Bobby Owsinski

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Steve Miller’s Rock n’ Roll Hall Of Fame Rant

Steve Miller 2010Steve Miller 2010I’ve been no fan of the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, as you probably know if you read this blog. I don’t believe there should be such an institution, since there’s really no way to quantify who should be in it, unlike a sports HOF where there are plenty of statistics to gauge someone’s qualifications. That’s why Steve Miller’s Rock n’ Roll Hall Of Fame Rant was so interesting. As a recent inductee, he was not happy with his treatment during the event, and raised some concerns about the selection process as well, and was probably the first artist to ever voice a negative opinion about it.

This may be old news to some of you since this interview in Billboard came out last month, but it’s still plenty revealing. Here’s an excerpt.

Billboard: How would you describe your week following the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony?

Steve Miller: The last week has been pretty interesting; I played three concerts in New York at Jazz at Lincoln Center with Jimmie Vaughan; I did the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony; and now I’m in San Diego. Tonight will be three shows that I’ve done in the last four days out here on the West Coast. The Steve Miller Band is busy, the Jazz at Lincoln Center projects have been great, and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was just one of those things in the middle.

Has the reaction to your comments following your Hall of Fame induction surprised you? 

Well, not really. I’ve gotten hundreds of emails from artists and pals and peers just saying, “right on, man, I can’t believe you had the balls to say that,” that kind of stuff. The reaction from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Rolling Stone magazine has not surprised me at all.

I imagine you were aware when you were saying the things you did that some of it might not go over so well.

You have to speak truth to these people. It has really been a long, long slog for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and for some reason, I don’t understand why, they really have made it tough. It’s not a pleasant experience for the people being inducted — at least from my personal experience it certainly wasn’t. The whole process feels like you’re dealing with a company that wants you to give them everything and they’re going to go make all this money and they’re going to do everything with it, and you have no input into it, no say about any of it, take it or leave it. Probably what the general public thinks and what it really is are two different things.

You said some pretty harsh things, do you stand by all of that?

Of course I do, yeah. I spoke the truth as I experienced it, and as I have experienced it over the years. Basically, as everybody that has had a taste of the record business knows, they are gangsters and crooks. The history just proves it. If you’re naïve as a musician when you go into it, you learn your lessons quickly. I remember when I was a kid and signed with Capitol Records I thought, “boy, this is great, I’m going down to L.A., I’m going to record at Capitol tower.” I went in there and the engineering staff walked out because they didn’t like me because I was a hippie [laughs]. That was my first experience. I was thrown into a pool of sharks, where all the bands were fighting for the same resources, managers were wheeling and dealing, and it was a lot more than I thought. I was pretty naïve when I started and, over the years, my record companies have grossed over $1 billion from my work, and I’ve spent 50 years auditing them to force them to pay me what my contracts call for. I caught them illegally selling hundreds of thousands of my records in markets worldwide. They’ve broken their contracts, they’ve broken their word. They have built-in theft in all their accounting. I’ve had to threaten to use the RICO statutes against them. It’s a business with built-in theft and cheating, that’s just considered normal, and I’m just not the kind of guy who tolerates that, I don’t go for that. If it’s not fair, and if it’s not clean and clear, then I’m going to work to make it that way.

So that billion dollar figure you used in the Rolling Stone interview you didn’t just pull that out of thin air?

[Laughing] No! And that was when a billion was a billion, not like today. Millions and millions and millions of records worldwide, it’s just been 50 years of auditing and arguing and lawsuits. I’m just a walking library of what it’s like dealing with a business that’s designed to cheat. It always has and it always will.

So when you looked out into the audience at the induction ceremony, the crowd kind of represented that to you?

Well, the audience that I saw was just a bunch of people at tables. I looked out there and I didn’t really see any friendly faces — I basically saw people I had been suing and auditing for years.

Maybe that had something to do with why you said what you did when you walked off stage and someone stuck a microphone in your face?

