The problem is the music-streaming companies | The Hill – Paul Williams

Songwriters have a number of allies in the ongoing fight to update our nation’s horribly outdated music licensing laws. But after reading the recent post by CALInnovate’s Mike Montgomery (“Songwriters are fighting the wrong fight,” 10/5/15), it’s clear that he is not one of them. On what grounds can Montgomery, who represents technology industry interests, claim that he speaks on behalf of songwriters?

As a songwriter elected to represent the interests of ASCAP’s more than 550,000 music creator members, I find Montgomery’s arguments absurd and grossly misleading.


Spotify Per Play Rates Continue to Drop (.00408) … More Free Users = Less Money Per Stream #gettherateright

Down, down, down it goes, where it stops nobody knows… The monthly average rate per play on Spotify is currently .00408 for master rights holders.


48 Months of Spotify Streaming Rates from Jun 2011 thru May 2015 on an indie label catalog of over 1,500 songs with over 10m plays.

Spotify rates per spin appear to have peaked and are now on a steady decline over time.

Per stream rates are dropping because the amount of revenue is not keeping pace with the  number of streams. There are several possible causes:

1) Advertising rates are falling as more “supply” (the number of streams) come on line and the market saturates.

2) The proportion of  lower paying “free streams”  is growing faster than the proportion of higher paying “paid streams.”

3) All of the above.

This confirms our long held suspicion that as a flat price “freemium” subscription service  scales the price per stream will drop.  As the service reaches “scale” the pool of streaming revenue becomes a fixed amount.  The pie can’t get any larger and adding more streams only cuts the pie into smaller pieces!

The data above is aggregated. In all cases the total amount of revenue is divided by the total number of the streams per service  (ex: $4,080 / 1,000,000 = .00408 per stream). Multiple tiers and pricing structures are all summed together and divided to create an averaged, single rate per play.

Streaming “Transparency” and the 70% Black Box Lie… The Solution Is #gettherateright

The argument goes something like this…

Streaming companies are paying 70% of their revenue but artists are not getting paid enough. This must be the result of record labels and rights holders not passing on the right amount to artists.

The first question is, how do we know that streaming services are actually, really paying 70% of their top line gross revenue to rights holders? We know what the revenue of a transaction is on iTunes, because it is factually transparent – it is the list price being charged. We all know this, and we can all verify this. A $9.99 album on iTunes pays out $7.00, or 70%. Same thing for a $.99 song that pays out $.70, that’s also 70% of revenue.

But when if comes to streaming services however we do not know what the revenue is that should be credited to artists and rights holders. This is what is actually of concern. There is a big black box at the top of the waterfall from which all other money flows downstream.

So if streaming services are paying 70% of revenue, what exactly is that revenue? Let us see it. So here we are with the issue of transparency. If we can’t actually see or know what that number is then yes, the low payouts are very much of concern and have very little to do with intermediaries.

We can disagree about how the 70% of revenue is passed onto artists from iTunes and other transactional sales. But one thing is clear, we all understand the transparent economics of how much money is generated on each transaction. This is not so with streaming. So without transparency at the top of the waterfall, everything that follows is suspect.

More importantly, and more to the point, if there are established retail and wholesale rates for each stream, the calculations become immediately transparent in the same way they are with Itunes. See, the issue here is not what is going on downstream, but rather what is happening at the top of the waterfall.


The truth is by now (and everyone should be able to agree on this), we know that streaming creates too little revenue relative to the value of the product. In other words the product is being sold to the consumer for less than the cost that it takes to create and produce it, and still remain sustainable.

In simple terms this is expressed as selling a Porsche for one dollar. It doesn’t matter how many Porsche’s you sell for one dollar while paying out 70% of the revenue, there will never be enough money to actually pay for the cost producing the car. Porsche’s, like professional music are expensive to produce. Despite the advances in recording technology, it is he cost of human labor that is the most important in the value chain.

This is the economics of music streaming in a nutshell, but with one added twist. The Porsche may be sold for one dollar one month, and be sold for only eighty cents the next month, and maybe the month after that sold for a dollar and ten cents. This is because of the fixed (and unsustainable) revenue pool that is divided by the total number of plays.

The common sense solution would be to establish a fixed per stream rate at each platform. This is the most simple way to encourage transparency and fairness as the revenue generated per stream can be transparently and easily calculated from top line data – no more black box at the top of the waterfall. The funny thing is, the people shouting the loudest for transparency also seem to be the most opposed to the easiest solution. Why is that?

So, if we are to have conversations about transparency let’s at least be clear about what it is that we actually need to see.


How to ignore YouTube completely: One Direction’s radical gamble | Music Business Worldwide

Good luck Sony, let’s see how this goes with the “User Pirated Content” at YouTube…

Search YouTube for 1D’s new comeback single Drag Me Down, and you’ll discover Harry, Niall, Louis and Liam are nowhere to be found.

