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?


BREAKING NEWS AT PRESS TIME. APPLE WILL PAY ARTISTS DURING THE FREE TRIAL PERIOD!
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 asymco.com: 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.

 

Zoë Keating Publishes Google/YouTube Transcript : Clarity | Zoë Keating Blog

With friends like these…

If i wanted to just let content ID keep doing it’s thing, and it does a great job at and i’m totally happy with it and i don’t want to participate in the music service, is that an option?

That’s unfortunately not an option.

Assuming i don’t want to, then what would occur?

So what would happen is, um, so in the worst case scenario, because we do understand there are cases where our partners don’t want to participate for various reasons, what we basically have to do is because the music terms are essentially like outdated, the content that you directly upload from accounts that you own under the content owner attached to the agreement, we’ll have to block that content. but anything that comes up that we’re able to scan and match through content ID we could just apply a track policy but the commercial terms no longer apply so there’s not going to be any revenue generated.

Wow that’s pretty harsh.

Yeah, it’s harsh and trust me, it is really difficult for me to have this conversation with all of my partners but we’re really, what we’re trying to do is basically create a new revenue stream on top of what exists on the platform today.

PLEASE READ THE ENTIRE POST/TRANSCRIPT AT:
http://zoekeating.tumblr.com/post/109312851929/clarity

Involuntarily Distribution Business Subsidies | East Bay Ray

One of the talking points that various tech company commentators, academics and bloggers have used to try to justify companies exploiting an artist’s work without consent (a loophole in safe harbor) is that it would lessen the barrier for tech companies to start up. The idea is that creators should be required to give something up to facilitate this goal. Business start-ups are all well and good, but to require anyone to involuntarily subsidize a business, internet or otherwise, with something they have put time, effort, money, and skill into is extremely problematic.

Would these same people advocate that landlords and utility companies also give up income and the right of consent to help internet companies? That would also make it easier for them to start. But no one has suggested that.

It could be ruinous for creators to be required to be involuntarily involved in start-ups that may or not succeed, tying them to businesses that the artists has no way to vet to see if they even know how to distribute competently or honestly. If they are to survive, artists need to examine their licensees and distributors. I’ve seen many artist’s careers die prematurely from incompetent, greedy or dishonest businesses. (Compulsory licenses that are a last resort to negotiation, rather than the first resort to eliminate negotiation, is an alternative that has for decades shown itself to ensure artist’s sustainability.)

To put it into personal terms, I shouldn’t be forced, or any person for that matter, into being a lab rat for some click bait experiment. And then if the experiment is successful, none of the content creators share in any of the IPO rewards. A bit un-American I’d say and bad policy, it does not allocate rewards according to risk.

History has shown that exploitation of another person’s work with little compensation or without their consent to insure an enterprise’s survival is fraught with ethical and moral issues. If internet companies can not make money selling a product or service on merit and integrity, and treating the people that supply their “product” justly and with respect, something is not right. No matter how well intentioned by well meaning people, economic philosophies that ignore consent or fair compensation, rarely turn out good for society.

– – –
East Bay Ray is the guitarist, co-founder and one of two main songwriters for the band Dead Kennedys. He has been speaking out on issues facing independent artists—on National Public Radio, at Chico State University, and on panels for SXSW, Association of Independent Music Publishers, California Lawyers for the Arts, SF Music Tech conferences, Hastings Law School and Boalt Hall Law School. Ray has also met with members of the U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C. to advocate for artists’ rights.

Dead Kennedys’ East Bay Ray Explains How YouTube Is Stealing From Musicians | New York Observer

Taylor Swift recently brought these “robber baron” business tactics into the mainstream. When she removed her catalog from Spotify, they were trying to force a bad deal on her. Dead Kennedys had Spotify figured out early on, we pulled most but not all of our tracks off of Spotify back at the start of 2013. Musicians are not against streaming, but we are against “plantation/sharecropping” business practices. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Educate yourself about what’s really going on and the reality is shocking. Don’t buy the lies and memes, educate people, share this article, stand up. The Internet is not like the weather, it was created by humans and can be changed by humans. It’s not about regulating the Internet, it’s about regulating businesses. (They’ll try to confuse that, too.)