The whole experience is not like what you would think being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame would be. You’d think it would be a wonderful experience. You’d probably imagine someone from the Hall calls you and congratulates you for being nominated and inducted, and tells you you’ve been voted in, and you’re invited to a series of events culminating in the actual induction ceremony. I imagined there might be a dinner party to introduce all the new inductees to each other, and the past inductees, an evening of congratulations and toasts. Maybe the director of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame would welcome the new groups and discuss the goals and projects of the Hall, ask the class of 2016 to pitch in. You might even think there might be some performances given by kids who have benefited from music lessons provided by the Hall. Maybe a speech from the museum curator and the head of the nominating committee, or something to explain the importance of the Hall’s work, to thank the inductees for doing a concert to raise funds for the museum. Then you’d be pretty surprised to find out that none of that happened.

And you would have participated in those sorts of things?

Of course I would. The way it all went down was it was basically I found out from a friend that was nominated that there was public voting going on online to decide the public’s nominees, and their 100 million votes counted for less than one vote in the nominating process. That’s pretty cynical. What it really was was an argument over their documentation and contracts for the gig, no input on anything, you have no choice as to who’s going to induct you. Here’s what the experience was: there was a sound check the day before, where I was told to hurry up, do my sound check, and get off the stage. Then the next night I came over and went through like four security checks. A hired handler, a very nice young lady, said, “OK, we’re going to put you over here in the holding pen,” so I went to the holding pen, then we did another quick sound check. Then I was pointed to where my table was, told to go out there and sit down. I didn’t know anyone at the table, no one said hello, nothin’.

I wanted to talk to Dre, I wanted to find out why they weren’t performing; they pit everybody against everybody; you’re having this thing like, “OK, when are we going on, what’s going to happen, when are we in the show? [And the response is],  “Oh, that’s all a surprise, it’s going to be this way, Deep Purple’s going to play then you’re going to play, then this is gonna happen,” then it’s, “no, it’s changed now, NWA is going to play after all,” and this is all happening as you’re going into it. There’s really no concern for you as a musician or artist, or congratulations, it’s “we’re making a television show, it’s our show, we’re making money off this to run our museum, shut up and do what you’re told to do.”

And there really wasn’t ever any contact with anybody from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, other than, “wait a minute, this contract is way out of line, what are you talking about?” I spent from February reviewing the contract until today, and it still isn’t signed. Their paperwork is vague and demanding and they want you to give them your guitar, and anything you have that’s really special to them, and they just treat you like, “hurry up and do this stuff and get out of here.”

So, for me, my experience was a sound check, go sit at this table — it turned out I was sitting next to the drummer in Chicago, and we did have a good chat. Then I was called up to do my little talk, I did, then I went over and played three songs. Then they take you in the back and there’s like 20 little tents and all sorts of people with cameras and stuff. I think the first [interview] questions was, “wow, Steve, what do you think?” [laughs] So I said, “Here’s what I think.”

You mentioned a lot of things, but anything else specifically you would suggest that the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame might do to improve the induction ceremony, and improve as an organization?

I think they need to stop dividing people and being so dismissive of some acts, and they need musicians on the board. The people who are doing the nominating are the opposite of the spirit of rock and roll. They’ve turned it into a very elitist little group of people deciding who is important, who isn’t.

I wanted to ask Elton John to induct me, because Elton knows my music and loves my music and we’re friends, and I thought he would probably have a good historical perspective. But they said, “no, the Black Keys are going to do it,” and I said, “well, OK,” and they said “there’s no negotiation on any of it, that’s the way we do it, that’s the way we’ve always done it, that’s the way it’s gonna be. It’s all gonna be a surprise; you’re not gonna know what they’re gonna say, you’re not going to know anything about that.”

We all want to support the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the public takes it seriously. It needs to be transparent, and it needs to be fair. They should rotate the nominating committee, they should have musicians on the nominating committee, they should have a dinner for the inductees, they should spend some time explaining who they are and what they do to the inductees. They shouldn’t consider it, “you don’t have time to do that, you wouldn’t come in for a dinner, why would you want to do that?” They’ve turned it into a really cold, hard-ass deal.”

Read the full interview on the Billboard site.

(Photo: Tim Brown via Wikipedia)

YouTube Adopts A New Tool For Faster Royalty Payments

Digital Sales Report Flat FileOne of the things that bugs artists, songwriters and labels about YouTube is that it’s pretty difficult to get precise information about views and payments. In many cases, views aren’t counted and in other cases payments take too long to arrive. YouTube is hoping to alleviate those problems by implementing a new tool based on the DDEX Digital Sales Report Flat File standard.

