@RobertBLevine_: Federal ‘Transparency’ Bill Endangers Songwriters’ Leverage for Getting Paid — Artist Rights Watch

On the surface, at least, the “Transparency in Music Licensing Ownership Act,” introduced in the House of Representatives on July 20 by Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), seems like a copyright bill that could help untangle the online music business….but the devil is in the details.

via @RobertBLevine_: Federal ‘Transparency’ Bill Endangers Songwriters’ Leverage for Getting Paid — Artist Rights Watch

The 21st Century Marketing Restriction: No licensing for Artificial Intelligence — Artist Rights Watch

If you let your record company license your recording for AI algorithmic music a la Orwell’s “versificator”, it’s like Silicon Valley making you train your replacement.

By Chris Castle

After the money, one of the most important parts of a recording artist negotiation is the “marketing restrictions”.  These are restrictions on what the record company or music publisher can do with your work–what type of licenses they can, or more frequently cannot, grant to third parties, for example.  Essentially, whatever is not prohibited is permitted.

Marketing restrictions also have a temporal element–during or after the term, recouped or not recouped.  There are some restrictions that are acknowledged to be verboten and are usually easy and unrestricted concessions.  An example of these would be licensing for certain types of commercials such as tobacco, firearms, grooming or hygiene products and alcohol.

Stewart Dredge has an excellent article this week in the Guardian which brings to mind Laura Kobylecky‘s post on MusicTechPolicy drawing comparisons between Spotify’s “fake artist” problem and “The Next Rembrandt” with echoes of the fictional  “versificator” operated by Big Brother’s “Music Department” in 1984.  According to Stewart, there are dozens of AI music startups getting funded that all essentially do the same thing.  Using a library of recordings (sometimes called a “corpus”), the algorithms “create” new recordings based on the songs and recordings in the corpus.  Google is, of course, a leader in the space (not that different from how they used Google Books to train their translation algorithm, a process called “corpus machine translation”–the librarians will be next).

Those recordings can then be sold or licensed at a very low price which, as Laura and others have noted, can be used to drive down the royalties payable to all other artists on digital music services.

This is, of course, not dissimilar to Silicon Valley companies hiring lower paid foreign workers and ordering the employees who they are to replace participate in training their replacements.  The difference is, of course, that those recordings have to come from somewhere.

It’s time to start adding to the list of marketing restrictions that the song or recording cannot be licensed for AI purposes of any kind.

via The 21st Century Marketing Restriction: No licensing for AI — Artist Rights Watch

If Only Artists and Managers Had Listened To Us : Spotify Per Stream Rates Keep Dropping

We hate to say we told ya so, but… Below is our post from September 2015. Two years ago we predicted the inevitable truth of the all you can eat Spotify subcription model. Like many of our predictions and proposals (example; windowing titles) we’ve had to wait for the industry to catch up to us. Today, two years later, Digital Music News confirms our prediction.

Read the report from Digital Music News by clicking the headline link here.

Exclusive Report: Spotify Artist Payments Are Declining In 2017, Data Shows | Digital Music News

Our original post from 2015 is below…


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.

PerStreamAvg_Jun11_July15

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.

Big Tech’s Latest Artist Relations Debacle: Mass Filings of NOIs to Avoid Paying Statutory Royalties (Part 3) — Music Tech Solutions

As we saw in parts 1 and 2 of this post, New Boss companies like Google are playing on a loophole in the Copyright Act’s compulsory license for songs to shirk responsibility for song licensing from the songwriters or other copyright owners, get out of paying royalties and stop songwriters from auditing. Not only have Google targeted long tail titles, but also new releases and songs by ex-US songwriters who are protected by international treaties. This is exactly the kind of rent seeking behavior by crony capitalists that gives Big Tech a bad name in the music community.

via Big Tech’s Latest Artist Relations Debacle: Mass Filings of NOIs to Avoid Paying Statutory Royalties (Part 3) — Music Tech Solutions

Gently Down The Stream (Songwriters Streaming Royalties Explained) | SONA [VIDEO]

Thank You Songwriters Of North America (SONA)

Songwriter Would Need 288 Million Spins To Equal Average Spotify Employee Salary

Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 8.12.33 PM

 

Spotify just posted their financials and Paul Resnikoff at Digital Music News was quick to point out that the average Spotify employee salary is $168, 747.

