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Music Industry News Roundup For The Week Of 2/24/17

Music Industry News Roundup Here’s the Music Industry News Roundup for the week of February 24th, 2017. It was a rather quiet week, but still lots to talk about. Let’s get into it.

This may be the last easy year for streaming music. It needs new innovations and pricing if it wants to grow.

Users are leaving Snapchat for Instagram. It now has the same features, and this poster tells you why.

Old fashioned TV still drives the music business. But a lot less than in the past Remember when an appearance on Saturday Night Live was worth 150,000 album sales?

Universal Music And MQA make a deal. MQA may be the future format for streaming high-resolution music, and Universal is getting in on it early.

Alex Da Kid thinks there a new resurgence of indie labels coming. And he hopes his label leads the way.

Does owning your music matter anymore? Millions of streaming users say no but this article thinks differently. I’m not so sure I agree.

The big tech companies are still coming after the music business. Good or bad thing? Time will tell, but it looks inevitable.

And maybe Apple will end up with a music monopoly. It’s a long shot, but could happen.

Ed Sheeran is the biggest artist on Spotify worldwide. This is a bit of a surprise, but he’s killing it on the platform.

Look for more personalized ads coming from Pandora. Or just buy a subscription and go ad-free.

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

Music Industry News Roundup For The Week Of 1/20/17

Music Industry News Roundup Here’s the Music Industry News Roundup for the week of January 20th, 2017. We’re back in the swing of things as everyone hits the ground running in the new year. Here are some of the news highlights for the week.

There’s speculation that Sony Japan is tiring of the entertainment business and might now want to sell out. That means Sony Music and Sony/ATV publishing as well. Could the 3 major labels soon be down to 2?

It looks like Sirius XM is still interested in buying Pandora. But only at the right price. Pandora is in trouble, so that price is sure to be coming down to where Sirius likes it soon.

There are predictions that the US radio industry is going to change big time soon. Back to local and away from big station groups, as iHeartRadio is in big financial trouble that could start the change. This is a good thing.

The long term trends in radio don’t look good. Despite what you might read, fewer people are listening to radio, a figure that looks like it will only decrease. Is it because of the product (too many commercials) or the format? Could a big industry shakeup change the trend?

Norway shuts down its analog radio system. It’s trying to make a clean shift to digital. This is for national stations only though, as lots of independent analog stations will still stay on the air.

Facebook has decided to stop paying publishers for live videos. It seems like this was just a short term deal to establish the format and now it wants to put more emphasis on long-form videos instead. This is no-doubt because it will soon be inserting mid-roll ads after 20 seconds, so the longer the video, the better.

Apple is looking to produce TV content. Could this be Netflix/Amazon envy, or has it just lost confidence in the core product of Apple Music?

The hottest selling metal records of 2016 holds a surprise. Metallica holds 6 of the top 10 spots and is still selling physical product like crazy.

Music streaming now has more paying users than Netflix. Of course, Netflix is only one company, while the more than 100 million music streaming subscribers is across all the streaming networks world-wide.

10 virtual reality observations. Will it be the next big thing? It could be, but probably not in the way you think.

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

 

Music Industry News Roundup For The Week Of 10/21/16

Music Industry News Roundup Here’s the Music Industry News Roundup from the week of October 21th, 2016. It’s some pretty good news for the recorded music industry, more on music subscriptions and some interesting lawsuits. Let’s get to it.

The music business has seen a lot of growth this year. Up 3.2% globally and more than 8% in the U.S.. That’s great news for an industry that’s had quite a few bad years lately.

Garth Brooks becomes Amazon Music Unlimited’s first exclusive. Good for Amazon but will it work for Garth in the end?

Grooveshark’s creator has a new platform. And this time it just might be endorsed by the major labels.

Radio is giving live streaming a try. Finally, radio’s doing something to try to increase its relevancy.

Spinal Tap sues Universal. Harry Shearer sues the media giant for $125 million, stating that he’s received less than $100 for record sales in 30 years. Merchandise income only a little better.

Will there be more device restricted music subscriptions in our future? The low-priced Amazon Music Unlimited tier with Echo and Dot may be just the first of many.

Kanye West thinks the feud between Jay-Z and Apple has hurt his latest release. I think he just backed the wrong horse when he went all in with Tidal exclusives.

You won’t believe the music service that has half the teens in America signed up. Musical.ly may the industry’s secret weapon.

A brief look at the history of Pop music. You probably could guess what’s the most popular pop song of all time.

That’s the News Roundup of what went on in the music industry last week. Let’s see what next week brings.

Yeah, People Still Buy Songs, Especially When They’re 69 Cents

69 cents itunesThere’s an experiment going on in Apple’s iTunes Store that not many are paying attention to, but it just might prolong the download side of the music business for a few more years. It’s true that streaming is all the rage, with subscription numbers increasing at a steady pace while the download business is falling like a rock. But not so fast – price is an issue here, just like with everything else.

