March Industry Wrap-Up

U.S. Recorded Music Revenues On The Rise


The Recording Industry Association of America released its recorded music figures for 2017 in April. One major takeaway from the report was a 16.5% increase in retail value from 2016, up to $8.72 billion, and a 12.6% overall rise to $5.9 billion in wholesale revenue collection. If you’ve been following our monthly industry wrap-ups or if you’re an artist tracking revenue sources over the past few years, it should be no surprise where the RIAA points to as a cause of these increases: music streaming and streaming subscriptions.

We all know streaming has been soaring in terms of adoption from fans – old and young – and that each month reveals higher subscription numbers. Something that hasn’t been discussed a ton, though, is the decline of digital download sales. The RIAA’s report actually shows that in 2017, sales of CDs, vinyl and other physical media has actually surpassed digital downloads in revenue generated.

As The Verge points out, there’s another understated but interesting takeaway from all of this revenue data: “limited tier subscriptions” and their dent in the subscription market. Limited tier subscriptions can be defined as streaming subscriptions with ‘some sort of major constraint’ – the examples given in their article include Pandora’s “Pandora Plus” paid radio service and Amazon’s $4/month unlimited streaming-on-Echo subscriptions. These types of subscriptions not only make up 14% of the greater pie chart, they’re also up 11% year over year.

Regardless of how much of an impact your individual releases made in 2017, it’s encouraging to see to an overall rise in music revenue across the board as TuneCore continues to help artists get their music sold and streamed!

 

Spotify: In-Car Integration, Auto-Mixed Playlists, & More


It’s rare that we’re able to get through a monthly industry news wrap-up without mentioning our friends at Spotify. The streaming giant continues to attract new subscribers, innovate its platform, and introduce features that benefit our community of TuneCore Artists – and as long as they and others make announcements that can help our artists get heard and discovered by more fans, we’ll keep covering it!

Much like when we began seeing Sirius/XM Radio subscriptions being parlayed into new automobile purchases, Cadillac will begin offering an app they collaborated with Spotify on to let Premium subscribers use a car-friendly interface to browse their libraries and stream directly as they drive. This is the first move we’ve seen from a streaming platform to go above and beyond the method of simply plugging a mobile device into an auxiliary cord in order to listen to music via their preferred service. At the moment Cadillac owners will have to go through the systems “infotainment” app store to take advantage of this feature, so we’ll have to wait and see how the automaker decides to market it.

Ever a hub for popular playlists, Spotify appears now to be testing out a feature that allows songs within a playlist to be mixed together. Music Ally was tipped off about this unannounced update this month, pointing out that on certain playlists, when you turn off the ‘crossfade’ feature, it’s almost as if a DJ set is being composed right before your eyes (ears?). Without any official announcement from Spotify it is difficult to tell where this is going, but we definitely recommend testing it out yourself and keeping an eye out for any more updates in the near future.

Speaking of Spotify playlists, streaming analytics provider ChartMetric published a report on its blog showing a quantitative breakdown of “context-based” playlists by listener. Noting that people are focusing less on what genre they feel like listening to (content-based), the rise of followers attributed to playlists based on activities such as working out or eating dinner at home and time-related events has remained steady over the past year. Genre tags go from things like “Pop” or “Latin” to “Chill”, “Sleep”, or “Workout”.

ChartMetric points out that while “contextual marketing” has been adopted across countless other industries, the music business has traditionally been locked into a “genre-based listener segmentation”. This is something to keep in mind next time you’re setting up your release and pitching to stores like Spotify, which you can do via TuneCore’s “Feature Submission Form” – specifically where you’re given space to talk about the release, perhaps a new focus on keywords around these types of playlist will help catch editors’ eyes.

 

Social Media Habits Study Show Demographics & Preferred Platforms


In March, The Pew Research Center dropped their latest study of social media habits among Americans – something that should grab your attention if you’re an indie artist looking to take advantages of popular platforms in order to promote your music and connect with fans. We’ve offered plenty of takes on how to approach your social media marketing strategies, but it’s rare that we stop and think, “Who’s on what?”

Perhaps it’s worth stopping to think about the demographics of your current fan base. Do folks who like/follow your accounts tend to be a little younger? Or have you noticed an increasing population of music fans over 30 showing up to your gigs? Or maybe you’re still building, but you know which demographics you’d like to be promoting your music to for the sake of discovery.

In an era where something as useful as social media seems cluttered and over-saturated, studies like this can be used strategically when it comes to allocating ad dollars or zeroing in which channel(s) to dedicate content to.

Head over to the report and start taking notes, artists!