Contrast that to the plight of songwriters.  There would be no music business without the fundamental efforts of songwriters. Yet, there is not a free market in songs.  The federal government sets compensation for songwriters/publishers based on a percentage of revenue.  An abysmal below market rate.  In effect a subsidy for streaming services.   Last I checked this rate was working out to about $0.00058 per spin.    This includes both the public performance (BMI/ASCAP) and the streaming mechanical  (IF they happen to pay it).

Best case scenario, if a songwriter retains all publishing rights to their song then a songwriter would need 288,104,634.15 spins to earn the reported average salary of a Spotify employee.

Any questions?

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Related see this post on failure of techies to understand that streaming services are subsidized by government mandates

https://thetrichordist.com/2016/05/27/clueless-spotify-defender-illustrates-tech-ignorance-about-federal-cap-on-songwriter-pay/

 

After Skipping Spotify, The 1975 Scores a Number 1 Album | DMN

“After avoiding Spotify entirely and focusing the release on iTunes and a variety of physical formats, the band achieved a number one album in several countries.  According to Billboard and its counting partner Nielsen Music, The 1975’s just-released album, I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It, sold 98,000 units in the US alone, a chart-topping tally.”

READ THE FULL STORY AT DIGITAL MUSIC NEWS:
http://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2016/03/08/despite-skipping-spotify-the-1975-gets-a-us-number-one/


 

Three Simple Steps To Fix The Record Business in 2016… Windows, Windows, Windows… (2015)

 

How to Fix Music Streaming in One Word, “Windows”… two more “Pay Gates”… (2014) 

 

Why Spotify is not Netflix (But Maybe It Should Be) (2013)

Spotify Hit With $150 Million Class Action Over Unpaid Royalties | Billboard

Vocal artist rights advocate David Lowery brings a massive action against the largest streaming service.

Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker frontman David Lowery, retaining the law firm of Michelman & Robinson, LLP, has filed a class action lawsuit seeking at least $150 million in damages against Spotify, alleging it knowingly, willingly, and unlawfully reproduces and distributes copyrighted compositions without obtaining mechanical licenses.

READ THE FULL STORY AT BILLBOARD:
http://www.billboard.com/articles/business/6828092/spotify-class-action-royalties-david-lowery-cracker-150-million

#irespectmusic

Three Simple Steps To Fix The Record Business in 2016… Windows, Windows, Windows…

windows

This time last year we correctly predicted the restructuring of at least one major label group when we asked the question, “Who will be the First Fired Label Execs over Spotify Fiasco & Cannibalization?“. It didn’t take long for us to find out, “It’s Just Math : Digital Music Execs Exit, But will the Pivot to Paid Subs Be Enough To Save The Record Biz?” We’re still not sure that even paid subscription streaming actually works in the long term, but we know for sure that unlimited free streaming does not!

What a difference a year makes. What a difference Taylor Swift makes. What a difference Adele makes.

Going into the next year our prediction is that the power of windows can not be overstated as the leading solution to the problems faced by the record industry. Effective windowing has always been a part of the economic life cycle of every album release. The physical singles sales business (ya’ll remember 45 prm records, right?) – well, that was largely a loss leader to boost singles chart positioning that combined retail and radio reports.

In every record store there was the “hit wall” of discounted new releases to encourage higher volume sales. Every store stocked a robust variety of titles across different genres and price points comprised of front line titles, mid-line titles, budget line titles, and at the end there was the cut-out bin. Also, let us not forget the “11 records for a penny” record clubs advertised in magazines.

Those, my friends, are windows. Those who are advocating against windows are probably too young to know better or have been lead around by the nose by some digital snake oil salesman protecting their own interests.

This is not a philosophical discussion. This is financial reality. Respected stock analyst Robert Tullo who is the Director Of Research at Albert Fried & Company says this:

Longer term IP Radio and Spotify are good annuity revenue streams and great promotional tools. However, we believe the system works better for everyone when artists have the right to distribute their Intellectual property how they see fit.

Ultimately we think windows for content will form around titles that look much like the Movie Windows and that will be great for investors and the industry as soon as all these so called experts get out of the way and spot trading fashionable digital dimes for real growth and earnings.

Mr. Tullo is correct. Not only will artist (and rights holders) do better when they have the freedom of choice but so will the partner platforms. This is how it works in the film business. Every month the “virtual inventory” on Netflix is rotated. New titles come in, old titles go out. If you really, really, really want to see something right now, you have to rent it or buy it via a transactional stream or download. The record business will benefit from the same models and strategies. Windowing works. Period.

