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.

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/

 

If Streaming Is The Solution To Piracy, Why Is Piracy Still Increasing?

Music Business Worldwide is reporting that “GLOBAL MUSIC PIRACY DOWNLOADS GREW BY ALMOST A FIFTH IN 2015″.

The amount of music downloaded on illegal piracy sites grew by 16.5% in the second half of 2015 compared to the year’s opening six months.

That’s according to leading content protection and market analytics company MUSO, which tracked web activity on 576 sites which were ‘wholly dedicated to music piracy or contained significant music content’.

Across these sites, MUSO analysed over 2 billion visitor traffic hits globally.

READ THE FULL STORY AT MUSIC BUSINESS WORLDWIDE:
http://www.musicbusinessworldwide.com/global-music-piracy-downloads-grew-by-almost-a-fifth-in-2015/

How Many More Records Could You Be Selling This Holiday Season If Your Album Wasn’t FREE Streaming?

happyholidays

Adele, Taylor Swift, Beyonce’, Coldplay and more artists are fully understanding the value of not giving away their work for free right out of the gate. This is especially important during the biggest consumer spending season of the year. Why would anyone with a solid fan base and known demand for their work give it away for free during most profitable window of the year? This then begs the question how many more records would you be selling this holiday season if your record was not available on free streaming platforms?

Spotify and other free streaming services should be structured more like Netflix. The film industry understands the value of strategic pricing in the context of time based value propositions. Friday night block buster movies are not available on Netflix at the same time for a good reason.

There has been a lot of good work and innovation by the film industry to create “day and date” titles that are available both in theaters and as video on demand at the time of release. However none of these are made available free to consumer on an advertising supported platform. In fact, all the major film and tv streaming services require payment of some kind, be it subscription (HuluPlus, Netflix, Amazon Prime) or transactional fees for rental or permanent download (Itunes, Amazon, Vudu).

“Or Else They’ll Steal It!”

The only argument that is ever made against the use of windows is that tired old song that they like to sing in Silicon Valley called, “Or Else They’ll Steal It.” The problem is of course, they’re already stealing it, and will continue to steal it until there are real consequences to not do so. But the film and tv industries are not listening to the song of Stockholm Syndrome. Instead the film and tv industries continue to innovate and experiment with new windows, digital distribution models and competitive pricing based on the new value propositions.

Converting consumers from “pirate 2 paid” is dependent upon giving consumers more value and pricing options, not less. If the record industry doubts this for even a split second the proof is expressed in a single word, “vinyl.”

By contrast the record industry has given away valuable profits to tech companies like Spotify who give little in return for the high value products that are being licensed. The ubiquity of distribution on streaming platforms drives the price of all products to zero.

Windowing allows for price elasticity and rewards consumers who are willing to spend more for the premier product or experience. Of course, for windowing to work there has to be a fair and regulated marketplace where artists and rights holders actually can withhold their work from various platforms should they chose to do so.

If we’ve learned anything at all in 2015 it is that YouTube is probably the single greatest threat to the ability of artists and rights holders to have a long term sustainable business. There can be no windows if everything appears on YouTube via User Pirated Content anyway. 

The grand irony here is that in a well controlled and regulated distribution system, it is far more likely that all stakeholders would have the ability to generate greater profits within their sectors. We now have a decade and a half of data behind us while heading towards the second half, of the second decade, of the new millennium. It’s time to for the adults to put an end to play time.  It’s just math and common sense.

Windows work. Period.

Business decisions need to developed through common sense, innovation and time tested principles of basic economics. We’ll repeat our previous suggestion for an industry wide, consistent windowing platform strategy below.

Windowing works better when there is a reasonable amount of consistency. Our friends in the film business have been highly effective at windowing for decades and there’s no reason why it can’t work similarly well for the record business.

Every new release should have the option to determine the release windows when the record is being set up. For example the default could be 0,30,60,90 day option for transactional sales, followed by 0,30,60,90 day option for Subscription Streaming prior to being available for Free Streaming.

Windowing is not new for the record business. The industry has never had pricing ubiquity across all releases, genres and catalogs. There has always been strategic and flexible pricing strategies to differentiate developing artists, hits, mid-line catalog, and deep catalog. An industry wide initiative to re-allign time proven price elasticity is the key to growing the business and developing a broad based sustainable ecosystem for more artists.

  • Windowing allows for Free Streaming to exist as a strategic price point.
  • Windowing allows for Subscription Streaming to exist as a strategic price point.
  • Windowing allows for Transactional Downloads to exist as a strategic price point.
  • Windowing allows for artists and rights holders to determine the best and most mutually beneficial way to engage with their fans.