DDEX is an organization dedicated to standardizing the data of the digital supply chain, and its members include Amazon, Apple, ASCAP, BMI, Google and the 3 major labels. The Digital Sales Report Flat File standard is a way to standardize the data so it’s the same regardless which part of the supply chain its in, from content owners like labels, to performance rights organizations and publishers, to digital retails like Spotify and Pandora.

By adopting this format, YouTube is taking a giant step to not only speeding this standard along to companies and organizations that haven’t adopted it yet, but also much faster and more accurate reports and payments from the service.

Data exchange has long vexed the music industry, as each organization has their own standard primarily based on the accounting system it has in place. In many cases, these accounting systems are old but reliable, and companies are reluctant to spend the money and feel the disruption of implementing something new that might end up not being able to interface with other new systems. As a result, it’s not uncommon for a label or publisher to receive sales data from a distributor, then have to enter it in manually into its own system. Because of the manual component, not only does it take an inordinate amount of time to input, but there are also errors that occur along the way.

Maybe now we’ll all see faster and more accurate royalty accounting. The initial testers of the new standard include YouTube, SACEM, GEMA, BMI, NMP and Kobalt.

Universal Music Makes Nearly $4 Million A Day From Streaming

Universal MusicUniversal MusicWho says that there’s no money in streaming? It seems that all of those micro-payments add up after all as Universal Music Group is making about $3.9 million per day just from streaming music, according to its parent Vivendi’s first quarter earnings statement.

In fact, UMG’s streaming revenue was up almost 60% over the previous quarter, which amounted to more income than from downloads, which were down 32% from the year before. Yes, it’s true, fewer and fewer people want downloads after they experience the joys of streaming.

With all things factored in, streaming was responsible for 34% of UMG’s total income, versus 22% for downloads, and a surprising 27% for physical product.

So here’s the scary part – the first quarter of the year is usually rather quiet in terms of front line releases by the company’s major stars, and this year was no exception. That more or less plays into the streaming increase since there are fewer sales. But with Drake absolutely crushing it with his latest release (he just posted the records for most streams in a week – 247 million), which isn’t counted in the report, it looks like that increase will continue on a similar trajectory.

Of course, the real real issue here isn’t how much Universal Music made, since we know that labels do better than OK from streaming revenue, it’s how much it actually paid out to its artists. That will continue to be the problem going forward, as the record label is always the main repository of revenue from just about any distribution sources. It’s then up to the artist (and his legal representatives) to have a strong deal in hand to get a fair piece of that income.

Still, you can bet that the majority of that income stays in the hands of the label. Some things just never seem to change, regardless if we’re living in Music 4.1 or not.

A Streaming Music Royalty Primer

Music 4.1 coverStreaming music royalty rates are such a morass of different percentages and possibilities that few people on the planet totally understand everything, and the ones who do are attorneys working in that narrow end of the music business. Even label and publishing execs who have been in the business for 20 or more years can be confused. That’s one reason artists and songwriters frequently cite low rates on what seem to be a large number of streams. It’s also why an average royalty rate is used in articles about this side of the business. Here’s an excerpt from my new Music 4.1 book that tries to clarify some of the misunderstandings by starting with the streaming royalty basics.

“Let’s see if we can at least make sense of why it’s frequently impossible to determine what an exact streaming royalty rate is.

First of all, there are two basic variables to remember that everything streaming works from:

1. There are two kinds of streams—noninteractive or webcast (Pandora), and interactive or on-demand (Spotify). On-demand pays more because it generates more money.

2. There are two tiers for each stream—premium (paid subscribers) and freemium (ad supported). The paid tier generates a higher revenue per subscriber than the free, ad-supported tier.

With this in mind, there are two different copyrights for each stream (the same as for a CD, vinyl record, or download), regardless of the tier, which provide a royalty stream:

1. A sound recording royalty (that the owner of the sound recording gets)

2. A composition royalty (that the publisher and songwriter get)

You can think of the sound recording as what you hear played on Pandora or Spotify (or a CD, vinyl, or download for that matter), while the composition is the notes and lyrics on paper.

