Tag Archives for " streaming music "

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.

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.

Apple Music Up To 13 Million Subscribers

Apple Music SubscribersIt looks like all the naysayers were wrong. Apple reported on its recent earnings call that its Apple Music streaming service was now up to 13 million paid subscribers and still growing.

Much of that growth has come recently in fact, as it was reported that 2 million subscribers signed up since February alone.

The present growth looks to be at around 1 million a month, which means that the tech giant should be battling Spotify for the top space in the streaming industry by the end of year.

Spotify claims to have 20 million current subscribers, but many are on a “student discount” tier at half the $9.99 monthly price.

One advantage that Apple Music has over Spotify is that it’s available in 58 more countries than Spotify, including Russia, China and Japan. All in all, the service is available in a total of 113 countries, leaving Spotify to play catch-up.

One reason for AM’s growth spurt has been albums from Drake, Coldplay, The 1975 and Gwen Stefani, where were releases to AM for a period before Spotify. Having an advert with Taylor Swift was also a big help.

Despite the recent hype around Tidal, it’s Apple Music that seems to be making the most headway.

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.

IFPI Releases New Global Music Industry Sales Figures

Global Music SalesThe IFPI (the organization that tracks global music sales) finally released its annual report on the sales for 2015. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, none of the figures surprise you.

Here are the numbers right out of the report.

  • Digital revenues now account for 45 per cent of total revenues, compared to 39 per cent for physical sales.
  • There was a 10.2 per cent rise in digital revenues to US$ 6.7 billion, with a 45.2 per cent increase in streaming revenue more than offsetting the decline in downloads and physical formats.
  • Total industry revenues grew 3.2 per cent to US$ 15.0 billion, leading to the industry’s first significant year-on-year growth in nearly two decades. Digital revenues now account for more than half the recorded music market in 19 markets.
  • Streaming remains the industry’s fastest-growing revenue source. Revenues increased 45.2 per cent to US$ 2.9 billion and, over the five year period up to 2015, have grown more than four-fold.
  • Streaming now accounts for 43 per cent of digital revenues and is close to overtaking downloads (45 per cent) to become the industry’s primary digital revenue stream.
  • Premium subscription services have seen a dramatic expansion in recent years with an estimated 68 million people now paying a music subscription. This figure is up from 41 million in 2014 and just eight million when data was first compiled in 2010.
  • Downloads remain a significant offering, but now account for just 20 per cent of industry revenues. Income was down 10.5 per cent to US$ 3.0 billion – a higher rate of decline than in 2014 (- 8.2 per cent). Full album downloads are still a major part of the music fans’ experience and were worth US$1.4 billion. This is higher than the level of sales in 2010 (US $983 million) and 2011 (US $1.3 billion).
  • Performance rights revenue grew. Revenue generated through the use of recorded music by broadcasters and public venues increased 4.4 per cent to US$2.1 billion and remains one of the most consistent growing revenue sources. This revenue stream now accounts for 14 per cent of the industry’s overall global revenue, up from 10 per cent in 2011.
  • Revenues from physical formats declined, albeit at a slower rate than in previous years, falling by 4.5 per cent compared to 8.5 per cent in 2014 and 10.6 per cent in 2013. The sector still accounts for 39 per cent of overall global income and remains the format of choice for consumers in a number of major markets worldwide including Japan (75 per cent), Germany (60 per cent), and France (42 per cent).

That’s a lot of data to take in, but the big takeaways are that the total industry revenue remains flat at $15 billion, despite streaming’s growth, and paid subscriptions are taking off, at 68 million worldwide as compared to 41 million the year before.

 There’s more than meets the eye here though, which I’ll address in an upcoming post.
April 13, 2016

YouTube Has All The Leverage In New Label Negotiations

YouTubeIf you’re a record label, or an artist, band or publisher for that matter, the one thorn in your digital side is YouTube. Why? It’s by far the most widely used streaming service for consuming music, yet it pays the least of all the services. However, it’s come to light that YouTube’s licensing agreements with the three major labels have either expired or are about to, which brings new hope that renegotiated terms might mean increased revenue for the industry.

That hope may prove false though, since YouTube continues to hold all the leverage – in fact, it holds virtually all of it.

Until now, the major labels could drive a hard bargain with all other streaming services that not only gained them hefty upfront fees, but also even a piece of the company in some cases. If a music service didn’t like a label’s terms, it still had no choice but to take the deal, otherwise it would be minus the label’s catalog, which could mean a death blow to the service.

 Not so with YouTube.
 Since so much of the music on the service is illegally uploaded by its users, the company is able to dictate the license agreement terms, since if a label balks and refuses to agree to the deal, its music will still appear on the service.
 In fact, Warner Music tried this very tactic a few years ago, but after a year of its songs still appearing on YouTube yet generating zero revenue, the company acquiesced and signed a deal on YouTube’s terms. Getting some money is better than no money at all.
All this is made possible thanks to the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which protects YouTube and other similar services in that they can’t be held liable as a result of unlicensed content that its users might upload. A record label can ask that the content be taken down, and YouTube will comply, but chances are that content will be re-uploaded immediately and the cycle will continue. Plus the burden of finding any unlicensed versions lies with the labels, all of which spend a great deal of time and resources searching for violations.
 So YouTube is in the drivers seat in these negotiations. Even if the labels don’t like the deal presented, they have no recourse since their music will find its way onto the service, but the labels will get zero money if they pull their catalogs because they don’t like the terms.

The Beatles A Bigger Hit On Spotify Than Current Artists

spotify-the-beatlesspotify-the-beatlesspotify-the-beatlesAfter all these years, it’s surprising how popular The Beatles music still is, and the band’s presence on Spotify proves it. The Fab 4 have been on the streaming service for a mere 100 days, yet the it’s been one of the most popular, even more so than current artists like Ed Sheeran, Ariana Grande and 5 Second of Summer.

The band has averaged 6.5 million listeners a month, with 67% of them being under the age of 35. All told it’s been estimated that the several hundred million plays add up to more than 24 million hours of listening.

Surprisingly enough, Beatlemania is strongest in Mexico City, followed by London, Santiago, Chile and Los Angeles, and Thursday at 5PM is the peak time for listening. The top 4 countries that listen are the USA, UK, Mexico and Sweden.

The 4 most popular songs globally are “Here Comes The Sun,” followed by “Come Together,” “Let It Be,” and “Yesterday,” while the most popular albums are 1, Abbey Road, The White Album and Let It Be. The band’s songs also now appear on 4.2 million playlists.

It’s pretty amazing that the music from any single artist could be so enduring and popular.

$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.

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