Windowing is the key (as it always has been) in rebuilding a sustainable and robust professional middle class that will inevitably lead to more artists ascending to the ranks of stars. Some will become superstars and legends capable of creating the types of sales and revenues currently achieved by Adele, Taylor Swift and Beyonce’. To get there however we need to abandon Stockholm Syndrome and embrace windowing that works for everyone.

 

FREE Streaming is the Digital Cut-Out Bin. Artists You Deserve Better.

Cutouts

Today’s younger consumers who missed the glory days of the record store as a cultural hub will probably have little awareness of the cut-out bin. The cut-out bin was dreaded by artists and labels alike, but it served an important function in the ecosystem and economy of record sales. This was the rack in the record store where over manufactured titles made their last stop before the trash bin.

The cut-out bin was the last stop for an album, not the first stop. This is a very important consideration in today’s digital music economy. Artists, you deserve better service from your labels, management and partners.

Having your record appear in “the cut-outs” didn’t mean the album wasn’t successful, to the contrary, many of the records in cut-out bins were by well known name artists. Many of these records contained hit songs and singles. However, for whatever reason the quantities manufactured exceeded the markets ability to absorb those units into sales. At some point the decision was made to either monetize the overstock, or destroy the overstock.

The net result of the cut-out bin was that full length albums were often priced below the cost of a current 45 rpm single. However, this pricing distinction occurred at least a year or more after the initial release of the album. An album was “cut-out”after all of the front line sales, traditional discounts and higher margin retail channels had long been exhausted. Cut-out supplies were also limited and inconsistent. In other words, it was only the most patient and adventurous consumer who benefited from this deep discount.

Honestly, who would buy an album at full price if the same exact product (sans for the cut off top right corner) could be had for less than the price of current single?

So here we are a decade and a half into the new millennium and the best “new business model” for artists and rights holders in the 21st Century Digital Economy is to start at the last stop on the value chain?  You’re kidding us, right? We wish.

So how did we get here? Well, in three words “Ad Funded Piracy.” The lowest price for a product or service sets the price floor for all other comparable products. In the case of music that price has been set at about zero for over a decade and a half. But that’s not say there’s no money being made in the distribution of music online. No, there’s actually a lot of money being made by the Internet Advertising Networks supplying the advertising that fuels the corporate profits to over half a million infringing pirate sites.

It should also be noted that the CEO of the leading ad-funded, free to consumer streaming service was also the creator of the most successful ad-funded, bit-torrent client, u-torrent. Yup, that’s none other than Spotify’s Daniel Ek. Shocker, right?

Obviously, pirates and thieves are going to pirate and steal. These people should not be the first concern of business executives seeking to expand their profits on digital platforms. Enterprise level piracy requires the political will to enforce the law against egregious digital robber barons. Anti-Piracy is an “in addition to” action, not an “instead of” action. The future of the music business must be rooted in both innovation and advocacy.

Windows work. Period.

Business decisions need to developed through common sense, innovation and time tested principles of basic economics. We’ll repeat our previous suggestion for an industry wide, consistent windowing platform strategy below.

Windowing works better when there is a reasonable amount of consistency. Our friends in the film business have been highly effective at windowing for decades and there’s no reason why it can’t work similarly well for the record business.

Every new release should have the option to determine the release windows when the record is being set up. For example the default could be 0,30,60,90 day option for transactional sales, followed by 0,30,60,90 day option for Subscription Streaming prior to being available for Free Streaming.

Windowing is not new for the record business. The industry has never had pricing ubiquity across all releases, genres and catalogs. There has always been strategic and flexible pricing strategies to differentiate developing artists, hits, mid-line catalog, and deep catalog. An industry wide initiative to re-allign time proven price elasticity is the key to growing the business and developing a broad based sustainable ecosystem for more artists.

  • Windowing allows for Free Streaming to exist as a strategic price point.
  • Windowing allows for Subscription Streaming to exist as a strategic price point.
  • Windowing allows for Transactional Downloads to exist as a strategic price point.
  • Windowing allows for artists and rights holders to determine the best and most mutually beneficial way to engage with their fans.

Windowing is the key (as it always has been) in rebuilding a sustainable and robust professional middle class that will inevitably lead to more artists ascending to the ranks of stars. Some will become superstars and legends capable of creating the types of sales and revenues currently achieved by Adele, Taylor Swift and Beyonce’. To get there however we need to abandon Stockholm Syndrome and embrace windowing that works for everyone.

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.

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.

“WE HAVE A MONETIZATION PROBLEM”

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.

 

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.