As I illustrated in my article last week about the upcoming $5 streaming tiers for Pandora and Amazon, price is the way into a music consumer’s heart, and downloads are no different in that regard. As a prime example, few months ago iTunes launched a “Great 69 cents Songs” section, and while that hasn’t caused the music loving public to buy downloads in record numbers again, something else did happen that might be even more appealing to both artist and label. Yes, there were some additional sales, but what’s really interesting is that radio airplay and streams actually went up for songs in this discount section.

Hit songs are now usually priced at $1.29 on iTunes, which seems to be beyond the price resistance point for most consumers, so it’s no surprise that download sales are accelerating in the wrong direction. Even at $0.99, download numbers would continue to fall, but a 69 cents price point is appealing in that it’s almost approaching an impulse buy.

That said, the major record labels tend to only keep the songs in this section at this price for a short period of time and then return them to $1.29. Guess what? The sales then drop off.

There’s some additional strategy to placing a release in this section though, as it’s a way to keep a song on the charts when its popularity begins to wane, or to give it a boost if it’s bubbling just under the top tier of one of the various charts. [Read more on Forbes…]

 

Goodbye MP3, We Hardly Knew Ya

Goodbye MP3When it comes to technology, the music business has always been about convenience. It’s ultimately never about the sound or even a lower cost, it’s always comes down to what’s easiest to use. Still, it’s surprising to see the MP3 file format (or the “download” as many know it) accelerating so quickly towards the end of its useful service life.

From the beginning of the modern music business, consumers have quickly gravitated to the latest technology that made it easier for them get their music fix. Going way back to the 1880s, the business consisted of distributing sheet music that the family musician would use to play the latest songs in the living room. When the player piano was introduced, piano rolls became the must-have product.

The Victrola brought the 78 RPM shellac record in the early 1900s, which was soon replaced by the much more durable 33 1/3rd RPM vinyl record that could hold more than twice as much music. But vinyl records weren’t portable, so in the 1960s 8 track tapes became a big hit for taking your music with you in your car. Cassettes were more convenient however, since they were smaller and operated more like a record album, having two sides. They also provided the ability to fast forward and reverse to quickly find the song you wanted, features not available on the 8 track.

The CD was a revelation, not so much for the digital audio it provided, but for its random access ability that let the user easily select a track with no rewinding or forwarding. This is where the music industry got greedy and included a “technology charge” on every CD, jacking the price up far higher than need be, which eventually caused a consumer backlash after the newness of the format wore off.

That dovetailed into the rise of personal computers and the internet, and the ability to share music was high on the list things that the average computer user craved. In Germany, the Fraunhofer Institute developed the MP3 file format in 1993, but it wasn’t until 1997 when it finally took off thanks to the advent of the Winamp player and popularized by MP3.com website.

An MP3 file “let the air out of the tire” of a standard digital CD file, making it about 10 times smaller in size. As a result, music files could then be easily transferred over the low bandwidth online connections of the times (remember, we’re talking the old 32kbd modem days). Not only that, a user’s favorite songs could be ripped from a CD then freely shared with friends without having to pay those sky-high CD prices. Before you knew it, the revolution had arrived as piracy ran rampant, sales waned and record stores closed.

After several feeble attempts to open up an online music store by the major labels, Apple came to rescue with iTunes in 2003, the first large scale way to monetize digital music, a move that the majors rue till this day. [Read more on Forbes…]

Music Industry News Roundup #4

Music Industry News Roundup Here’s some interesting music business news from the last week. There’s a lot going on in the streaming world, but as usual, that’s not all.

Warner Music had it’s best quarter in a long time. Streaming agrees with this major label, and it’s up around 14% over the same time last year. Guest what? It’s all due to streaming.

“Happy Birthday” is copyright free, but what about “We Shall Overcome” and “This Land Is Your Land?” Both are considered national treasures and thought to be in the public domain, but are instead controlled by the daughter of Woody Guthrie. New lawsuits attempt to change that, but what does it mean for copyright law?

Many superstars are going it alone without a manager. Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars, Beyonce and Ariana Grande are using a close tight nit team to guide their careers instead of traditional management companies. Prince was notorious for doing the same thing, and Mick Jagger has essentially guided the Rolling Stones since early in their career. Works for some, not so much for others as Queen and Billy Joel had a rough time after trying the strategy.

Drake’s Views chart dominance is mainly due to streaming. It seems that sales aren’t what they used to be, but I’ve been making that point for a long time.

Spotify is trying to program ads based on your musical tastes. The company is now asking advertisers to submit ads that fit specific profiles to better target listeners on its free ad-supported tier. Creepy or smart?

Song pluggers now target playlists. Song “pluggers” or promoters used to target just radio in order to raise the profile of a song and make it a hit, now they target various playlists instead.

Apple has fixed a big problem with Apple Music. It has moved to fingerprinting technology to help better match your personal music collection to its online catalog. User have been frustrated with inaccurate matches, but this promises to kill the bug.

