Bkstg Connects Artists Directly With Fans

BkstgThere are many direct-to-fan platforms available for artists these days, but that doesn’t prevent new ones from launching. Bkstg is a new app that lets artists own the entire experience of connecting with fans in one place. This includes posting videos and photos to selling tickets to selling merch.

In many cases, 5 to 10% of an artist’s fan base drives 80% of the revenue, but the artist usually has no direct way to identify and directly connect with those fans, especially when using most social platforms like Instagram and Twitter.

The Bkstg platform allows an artist to see exactly who’s buying tickets, engaging with content. and consuming exclusive content so they can be further targeted.

The platform also utilizes geo-fencing so that an artist on tour can send out a message about ticket or merch specials just to those fans attending the show.

Bkstg is starting with some heavyweight artists like Aerosmith, Justin Bieber, Usher and Maroon 5, and the app is free to use for both artists and users.

$38 Script Let’s You Set Up A Spotify-Like Site

YoutubifyIt seems that pirate music sites are getting easier and easier to set up these days.

Apparently there’s a script that you can buy for just $38 that will let you set up your own cross between Spotify and YouTube. It’s illegal, of course, and will get shut down in no time (especially if you live in the United States), but if you’re really into it, it is possible to launch your own instant music site.

The script is called YouTubify and allows almost anyone to set up their own music service without breaking too much of a sweat. For now, it’s available on one of the biggest coding sites frequented by hackers.

Wefre was a fee music distribution site that recently popped up using the script, and although users loved the look and feel of it, it was forced to shut down shortly after launch.

And fortunately for artists, publishers and labels everywhere, this is what’s going to happen in most of these cases. Just because you can easily launch a music distribution site, it doesn’t mean you should.

Sites like Spotify, Pandora, Tidal, Apple Music and every other music streaming site that you can list have all paid millions of dollars in licensing fees and pay monthly royalties to artists, labels and publishers. Even if the music is offered for free by one of these hacker sites, it still violates copyright laws (it’s a form of piracy, after all).

Reportedly there are dozens of sites using this script that yet to be shut down, but luckily, none have received much attention or gotten traction.

It’s tough enough trying to make money in the streaming music business without a plethora of free sites popping up everywhere.

YouTube To Introduce A Live Streaming App

YouTube ConnectWhere once we lived in a world of pre-recorded video, that’s changing rapidly as millennials increasingly show how much they love live streaming.

For instance, Periscope has posted more than 100 million broadcasts since its debut in March of 2015, and Snapchat Live Stories has as many as 100 million users per day, which has lead Facebook into the same space with Facebook Live.

And Facebook Live has been successful in just a short time, with some creators pulling in over 100,000 viewers per broadcast.

All this has lead Google to decide that perhaps it’s a good idea to enter this side of the online video business, and as a result, you’ll be seeing its new stand-alone app called YouTube Connect in the coming months.

The service is said to have chat and tagging features built in, as well as a newsfeed that displays videos from friends and brands that the user has subscribed to.

YouTube is beginning to feel the pressure from Facebook when it comes to short form video, and Connect is its way for trying to get back in the game.

Too little too late? Users are fickle, but they usually go where their friends are, so don’t be surprised if many don’t even sample a new offering, even from market leader (for now) YouTube, at least until the next update of their favorite platform upsets them.

New Apple Technology Rids Songs Of Swear Words

Free Speech with conditions2Here’s one for the 1st amendment. Apple has been granted a patent named “Management, Replacement and Removal of Explicit Lyrics during Audio Playback” for technology that can automatically scan a song being streamed and edit out any swear words in the lyrics.

According to an article in Business Insider, the technology is different from automatic beeping of a swear word though. The system can detect an undesirable word then generate background music from the song in its place instead, so the transition is seamless.

Apple claims that the system may also work with books as well. For example, it could edit out words applying to sex or even full sex scenes from a book to make it more applicable to children.

Apple employs some censorship currently on Beats 1, limiting the content to anything without explicit lyrics. and the App Store has been notorious for keeping out porn or porn-related sites. That said, the list of “swear words” that the new technology works on will be undoubtedly controversial.