 

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…

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

The purpose of a chart is to provide meaningful metrics to determine the relative value of a title in the marketplace. The new Billboard 200 “consumption” chart moves away from the traditional metric of album sales. In doing so, the new chart also creates questions about how meaningful this new information will be to artists, managers and labels. As album sales continue to decrease a method of measurement that addresses today’s environment is absolutely important.

The move from a “Sales Chart” to a “Consumption Chart” acknowledges what we already know…  More music is being consumed than ever before and conversely musicians are being compensated less than ever before, for that consumption.

Track Equivalent Album sales for measuring the volume of individual songs by a single artist has been a helpful and accurate method of comparing unit sales in the ala carte song era of Itunes (and others) in that every 10 song sales equal one album. This is easy to quantify as logically ten songs sold at 99 cents really does equal the revenue of one album at $9.99. So for comparative purposes this makes sense both in terms of the underlying logic and the economic reality.

But the new Billboard chart has a bigger problem when incorporating streams. The new metric of 1,500 streams per album and 150 streams per song would make sense if there were in fact a fixed price point for streams of $.00666 (as in $.0666 x 150 = $.99 and $.00666 x 1,500 = $9.99). We’re gonna have some fun with this, stay tuned…

Maybe Billboard has a sense of humor in that the calculation of streams to song and album equivalent’s are $.00666 per stream?

It get’s worse because we know from our Streaming Price Bible that neither Spotify or YouTube are paying anywhere near those rates on an summed, averaged per stream rate. From what we’ve heard Billboard is excluding plays from YouTube (for now) but we have a feeling streaming from YouTube Music Key will be included just as those are from Google Play.

The problem here is that the free tiers dilute how meaningful this data is actually going to be to everyone. As we pointed out in one data set we reviewed Spotify’s free streams accounted for 58% of total plays, but only 16% of revenue in the USA. On YouTube (by any name) the amount of streams to revenue is likely to be far more extreme.

FreePaidChart

What’s worse is that we can clearly see that over time, as fixed revenue streaming services scale the per stream rate will drop. The bigger the services scale, the less each stream is worth. This is unless of course the labels demand a minimum per stream rate that actually matches the metric the chart is suggesting ($.00666 – retail) and no streams from free tiers should be included.

Suddenly, we’re not feeling so lonely on this point, see here:

WME’s Marc Geiger Sides With Taylor Swift, Calls Free Streaming Services ‘F—ed Up’ | Billboard

Add one more name to the list of industry figureheads who’ve sided with Taylor Swift in her battle with Spotify: Marc Geiger, William Morris Endeavor’s head of music, who called the ubiquity of free, ad-supported streaming music services “a f—ed-up, torturous thing for 15 years”

And…

Essay: Why Streaming (Done Right) Will Save the Music Business | Billboard

As the first music-streaming service to be licensed by all major labels — and the No. 2 on-demand music service in the United States — it may surprise you to learn that we at Rhapsody support, and generally agree with, the decision by Taylor Swift and other artists to not make their new albums available on free streaming services immediately after release.

If we can all agree that Free Streams are problematic for the business, why can’t we agree that free streams are bad for a chart?

SpotifyNetMONTHLY_Charted

Combining the free and paid steams defeats the purpose of what the chart is attempting to achieve, a meaningful metric of paid consumer demand.

Free streams must be filtered out of the chart for it to be meaningful.

Giving away a million of something to gain chart positoning is not new and has been controversial. Lady Gaga’s “Art Pop” album benefited from a 99 cent sale at Amazon.com. However albums given away for free by Jay-Z (in partnership with Samsung) and U2 (in partnership with Apple) have not qualified for charting. There is a reason why.

Add to this YouTube views are known to be gamed regularly with many services offering “pay for plays”. We’re also seeing a growth market for services that provide “pay for plays” on Spotify as well. We recognize that in the early days of Soundscan there were attempts to game that system as well by buying off heavily weighted indie stores with free goods, cash or both.

In a digital world where more consumers are streaming on free tiers than paying subscriptions, where the price per stream is falling as services scale, and where there is no fixed price point as a baseline one has to wonder what the true value of the new chart will really be? If it is to illustrate just how wide the gap is between consumption and revenue, then that may be it’s only real purpose.

It’s not like any of this is new, or news. Big Champange, Music Metric and others have been tracking not only sales data but social media metrics for engagement, free streams (youtube and soundcloud) and even p2p filesharing data for years. If we’re going to get honest about “consumption” charts The Pirate Bay has a Top 100 why not include those rankings? To be clear, this is sarcasm, not an actual suggestion. It also illustrates the grossly mislead notion of including free streams in the new chart. It’s not that hard to determine how we are not making money…

REALTED:

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

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

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