October Industry Wrap-Up

Spotify Adds Playlist Pitching Options, Partners With Google & Launches New App


October was a busy month for Spotify! They’ve announced some recent updates that impact fans, labels and artists. For music fans who use Google and Android smart devices, an advanced partnership now allows Spotify subscribers to use voice command control of the app using  Google Assistant. Formerly relegated to Google Home smart-speakers, this marks a move towards Google’s acceptance of Spotify’s high subscription rate and putting it front-of-mind when updating its mobile offerings. While Andorid users can rejoice in their ability to say “OK Google, Play Spotify”, Music Ally points out that the tech giant may still be leaning toward YouTube being the lead music brand for Google going forward, as it merges with Google Play.”

For independent labels, pitching for slots on playlists and Spotify’s ‘Browse’ section can be as difficult for those without representation. There also remains an internal struggle between the promotion of label playlists and Spotify’s own in-house playlists. As such, Spotify has moved to offer a new system for indie labels aimed at giving their artists a better shot at making it onto playlists while also (ideally) giving labels’ playlists “a better chance of building an audience on Spotify.” Read more about the pitching system here, and as indie artists, keep your eyes out for more transparent pitching opportunities in the future!

Finally, as creators are concerned, Spotify launched it’s “Spotify For Artists” app on iOS. We’ve talked about the “Spotify For Artists” app on the Blog before, so it’s exciting to see such a helpful tool being offered to artists right in their pocket. An Android version is soon to follow, but for now, indie artists with iOS devices can edit their bios and their ‘artist’s pick’, as well as update their playlists and keep an eye on their listener analytics.

2017 On-Demand Streams Soar in the U.S.


We know, even though it feels like time is flying, the year isn’t over yet. But as a digital music distributor serving independent artists with the opportunity to make their music available on dozens and dozens of digital streaming platforms, we can’t help but get excited about figures like this: on-demand audio and video streams are up 40.5% in the U.S. so far in 2017

At 442.44 billion streams so far, MusicAlly once again provides a helpful comparison that shows that this year, eight tracks have already toppled last year’s most-streamed track, “Panda” by Desiigner, in the comparative window of time.

While the top artists being streamed are no doubt most of the big-timers you’d expect to see leading the way, it’s important as ever to look at these types of figures as an overall shift toward the trend of streaming. Once a consumption method for the ‘active’ music listener, more and more subscribers means more and more music discovery. With direct access to these platforms, it puts independent artists in a good position to be marketing their releases across fans’ preferred channels for streaming.

BandsInTown Announces “Big Break” Platform For Emerging Artists


BandsInTown – if you don’t already know (and you should) – is a popular app aimed at helping artists promote their concerts/tour dates and helping fans keep track of when all their favorite performers will be playing locally. In addition to helping fans discover new artists by offering concert dates for bands they don’t already follow on Facebook via a “listen-if-you-like” style algorithm, BandsInTown is launching their “Big Break” platform in an effort to promote new independent artists.

The new feature “highlights everything you need to know about the fresh faces turning the industry upside down. From the secrets behind their viral tracks to their big plans for the future…”, supported by a series on their blog. BandsInTown will select 50 artists in order to grow their ‘trackers’ following from 500 to 5,000.
This is a very cool step towards further connecting indie artists with new and potential fans. The app is already right up any diehard music fan’s alley in terms of keeping up with their favorite acts’ performing schedules – even for local artists. Head on over to their blog to learn more about the platform and how to keep up with the opportunities coming from the app down the road.

September Industry Wrap-Up

Spotify Expands Video Features, Partners With Hulu


It’s rare that a month goes by without some sort of news around the music streaming platform Spotify’s latest ventures. Last month, we reported on Spotify extending a test to U.S. customers that added videos to their playlists, specifically within its wildly popular “Rap Caviar” playlist.

This past month, Spotify rolled the feature out globally. The expansion was highlight by an exclusively-shot video for pop star Sam Smith’s latest ‘Too Good At Goodbyes’ single. Included in 40 popular international playlists, this quick development one month from its initial testing shows that the company is feeling confident in the feature’s reception from fans. As MusicAlly points out, the expansion of this feature is notable as it highlights Spotify’s video strategy shifting towards playlists as opposed to original shows.