February Industry Wrap-Up

Our monthly look back at news from the music industry – distribution, streaming, publishing and other topics that matter to the our community of independent music makers.

 

Apple Music Eyes Eventual Leading Spot With 36 Million Subscribers


As music streaming becomes more popular among fans each month, independent artists are seeing the benefits – and not just monetarily, but also in terms of how they are able to promote and market their releases. While countries all over the world have their favorites, there’s no denying the branding power that Spotify and Apple Music bring to the table here. This month, Apple Music announced it has more than 36 million subscribers, up from 30 million in September of last year.

While Spotify remains at number one globally with over 70 million paying subscribers as of this year, Apple Music (sitting at number two overall) appears to be specifically growing at a faster rate in the U.S. In fact, the Wall Street Journal reports that Apple’s subscription growth rate should put it ahead of Spotify in this country by the summer. The report points to Apple’s ability to put the service right in its customers’ hands as streaming becomes more and more widely adopted, not to mention the release of their new HomePod speaker system.

As a digital distributor, TuneCore’s aim to is provide a pathway for artists of all genres to sell their music online and be discovered on popular streaming platforms and digital stores all over the world. We love all of our digital store partners equally, so reporting on their competitive nature is simply a reminder of the growing power of streaming.

In fact, as Music Ally points out: “The fact that Apple’s ability to bundle Apple Music trials with its popular devices is paying off is good news for our industry. The fact that it’s paying off without seemingly cannibalising the growth of two different models from its main rivals is even better news.”

 

“Alexa, Build Me a Playlist”


Speaking of music streaming, there’s been little to slow down the popularity of both official and unofficial playlists on some of the major platforms. Fans dig the ability to listen to their favorite genres handsfree – simultaneously enjoying their favorite hits, keeping up with new releases, and discovering new talent.

Also increasingly popular are smart devices like Amazon Alexa, a voice controlled speaker that allows users to get information, access their Amazon Prime, play music, and more. Now, the online retailer and music service provider has introduced a feature to their Alexa devices: the ability to create playlists on Amazon Music.

Saying simple commands like, “Alexa, create a playlist” or “Alexa, add this to my playlist” (the latter while a song is playing) will instruct the device to do just that.

While they haven’t made as much of a big deal about this new feature as, say, their support for SMS messaging or its new Android capabilities, we here at TuneCore think it’s pretty cool! It obviously remains to be seen how popular this option for playlist building will be, it denotes the popularity of playlisting and how this concept can bring more new ears to independent artists.

 

Spotify Eyes Entrance Into the Hardware Game


As mentioned above, we’re seeing that just because there’s a steady rise in the realm of digital music streaming, physical devices are evolving to make listening even easier. This past month, the industry was abuzz with rumors when Spotify posted a job description for the brand new role of “Operations Manager – Hardware Product” – among a few others. Full disclosure: TuneCore has no inside knowledge of where these roles came from!

However, industry writers and pundits have been quick to notice these roles seem to suggest that Spotify has big plans for a hardware rollout in the future. The Guardian has pointed out in the past that the streaming provider has been working on hardware “akin to Pebble Watch, Amazon Echo, and Snap Spectacles”.  It’s not hard to imagine that many have pointed toward the possibility of a smart speaker, but once more, it’ll be a little while until we know.

Regardless of what the future holds, we’re excited for any new introductions that will encourage music sharing and discovery.

January 2018 Industry Wrap-Up

Copyright Royalty Board Approves Increases in Mechanical Rates


Good news for songwriters of all stripes: this month,the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) approved a series of graduated increases in mechanical royalty rates. What’s being referred to as the single largest jump in mechanical royalties in history, rates are scheduled to increase 43.8% over the course of 2018 through 2022.

The decision comes in the resolution of an original trial taking place last year, filed by the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) and the Nashville Songwriters Association (NSAI) against Google, Amazon, Spotify, Apple and Pandora. NMPA CEO & President David Israelite said of the decision, “We are thrilled the CRB raised rates for songwriters by 43.8% – the biggest rate increase granted in CRB history. Crucially, the decision also allows songwriters to benefit from deals done by record labels in the free market.”

Still kinda new to the music publishing game? You can read more about how your songs earn royalties here. An important takeaway from this major ruling for the average independent songwriter is that when your songs are downloaded, bought in-store, or streamed, there’s a mechanical royalty attached to that action. Even as TuneCore would help you collect the streaming revenue owed to you across platforms like Apple Music and Spotify, songwriters must be registered with a publisher/administrator to collect the other half of that revenue, which is the mechanical royalty. With rates increased per stream, that is more money in the songwriter and publishers pockets!