Within those parameters there are a tremendous number of variables that can occur, all of which affect both the payout for the sound recording and the composition. Let’s explore the different types of streams first.

The Different Types of Streams

What most artists and bands don’t realize is that there are two types of streaming services, and they each operate differently and therefore pay at a different rate.

Noninteractive Streams

The first type of streaming is called a noninteractive or webcast stream and comes from either a platform that acts as an online radio station, like iHeart Radio or any traditional broadcaster with an online presence (like your local radio station), or a service like Pandora where the user has a certain amount of control over what plays but can’t directly select a song or make it repeat. Streaming platforms in this category include services like Pandora and Last.FM. SiriusXM and the music channels on cable television also fit into this category.

All noninteractive streaming services must obtain a congressionally created “compulsory” license with the rate set by an entity called the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB), which I write about in more depth later in the “How Royalty Rates Are Set” section. The CRB recently set the rates for 2016 and beyond for radio broadcasters with terrestrial radio stations at $0.0022 ) per stream. Noninteractive platforms like Pandora pay $0.0022 per stream from a paid subscriber and $0.0017 per stream on the free tier.

Interactive Streams

Interactive or on-demand streams are treated differently from the radio-style streams in that the rate is considerably higher (between $0.005 and $0.009, depending on how much the listener pays per month, among other factors). Services that provide interactive streaming include Spotify, Google Play, Tidal, Apple Music, and Slacker.

The down side here is that if you’re signed to a label, money from interactive streams is paid directly to them. You’ll then be paid by the label based on the royalty amount negotiated in your agreement with them. For instance, if you negotiated a 15 percent royalty rate, then you’ll be paid 15 percent of $0.005 (using that number as an average), or $0.00075 per stream.

If you’re not with a label, the money will be collected by SoundExchange or an aggregator like TuneCore, Ditto Music, or CD Baby if they distributed your songs to the online streaming services.

Average Streaming Type Royalty Paid

Interactive On-demand – $0.005 to $0.009 (average depending upon the tier)

Commercial Broadcasters – $0.0022

Noninteractive – $0.0022 (paid tier) $0.0017 (free tier)

On top of the royalty paid to the artist and label, there’s also a publishing royalty that varies yet again from the above rates, which we’ll cover in the next section.

You can see why artists, bands, musicians and even record labels can be confused about how much they’re receiving from streaming. As The Temptations once sang, it’s a “ball of confusion.”

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to revenue splits and royalty payments from streaming music. It also doesn’t cover the publishing side of streaming, which is another issue entirely. That said, in the coming weeks I’ll go beyond the basics to explain more about how each streaming music royalty actually works.

You can read more from Music 4.1: A Survival Guide To Making Music In The Internet Age and my other books on the excerpt section of bobbyowsinski.com.

Spotify To Launch 12 Original Video Shows

Spotify_HQSpotify_HQSpotify recently announced that it was getting into the original content business by launching 12 new shows, and guess what? They’ll all be on video. According to the company, the video shows will be “centered around three main themes – music performances, music profiles and music culture,” and the episodes will be up to fifteen minutes long.

The foray into original video programming comes on the heels of the service successfully showcasing clips from Comedy Central, ESPN and MTV within the app over the last year.

One of the shows is Landmark, which is a documentary series centered around important moments in music history. A second, Rush Hour, forces two artists to quickly collaborate on a setlist of songs that they must then perform live. Yet another features veteran actor Tim Robbins who will produce a mocumentary about a competition that becomes the next dance music craze. Also planned are a number of animated and comedic series “tailored to the service’s young audience.”

Spotify didn’t provide a launch date, but indicated that late summer or fall is targeted. The company did say that the shows will be available to all users on both paid and free tiers, and initially available in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and Sweden.

It’s pretty interesting that Spotify should jump into original programing, and especially video programming as well. Getting away from its streaming music core may be a stretch, but on the other hand, an audio-only show might be construed as trying to follow Apple Music’s Beats 1. Still, 12 shows is an ambitious agenda that requires not only a fair amount of corporate will, but the funds to match as well.