The Streaming Price Bible – Spotify, YouTube and What 1 Million Plays Means to You!

Several of our posts on streaming pay rates aggregated into one single source. Enjoy…

[UN to Airlift Calculators, Behavioral Economics Textbooks to Digital Music Industry]

musicstreamingindex020114[EDITORS NOTE: All of 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: $5,210 / 1,000,000 = .00521 per stream). In cases where there are multiple tiers and pricing structures (like Spotify), these are all summed together and divided to create an averaged, single rate per play.]

If the services at the top of the list like Nokia, Google Play and Xbox Music can pay more per play, why can’t the services at the bottom of the list like Spotify and YouTube?

We’ll give you a hint, the less streams/plays there are the more each play pays. The more plays there are the less each stream/play pays. Tell us again about how these services will scale. Looking at this data it seems pretty clear that the larger the service get’s, the less artists are paid per stream.

So do you think streaming royalty rates are really going to increase as these services “scale”? No, we didn’t either.

[ BREAKING! Apple Announces Itunes One Dollar Albums and Ten Cent Song Downloads In Time For The Holidays! | Sillycon Daily News ]

 

StreamingPriceIndexwYOUTUBE

We’ve been waiting for someone to send us this kind of data. This info was provided anonymously by an indie label (we were provided screenshots but anonymized this info to a spreadsheet). Through the cooperative and collaborative efforts of artists such as Zoe Keating and The Cynical Musician we hope to build more data sets for musicians to compare real world numbers.

In our on going quest for openness and transparency on what artists are actually getting paid we’d love to hear from our readers if their numbers and experience are consistent with these numbers below. At the very least, these numbers should be the starting point of larger conversations for artists to share their information with each other.

Remember, no music = no business.

whatyoutubereallypaysFor whatever reason there appear to be a lot of unmonetized views in the aggregate. So let’s just focus on the plays earning 100% of the revenue pool in the blue set. These are videos where the uploader retains 100% of the rights in the video including the music, the publishing and the video content itself.

Plays  Earnings  Per Play
2,023,295 $3,611.84 $0.00179
1,140,384 $2,155.69 $0.00189
415,341 $624.54 $0.00150
240,499 $371.47 $0.00154
221,078 $313.47 $0.00142
TOTALS TOTALS AVERAGE
4,040,597 $7,077.01 $0.00175

So it appears that YouTube is currently paying $1,750 per million plays gross.

We understand that people reading this may report other numbers, and that’s the point. There is no openness or transparency from either Spotify or YouTube on what type of revenue artists can expect to earn and under what specific conditions. So until these services provide openness and transparency to musicians and creators, “sharing” this type of data is going to be the best we’re going to be able to do as East Bay Ray comments in his interview with NPR.

As we’re now in a world where you need you need a million of anything to be meaningful here’s a benchmark of where YouTube ranks against Spotify.

Service  Plays  Per Play  Total  Notes 
Spotify To Performers/Master Rights 1,000,000 0.00521 $5,210.00 Gross Payable to Master Rights Holder Only
Spotify To Songwrtiers / Publishers This revenue is for the same 1m Plays Above 0.000521 $521.00 Gross Payable to Songwriter/s & Publisher/s (estimated)
YouTube Artist Channel 1,000,000 0.00175 $1,750.00 Gross Payable for All Rights Video, Master & Publishing
YouTube CMS (Adiam / AdRev) ** 1,000,000 0.00032 $321.00 Gross Payable to Master Rights Holder Only

The bottom line here is if we want to see what advertising supported free streaming looks like at scale it’s YouTube. And if these are the numbers artists can hope to earn with a baseline in the millions of plays it speaks volumes to the unsustainability of these models for individual creators and musicians.

Meet the New Boss: YouTube’s Monopoly on Video | MTP

It’s also important to remember that the pie only grows with increased revenue which can only come from advertising revenue (free tier) and subscription fees (paid tier). But once the revenue pool has been set, monthly, than all of the streams are divided by that revenue pool for that month – so the more streams there are, the less each stream is worth.

All adrev, streaming and subscription services work on the same basic models as YouTube (adrev) and Spotify (adrev & subs). If these services are growing plays but not revenue, each play is worth less because the services are paying out a fixed percentage of revenue every month divided by the number of total plays. Adding more subscribers, also adds more plays which means that there is less paid per play as the service scales in size.