If you’re interested in learning more about registering your compositions with TuneCore for music publishing administration, learn more here.

YouTube Expands Red to New Markets, Updates Official Artist Channels


This month we learned that YouTube plans to expand its YouTube Red paid subscription music service into international territories outside of the U.S. Chief Business Officer Robert Kyncl says that their newest licensing agreement with Universal Music and their talks with performance rights societies in places like France have played a role in this expansion.

Said Kyncl, “All this work now allows us to launch YouTube Red around the world. We have no launch date for France, but this service will be launched this year on dozens of markets in 2018.”

In other YouTube news, less than a year after the video and music streaming giant launched “Official Artist Channels”, they announced in January the ‘mandatory consolidation of all an artist’s subscribers’ under these channels. The point of this appears to be to more or less ‘clean up’ the landscape in ways that should benefit both artists and subscribers (fans).

Moving forward, if a music fan is subscribed to an ‘unofficial’ YouTube artist channel, their subscription will automatically be shifted over to that of the “Official Artist Channel”. Subscriptions to the aforementioned unofficial channels will expire and become inactive.

For artists, having fans available and subscribed in one official place that they can manage could be beneficial for reach and engagement. It will allow them to take advantage of some of YouTube’s engagement features like Community Posts, Ticketing and Mobile Live. Check out the video below for more info:

iHeartRadio Reaches 110 Million Users, Announces Updates


More good news for all of our TuneCore Artists who distribute their new releases to iHeartRadio – the streaming platform has announced a 10 million-user jump since March of 2017, surpassing 110 million in total. This is in addition to the 250 million users that use the service for streaming broadcast radio stations throughout 150 U.S. markets (850 stations all in all).

iHeartRadio announced this during January’s Consumer Electronic Show. In addition to boasting about their increased user figures, the company also introduced new or updated features across the 200+ unique platforms its streaming service is available on, including “bot for Facebook Messenger (pictured above); Bixby from Samsung; Jibo,  a social robot for the home; Garmin’s new GPS running watch, the Forerunner 645 Music; Roku; and new automotive updates with General Motors and Ford.”

Like with any digital partner that TuneCore distributes content to, we’re tipping our caps to iHeartRadio and look forward to more growth and positive updates that impact their users and our artist community.

INTERVIEW: Fanburst Seeks To Offer Independent Artists More Streaming Options

While it’s known among our artist community that getting your music in stores and streaming platforms like Spotify, iTunes, Amazon and Google Play has never been easier. But of course there are other platforms that don’t require typical digital distribution, such as Soundcloud and Bandcamp, allowing artists to host and share their music either for free for a named-price.

Beyond making their music available to the bases of dedicated fans using these platforms, another benefit has traditionally been space for those artists who are putting music out weekly or even daily. But as some of these platforms are gearing towards a paid or subscription model, the amount of space per account an artist has becomes limited, which either requires them to remove content to make room or simply not put new content out there.

Enter Fanburst – a new streaming service offered free to musicians and fans of all genres. Similar to other streaming platforms, Fanburst allows artists to set up their profiles with information about themselves, links and photos.

Founded and developed by Jeremy Yudkin and Chris Miller, Fanburst offers artists the opportunity to upload and host an unlimited amount of releases, from albums to singles – all the special price of 100% free. Since launching in beta last year, the two founders have been working with artists to garner feedback and figure out how they can better serve creators and fans alike.

As with services like Soundcloud, we’ve never been shy about encouraging artists to take advantage of ALL their options when it comes to getting their music into the world. Discovery is a challenge, so why not cast a wide net? If you’re covering fans who love to use Soundcloud, it’s equally important to cover fans who prefer Apple Music or Spotify – and vice versa. Fanburst is another platform to reach fans, and that should please any independent artist

We had the chance to chat with them in a quick interview below about launching Fanburst and what they hope to achieve with this exciting new platform.

Tell us a little bit about your backgrounds and how you got together to start building Fanburst.

Jeremy: Chris [Miller, co-founder] was one of my customers in a previous venture, and we were spending a lot of time talking about music and the future for artists. At some point, we decided we should build something together. We wanted to take both of our skill sets, as well as our shared passion for music, to start solving problems that we saw for emerging and established artists.

What kind of input were you getting from indie artists during the development of Fanburst?

Artists just want to be heard. Really, it’s so hard to get discovered, but it’s not impossible. Indie artists have to just get their music out into every marketplace, streaming service, and digital platform there is. If an indie artist writes an amazing tune and it takes off on Fanburst, it will still have carry over onto other platforms.