Sony won’t confirm it, but the major appears to have a taskforce stamping out any attempt to upload the track onto the platform.

Why? Because One Direction are using their colossal social media presence (Twitter: 24.5m; Facebook 37m; Instagram: 9.7m) to actively push fans towards iTunes and Spotify instead.



YouTube’s Content ID : $375.00 Per Million Views… aka “Block In All Countries”…

What YouTube Really Pays… Makes Spotify Look Good! #sxsw


Why .002 is Greater than .001 and Why 90 Days is Better than Forever…

There’s been a lot of talk and understandable dissent surrounding Apple’s free tier payment of the reported .002 per play during each consumers 90 day free trial period. We now live in a world of lessor evils.

Here are three things that we may want to keep in mind…


Eliminating the Unlimited Free, Ad-Supported, On-Demand Access to Music is Job #1. Apple Music and Tidal are both positive steps in that direction.


.002 is DOUBLE .001 which is what Spotify is paying on it’s ad-supported free tier (see chart below). Yes, we’d love Apple to pay the full ride. Yes, Apple can afford to pay the full ride. Yes, we support any action that influences Apple to pay the full ride – but as a compromise we could be doing worse, and in fact we have been for over five years since the Spotify launch.


90 Days is Limited. Ad-Supported is forever. This is the big problem. Even if  Spotify was limiting their ad-supported free tier to 90 Days, Apple is still paying DOUBLE. But the real problem is that Spotify is FREE FOREVER. It’s time to keep the eye on the prize here.

Three Steps to a Sustainable Digital Music Ecosystem:

1) Eliminate the Unlimited Free, Ad-Supported, On-Demand Access to Music

2) Windowing

3) Tiered Pricing, based on Access and Consumer Value Proposition

That’s really it. It’s not really any harder than this and we can already see these models working for the Film and TV businesses.



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


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


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

Why Apple Music and Tidal are the right business models with the wrong optics.

Since Spotify launched in 2010 the music business has been in an existential crisis. Convinced that ad-supported unlimited free access to on-demand music would ultimately grow recorded music revenues the major labels opted into what may be their worst decision ever. This decision aided by an estimated 18% (or more) equity position in Spotify has not grown overall music revenues over the past five years. In fact, for the year ending 2014 global revenues reported by the IFPI stated that revenues were at the lowest point in decades. So what to do?

For starters the first and most obvious solution would be to eliminate the unlimited ad-supported free access to on-demand music. This is the model that made ad funded, for profit piracy so popular on over half a million infringing links from unlicensed businesses served by Google search and delivered to your inbox by Google Alerts complete with social media sharing buttons. These unlicensed businesses are receiving hundreds of millions of DMCA notices annually from artists and rights holders. Let us not forget that this is also the same model that Daniel Ek helped to perfect as the CEO of u-torrent the worlds most installed bit-torrent client. Ek has said he’d rather shut down Spotify than give up his failed ad supported business model.  We thought Spotify was built on converting ad supported (where Spotify board member Google makes money serving ads) to subscription (where artists make money).  So much for that.

And this is who the record business is taking notes from? Perhaps that’s why Universal is restructuring.  This may have seemed like a good idea to some senior executives but it turned out to be a complete disaster.  Time to change.

Despite moves in the right direction by Tidal and Apple Music the optics for both of these companies at launch of their respective streaming models have been somewhere between missteps and an absolute disaster. Dismissing for a second that both Apple and Tidal could be the targets of public relations campaigns by competing corporations such as Spotify, Pandora and Google (YouTube) let’s look at what each is offering. Tidal and Apple Music offer no unlimited ad-supported free access to on-demand music. That means no business to those selling advertising… like, Google.

There is nothing more important to the future of the recorded music ecosystem than removing the unlimited ad-supported free access to on-demand music.

For all intents and purposes even free streaming is ownership and here’s how you can tell. If you can chose it, and access it, you essentially own it whether you pay for it or not. Streaming replaces ownership at the consumer level but does not compare to ownership on price. At some point there needs to be a market correction to properly value music consumption.

The launch of Tidal should have been a rallying cry for all artists to support a business model that limited free streaming, incentivized paid subscriptions through exclusive offerings and diversified consumer experiences with higher quality streaming formats. This is the model we should be focused on. As the Buddhist saying goes, “trust the teaching, if not the teacher.” In other words it doesn’t matter if you don’t like Jay-Z and Madonna.  And securities laws makes the whole stock issue so difficult that Tidal would have been far better off saying they’d pay all participating artists a bonus in the cash from the company’s own stock sales rather than get down the rabbit hole of who gets stock and who doesn’t.

Unfortunately the celebrity that could have united a community, instead divided it through messaging that most would acknowledge appeared to be less than inclusive. Worse, the optics appeared to be elitist whereby those already rich and famous seemed to be more focused on their own fortunes as opposed to a sustainable ecosystem for the next generation of musicians.