Speaking of original shows, Spotify has also expanded its marketing of premium subscriptions by partnering with another likeminded and innovative player in the media space, Hulu. The two industry disrupters have teamed up much to the delight of college students heading back to campus this semester by offering a bundled subscription package: just $4.99/month for Spotify Premium and Hulu’s on-demand streaming plan. Spotify already offers a $4.99 student special, but this bundling deal is sure to sweeten the offering for a lot of tempted college kids looking for entertainment on the cheap!

Between finding new ways to entice paying subscribers and expanding artist-friendly creative features that we’re seeing in their video strategy, all signs point to Spotify staying on course as an innovative leader in a space in which indie artists can earn more revenue. We already know that music videos continue to be a big part of artists’ marketing strategies, and this combined with college campuses being a breeding ground for new music fans gives artists all the more motivation to get creative in this space.

 

RIAA Reports Strong Growth in Music Industry Thanks to Streaming


The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) dropped it’s 2017 mid year music industry review in September, and it turns out everything is coming up streaming! Not a huge surprise to most, obviously, but the numbers are definitely encouraging overall.

Comprising 62% of U.S. industry revenue in 2017 so far, paid streaming is now the largest contributor to the industry, a slice of the pie once dominated by digital downloads. In fact in just two years, that number jumped up from 33% in 2015 – while digital downloads accounted for 22% less this year, down to 19% from 41% in 2015.

Another less surprising point from this report is Spotify and Apple Music remaining ahead of the pack in terms of paid subscribers; but it’s important to note that paid music subscriptions overall grew in the U.S. to 30.4 million – a 50% jump.

Music to investors in the space’s ears? Probably. But the big takeaway for TuneCore and the indie artist community we support: streaming continues to grow among music lovers, giving artists more and more opportunities to get their music heard and discovered on the platforms we distribute to.

 

Australia’s Music Market Emboldened by Indies


A joint report by Deloitte and AIR (Australian Independent Record Label Association) dropped this month, revealing that Australia’s independent labels account for 30% of the country’s $400 million music market.

Always known for some its legendary independent labels and innovative music, Australia ranks #6 in the world music market share. Streaming accounted for 55.9% of digital revenues in 2016, up almost 30% from 2014-15.

While some indie artists may overlook the continent’s power in terms of music discovery, we here at TuneCore are celebrating the figures in this report – because whether it was an indie label or directly through distributors like TuneCore, this shows an encouraging trend towards independent music’s popularity.
Additionally, it’s a helpful reminder that when you distribute your releases worldwide, territories you might not personally visit or tour in can be viable when it comes to revenue and building a fanbase. Read the whole report here.

5 Reasons It Pays To Collaborate

[Editors Note: This article was written by Suzanne Paulinksi, an artist consultant with over 10 years in the music industry and owner of The Rock/Star Advocate.]

 

They often say, “Teamwork makes the dream work,” but what does that actually mean? Sure, we all know the benefits of growing our own team to carry out our own vision, but what are the real benefits to working with others who don’t work for us?

In years past, as I tried to get former businesses off the ground, I had been approached many times to collaborate with other business owners. More often than not I said no, afraid someone else would cloud my overall vision or try to usurp whatever I was currently working on and take it for themselves. I also had bad flashbacks of school projects when group work meant me busting my ass and four or five others benefiting off of my all-nighters.

So I pushed ahead on my own.

After two businesses failed to reach their full potential, I realized it was time to get out of my own way and realize the potential of combining forces. It’s one thing to hire internally and have a team help execute your vision – in fact, it’s crucial – but it’s quiet another to work with someone else who is in your same position (the captain of their own ship), but who brings a different perspective or skill set to the table.

Whether you’re a business owner or a songwriter, when it comes to true collaboration, it’s no longer about making your vision work, it’s about doing what works, period.

You don’t have to abandon your vision, but you do have to be open to improving it.

If you can trust that it’s just as important to have people who work with you as it is to have people to work for you then you can profit (in more ways than one) from these five benefits of collaboration:

1. Opens you up to a new or larger fan base: If you’re an artist who is trying to build their fanbase, positioning yourself to be a featured artist on someone else’s track or reaching out to share a stage with an artist who has already established a tour can get you in front of others who may not be familiar with you, but who are already primed to be potential fans of yours. Don’t stay up on other musicians as a way to “keep an eye on the competition,” but stay informed on who’s making moves as a way to keep an eye out for collaboration.