This is why building to scale, on the backs of musicians who support these services, is a stab in the back to those very same artists. The service retains it’s margin, while the artists margin is reduced.

[** these numbers from a data set of revenue collected on over 8 million streams via CMS for an artist/master rights holder]

Here’s what 1 million streams looks like from different revenue perspectives on the two largest and mainstream streaming services.

Service  Units Per Unit  Total  Notes 
Spotify 1,000,000 $0.00521 $5,210.00 Gross Payable to Master Rights Holder Only
Spotify same million units as above $0.00052 $521.00 Gross Payable to Songwriter/s & Publisher/s (est)
YouTube 1,000,000 $0.00175 $1,750.00 Gross Payable for All Rights Video, Master & Publishing
YouTube CMS Master Recording (Audiam / AdRev) 1,000,000 $0.00032 $321.00 Gross Payable to Master Rights Holder Only
STREAMING TOTALS  3,000,000 $7,802.00 TOTAL REVENUE EARNED FOR 3 MILLION PLAYS ON SPOTIFY AND YOUTUBE 
Itunes Album Downloads 1,125 $7.00000 $7,875.00 Gross payable including Publishing

Here are some compelling stats on the break down of what percentage of videos on YouTube actually achieve breaking the 1 million play threshold, only 0.33%

CHART OF THE DAY: Half Of YouTube Videos Get Fewer Than 500 Views | Business Insider

Some 53% of YouTube’s videos have fewer than 500 views, says TubeMogul. About 30% have less than 100 views. Meanwhile, just 0.33% have more than 1 million views.

That’s not a huge surprise. But it highlights some of the struggles Google could have selling ads around all those unpopular videos, despite the money it has to spend to store them.

An artist needs to generate THREE MILLION PLAYS on the two largest and most popular streaming platforms to equal just 1,125 album downloads from Itunes. This is an important metric to put in context. In 2013 only 4.8% of new album releases sold 2,000 units or more. So if only 4.8% of artists can sell 2,000 units or more, how many artists can realistically generate over four million streams from the same album of material?

in 2013 there were 66,565 new releases, only 3,237 sold more than 2,000 units = 4.8% of new releases sold over 2,000 units

in 2013 there were 915,482 total releases in print, only 14,856 sold more than 2,000 units = 1.6% of ALL RELEASES in print sold more than 2,000 units.

This is even more important when you start to consider that many artists feel that growing a fan base of just 10,000 fans is enough to sustain a professional career. Note we said solo artists because these economics probably need to be multiplied by each band member added for the revenue distribution to remain sustainable. So a band of four people probably need a sales base of 40,000 fans to sustain a professional career for each member of the band.

Each 10,000 albums sold on iTunes (or 100,000 song downloads) generates $70,000 in revenue for the solo artist or band. To achieve the same revenue per 10,000 fans in streams, the band has to generate 30 million streaming plays (as detailed above) if they are distributing their music across the most common streaming services including Spotify and YouTube.

In 2013 the top 1% of new releases (which happen to be those 620 titles selling 20k units or more) totaled over 77% of the new release market share leaving the remaining 99% of new releases to divide up the remaining 23% of sales.

This appears to confirm our suspicion that the internet has not created a new middle class of empowered, independent and DIY artists but sadly has sentenced them to be hobbyists and non-professionals.

Meanwhile the major artists with substantial label backing dominate greater market share as they are the few who can sustain the attrition of a marketplace where illegally free and consequence free access to music remains the primary source of consumption.

What’s worse is that it is Silicon Valley corporate interests and Fortune 500 companies that are exploiting artists and musicians worse than labels ever did. New boss, worse than the old boss, indeed.

So whose feeling empowered?

RELATED:

UN to Airlift Calculators, Behavioral Economics Textbooks to Digital Music Industry

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

Who will be the First Fired Label Execs over Spotify Fiasco & Cannibalization?

 

 

 

 

Some cold analysis of the YouTube-Indie labels story, and some long term reflections | Wildcat Blog

So what’s going on with Google, YouTube and Indie labels?

There’s been so much fuss, indies tearing their hair, lawyers trying to tone it down: I try to sum up the whole thing here for your delight and delectation.