Also, artists are creating a lot of music and they need a way to share and publish it. The finished ones, the drafts, and just ideas – we didn’t want any artist not to share something. We built Fanburst so every artists at any point could upload their music.

Similarly, what kind of feedback have you received since launching? How have you been engaging with artists to improve and adjust?

The feedback has been awesome – especially from new and developing artists. We’re helping artists get their first few fans, and it snowballs from there. More fans here helps to drive word of mouth, and then artists have the opportunity to grow.

What advice do you have for young up-and-coming artists when it comes to delivering their content online?

Get your music everywhere – get on TuneCore, they make it easy. But also get your music anywhere TuneCore doesn’t distribute. Also: be early adopters on platforms – you can get lucky and become the big fish in a small pond and dominate.

Also, keep writing and working on your art. It compounds and improves, just like any other skill, so just get better every day, bit by bit.

How do you envision Fanburst living aside big name players like Apple Music, Spotify and Deezer?

Hopefully we develop a unique, independent community where artists can catch some new fans. We think music is going to be a lot bigger than it currently is, and it likely will play out with a lot of platforms and lots of different fan experiences where artists can take advantage of.

We hope the artists using Fanburst are also using the other services, because we think its a net win when artists are growing everywhere.

What can you leave us with in terms of the exciting future ahead of Fanburst?

We think we’re planning on rolling out a bunch of interesting features that will help artists grow their fans, grow across other platforms, and drive revenue. For now, making sure the platform is simple and easy – that’s our focus.

December Industry Wrap-Up

Amazon Music Unlimited Expands to 28 Countries


Back when TuneCore got started, Amazon was one of the first stores we helped independent artists get their music into. It was a different digital landscape back then, but over the next decade Amazon would evolve in pretty miraculous ways – bringing us to the age of in-home smart technology.

Amazon’s Alexa smart speakers have made it easy for music fans to get access to instant streaming music from its Music Unlimited service. This month, Amazon announced that both Alexa and Music Unlimited would be available in an additional 28 countries! A wider rollout throughout Europe and South America is sure to please hungry listeners looking for a new layer of convenience.

Steve Boom, VP of Amazon Music said, “Music is such an incredible global connector, and with Amazon Music Unlimited we’ve been able to give listeners access to an extensive catalog with the added experience of using their own voice to hear music in so many ways with Alexa.”

We’re always reminding independent artists that in addition to getting their releases onto popular platforms in their respective countries, by distributing to those additional platforms in territories they know less about, they’re opening up the doors to discovery for new fans. We’re always ready to celebrate new development from our store partners like Amazon Music, especially when it means new opportunities for TuneCore Artists to be heard.

YouTube “Remix” Music Service – Potential March ‘18 Launch


We all know at this point that YouTube is a major destination for music fans – from music videos to Art Tracks to exclusive user-generated content, it’s become an undeniable force in the industry. (No wonder TuneCore helps you get your releases on there AND collect potential revenue from sound recording use on others channels!)

Of course, YouTube’s road to becoming a streaming destination has been rocky in terms of how fans consume and pay for subscriptions (if they choose to). Between YouTube Red and Music Key, all signs point to YouTube consumers being less likely to sign up for a subscription service. With so much to offer users in the way of content, it’s not entirely unsurprising that when it comes to music, YouTube appeals to more ‘passive’ listeners who are willing to sit through some ads and use an app that also allows them to watch videos.

YouTube’s latest rumored offering, known internally as “Remix”, appears to take on more of a model that’d be similar to Spotify or Apple Music. While like any other streamer these days they’ll have to navigate negotiations with the majors, there’s certainly no reason not to be optimistic about Remix if you’re an independent artist. As Music 3.0’s Bobby Owsinski put it:

The best part about a Remix launch for artists, labels, songwriters and publishers will be the fact that there’s another deep-pocketed entity in the game with hopefully more marketing muscle than Google’s previous efforts. Nothing bad about another potential revenue stream.”

While it’s not an official announcement, Bloomberg reported that the new paid service could come as soon as March 2018.

Practice of Fractional Licensing For PRO’s Upheld in U.S. Appeals Court


In what’s being heralded as a “massive victory” for songwriters and publishers, it was announced this month that the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals will uphold a 2016 decision allowing for the practice of fractional licensing.

ASCAP and BMI, the two leading performing rights organizations in the U.S., joined forces to challenge the U.S. Department of Justice, which was seeking to end the practice of fractional licensing. Without fractional licensing, songwriters and copyright holders are forced to adhere to ‘100% licensing’, without the ability to split up royalties – both PRO’s believed that the DOJ’s mandate would “cause unnecessary chaos in the marketplace and place unfair financial burdens and creative constraints on songwriters and composers”.