See here’s the thing… If these new digital platforms are so great for artists, why wouldn’t artists want to participate on them?  The benefits would be self evident? If the product that Spotify, Pandora, YouTube (and others) are offering is so good for artists, why are these companies so afraid of artists and rights holders opting out? Maybe, just maybe these platforms are not offering the type of value that their suppliers find meaningful?

It really speaks volumes when a business model is so bad that one of  the essential features for survival of the company is to deny its suppliers the option to fairly negotiate their participation or have the ability to opt out. In the old neighborhoods that was known as a protection racket, or extortion.

Silicon Valley didn’t invent the freemium, they’re just doing it wrong. Really wrong. Horribly wrong.

Let those who want to give away their work freely do so, but also allow those who would rather opt out the ability to do so. If artists find value in the freemium tier, and they may well as they always have, then let them chose how to best utilize that option. Musicians pioneered the freemium model often using street teams to canvas concerts by giving away cassettes to fans of similar music.

If digital platforms allowed artists to use their technologies creatively, everyone might be pleasantly surprised how much better (and more profitable) things would work out.

Watching Pandora lose $5 billion in value in a year becomes a punch line when they believe they are better suited to dictate to artists how to best communicate with their own fans. It is indeed interesting to see Pandora admit what we’ve been saying for years, unlimited, ad-supported free streaming unsustainable. No Kidding. Here it is from Brian Andrews, CEO of Pandora:

“This gray market is unsustainable. If consumers can legally listen to free on-demand music permanently without converting to paying models, the value of music will continue to spiral downward to the benefit of no one.”

Of course what makes this comment most interesting is that Pandora is entering the crowded field of on demand streaming with it’s purchase of the failed Rdio. Pandora now has to compete with Spotify’s very large free tier of unpaid and entrenched users. Migrating those users to a new on-demand streaming platform will be a challenge (ask Apple and Tidal), and even more so as artists and labels grow tired of subsidizing these horribly flawed business models.

Here’s three uses of freemium streaming most artists (and rights holders) would probably embrace if given the choice.

1: The Hit Single

– Using the freemium platform to launch a single to gain ubiquitous awareness of a new album release. This is what both Taylor Swift and Adele did and the results speak for themselves. More artists would probably embrace releasing one or two songs or singles from an album on freemium tiers. With the artists support this becomes far more valuable than extorting the them into releasing their entire album on a platform they feel devalues their work.

BONUS: What if Adele made an official playlist of her favorite songs, leading with her new single? How much added value does an artist of this caliber bring to a platform when they feel they are being respected and valued? Answer, ALOT.

2: The Focus Track

– Not everyone has a hit single, but most artists have a focus track from their album. Like the hit single, these artists would embrace the opportunity to be discoverable and to build an audience of new fans. Developing artists are the most eager to try new opportunities because the have the most to gain. If digital streaming platforms worked with artists in a meaningful and respectful way, the mutual benefits could be huge for everyone.

3: Rotating Inventory Management

– By adopting a Netflix like inventory management of monthly rotating titles on the freemium (or even paid subscription) tier more artists might feel compelled to be more engaged. Rotating inventory management is a smart way to keep users and fans engaged as old titles rotate out and new ones in. This simple trick restores a great deal of the consumer engagement that is a part of discovery, and promotion.

Of course, the goal of every freemium model is to lead to more paid revenues in higher value products. Working together with artists and rights holders the future of streaming distribution could be very bright. But to get there we need to let go of Stockholm Syndrome. the old neighborhood protection rackets, bullying extortion threats and just plain bad business models.

There is a lot that can be done in the world of streaming. Streaming is not bad, it’s just a technology. Free streaming and subscription streaming both have their place in the ecosystem. What is bad are the exploitative business models, lack of transparency and devaluation of the artists work. These are fixable issues that have nothing to do with technology, just a lack of common and business sense.

Quoted: Pandora CEO says free on-demand music streaming is bad | Silicon Beat

“This gray market is unsustainable. If consumers can legally listen to free on-demand music permanently without converting to paying models, the value of music will continue to spiral downward to the benefit of no one.”

Brian McAndrews, CEO of Pandora, in an op-ed published by Business Insider Tuesday.

Where have we heard this before? Now we wonder how long it may be until they acknowledge that Ad Funded Piracy Is Big Business?

READ THE FULL STORY AT SILICON BEAT:
http://www.siliconbeat.com/2015/12/02/quoted-461/

 


 

 

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

 

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

 

It’s Just Math : Digital Music Execs Exit, But will the Pivot to Paid Subs Be Enough To Save The Record Biz?