Alright, this is not a music law blog. It is, however, a blog where law and music meet. So, here we go. If you don’t know the ante-fact, have a read here or here.

And there’s also this update that Google may be revising its position now.

Why is the contract so bad? Wait, is it really bad?

READ THE FULL POST AT WILDCAT BLOG:
http://blog.thewildcat.co.uk/post/91151130569/some-cold-analysis-of-the-youtube-indie-labels-story

Artists Take To The Streets to Protest Google/YouTube in NYC | NY Times

Last week, the dispute spilled out into the streets of New York. On Saturday afternoon, a few dozen supporters of the Content Creators Coalition, an artists’ advocacy group, picketed Google’s office in Chelsea, playing New Orleans-style marches on horns and carrying signs like “Economic justice in the digital domain” and “What YouTube pays? Nothing.”

Marc Ribot, a guitarist who has played with stars like Tom Waits and Elvis Costello, summarized how the larger conflict over streaming revenue affected artists’ careers.

“If we can’t make enough from digital media to pay for the record that we’ve just made,” Mr. Ribot said, “then we can’t make another one.”

READ THE FULL STORY AT THE NEW YORK TIMES:
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/25/business/media/small-music-labels-see-youtube-battle-as-part-of-war-for-revenue.html

YouTube’s Ultimatum and The Economic Survival Of Musicians | Hypebot

By copyright and intellectual property attorney Wallace E. J. Collins III, Esq..

The most serious problem facing the artist community is that, at some point, it becomes economically unfeasible to pursue a career as an artist, songwriter or musician. Of course, as has been the case for many decades, most musicians barely survived without the dreaded day job. However, this extreme downward pressure on the creators of original audio and audio/visual content may force matters to a breaking point the likes of which the creative community has never seen.

No kidding.

READ THE FULL STORY AT HYPEBOT:
http://www.hypebot.com/hypebot/2014/06/youtubes-ultimatum-and-the-economic-survival-of-musicians.html

Will YouTube really block indie labels if they snub its new music service? | The Guardian UK

Ugly dispute with indie labels is provoking anger online, so what are the facts – and rumours – about YouTube’s streaming plans?

The accusation from WIN, representing its independent label members, is clear: if labels don’t sign up for YouTube’s new paid music service at the (non-negotiable) terms, their entire catalogues will be blocked on YouTube – all of YouTube, not just the new premium bit.

Note too the “significantly inferior” terms reference in Wenham’s letter. At WIN’s press conference, songwriter (and Guardian journalist) Helienne Lindvall said that “We’re hearing that a billion dollars has been paid by YouTube to the major labels” in advances for its new service.

Some of the anger in this dispute is the perception by indie labels that their major rivals have inked lucrative deals with YouTube while leaving them with the crumbs.

That billion-dollar figure is hearsay, of course. But note that YouTube said in February that it had paid $1bn out to music rightsholders in royalties so far, and then consider Kyncl’s quote in the FT interview: “That number is going to double soon.”

READ THE FULL STORY AT THE GUARDIAN UK:
http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jun/18/youtube-indie-labels-music-service

YouTube’s Attack On Indies Gets Strong Response From WIN, But It’s Time For Artists To Take Action | Hypebot

YouTube/Google and Amazon Are Using Their Power Against Creatives

If you’ve been watching the last 15 years or so of web development, you’ve seen a relatively wide open field of entrepreneurial potential gradually get taken over by major corporations in a manner similar to what occurred in industrial societies beginning in the late 1800s. They may be dropping fewer bodies than did the industrial giants but close-to-monopoly digital land grabs by companies like Google and Amazon have put them in a situation where they seem to feel that any terms they name are acceptable if they have the power to force compliance.

Amazon’s current battle with Hachette is but one example of how they’ve used their dominating position in book and ebook retail on the web to have their way with companies that are often struggling to survive.

YouTube’s dominance of the web video space sets up a similar near-monopoly situation in which they’re willing to use their position to behave in monopolistic fashion and force non-compliant entities into line.

READ THE FULL STORY AT HYPEBOT:
http://www.hypebot.com/hypebot/2014/06/youtubes-attack-on-indies-gets-strong-response-from-win-but-its-time-for-artists-to-take-action.html