The 100% licensing requirement was an update made by the DOJ, creating legal and logistical obstacles for creators. While both PRO’s believe this to be a ‘2-year distraction’ that resulted from their original goal of updating the standing consent decree that they considered to be outdated.

Given the benefits to those songwriters, composers and publishers associated with either or both of the two PROs, ASCAP and BMI received unwavering support from members and the music industry overall during this period of uncertainty.

Songwriters who have signed up and registered compositions via TuneCore Publishing Administration can rest easy when it comes to the continuation of fractional licensing.

November Industry Wrap-Up

Spotify Adds More Artist Friendly Features


As “Spotify For Artists” evolves and continues to set the tone for streaming platforms and how they allow artists to control their profiles, this month marked another update that most who distribute their music there should be happy about. Spotify introduced “Artist’s Pick”, a new feature aimed at allowing artists to control the music that sits on top of their profile – they can pick any album, track, or playlist they prefer to highlight, and even include a message about why they dig it so much.

In addition to “Artist’s Pick”, artists who distribute their music to Spotify can now add custom images and share geotargeted tour dates. Previously, artists were limited to their profile image when it came to these sort of uploads/customizations – now they can add photos from on the road, album art, or hey, even a fun selfie for the heck of it. As far as tour dates are concerned, this new feature actually coincides with the “Artist’s Pick” feature, as they can choose to make their geotargeted tour date the main focus of a user’s attention up top! Both of these go a long way in offering free tools that allow indie artists to engage and connect with their fans via an increasingly popular streaming platform. We’ll be sure to keep you updated month to month as all the stores/services we help you distribute to make announcements like this!

YouTube Announces Partnership with TicketMaster


Remember last year when Spotify partnered with Ticketmaster to integrate local tour dates into artists’ profiles? Well, YouTube is getting in on the fun! The video streaming giant owned by Google announced in November that they’d begin featuring “hundreds of artist’s upcoming US tour dates on their YouTube videos.

When it comes to music – love it or hate it – a LOT of music fans rely on YouTube to stream their favorite music these days. It remains to be seen what differences lie among those who use YouTube to stream versus those who prefer services like Deezer, Spotify or Apple – specifically in how these users engage with their favorite artists or how often they’d pay to go see them live in concert. But this certainly signals a shift in YouTube’s strategy for additional revenue streams, or at least an attempt to diversify from their main source of dough: advertising.

If you’re an independent artist and you distribute your music to all platforms available, this only increases the access your fans – whether they’ve been with you from the beginning or are just discovering your tunes – have to your upcoming live dates.

Google Assistant Adds Song Recognition Feature


It’s unlikely at this point that you haven’t been hearing a lot more about Google Assistant. The tech behemoth has been making cool updates to their voice-controlled feature available on Google and Android driven devices, and it’s latest involves music.

Eerily similar to the process that helped put Shazam (which TuneCore distributes to) on the map, users with Google Assistant can now instantly get more information about the music being played in their surroundings.

By holding down a home button (to trigger Google Assistant) and asking your device what song is playing, you’ll immediately be served with a song title, the artist and a sample of the song’s lyrics (where applicable). But of course, that’s not all you’ll get: in typical Google fashion, links to Google Play, YouTube and search (for more information) are also offered up with each response.

While it’s not an incredibly revolutionary addition, it’s important to remember that this action no longer requires a music fan to have additional apps they may not have previously considered downloading to get instant access to the new music they’re hearing. That stands to impact artists of all career levels when it comes to how quickly discovery can lead to fandom.

Deezer Announces New “Community” Feature


While the messaging/sharing and social networking elements of streaming services have been explored, blown up, and in some cases completely dialed back, Deezer has decided to open up the conversation…among its users, of course. In November the streaming platform announced that its subscribers can access the Deezer Community feature in order to share new tunes with their friends on the platform, receive Deezer news and updates, and join fellow music lovers on their message board-like system in order to find support, share tips, or act as a leader in conversations about artists and genres.

While it may seem less relevant in 2017, one must not forget about the power of message boards and forums among diehard music fans. They’ve long been a refuge for those active listeners looking to share new deep cuts, discover underground singles, and participate in deep topic conversations with like-minded folks. In the same way that vinyl and cassettes are still being purchased by some, these forums and communities too are populated with vocal and fervent music fans, (don’t believe us? Just check out indie hip hop label Stones Throw’s boards for yourself!)

We’re psyched to see the European streamer get its toes wet in the social game, because after all, when it comes to independent music, word of mouth can be everything.