2. Opens you up to more prominent industry attention: Especially if you’re in the songwriting business, collaborating with another writer who already has the ear of industry decision makers can elevate your chances of getting their ear as well. That’s not to say you should only work with people who have reached a certain recognition – working with someone else who is on your same level can be just as beneficial. Not only are two brains almost always better than one, but creating something from two different perspectives can give your project the unique spin needed to make others listen.

3. Gets you a life long partner in this industry who has your back: Creating art is a very vulnerable process. Creating art with someone else can create an almost immediate bond. In an industry that can be very unforgiving, forming a close relationship with someone who can 100% relate to your specific position in the industry can be invaluable as you grow together.

4. Makes you better creatively and professionally: As I said above about not needing to abandon your vision, but being open to improving it, collaboration causes you to reflect on what you bring to the table and push further. A strong collaboration will force you to dig deep and put it all on the table. Much like an accountability buddy when trying to finish a task, when there’s someone to answer to you’ll try harder. On a professional note, knowing how to work with other personalities and talents is never a skill you should let get rusty.

5. Gives you a great story: When you bio is all about you, it becomes a snoozefest. Everyone loves a good love story in the movies, and everyone loves to hear how a song or project came together from a successful collaboration, especially if it’s an unexpected one. It gives you plenty of content to share and drip out as part of your promotional campaign. It makes cross-promotion a no-brainer, once again getting your work in front of a larger audience.

A little bit of skepticism with who you choose to let into your creative world is healthy, but paranoia or being overly controlling has never served anyone in the long run. Remember that in the end, it’s all about presenting your fans with the best version of yourself and sometimes it takes others to bring that out of us.

Here’s to making the dream work!

August Industry Wrap-Up

Spotify Begins Testing Videos Within Playlists


It’s amazing to think about the progress that streaming platforms have made over recent years. Streaming itself was and is a groundbreaking way to listen to music digitally, but one can even point to the amazing influential powers of playlists as an example of how quickly the way fans discover music and engage with their favorite artist changes. Any independent artist who has been added to a higher profile playlist will likely be able to tell you about the positive impact it has on their career, too.

This month, Spotify – which also announced that it has surpassed 60 million subscribers – officially rolled out the inclusion of videos within its incredibly popular “Rap Caviar” playlist (it began testing this feature in March, as reported by MusicAlly). While this is only available in the U.S. for now, it marks another impressive step towards integrating new forms of content for fans to geek-out on. One could say this move also shows video giants like YouTube that Spotify can keep up with the demand.

Outside the realm of traditional music videos, this will be exclusive video content from various artists aimed at engaging fans in a less traditional manner: Spotify claims fans will be able to see everything “from 2 Chainz visiting Dr. Miami to assist him with a butt-lift surgery to Sza hanging out in the woods and talking about her rise to fame, or Wale getting a gourmet meal from a five-star weed chef”.

As this feature is sure to be rolled out further in the coming year, independent artists can see this continued commitment to playlisting as a positive. Getting placed on a playlist can be a powerful way to market your music to new fans, and the opportunity to include video content down the road only sweetens the deal. TuneCore always offers artists the opportunity to be considered for feature placements (with no guarantees, of course), and this facet of marketing and promotion should be implemented into their upcoming releases.

 

Nielsen Report Shows Interesting Millennial Music Consumption Trends


Tired of reading reports and headlines about how ‘millennials’ are eating, drinking, ruining industries, and interacting with the world around them? Too bad! But hey, at least this recent report by Nielsen actually pertains to folks – millennial or otherwise – making music and distributing to digital platforms.

Millennial music fans display “Lots of Love, Lack of Loyalty”, Nielsen says. The report touches on a lot, but when it comes to music, it appears as though fans in the 18-34 range are using multiple platforms to tune in with little regard for the brands fueling them. 57% of millennials are using two or more apps to stream music, compared to only 39% of those streamers over the age 35.

While it’s commonplace to bemoan the decline of terrestrial (and even digital) radio listening among this generation, figures around how much radio they’re dialed into have barely dropped since last year (10 hours and 14 minutes per week down from 11 hours and 17 minutes per week). An interesting thing to note, though, is that millennials are “21%more likely to frequently choose songs than to let the music play without making changes” – an obviously different listening experience from what broadcast radio offers.

