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Here’s the Music Industry News Roundup for the week of March 17th, 2017. There’s lots of interesting speculation on new services, and not a mention of Spotify for once. Let’s get into it.
Facebook trying to solve “social music.” No one else has cracked it, but the company is taking music very seriously.
Will AI and chatbots disrupt the music industry? AI is already being used for streaming recommendations, but there may be other places for it as well.
Ed Sheeran claimed 9 of the top 10 chart spots in the UK. And 16 of the top 20, and that’s worrying a lot of people. Are free streams are screwing up the charts because they’re weighted the same as paid streams? Apple’s Jimmy Iovine has a lot to say on this.
Is Taylor Swift getting into the streaming business. She just filed for 9 trademarks for “Swifties,” but all we know is that it’s for a website. Speculation runs high here.
Pandora finally launched its premium tier. The company tries to capitalize on its 175 million users, but is this too little too late?
Alibaba to launch an artist management company. The Chinese company is going global and has committed to spending more than $7 billion on entertainment in the next 3 years. Look out Google, Apple and Amazon.
Airbnb is getting into the music business. It’s launched its “Music Experience” which provides not only accommodations, but prime tickets as well. Now available in 12 cities but soon expanding to 40 globally.
And Amazon is getting into the festival business. No announcement, just a job posting about wanting to dramatically improve the festival experience. Who wouldn’t be for that?
Google Play Music has new audio playback options. You can now change between 4 different levels of audio quality, which suggest some hi-res music in the future. The problem is there’s no explanation about the specs.
You’ll be shocked at the top vinyl records in each state. Classic rock still rules, which is kind of sad in a way. I like the fact that vinyl buyers understand the quality of the musical period, but it’s time for some new blood.
That’s the Music News Roundup of what went on in the music industry last week. Have a great week ahead!
Here’s the Music Industry News Roundup for the week of November 18th, 2016. Lots on the legal front this week, and streaming news is back strong again. Let’s get into it.
The Justice Department wants BMI to collect fees in a different way. It asked for “full work licenses” where all songwriters must agree to a license, but lost the argument in court recently. It has now announced that it will appeal. Not good for the publishing business if it wins as licensing will get a lot harder if there are multiple songwriters involved.
A long list of music industry associations have asked the US government to support European copyright actions aimed at YouTube. They’re hoping that the royalty payout from YouTube ultimately rises to that of Spotify or Apple Music. This is a long shot at best, but certainly worthy of continued discussion.
Some insiders think that Trump might be good for business. They site the close ties of the Obama administration to Google. Good luck with that one.
Prince’s estate is suing Tidal. It says that the streaming service has been illegally streaming a number of the superstar’s albums without a license. This could end up being the death knell for the service.
Google Play Music rolled out some new features. Improvements to the user interface include contextual song recommendations, which are garnering kudos all around. This could end up being a big deal, as Apple Music is generally thought of as clunky to use, while Spotify as a little stodgy in its UI.
Amazon launched Amazon Music Unlimited in Europe to much fanfare. It’s now available in the UK, Germany, and Austria. And the service rolled out a Family Plan as well.
More than a quarter of all music streaming subscribers hop around. They go from service to service on the free plans with different email addresses, according analyst Mark Mullligan. Not good that they can’t be converted.
Spotify now driving concert ticket sales. It’s now sending out emails to subscribers with ticket offers.
BMG going all in with Alibaba in China. It had signed a 2 year deal to supply music to the Chinese giant, and now extended the agreement for 3 more years.
Metallica’s music returns to Napster. 17 years after the group had a collective thrombo over the music service, their music is back on the platform. We’ve come full circle on that one, haven’t we?
That’s the Music News Roundup of what went on in the music industry last week. Let’s see what next week brings.
The major record labels are adamant about keeping the price of a music streaming subscription at $9.99 per month, regardless of the platform, so it was a great surprise last week when Amazon announced that its new Amazon Music Unlimited service was priced at $7.99 per month for Amazon Prime members. It turns out that the labels haven’t softened their pricing stance at all, as Music Business Worldwide reported that Amazon will actually end up subsidizing the other 2 bucks when all is said and done.
It turns out that Amazon is expected to be paying out from between $5.50 to $6 each month to record labels and artists for each $7.99 Prime subscriber, and an additional $1.50 a month to publishers and songwriters. When you figure in administration, marketing, staff and infrastructure costs, that means that most if not all of that monthly fee has pretty much been eaten up.
So what’s the company’s end game?Amazon might be pulling an Apple here, losing money on software in order to sell more hardware and make a much higher profit. While Echo and Dot seem to be hits and are the leading products in this new category, there very well may be more hardware devices from the company on the way . Using music streaming as a loss-leader to make it’s hardware more attractive has been tried by many companies though, particularly in the mobile space, and only Apple has been wildly successful with the strategy.