A year from now we may look back upon this decision and say how brilliant the execs at Spotify were, or we may say that they got away from the company’s core business. Only time will tell.

Amazon Launches YouTube Rival With Amazon Video Direct

Amazon Video DirectUser generated videos must be a really big business because another huge online player just jumped into the arena with YouTube and Facebook. Yesterday Amazon announced the launch of its new video posting service, called Amazon Video Direct, in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Austria and Japan.

The launch partners include Conde Nast Entertainment, HowStuffWorks, Samuel Goldwyn Films, The Guardian, Mashable, Mattel, StyleHaul, Kin Community, Jash, Business Insider, Machinima, TYT Network, Baby Einstein, CJ Entertainment America, Xive TV, Synergetic Distribution, Kino Nation, Journeyman Pictures, and Pro Guitar Lessons, but curiously, no record labels.

Amazon has also announced how it will pay everyone, as well as how they will take down videos if copyright infringement occurs.

Amazon Video Direct (AVD) gives partners four options when uploading their content:

  • Include the work in Prime Video, which is available to tens of millions of users of the premium subscription tier
  • Make it available as an add-on subscription through its Streaming Partners Program
  • Offer it as a one-time rental or a one-time purchase
  • Make it available to all Amazon customers, which is ad-supported like YouTube

According to Variety, the Prime Video option pays video owners a 15 cents per-hour royalty fee in the US and 6 cents per-hour in other territories, but that appears to cap at $75,000 per year. On top of that, Amazon will also pay partners a 50% royalty of the retail price from one-off purchases and rentals. As with YouTube, Amazon will pay the partner 55% from any ad revenue received.

Amazon will also distribute $1 million a month to the makers of the 100 most popular programs viewed by Prime members each month.

Amazon Video Direct could be a game changer for content creators in that it’s now possible to get paid a reasonable amount for your content. That said, even though Amazon Prime has tens of million of subscribers (the exact number is unknown but may reach as high as 90 million), it’s still hard to compete with free, which is what YouTube still provides.

May 10, 2016

4 Best Practices For Social Media Marketing

Social Media MarketingIf you’re trying to boost your fan base or engagement online, then you’re probably doing at least a little social media marketing whether you like it or not. The problem is that the best practices do change over time as social media and user trends evolve, so in order to get the most out of the time you spend promoting yourself or your music, that means you have to keep up with the latest trends as well.

Here are what’s currently considered to be the45 best social media marketing practices when putting your online strategy together.

1.  Use demographics to drive quality traffic – It doesn’t do you much good if most of your social and website traffic comes from people that aren’t particularly interested in what you have to offer. That’s why it’s important that you know your demographic well so you can aim your marketing directly at them. How do you do that? By taking a hard look at your analytics. Even the free analytics that you can get from just about every social network, as well as free services like Google Analytics and Statcounter can be very helpful in this regard. If you know your audience, you can better cater to them.

 2. Find out what type of content your audience wants –  Over time you get a feel for what your audience likes by looking back at your posting history. Is your audience visual? Do they respond more to pictures or videos? Do they like to read and prefer blog posts? Do they like photos with captions? Whatever it is they like, make sure you give them enough of it, although like anything else, too much of a good thing won’t work either. Try to discover what the proper balance is between different types of content.

3. Remember your brand – If you’re marketing well then you’re creating brand awareness in everything you do, especially online. Be sure that your posts stay in line with your brand philosophy and visual qualities. Don’t know what your brand is? Check out my Brand Your Music Crash Course.

 4. Respond to positive and negative feedback – The negative comments are just as important as the positive ones. You can learn what your audience and fan base doesn’t like, and you can also learn what you’re doing wrong in engaging them. Don’t get drawn into an online flame war however, as that can be hugely counterproductive in the end. If you can’t resolve the issue in a comment or two, it’s time to let it go.

The list of best social media marketing practices can easily be twice as long as the above, but following these first 4 takes you along way towards your primary goal, which is growing your fan base and keeping them happy.

Apple Music To Get A Facelift Soon

Apple Music FaceliftWhile Apple Music has garnered 16 million paid subscribers rather quickly since its launch last year, the service hasn’t been without criticism, especially about its ease of use. Despite being a huge company, Apple does listen to its customers though, and as a result, it’s been reported that Apple Music is about to receive a needed facelift.

