Why Digital Exec’s ARPU is Bad Math and also Bad Philosophy for Artists.

ARPU. Do you know what that is? It’s Average Revenue Per User. Not withstanding the insulting connotation of referring to fans as “users” this is just bad on a number of different levels.

Leaked Sony emails suggest that digital music executives confuse per-capita with ARPU. One of the items we’ve found cruising wikileaks has digital music execs explaining the digital landscape ARPU as follows:

$120 Streaming Subscription

$68 Downloads

$3 Ad-Supported Streaming

We’ll get into the fallacy of the $68 Downloads vs the $120 Streaming Subscriptions in a minute. But first, let’s just look at the fact the industry digital execs actually clocked ad-supported ARPU at $3 per user per year and did it anyway! Seriously? Really? Who thinks going from $68 to $3 is a good idea and then doubles down on trying to get sell in on it? Wow, just wow.

Ok, now back the $68 Downloads ARPU. The question that never seems to be qualified in these ARPU valuations is how many users exactly contribute to the revenue pool to end at up an average of $68 per user? The next question would be how many of those “average” users are paying significantly more than $68? Hell, how many are paying significantly more than $120 per year?

In a basic 80/20 model we would expect that 80% of the revenue would come from 20% of the consumers (er, um… “users”). This means the most valued “users” are now being artificially flattened DOWN to $120 per year.

Streaming Subscription fees as a representative of ARPU doesn’t work, because there are only TWO numbers that can be worked into the average, $120 and zero. So now you have the problem of trying to raise the causal user up to $120 per year while you’ve flattened down your best costumer (er, user). This is the crazy rational behind dropping streaming subscriptions down below $120… But wait… wouldn’t that just also artificially flatten the overall market even lower than the $120 ARPU? Yeah… you bet it would.

It’s truly astounding the lack of ability to use calculators and do simple math. We’ve pointed this out again and again. Even at 90 Million Paid Subscribers at $120 per year, that only generates $7.5b in industry revenue. Ninety Million Paying Subscribers. Just keep saying that over and over until it sinks in.

Subscriptions artificially flatten the market and require extremely high (and largely unrealistic) subscriber numbers because the actual number of “users” consuming music is probably at least double 90 million in the USA. That’s where an ARPU of $68 starts to make sense, somewhere around 110-155 million consumers, but most likely even higher. So, here’s the rub – who really believes that Spotify (or all subscriptions streaming services combined) are going to convert 10s of millions of casual consumers/users into $120 per year ARPU’s? They’re not and that’s why this model is screwed.

ARPUisBAD

For streaming to truly mature the industry needs to embrace tier based, value pricing, so that a truly dynamic and flexible ARPU can be restored. The one size fits all Streaming Subscription ARPU is a lie, and the math shows us why.

 

 

Has music missed its ‘Netflix moment’? | Music Business Worldwide

Subscription streaming movie service Netflix announced earlier this week that it has reached 62m users around the world – almost exactly the same number as Spotify.

Big difference is, four times as many of Netflix’s customers pay a subscription each month: 60m of them, or 97% of its total consumer base.

READ THE FULL STORY AT MUSIC BUSINESS WORLDWIDE:
http://www.musicbusinessworldwide.com/has-music-missed-its-netflix-moment/

 


 

Why Spotify is not Netflix (But Maybe It Should Be)

 

Streaming Is the Future, Spotify Is Not. Let’s talk Solutions.

 

BUT SPOTIFY IS PAYING 70% OF GROSS TO ARTISTS, ISN’T THAT FAIR? NO, AND HERE’S WHY…

Apparently Billboard Doesn’t Want Jay Z at Billboard Music Awards, Pimps for Spotify! @S_C_

Why on earth is Glenn Peoples and Billboard warning artists not to go exclusive with Jay Z’s Tidal?   Is Billboard pimping for Spotify?    We’ve long suspected this. Glad it’s almost out in the open.

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 2.45.06 PM


 

 

The ‘Zero Effect': Do New Consumption Charts Penalize Compilation Records and Artists Who Window?

 

 

New Math $.00666 : Billboard’s New “Consumption” Chart, Free Streams and the End Of Meaningful Metrics?

 

 

Spotify is the Problem, Not Labels. (Well, Mostly…)

There is a narrative that keeps getting repeated by Spotify apologists and propagandists. It goes something like this, “The problem is not that Spotify pays too little to artists it’s that record labels are not paying the artists their fair share of royalties from Spotify.” Ha! When the gross payable is half a cent or less we think this has a lot more to do with Spotify than labels.