Downloads will be dead by 2020. That’s what this article predicts as it looks at the downward spiral down of downloadable music consumption. Not analysts believe it will happen this quickly, by the way.

Has streaming broken the UK singles charts? A better question might be, what dos the singles chart now measure, because it certainly isn’t sales.

That’s the News Roundup of what went on in the music industry last week. Let’s see what next week brings.

Apple’s Publishing Royalty Proposal Is A Shot At Spotify

Apple's Music Publishing ProposalWho says Apple’s music executives aren’t smart? In what may end up being a brilliant strategic move, the company discretely made a proposal to the governing Copyright Royalty Board to increase the song publishing royalty rate to 9.1 cents per 100 interactive streams, a significant increase over what is currently paid, according to the NY Times.

On the surface, this is not only an greater payday for songwriters and music publishers, but also a vast simplification over the current complex royalty calculation. Streaming services now pay publishers from 10.5 to 12% of overall revenue, which is determined via a strikingly large number of factors that changes with the device used, the country the user resides in, if the service is bundled, and the type of subscription, to mention just a few. The music royalty collection company Audiam reports that the average publishing royalty is now around 5 cents per 100 plays, so Apple’s proposal of 9.1 cents represents a windfall for a part of the industry that has suffered during the run up of streaming popularity.

There’s also a psychological impact that goes along with that figure however. Currently, the mechanical royalty rate for every song on a CD or vinyl record, or a download, is also set at 9.1 cents. A streaming rate set similarly will not only bring it in line with those standards, but put the ease of calculation back in the hands of the songwriter and publisher, who must now depend upon the streaming company to calculate the monies owed.

The Back-Door Strategy
While simplicity may seem to be the overriding factor for the proposal, there’s something much more strategic behind Apple’s thinking. First of all, an increase in publishing royalty payments would severely stress stand-alone streaming companies who’s only product is music streaming like Deezer and Tidal, but most especially Spotify. That company still hasn’t turned the corner to profitability, and having to pay roughly 80% more in publishing royalties might keep it that way, which may put the company in a more serious bind with its already itchy investors.

Not only that, it would put a severe crimp on any interactive streaming service (as opposed to non-interactive like Pandora) that currently features a free ad-supported tier, since the royalty rate per 100 streams would be the same regardless of if the subscriber makes a monthly payment or not. Such an increase in expenditures might put an end to the free tier as we know it (which in the end, might not be such a great thing for the industry – a topic for another day). [Read more on Forbes…]

Engineer/Composer Bobby Summerfield On My Latest Inner Circle Podcast

Bobby SummerfieldOn this week’s Inner Circle Podcast #118 I’m happy to feature Bobby Summerfield, my compadre from the AudioNowcast, as my guest.

Bobby’s worked with a variety of great artists ranging from Michael Jackson to Carole King to world music superstar Johnny Clegg to the legendary Harry Belafonte. He’s also a composer with his own music library, and his credits include shows like Oprah Winfrey, The View, Survivor, and ABC’s 20/20 News, and commercials for Coca Cola, Ford Motor Co. and American Airlines. Along the way, Bobby’s also been nominated for a daytime Emmy award. We had a great chat that you’ll enjoy.

In the intro I’ll discuss Apple’s interesting proposal for a new streaming royalty rate for songwriters and publishers, and the new breed of big fast flash drives now available.

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

Buying Tidal Is A Terrible Waste Of Apple’s Money

Apple Buying Tidal?A report from the Wall Street Journal yesterday has Apple in talks to buy Jay-Z’s Tidal streaming service, and even though Tim Cook’s company has a truck load of cash on hand, this is one acquisition that seems to be a waste of money.

When Apple purchased Beats two years ago for around $3 billion, the company received not only infrastructure that was later used to launch Apple Music, but also executive talent in Jimmy Iovine and Ian Rogers (who has since departed), and branding recognition from Dr. Dre. The general consensus is that the company vastly overpaid for what it received, but at least you could look at the deal and see that it made some sense because a few pieces fit into the larger picture of what Apple was trying to do.

Not so with Tidal. It’s a company reportedly in executive disarray, so there’s no operational talent to acquire. Apple already has all the infrastructure it needs for streaming delivery, so there’s nothing to be gained there either. Tidal does have a high resolution CD quality audio tier, but Apple has been collecting hi-res masters for its Mastered For iTunes program for more than three years now, so it’s even ahead of Tidal in this area, so that’s not a fit either.

Maybe the one thing that might be interesting to Apple is that fact that Tidal has 4.2 million paid subscribers, many of them attracted to the service because of Jay-Z’s brand, and exclusives from Beyonce, Rhianna, Kenye West and Prince. Buy Tidal and you get the users, but who’s to say that those subscribers can easily be retained?

Granted, if the price was right (meaning very low – $100 million or less feels right), it may be a worthwhile gamble for Apple, if for no other reason in that it takes it off the market (although none of Apple’s deep pocket competitors seem to be interested). [Read more on Forbes…]

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.