The reboot is said to be set for the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June, and is said to include an easier user interface and more radio stations.

In a nod to Spotify’s recent success, Apple is also rolling out a “student plan” paid tier at $4.99 per month instead of the normal $9.99. Many think that the recent growth spurt of Spotify is mainly due to the introduction of a student plan, and Apple aims to find out if it can indeed emulate the same results with something similar.

That said, many analysts believe that Apple’s 16 million subscribers, while nothing to sneeze at, it’s still far lower than it should be, considering that the company has around 850 million credit cards on file thanks to iTunes and the App Store.

Many insiders feel that this can be traced back to the interesting chain of command inside of Apple Music, where a number of high ranking executives must sign off on nearly everything, making development much slower than it should be. Apple content head Robert Kondrk, Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor, design chief Jony Ive, along with former Beats founder Jimmy Iovine and Eddy Cue, the senior vice president in charge of Internet services, all are said to have their hands in the final decision making.

This has lead to somewhat of a brain drain within Apple, as many former Beats employees have left in frustration, although it’s still too early in the game to know if any of that is really a difference maker.

One thing is for sure, an updated, face-lifted Apple Music along with a new ad campaign is still a force to be reckoned with. Watch out Spotify.

Virtual Reality Concerts To Begin This Summer

VR concertsI’m a big proponent of virtual reality, especially when the audio is done well, and many have predicted that the technology will eventually be a boon to concerts. We’re going to see soon enough as virtual reality concerts will actually begin to roll out this summer.

NextVR, which has been a leader in VR broadcasting of sporting events, has teamed up with LiveNation to broadcast a series of concerts, although no artists have been named as of yet. There will be a limited number of VR music events this summer, with a full schedule planned for 2017.

The NextVR broadcast will be available via Samsung’s Gear VR using the Oculus Home app, although they will also most likely be available on other VR platforms as well.

LiveNation/NextVR aren’t the only companies jumping into the concert broadcast game. iHeartRadio and Universal Music Group previously announced that they would also broadcast VR concerts this year.

Virtual reality concerts hold great promise because it gives the viewer a feeling of actually being there and watching from the best seat in the house, which many feel may eventually eclipse attending an event. Paying $200 for a nosebleed seat might not be a suitable option when you can get a better view from your home while still feeling immersed in the event.

The same can be said for sporting events as well, as NextVR recently signed a 5 year deal with Fox Sports, although there may be more technical challenges in this niche than with music as the best seat in the house may not apply, although it’s probably too soon to really tell. VR users will ultimately decide.

One thing’s for sure, VR is taking beginning to take off, even though it still hasn’t hit the general public yet, as more and more companies are jockeying for position.

Which Music Genre Do We Like Best?

Rock's Not DeadRock's Not DeadIf you were to listen to a week of nothing but radio, you’d think that all we listen to in the U.S. is pop and country music. If you were to read a week’s worth of the music news, you might think that dance/electronic/EDM was close to the top of the heap in what we enjoy. The problem with those assumptions is that they’re wrong, at least according to the 2015 Nielsen Year End Music Report that, among other things, looked at each music genre and discovered which we liked the best last year.

When taking into account the total amount of music consumption, which includes physical and downloaded albums, downloaded tracks, and streams, here’s the order of music genre preference that the study determined:

Rock – 24.5%

R&B/Hip-Hop – 18.2%

Pop – 15.7%

Country – 8.5%

Latin – 4.5%

Dance/EDM – 3.4%

Christian – 2.8%

Holiday/Seasonal – 1.7%

Classical – 1.3%

Childrens – 1.1%

When it came to number of albums consumed, Rock was far ahead at 32.6%, followed byR&B/Hip-Hop at 15.1% and Pop at 22.6%.

For streams, R&B/Hip-Hop came out on top at 21.1%. Rock at 17.5%. and Pop at 14.5%.

Rock might not be the hippest music genre and it’s frequently portrayed in the press as spiraling downward in popularity and relevancy, but it still continues to out-perform other music genres, for better or worse.