But this idea that labels are the problem pretty much means that Spotify ignores or otherwise feels that any artist not signed to a major label is unimportant in this conversation and that’s too bad.

We don’t know how many artists and small DIY indie labels aggregate to Spotify via Tunecore and CDBaby for example but we suspect it’s literally THOUSANDS of artists that are not signed to major labels (or ANY label). These are artists who are collecting either 100% of their Spotify royalties directly (Tunecore) or collecting those royalties after a 9% dist fee (CDBaby).

When Spotify shifts the blame for low royalties they are ignoring and invalidating all of the artists not signed to major labels, or any label. There are no industry middlemen taking Zoe Keating’s royalties from Spotify. The per stream rate is just incredibly, horribly bad. 

There are high profile artists such as Zoe Keating and others who echo the sentiments of artists across all strata’s of the business. The economics of Spotify are just unsustainable from the top down at present rates.

Everyone knows that record labels advance massive amounts of money to develop the careers of those artists signed. These advances are recouped from monies earned in royalties. One can argue about the recoupment mechanics but it doesn’t change the fact that with so little money being generated by Spotify the problem is much greater then the labels.

It’s also interesting that in all the talk of democratization and empowering musicians how little of it appears to be actually happening.

99.9% of Tunecore Artists Make Less Than Minimum Wage…

If the Internet is working for Musicians, Why aren’t more Musicians Working Professionally?

We’ve detailed numerous times how at the top end of the food chain, the Spotify math just doesn’t work and would require more subscribers paying $9.99 a month then any other mature premium subscriber business has achieved to date.

Here’s some context for the chart above. Netflix only has 36m subscribers in the US, no free tier, and massive limitations on available titles of both catalog and new releases. Sirius XM, 26.3m in the US as a non-interactive curated service installed in homes, cars and accessible online. Premium Cable has 56m subscribers in the US paying much more than $10 a month and also with many limitations. Spotify… 3m paid subscribers in the US after four years. Tell us again about this strategy of “waiting for scale.” Three Million Paid… Three…

* 3m Spotify Subs Screen Shot
* 26.3m Sirius XM Subs Screen Shot
* 36m Netflix Subs Screen Shot
* 56m Premium Cable Subs Screen Shot
* $7b Music Business Screen Shot

And, just so everyone is clear, we’re not giving the labels a free pass either. But Spotify’s divisive punt to blame the labels for their own bad business model isn’t fair. We’ve reported on the 18% equity stake the labels took as part of their licensing agreements. That’s an 18% equity stake that we’re pretty sure the artists won’t participate in at the time of an IPO or sale (should there be one).

The larger issue in this conversation however is that if Spotify and on demand streaming services can not generate the same or more revenue then transactional sales, then the model is a net negative for artists.  This has nothing to do with labels and everything to do with a flawed business model. Removing the free Ad-Supported tier after a limited time is probably the first, best and most obvious immediate solution but not the only one that should be addressed.

Spotify can not hide behind their bad math by shifting blame to labels when so many artists are getting their royalties from Spotify directly without labels.

 


 

Spotify Must “Adapt Or Die” : Pricing For Sustainability

 

Five Important Questions For Spotify from Artists and Managers

 

Streaming Is the Future, Spotify Is Not. Let’s talk Solutions.

 

Spotify Desperately Doubles Down on Dumb Bad Math… Free Doesn’t Pay, It’s Just Math.

Bring out your shills… It’s no surprise that Spotify has once again enlisted it’s shills and PR machinery to defend it’s exploitation of artists, bad business model, and horrible royalties. The latest offensive comes as the major labels have announced that the unlimited free tier is not working for them (go figure, free doesn’t pay?).

Last year we wondered out loud, Who will be the First Fired Label Execs over Spotify Fiasco & Cannibalization? In February of this year we found out when Rob Wells exited his post at UMG. Around the same time public comments were made by Lucian Grainge for the need to get more paid subscription revenue. He also noted that the free tiers are not creating the type of performance required for a sustainable ecosystem of recorded music sales. Sony music chief Doug Morris has also come to the party stating, “In general, free is death.

Generally speaking we’re not often fans of major labels (remember they have 18% equity in Spotify) but we’re glad they’ve gotten out the calculators. Right now, the three major labels are currently reviewing their licenses with Spotify which are up for renewal this year. This is the time for the major labels to renegotiate those licenses to be more fair for artists.