The price subsidy could also be another way to increase Prime memberships. While Amazon doesn’t publish the actual number of subscriptions, insiders have reported it to be around 60 million, and when you consider that each one is paying $99 a year for the privilege, you can see why anything that might increase that number could be valuable. Still, it seems like a stretch to think that the average music user will say to himself, “I really want to subscribe to this music service because of this great price. Let me pay just $99 more so I can buy in.” [Read more on Forbes]
Here’s the Music Industry News Roundup from the week of October 14th, 2016. Streaming is back in the news this week as Amazon and Pandora both launched new services. There’s so much more though that you could easily have missed. Let’s get to it.
Amazon finally launched its stand-alone streaming service. But is the company taking after Apple and using it to sell hardware?
Pandora launches it’s new service too. Not to be outdone, Pandora finally launched its interactive service as well as a total rebranding. It was curious that it launched on the same day as Amazon though. It was pushed down the list of news as a result.
Apple Music’s Jimmy Iovine hints at things to come. He’s claiming that we’re going to love the upcoming features and upgrades to Apple Music, but then again, he’s always been a salesman.
Doing an artist deal with Apple may not be what’s it’s cracked up to be. It seemed like a good deal at first, and the money was good, but in the end Anohni feels that the company tempered her political style.
Is canned music on the way out? An organization in the UK is trying to ban elevator music, blaming it for noise pollution and world-wide hearing loss.
Michael Jackson topped the list of dead celebrity earners. That was mostly because of the sale of his publishing to Sony Music so this might be a one time only thing.
Will Emotional Radio save the medium? This new smart radio senses your mood via artificial intelligence and programs it accordingly.
Speaking of radio, BBC 1 is losing all its best DJs. It’s shaping up as a big problem as it’s affecting the ratings.
Streaming exclusives may be here to stay. Labels hate them and there’s evidence that they don’t actually boost an artist’s album, but the evidence says they’re not going way.
A new agreement opens the door to unofficial mixes on Spotify and Apple Music. The contract with Dubset sets the stage for more indie artists and more music that haven’t been able to get on the platforms before.
That’s the News Roundup of what went on in the music industry last week. Let’s see what next week brings.
Amazon has finally launched it’s long awaited stand-alone streaming music service and it’s called Amazon Music Unlimited. On the surface it has a number of interesting features that differentiate it from the other major streaming services, but one has to wonder whether potential users will find them compelling enough to subscribe.
Perhaps the service’s biggest feature is price. If you’re already an Amazon Prime customer, Amazon Music Unlimited is available for just $7.99 per month or $79 per year, undercutting the norm of $9.99 per month charged by most other services. If you’re not a Prime customer however, you’ll still be charged the customary $9.99 per month.
If you happen to own an Amazon Echo, Echo Dot or Amazon Tap device, the price is even lower at $3.99 per month, but music playback only works on that device. If you want to receive the full Amazon Music service on your phone, for instance, you’ll still need to pony up for the full Unlimited tier at either $7.99 monthly if you’re a Prime member, or $9.99 if you’re not.
On the surface this seems pretty interesting in that a lower price for streaming is what major industry consultants have been advising for years. Even back at the peak of the CD boom, the average music buyer never purchased $120 worth of music per year, as is the case now with a $9.99 per month streaming plan. Though there’s been a decent amount of streaming penetration at that price point, it’s still only 10% or less in some territories, according to industry pundit Mark Mulligan. Potential subscribers that might not ever buy at $9.99 are more likely to change their minds if that monthly threshold was lower.
That’s why Amazon Music Unlimited’s $7.99 per month price point looks so inviting. It’s a step in bringing that monthly fee more in line with the expectations of the greatest number of users.
The problem is that this price is really a mirage.
You have to be an Amazon Prime member in order to have access to the $7.99 price, and this is after you’ve already payed $99 for your Amazon Prime subscription for the year. And, as a Prime member, you already have Amazon’s Prime Music service available to you for free, so why would you want to pay the extra 8 bucks a month for something that you’ve already paid for?
To be fair, Amazon Music Unlimited is different from Prime Music in a number of ways. There are a lot more songs available (Amazon will only say its in the “tens of millions” as compared to Prime Music’s two million), there are curated playlists, behind-the-scenes artist commentaries, and a new app. Is that worth the extra money per month? It will be interesting to see just how many of the estimated 60 million Prime members say, “Yes it is!” [Read more on Forbes]
Ever since music streaming began in earnest, there’s been a mantra inside the music industry that’s gone something like this – “Until the paid subscription rate gets to $5 per month, streaming is never going to scale.” That’s only partially been true, as subscriber numbers have grown steadily at the now standard $10 per month, but not to the level that the industry wanted or expected. The question is, will they truly take off even when they reach the $5 cheap tier?