Apple hasn’t said if it would actually employ the technology however, only that it’s been granted the patent for it. If it’s ever rolled out, it’s bound to have free speech advocates everywhere up in arms.

(Photo Credit: Newtown Grafitti)

SoundCloud Launches Its Subscription Tier

Soundcloud GoIt’s been rumored for months, and it’s finally happened. SoundCloud has launched a subscription tier to its streaming service called SoundCloud Go and it’s priced at what’s now become the standard – $9.99 per month ($12.99 for iOS).

The fact of the matter is that SoundCloud Go seems like it’s more to appease the major labels than anything. All 3 majors have now licensed their catalogs to SoundCloud in an effort to get a piece of the DJ remix space they’d been missing.

As for the consumer, there’s not all that much of an advantage. The free tier provides 125+ million tracks while the SoundCloud Go offers the same plus an “expanded catalog” (no idea what that means), offline listening, and it’s ad free.

One of the big problems for consumers is the lack of big names on the platform, or extensive catalog from major label artists, although the platform seems to be adding more content to Go today. Still, the majority of available songs consists of remixes or user uploaded tracks.

SoundCloud has had a major problem with DJ remixes using unlicensed material, and has had to revoke the subscriptions of many of them as a result, which has led to bad blood in the community and mass defections to MixCloud and Dubset. It’s going to be difficult to get them back, if for no other reason than from a logistics standpoint of moving a catalog to a new service.

It appears that SoundCloud Go will pay artists according to their market share, which means that the top 1% will continue to enjoy a higher revenue stream regardless of whether they own the copyright of their material or not.

SoundCloud currently has 175 million active users, so even a conversion rate of 5% would make it a player in the streaming space with nearly 9 million subscribers. SoundCloud Go is only available in the U.S. market for now, but will roll out globally later this year.

By the way, you can avoid the extra $3 iOS charge by signing up on your desktop instead of your iPhone.

U.S. One Of 4 Countries That Doesn’t Pay Artists For Radio Airplay

Car RadioRadio is still a big part of an artist’s success, but did you know that an artist doesn’t get paid for radio airplay in the United States? Songwriters get paid from money collected from broadcasters by ASCAP, BMI or SESAC, but there’s no mechanism in place for an artist to get paid for the same airplay.

As an example, the Righteous Brothers “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” is the most played song on the radio ever, with more than 15 million plays since its release in 1964, yet the group never received a dime from all that radio play. The writers (Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil and Phil Spector) got rich, however.

Unbelievably, the U.S. is one of only 4 countries in the world that doesn’t pay artists for radio airplay. More unbelievably, the other 3 are North Korea, Iran and China, none of which are exactly known for their artistic freedom or copyright protections.

So what’s the problem in the U.S.? Lobbyists, to put it simply. The National Association of Broadcasters is very powerful and contributes to many political campaigns, so they’ve always managed to quash any legislation that gets introduced to Congress.

The NAB has always threatened that radio and television stations would go bankrupt and be forced to go off the air if legislation was passed mandating them to pay artists for playing their songs, all while the industry was raking in billions of dollars of profits.

Sadly, this situation won’t change soon, mostly because radio is in a true downswing (especially AM) with advertisers moving their money away from radio to social media instead (streaming platforms do pay artists for airplay, by the way).

Radio still helps break a song as millions of people continue to listen at work and in their cars, but it’s mostly from the top 1% artists or those backed by the major labels. It’s irrelevant to young artists and bands since airplay is out of reach.

While the rates seem low, music streaming is an artists friend, since at least you get paid something. Because unless you’re the writer, you’re not going to see any money from radio airplay. And at least online is a place for a young artist to build an audience, since local radio (once the champion of local music scenes everywhere) barely exists anymore, and many colleges have shed their terrestrial radio stations.

For a deeper look into the subject, check out this article on Medium from CD Baby’s CEO Tracy Maddux.

How Gen Z Is Using Social Media

Gen Z is coming of age and they have a whole different take on communication than the generations before. Gen Z is generally defined with birth years ranging from the mid or late 1990s through the early 2010s or starting from the early 2000s.