We’ve detailed the math here, Music Streaming Math Can It All Add Up? In that post we look at the numbers based only upon paying subscribers. The bottom line is that even at the current rate of $9.99 (per month, per subscriber) it’s going to take a lot more paying subscribers to even get close to the type of revenue earned from transactional sales. Free, ad supported revenue, not even close.

Here’s a couple more things to keep in mind that we’ve detailed:

* Spotify Per Stream Rates Drop as Service Adds More Users…

– and –

* USA Spotify Streaming Rates Reveal 58% of Streams Are Free, Pays Only 16% Of Revenue

But perhaps the worst part of Spotify was outlined by Sharky Laguna’s editorial, “The Real Reason Why The Spotify Model Is Broken.” The well written piece details how the artist you play, may not be the artist who get’s paid due to the fixed revenue pool and market share distribution of revenues.

Now keep in mind we’re not anti-streaming. We completely believe that streaming is the future of music distribution and delivery. None of our arguments here are anti-streaming or anti-technology.

Our arguments are anti-exploitation and anti-bad business models. Technology and economics are different issues. We detailed our thoughts for moving forward with potential solutions in our post Streaming Is The Future, Spotify Is Not, Let’s Talk Solutions. We look at five practices that can make streaming music economics viable for all stakeholders and generate the revenue required for a sustainable ecosystem.

When a Spotify rep says, “We think the model works” keep this in mind as we review the Spotify Time Machine…

* 2010 A Brief History Of Spotify, “How Much Do Artists Make?” @SXSW #SXSW

Back in 2010 during Daniel Ek’s Keynote Speech an audience member who identified themselves as an independent musician asked how much activity it would take on Spotify to earn just one US Dollar. The 27 year old wunderkind and CEO of the company was stumped for an answer… Five years later we have a pretty good idea why.

– and –

* 2012 A Brief History Of Spotify, “It Increases Itunes Sales”… @SXSW #SXSW

Ek strenuously denied that his streaming service cannibalises sales of music through services such as Apple’s iTunes.

“There’s not a shred of data to suggest that. In fact, all the information available points to streaming services helping to drive sales,” he said.

Of course, that was until this past year when Itunes sales are reported to have declined by 13-14% and that is pretty much directly attributed to the cannibalization done by Spotify. Hello…

It is said that one of the definitions of insanity is to keep doing the same thing while expecting different results. Our suggestion to the those in positions of power is simply this, if  you want something different, you have to be willing to do something different.

Sure, Spotify was a grand experiment but after half a decade we now have the data to know if that experiment is working out (or not). In the end, it’s just math and free doesn’t pay…

 


 

Streaming Is the Future, Spotify Is Not. Let’s talk Solutions.

 

Spotify Per Stream Rates Drop as Service Adds More Users…

 

USA Spotify Streaming Rates Reveal 58% of Streams Are Free, Pays Only 16% Of Revenue

2012 A Brief History Of Spotify, “It Increases Itunes Sales”… @SXSW #SXSW

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before… Spotify doesn’t cannibalize Itunes sales it actually increases them… Uh huh. That was the rap they wanted us to believe. Smart and cautious artists and labels seem to have been right by avoiding Spotify.

In 2014 Itunes sales are reported to have declined by 12-14% and that is pretty much directly attributed to the cannibalization done by Spotify.

So here’s what they said in 2012…


Spotify Plays Can Increase iTunes Sales. Here’s Proof! | TechCrunch

… there’s no evidence of Spotify or other streaming services negatively impacting music sales. More data like this could encourage artists and labels to promote their streaming music presences, and push acts like The Black Keys and Paul McCartney who’ve pulled their catalogues from Spotify to come back.


Spotify launches new apps, as Universal again defends the service| CMU

Paul Smernicki did some more defending at a Guardian conference. According to Music Ally, Smernick told the conference: “We’ve looked really really hard for evidence of cannibalisation, almost unobjectively. Across the business, we’ve been unable to find that evidence. And in [European] markets where Spotify has launched, the growth in the digital business has been about 40%, in territories where it doesn’t it’s around 10%. There’s a healthy ecosystem and it can be served by many of those services”.