It looks like we might know soon enough as Pandora is reportedly about to launch a brand new service at that magic price, with Amazon to follow shortly thereafter.
But is what you get for that $5 going to be worth it?
According to reports, Pandora’s $5 tier is just another version of its other tiers, but with the ability to skip more songs and store several hours of playlists. And Amazon’s $5 tier will only apply to owners of its Echo smart speaker. That sort of limits the reach of these $5 tiers a bit, don’t you think?
While all streaming services are feeling the pressure to reduce prices, they’re bound by their agreements with the major record labels, which doesn’t provide a lot of wiggle room for lower prices. In fact, it’s rumored that Apple wanted to set the price of its Apple Music to $8 at launch but that idea was quickly laid to rest by the major label’s powers-that-be.
Pandora and Amazon dipping their toes in the $5 water could be a gateway to a new round of streaming discounts though. Whenever Spotify runs a sale (like the recent $3 for three months student special) its paid subscriber numbers rise pretty quickly, although it’s yet to be seen what the churn rate for those new subscribers is. That’s not enough evidence for the labels however, who still cling to the $10 per month price point as the floor that will never go lower. [Read more on Forbes…]
There’s been speculation for some time that Amazon was going to launch it’s own streaming music service to rival that of Apple Music and Spotify. While such a service could be formidable indeed, another me-too platform might not shake up the streaming landscape much. That could change if Amazon is able to launch a lower-priced service, which could be a game changer based on price alone.
Reports are that the company is considering a streaming service priced at either $4 or $5 per month, but it would only be available on Amazon’s Echo player, and not on phones or other devices. The service would have features much like its competition in that it would be fully ad-free and on-demand. Reports are that the company would also launch a $10 per month full-line service as well that would be available on all devices.
While an Echo-only service seems like a serious limitation given that Amazon has only sold a few million units so far (predictions say that there will be 4 million in use by the end of the year), it’s the precedent of breaking the $5 per month barrier that’s more important than the service itself.
Many industry analysts have railed against the standard $10 per month price point, with the premise being that the price is too high for the industry to reach the tipping point it needs to fully replace physical product. It’s long been predicted that $5 per month was the point that would reach consumers who were reluctant to subscribe at a higher price and finally have them sign on.
The $5 price point has been resisted by the major labels as being too low, and they have fought with the streaming services to keep it at $10. While that might have been a wise decision when streaming was ramping up, in order to truly grow to the heights that most in the industry believe can happen, an adjustment downward is necessary to overcome current consumer objections based primarily on price. The adoption of the proposed $5 per month of the Echo-only service would make music execs more comfortable with the idea that a lower price means more customers, enough so to make up for any perceived money being left on the table. [Read more on Forbes]
With the battle over streaming music leadership raging on between Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube, there’s one major company that’s been lying silently in the weeds waiting for the right time to pounce on an industry increasingly ripe for the picking. Don’t look now, but it may be Amazon that may soon be the one causing the disruption in the music business, and not the other popular contenders.
Amazon’s already a major, but low-profile, mover and shaker in the industry, with reportedly somewhere between 75 million and 90 million yearly subscribers (the company doesn’t release such information, so this is just informed speculation) to its Prime service, and although most of that centers around 2 day merchandise shipping and video delivery, the different types of offerings coming from the Prime Music portion of its service have been growing by the month.
This slow roll-out is happening at a controlled pace, but you get the feeling that the company is learning what works best with each move while not intentionally making a lot of waves as it positions itself to enter the online streaming market full-force.
One recent example of this is when Amazon Music was added to T-Mobile’s Music Freedom data-free music streaming program, which is the first instance of Prime Music being available to off-the-platform users. The move didn’t cause a lot of headlines, but gives the company some experience in rolling out a service beyond its own closed ecosystem.
Step By Step
What might be more an indicator of the ultimate bigger picture is the fact that Amazon recently made it’s Prime Video service available as a stand-alone product for $9 a month. Just adding the ability to purchase the service on a monthly basis is a break from the traditional yearly membership required in the past. Another foreshadowing of the future perhaps?
Then Amazon Launched what amounted to a YouTube Rival with its Amazon Video Direct (AVD), which although it launched with only publishing heavyweights and no record labels, provides an interesting outline of how it will pay content partners, as well as how it will take down videos if copyright infringement occurs. AVD gives partners the option to upload their content to Amazon Prime Video (available to tens of millions of premium tier subscribers), 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, or 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. Regardless of the percentages, providing a roadmap for how content contributors get paid sure looks like Amazon is setting up for something bigger down the road. [Read more on Forbes…]