Perhaps if each of the artists at the Tidal launch would have appeared with a developing artist they were supporting the messaging and optics would have been more inclusive and more about community than celebrity.

We have to acknowledge what kind of business we want going forward. Clearly, unlimited ad-supported free access to on-demand music is not working. Both Tidal and Apple Music do NOT have unlimited ad-supported free access to on-demand music. So what’s the problem?

Following the Apple Music launch Spotify announced it had achieved 75m global users (we love that, “users” no kidding) and 20m paid subscribers. So let’s look at the numbers in relationship to what Apple Music could bring to the market place. Keep in mind that 55m of Spotify’s user base are NOT paying for the service. Based on reporting we’ve been provided the free tier accounts for 58% of plays which is only 16% of the total revenue.

With all the back and forth between Apple and labels and the announcement last week by NMPA of the publisher’s deal—freely negotiated without government “help” by the way–it’s pretty clear that Apple announced Apple Music without all their ducks in a row contractually.  This opened up an opportunity for haters who are just gonna hate.  Now that the picture is becoming a bit clearer, we feel more confident than ever that most of the noise is coming from competitors who would like to create yet another consent decree situation but this time for artists and record companies.

So there are a few questions we need to ask about the launch of Apple Music to evaluate the trade-off for eliminating the unlimited ad-supported free access to on-demand music. But before we ask those questions, we need to understand the mechanics of the Apple Music ecosystem.

First, the 90 days free without payment at launch requires the understanding that all consumers will get 90 days free at Apple Music whether they sign up at launch or at any other point later. This means that some people will opt in at launch, some will opt in at some later time. Based on what we have seen of how these streaming subscription services scale we have to ask a few questions.

How many people will have access to opt into Apple Music Streaming on launch? We’ll assume it’s the entire installed user base who upgrade into iOS 8.4. Here’s some back of the napkin math from the iPhone 6 launch when Apple dropped that U2 album into everyone’s Itunes.

According to CBS News 33 Million people of the 500 Million Global Itunes users “experienced” the U2 album. That’s just 6.7 percent of Apple’s reported consumer base.

So what kind of adoption and conversion rate could one expect from the launch of Apple Music? 10 million paid subscribers? 20 million paid subscribers? 50 million paid subscribers? It’s hard to know, but anything north of 20 million pretty much beats Spotify on paid subscribers.  And if you are looking for the company that has defined a paid music service, who you gonna call?  Apple or Spotify?  Who do you trust going forward?

What if Apple is able to convert 30 million or more consumers to paid streaming in only four months when it has taken Spotify five years to acquire 20 million paid?

Apple Reverses Course, Will Pay Artists During Apple Music Free Trial | Mac Rumors

Of course, Apple should use a couple of bucks from it’s 178 billion dollars in cash reserves to compensate musicians for the consumption of their music during the initial 90 day launch of Apple Music. This would  incentivized artists to promote the service as being both fair and artist friendly and give Apple the thumbs up from the people that matter the most, the artists themselves. Apple’s purchase of Beats was a three billion dollar acquisition, so surely there’s enough money in those coffers to pay artists something.

To put these numbers into perspective Spotify claimed to have paid artists and rights holders two billion dollars globally from it’s initial launch in 2008 through October of 2014.

Here’s some more perspective from In 2012, global music revenues were reported at $16.5 billion, with $5.6 billion coming from digital music. Of that $5.6 billion in music downloads, Apple paid labels $3.4 billion for iTunes sales, which is about 60% of the total digital revenues industry wide—IN LESS THAN ONE YEAR.

In 2012, Apple’s transactional digital model created more revenue for artists and rights holders in less than a year in then it took for Spotify to earn almost 6 years.

If we want to break the death spiral of unlimited ad-supported free access to on-demand music we have to embrace the trade-off of offering limited free trial periods as an incentive for consumers to make the switch.

And by the way—compare the classy way that Eddie Cue of Apple handled Taylor Swift compared to Daniel Ek who comes off like a semi-stalker.  Who understands artist relations the best?

The problem with ad-supported unlimited free access to on-demand music is illustrated below showing Spotify domestic streams and revenues. It’s just math and it’s time to move on. Apple Music and Tidal are showing us the way.


DMN Says It’s Unlikely Spotify Pays More to Rights Holders Than Apple Does

In the dust up surrounding the Apple Music Launch and the leaked agreement that lead to speculation that Apple was paying indies less than the often heard 70% to rights holders an interesting thing happened.

Industry executives and commenters at Digital Music News reported that Spotify was also paying indies less than 70% and closer to the 58%, or less than Apple.

Update to June 15th, and Apple is not only stating that they are paying 70%, but a more aggressive 71.5% to 73% of revenues depending on territory.

But what makes this that much more interesting is that Spotify has now been outed as NOT paying the commonly accepted 70% of revenues and also has NOT responded to the claims being made at Digital Music News…

So how much is Spotify actually paying? So much for openness and transparency…


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


$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.


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.




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


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



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?