk all about the intricacies of recording strings, and provide some interesting tricks, on my latest Inner Circle Podcast.

On the intro I’ll take a look at the fact that the music world has changed now that we’ve reached 100 million paying streaming subscribers, and take a look at the 5% of the population that actually doesn’t like music.

You can listen to it at bobbyoinnercircle.com, or via iTunesStitcher, Mixcloud or Google Play.

Top Selling Albums Of 2016

Nielsen MusicAlbums just aren’t selling like they used to, and that goes for physical and digital. The end-of-the-year Nielsen numbers are out and they show that only 4 albums made it to platinum-level last year, which is sales of 1 million or more. If you add in sales of digital albums, you get 3 more, which is still way off from previous years.

We live in a streaming world, and that means that the single rules and consumers are buying far fewer individual albums, preferring to spend their money on a monthly streaming subscription instead. Here are the top 10 albums in the US for last year, both physical and digital.

Top Selling Physical Albums In The US In 2016

1 Adele, 25 1,731,000
2 Drake, Views 1,608,000
3 Beyonce, Lemonade 1,554,000
4 Chris Stapleton, Traveller 1,085,000
5 Pentatonix, A Pentatonix Christmas 904,000
6 Original Broadway Cast Recording, Hamilton: An American Musical 820,000
7 Twenty One Pilots, Blurryface 738,000
8 Prince, The Very Best of Prince 668,000
9 Rihanna, Anti 603,000
10 Justin Bieber, Purpose 554,000

Adele has had the top selling album in the US for 4 out of the last 6 years, something that’s never happened before.

 

Top Selling Digital Albums In The US In 2016

1 Drake, Views 1,299,000
2 Beyonce, Lemonade 1,200,000
3 Adele, 25 514,000
4 Chris Stapleton, Traveller 447,000
5 Original Broadway Cast Recording, Hamilton: An American Musical 422,000
6 Twenty One Pilots, Blurryface 377,000
7 Prince, The Very Best of Prince 371,000
8 J. Cole, 4 Your Eyez Only 356,000
9 Rihanna, Anti 347,000
10 Panic! at the Disco, Death of a Bachelor 334,000

Music Industry News Roundup For The Week Of 1/6/17

Music Industry News Roundup Happy New Year, and here’s the first Music Industry News Roundup of the year for the week of January 6th, 2017. We’re just coming off a major holiday and things are slowly ramping back up. Let’s see what happened.

The Blackstone Group acquires SESAC. Just think about that for a second. A big investment group now owns a performing rights organization.

SoundExchange could lose a lot of revenue this year. The government collection agency is losing out thanks to direct deals with labels and publishers by Pandora

Chinese giant Alibaba is about to spend over $7 billion on entertainment content. Move over Apple, Google, Amazon and Spotify – you’ve got competition and it has deep pockets.

It looks like Facebook is getting close to their own version of Content ID. That means that content creators can finally get paid for their music and videos playing on the service. Word is that it won’t actually be released until the Spring though.

Indie labels claimed 35% of the market last year. Good news for DIY artists and labels not affiliated with majors, but this is based on rights ownership, not revenue.

A vinyl pressing plant is going out of business. It’s pretty hard to do in this market environment, but Canada Boy Vinyl can’t make a go of it.

YouTube lost it’s dominance to streaming music. People are now finding streaming networks way more convenient than the YouTube experience.

A full-time YouTuber shows how much money he makes.  And of course he does it on YouTube. Doesn’t make all that much, but he’s not a very big channel either.

George Michael Best-Of Sales skyrocket. They improve by over 5,000% in the UK alone.

Speaking of the UK, the biggest album seller last year wasn’t a musical artist. It turns out it was a 56 year old game show host. Well, that’s probably the demo that still buys physical product.

That’s the Music News Roundup of what went on in the music industry last week. Have a great 2017!

Google Rumored To Be Buying SoundCloud

SoundCloud logoIt’s been no secret that SoundCloud has been up for sale for some time. Both Twitter and Spotify reportedly looked into acquiring the service and decided against it over the last few years. Now the latest rumor has Google acquiring SoundCloud for around $500 million, which is about half of what it was going for previously.

SoundCloud boasts around 175 million users around the world, and that appears to be the biggest selling point of the service. The licenses with the labels probably wouldn’t be transferrable, but Google has that taken care of anyway. Likewise, Google has the streaming infrastructure well in place, so there doesn’t seem to be a need there either. Execs or engineering talent could be the draw, perhaps, but there’s no clear superstar within SoundCloud that appears to warrant that kind of investment.

From the standpoint that Google’s Play Music streaming service is an also-ran in the streaming wars, an infusion of new users would be a boon, but remember that most of these users use SoundCloud to stream their own music and not listen to someone else’s.

There’s a hidden beneficiary in any acquisition, regardless if it’s Google or another service, and that’s the major labels. Why? They each own stock in SoundCloud and would stand to reap a cool $45 million between them from the sale if it stands at that price. Music Business Worldwide pegs Universal at 4% ownership in the company, Sony with 3% and Warner on somewhere between 1% and 2%. This is why the labels always push for equity in their licensing deals.

MBW also mentions that some large investment funds are now raising their ownership stakes in Pandora, with the thinking that it will also be acquired sometime this year.  If both companies are acquired, that would definitely change the streaming landscape, although probably not as much as you might think. The big money is still on Spotify and Apple Music until someone else steps up.

How To Measure Online Audience Engagement

Measuring engagementWhen we think online audience engagement, we usually think of views or streams. There’s a lot more to it than that though, as this infographic from Statista shows how industry insiders evaluate true engagement.

As you can see, Shares are the #1 most valuable engagement element, closely followed by the actual amount of time users dwell on a piece. The number of comments is also high on the list, but page views and page visitors less so, mostly because many can be quick bounces that leave after a few seconds.

The whole idea is to post content that makes users want to watch or read all the way through, then share with their friends and maybe even leave a comment. While this can’t be done with every post, the more you do it, the more likely that you’ll have an energized following.

Infographic: How to Measure Audience Engagement Online? | Statista
You will find more statistics at Statista