Spotify chief: streaming services boost music sales | The Telegraph UK

Speaking to digital music site Evolver.fm in a pre-Grammys interview, Ek strenuously denied that his streaming service cannibalises sales of music through services such as Apple’s iTunes.

“There’s not a shred of data to suggest that. In fact, all the information available points to streaming services helping to drive sales,” he said.


Does Streaming Cannibalize Albums? | Billboard

Wilson points out that the number of digital downloads has increased-up 15% for albums and 6% for tracks in the first 46 weeks of 2012, according to SoundScan-suggesting that the widespread availability of free on-demand streaming hasn’t led to a sales apocalypse.

Rhapsody chief executive Jon Irwin says, “The only thing streaming music cannibalizes is piracy.”


So there you have it.  Three years later and meanwhile back on earth the actual effects of Spotify on the transactional sales of recorded music have been a disaster. Which is why there are major changes happening at the major labels as Spotify licenses come up for renewal.

2010 A Brief History Of Spotify, “How Much Do Artists Make?” @SXSW #SXSW (Shill By Shill West)

SXSW Rewind… Back in 2010 during Daniel Ek’s Keynote Speech an audience member who identified themselves as an  independent musician asked how much activity it would take on Spotify to earn just one US Dollar. The 27 year old wunderkind and CEO of the company was stumped for an answer… Five years later we have a pretty good idea why.

2010… #SXSW Rewind…


Live Blog: Spotify CEO Daniel Ek Says Music Service Now Has 320,000 Paid Subscribers | TechCrunch

Q: How many plays equals one dollar?
A: Depends on the type on contract with the publisher/record labels. We share the rev we bring in. You can’t really equate to ‘per play’ we look at all our ad rev. Creates a bucket. For instance how do you account for a purchase of a song. There is no easy answer to your question. Over time our ad revs are growing, number of downloads growing. Amount of rev we bring in is growing.


Will Spotify Be Fair to Artists? | Technology Review

I couldn’t help noticing, however, Ek’s artful dodge to the question of how artists are paid by his service. The subject was broached by an audience member, who identified himself as an independent musician and thanked Ek profusely for the great application. He wanted to know how much he would be paid.

“It’s complicated,” was, in essence, Ek’s reply. But he did reveal that it’s a revenue sharing model; artists get paid a proportion of whatever Spotify gets paid, presumably based on the number of plays on the site they receive.

Ek’s reply was disappointing because this is the million dollar question for many music sites.


Dodgy from the start. What do you expect from one of the co-founders of U-Torrent… Economics only a pirate could understand?

 

A Tale of Two Pirates? Daniel Ek (uTorrent) and Kim Dotcom (Megaupload)

 

USA Spotify Streaming Rates Reveal 58% of Streams Are Free, Pays Only 16% Of Revenue

 

How to Fix Music Streaming in One Word, “Windows”… two more “Pay Gates”…

If Streaming is the “Solution” to Piracy, What Happens When Piracy is Streaming? Rot Oh… #sxsw

A big talking point of streaming, particularly of the Spotify variety has been that streaming is a solution to piracy, and that “access over ownership” models are the future.

Well… ok… but that assumes that piracy (of the corporately sanctioned, ad funded variety) remains a download business, while consumers migrate to the easier more accessible (free tiered, ad funded) music streaming models.

We’re told that the ad-supported free tier is the only way to attract consumers from piracy to legality. To be clear we’re not opposed to free trial periods. Free trials of 30 days, maybe even 60 days should give the consumer the ability to fully experience the value a streaming service offers. We just don’t see how the economics of ad-supported free streaming can create a sustainable revenue model for musicians and songwriters.

But here’s the bigger question. What happens when the pirates migrate to streaming over storing? Now we’re back to square one. A decade ago iTunes and later Amazon provided an legal solution to piracy that was superior in every way except one, price.

Why would anyone think that streaming would combat piracy any better than transactional downloads? Well, for the same reason piracy is, was and remains the primary source of music consumption, price. So the conversation and controversy over streaming is not one about the method of distribution, or technology. The conversation is the same as it has been for a over a decade, price.

Essentially Spotify appears to be designed to model ad-funded piracy whereby the company who can capture the largest market share would have ability to legally devalue music by delivering it to consumers for free. This math just doesn’t work. We can’t even see where the math on paid subscriptions will ever get to scale or revenue at a price point of $9.99 a month per subscriber.

