Category Archives for "Music Industry News"

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.

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.

Record Store Day May Have Peaked

Record Store Day PeakedSince 2008, Record Store Day every April has been a huge hit. In fact, many in the music industry feel that it’s been a big reason for vinyl’s resurgence, calling attention to a side of the business that had been essential dead and buried and has now returned to a level of surprising growth. Even though the latest Record Store Day a couple of weeks ago was proclaimed the biggest ever, there’s evidence that we might’ve seen its peak.

One of the best things about RSD was that the small Mom & Pop record store was celebrated, but this time many of these stores refused to join in the festivities because they now feel it’s been totally co-opted by the major labels.

The reason is that in order for a store to officially participate in the event, they are forced to purchase a slew of “official” new vinyl releases, which they’re not able to return if unsold. This has imparted an undue financial burden upon already cash-strapped stores which many are now unwilling to take.

While many vinyl fans do look for new or re-released titles, most record stores make their living on used or early edition releases, and find that new vinyl just doesn’t sell in the quantities that the labels require them to take for the event (the big indies are complicit here too).

Small indie labels and artists are also upset too, in that the major labels tie up all the vinyl pressing plants for months prior to RSD, so they’re not able to have new vinyl ready for the event.

So like with so many other movements that start off with the best intentions, Record Store Day has been co-opted by big business, and as a result will soon cease to be the event that it once was. Let’s hope that the indie record stores find other ways to maintain their visibility so they can still stay in business.

Radiohead Erases Its Online Presence

Radiohead erased onlineRadiohead has always been groundbreaking when it comes to their online presence (the “pay what you want” campaign for In Rainbows being a prime example), but now it’s entered some new territory by slowly but effectively erasing its entire online presence.

Yes, that’s right. It’s pretty hard to find any trace of Radiohead online right now.

There are no longer any Facebook posts or tweets on the band’s accounts, and singer Thom Yorke has deleted his tweets as well. The band’s Google Plus account is now blank too. And most bizarre is that its website has been slowly fading away as the opacity has decreased until it too went totally blank.

Then over the weekend, fans received postcards from the band via old fashioned snail mail that simply said, “Sing the song of sixpence that goes ‘Burn the witch’.”

There’s speculation that there’s a new Radiohead album about to be released since the band registered a new company called Dawn Chorus LLP in February. Previous to the the band’s In Rainbows and The King of Limbs albums, the band also established companies in their names.

So there’s a new album coming, and we can be pretty sure that won’t be online, since the band has long shown it’s contempt for streaming. It should be interesting to see exactly what the marketing play is this time.

Update: The band reappeared this morning with a couple of short animated clips on Instagram, then a new music video presumably from their new album on its website.

Your Cover Songs May Not Be Streamed

Mobile Cover SongsDoing a great cover version of a hit song has been a successful tactic in helping to raise the visibility of an artist or band for some time, but that practice may soon come to an end thanks to new efforts by iTunes, Spotify and other streaming services.

More and more, digital streaming services are either hiding or removing cover songs, sound-alikes, re-recorded songs and live performances in an effort to simply their catalogs and make it easier for users to find the song they really want.

And they have a point. Searching for a popular song sometimes turns up more than 50 choices, making it difficult to find the original that you’re looking for.

The problem is that there are many unintended policies that come with this editorial decision.

For instance, it’s been reported by Billboard that one service’s “blacklist” of recordings that include 400 artists that range from B.B. King, Frank Sinatra, John Coltrane and Pete Seeger.

Re-records, the practice of an artist or band re-recording one of their hits so they own the recording instead of the record label, are also frequently marginalized as well, although many fans aren’t all that unhappy as most prefer the original versions.

So beware if you’re recording a cover song in the hopes of gaining some extra streams. While the practice may still work on YouTube, chances are your cover won’t see the light of day on the other streaming services from now on.

Tidal Exclusives Bring Back Piracy

Tidal Exclusives PiracyJust when you thought music piracy was dead and buried it comes roaring back as alive as ever. The reason? Exclusives by Kanye West, Beyonce and Prince on Tidal.

These exclusives have been great for Tidal, as they have helped it to jump more than 100 places on the App Store most downloaded app chart, where it now sits at #3 on the iOS list.

As a result, Tidal is now the most popular music app in the US, even above Pandora and Spotify (Apple Music doesn’t chart since it’s a native app).

That’s the good part of the story. The bad part is that some people just don’t want to pay a monthly fee to stream a single album, they’re not fond of Tidal, or they already subscribe to another service, so they resort to piracy instead. As a result, it’s been estimated that West’s The Life Of Pablo was torrented over 500,000 times in just its first day of release!