Gen Z and social media imageA study by the college marketing insights agency Fluent examined the online active of Gen Zers and found a number of interesting points.

  • Facebook is still the top network for many users. 51% use the platform for keeping in touch with high school friends and family, while 39% used it for keeping in touch with college friends. Gen Zers like the fact that the platform keeps on top of new technical trends like messaging and video.
  • Snapchat and Instagram were used to keep in touch with closer friends, particularly at college. 34 and 35% used Snapchat and Instagram several times a day.
  • They spend their time online looking for content rather than social interaction.
  • 24% sample new apps every month.
  • YouTube is a major destination with 80% of respondents.
  • That said, Facebook has become a major video destination as well for 79% of respondents.
  • 32% watched at least 1 hour of video a day, 30% watched 2 hours a day, and 21% watched 3 hours a day.
  • They cannot live without the following brands in order of popularity: Apple, Samsung, Google, Netflix, YouTube.

Notice that Twitter isn’t a part of the social mix. This goes to show that pictures and video are a big part of the Gen Z lifestyle, so if you’re fan base is in this demographic, this is something to strongly consider in future marketing campaigns.

March 28, 2016

YouTube Says It Pays Plenty Of Royalties

youtube not paying muchMany fingers are being pointed at YouTube for not contributing much to label and artist bank accounts despite the enormous number of streams it generates.

For instance, YouTube claims that it had 50% of the 317 billion streams last year, yet paid only a fraction of what the paid tier from Spotify paid.

How much? We don’t have the exact breakouts, but a combination of YouTube, Soundcloud, and all the ad-supported tiers from all streaming services accounted for $385 million in the U.S. in 2015.

Premium tiers of Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play and others amounted to $1.22 billion last year.

While everyone is disgruntled with YouTube for paying such low rates, its response as been that it’s paid out over $3 billion dollars to the music industry, which is deceiving in that it’s over the services lifetime, not last year.

The fact of the matter is that YouTube is still the go-to service by most people to listen to music, yet it pays the least to artists, songwriters, labels and publishers.

Yet the company has the music industry over a barrel as it holds all the leverage. Whether an artist wants their music there or not, chances are some fan is going to upload it, so it’s always going to be available, and the price is still right at free.

Unfortunately, don’t expect this dynamic to change soon.

The Official RIAA 2015 Statistics Are Out

CDs sold in 2015The RIAA has released its statistics for 2015 and, as always, there are some surprises. The things to remember about the RIAA is that it works for the record labels (especially the majors), so some stats you have to take with a grain of salt. Here are some of the more noteworthy data points.

  • There was a very slight increase in the recorded music part of the business, with revenues of just over $7 billion, for an increase of 0.09%
  • Streaming accounted for more revenue than any other income stream for the first time, accounting for 34.4% of income, while download sales made up 34%, physical sales were 28.8%, and synch were 2.9% of total revenue.
  • Paid subscription revenue increased 52.3% to $1.22 billion, compared to $800.1 million in 2014, while ad-supported streaming revenue increased 30.6 percent to $385.1 million. All very good news!
  • Revenue from CDs, vinyl and DVDs of albums and singles fell another 10.1 percent to $1.9 billion (although that was less than predicted). CDs fell to $1.521 billion from $1.83 billion the year before based on 123 million CDs that were sold last year, which was down from around 143 million in 2014.
  • Vinyl sales continued to soar, generating $423 million from 16.9 million album sales and roughly 500,000 singles, an increase of 31.8 percent.

Here’s the catch – the RIAA’s numbers reflect retail sales, which means that the above numbers don’t reflect how much the labels actually received for their music, although wholesale prices are from 65 to 70%.

Branding For Musicians Quick Overview

Branding For MusiciansLast summer I was a thought-leader at David Cutler’s wonderful SAVVY Musician program at the University of South Carolina, which is basically a mini-MBA program for musicians. The program not only teaches you have to think like an entrepreneur, but produce results as well.

Here’s a brief branding outline that I gave while there, which explains some of the very basic steps that any musician, engineer, producer, or music exec can do to develop your brand.