So the inevitable question becomes if streaming is the solution to piracy, what happens when piracy is streaming? There are already multiple applications that are available or in development that reportedly enable users to stream music directly from BitTorrent as opposed to the need to download files to a local hard drive.

So explain to us again exactly how streaming is a solution to essentially the same service? Oh, they both need to compete on the same price point, which is free. Well, guess what, ad-supported free distribution of music is not sustainable.

YouTube is the largest free ad-supported free streaming distribution platform and it can not create the type of revenue required for the sustainability of the recorded music business. If we believe what they say, YouTube isn’t even a profitable business for Google!

So here’s the bottom line. Spotify, YouTube, Pandora and other ad-supported free streaming services are a side show to take the conversation away from the core problem, piracy. Internet piracy is big business and these side shows distract the conversation away from the fundamental truth of our economic reality… Free doesn’t pay. It’s just common sense and it’s just math…

 

Spotify Doesn’t Kill Music Sales like Smoking Doesn’t Cause Cancer…

 

BUT SPOTIFY IS PAYING 70% OF GROSS TO ARTISTS, ISN’T THAT FAIR? NO, AND HERE’S WHY…

 

Apple Announces Itunes One Dollar Albums and Ten Cent Song Downloads | Sillycon Daily News

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So Much For Spotify in Sweden, Overall Sales Drop… and Norway Too…Streaming Kills…

Remember how we’ve been told for years that Spotify is the solution to the record industry’s problems? Remember how we’ve been told that Spotify is the solution to piracy? Remember the stories of how “sales are growing” in Sweden and Norway?

Well guess what? According to Digital Music News (reported by IFPI) overall sales in Sweden and Norway are actually down for 2014.

Overall. Down.

Hmmmm… Click the links below…

After Years of Recovery, Music Sales Are Now Declining In Sweden… | Digital Music News

Streaming Killed Piracy In Norway. It Also Killed Recording Sales… | Digital Music News

We’ve said it before, and we’re willing (and happy to be wrong) that streaming economics, specifically of the Spotify variety are unsustainable. That doesn’t mean the economics can’t be changed, or that streaming doesn’t work and can not work – it just means that the predictions about growing revenue via Spotify are wrong.

We’ve questioned the philosophy and math behind streaming for a while now and it appears some of our criticisms and concerns are coming true. For example we noted that the Spotify per stream rates are dropping as more users are added to the service.

If overall revenue continue to decline, especially in the most promoted and championed markets in the world, what does that say for the rest of the world?

We previously reported that the per stream rates are dropping as the service add more users (graph below). This new data suggests that not only is the per stream rate dropping, but in two the leading countries in the world overall revenues are also down.

It’s just math.

SpotifyNetMONTHLY_Charted

 

Artist Rights Leaders: Taylor Swift

0202

 

After the Charlie Hebdo tragedy, we thought we should start recognizing and praising those who stand up for artist rights.  We will also identify those who oppose artist rights and tell you why we think they are villains.  Not all of these people will be famous and you may not recognize some of their names, but that’s kind of the point.  We also want to emphasize that we’re not comparing anyone to anyone else, we’re just appreciating people for what they do and who they are–on both sides.

When we look back on the last year, there’s probably no one who did more for artist rights than Taylor Swift.  She really did not need to take on these issues, she could easily have sat back and let the money roll in.

And yet she did.  She put her career on the line and challenged the definitive “new boss” digital business–Spotify.  She challenged them in a very straightforward way by simply saying no.  Taylor had a lot to lose, and she went above and beyond to stand up to the “new boss.”

Spotify’s Daniel Ek revealed himself and did his best to play the “Lars card”–he talked down to her and attacked her.  Not as badly as the calculated and well-financed humiliation of Metallica by Napster’s litigation PR team, but a strain of it.  Can you imagine Steve Jobs doing that?  No way.  But that’s OK, we finally got the evidence on who this guy Ek really is and what his company really stands for.  Same old same old.

Taylor also showed that you don’t need YouTube, either–and she turned her team loose to present herself on YouTube the way she wanted, not the way YouTube wanted to force her to be presented.

She challenged The Man 2.0 by simply being who she was and exercising her rights as an artist–the very rights that the “new boss” constantly tries to take away from us.  It’s really simple:  The new boss needs hits, and hits don’t need the new boss.

And Taylor Swift showed us that artists can be strong and classy and successful, all at the same time.  She reminded us that it’s OK to take care of our business the way each of us want.  And she said it in the Wall Street Journal!

Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for.