It looks like the same thing all over again in the initial hours after the release of Beyonce’s Lemonade, as it’s already on top of the the charts of both Kick Ass Torrents and The Pirate Bay.

And while Lemonade may be getting all the credit for Tidal’s sudden ascendancy, the fact of the matter is that it’s the only place online (other than YouTube, of course) where you can stream Prince’s entire catalog. After his passing last week, there’s been a tremendous appetite for his music, again helping Tidal tremendously.

So it looks like the only one making out on these exclusive’s is Jay-Z and his Tidal service. The artists lose sales and streaming royalties to piracy, and the entire industry loses a chance to further the streaming cause. It’s a missed opportunity.

The real smart move here would have been to make the exclusive’s available only on the paid premium tiers of every service to give consumers a reason to sign up or upgrade. It could have happened with Adele’s 25, it could have happened with The Life Of Pablo, and it could have happened with Lemonade.

Instead they’ve resurrected a scourge to the music industry where no one benefits except the pirates.

(This post was first posted on Forbes)

Major Labels Say That Content ID Not Effective Enough

Copyright content IDCopyright content IDThe 3 major labels are furthering their attack on YouTube, the platform they love to hate.

With licenses up for renewal soon, the majors are trying their best to gain some leverage in the negotiation, so they have filed a submission to the US Copyright Office claiming that YouTube’s Content ID is ineffective in identifying uploads using content illegally using their copyrights a great deal of the time.

Content ID is YouTube’s secret sauce in that it’s the content recognition technology that allows the copyright holder to identify and monetize unauthorized uploads of copyrighted material.

Universal Music Publishing claims that it fails to identify as much as 40% of its compositions, according to an article in the Financial Times.

YouTube, of course, claims that Content ID is successful 99.5% of the time. Even if that were true, 0.5% still represents hundreds of thousands of unlicensed uploads, so there’s a lot of money being left on the table.

Ultimately, the labels would like the 55/45 revenue split with YouTube to be increased, since all other music streaming platforms are in the 70+% range. YouTube has little incentive to change, however, since even if the labels pull their licenses, the user generated uploads will continue, so the label’s vast catalog of music will still remain on the platform.

If it’s true that Content ID doesn’t catch 40% of the unauthorized uploads, that only puts YouTube in a stronger negotiating position. One should never bet against the major labels in a negotiation, but in this case, my money is on YouTube coming out on top.

Tidal Subscribers Sue Kanye West For Posting On Other Services

Tidal $84 millionHere’s an interesting twist in the Kanye West/Tidal story. He’s getting sued by Tidal subscribers who claimed they were duped into paying for the service.

It all stems from when the performer released his latest album The Life of Pablo exclusively on Tidal. At the time, West claimed that the album would never appear on another streaming services, and as a result, some two million people flocked to Tidal to pay at least $9.99 a month to have a listen.

Alas, that exclusivity was to be short lived as TLOP is now available on both Apple Music and Spotify – for free.

That’s part of the reason why West has been named in a class action suit against him. Perhaps because that might be a flimsy case to present, the plaintiff’s attorneys are leaning more heavily on a privacy issue instead.

“Mr. West’s promise of exclusivity also had a grave impact on consumer privacy,” the lawsuit states, mostly because user credit card information, music preferences and other personal information were collected.

The lawsuit contends the value of new subscribers and their personal information could be as much as $84 million for Tidal.

The album was reportedly streamed some 250 million times within 10 days of its release.

This will be an interesting one to watch.

Amazon Prime Music Takes Another Baby Step

Amazon_Prime_Music_logoIf you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you know that I’ve been saying all along to watch out for Amazon Prime Music as the next big disrupter in the streaming music space.

Why? Prime Music is part of the popular Amazon Prime subscription service that already has a reported 75 million subscribers (although Amazon isn’t saying just how many). Amazon is also dabbling in its own record label, and is generally getting into the mainstream music distribution waters one toe at a time.

Well, maybe two toes, as the company recently dropped a few new nuggets of what might come next.

First of all, T-Mobile just added Amazon Music to its data-free music streaming program called Music Freedom. This is the first instance of Prime Music being available to off-the-platform users.

What might be more an indicator of the future is the fact that Amazon just made it’s Prime Video service available as a stand-alone product for $9 a month. For $11 a month you could also buy the full Amazon Prime membership complete with Amazon Prime Music and 2 day shipping (which is more expensive than just paying the $99 a year fee for the same thing).

Although this last move has little to do directly with Prime Music, it’s another baby step in the direction that we inevitably know Amazon will take. Don’t be surprised if there’s a big announcement about a free-standing Prime Music service in the next few months.