As mentioned above – if you’re an artist distributing to popular streaming platforms, this is some must-read stuff. The report concludes that loyalty to platforms aside, “the reality of today’s media scenario is that the addition of new offerings has actually inspired increased consumption.”

 

YouTube Begins Offering In-App Messaging & Sharing


Tired of reading what those animals in the YouTube video comment sections have to say? Yeah, we all are. The good news is that YouTube has launched an exciting new way for fans to share their favorite content with their friends and chat about it without ever leaving the app. As streaming services like Spotify scale back their messaging offerings, YouTube hopes to inspire more sharing, discovering and private conversation while keeping folks in-app.

YouTube Product Manager Benoit de Boursetty says, “We think it’ll make sharing easier, faster and more fun on your phone… These shared videos all live in a brand new tab on your YouTube mobile app, making it easier than ever to catch up on videos your friends have shared or to show them a few of your own favourites.”

The demand for music on YouTube continues, and thankfully independent artists are offered a way to not only distribute properly but also collect sound recording revenue from the Google-owned giant. It’s not hard to believe that we’ll see a spike in sharing among dedicated users who might shy away from music-first platforms such as Apple Music, Deezer or Spotify. As an app that attracts less-than-active music listeners at higher rates, YouTube’s new features stand to make it a friendlier place for artists to share their new releases.

Being The Boss: Managing Your Manager

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog written by Eli Ball, CEO of Lyric Financial. TuneCore and Lyric Financial partnered in April to bring artists TuneCore Direct Advance.]

 

As an artist your career is your business and you are the CEO. Before you begin protesting that you are an artist and you have a manager to deal with the business stuff, hear me out.

The music industry is full of so-called “professionals” who want to tell you how to be successful. In fact, many of them rely upon the assumption that you are not in charge, but make no mistake about it: you are the boss. While it absolutely takes a great and committed team to build a successful business, you as CEO are ultimately responsible (not your manager). Consider this: your manager is effectively the COO/CFO (chief operating officer and chief financial officer) of your business. As your COO/CFO the manager’s job is to execute your vision and be a trusted sounding board for your ideas. Sure, a good manager will bring you opportunities they think will advance your career – that’s their job. But remember, your manager works for you, not the other way around.

Here are some tips to help get you off on the right footing with your manager:

The Benefits of Having a Clear Vision

First, you need to define your vision for what you want to represent and accomplish as an artist. Be very clear about your goals and what you are willing to do and not willing to do in order to achieve them. Notice I did not use the word “comfortable”, since running a business is anything but comfortable. It’s challenging at every level of your being and the more success you have the more challenging it becomes.

By having a clear and concise vision that you’ve actually written down and discussed with your team, you save yourself from the directionless confusion so many artists fall victim to. It also gives your manager a clear idea of what you’re looking for and defined goals to achieve and to be measured by.

Be Aware That Your Career Needs Will Evolve As You Grow

There’s an axiom in the business world, that “the team you start with is not necessarily the same team you finish with.” In plain English, as you grow your career, the challenges you face at one level may require a different skill set from the one needed at the next level.

With that in mind, and setting aside for a moment the important issue of loyalty (to be discussed on another post), as CEO you need to be very comfortable that your manager can help you not only immediately, but is able and/or willing to adapt as your career grows. I am not advocating that you change managers whenever you hit a rough spot or the next level, far from that. However, as CEO you are responsible for making sure you have the right people on your team and the right people in the right roles (check out Jim Collins’ insightful book called “Good to Great” to learn more building a great team).

5 Fundamental Issues You Absolutely Need to Address

Regardless of your experience level and whether you have a manager or are considering hiring one, here are some basic issues you need to discuss with your manager:

  1. Does he/she clearly understand and share your vision and goals?
    As noted above, this is crucial for a successful long term business relationship. Of course, you need to really have a clear vision from the get-go to make the most of your artist/manager relationship, so if you don’t yet have that down pat, perhaps work on that first and find the right partner second.It’s also worth noting that this isn’t a one-time conversation. As your vision and goals evolve be sure that your manager continues to be in sync with you.
  2. Is there a fundamental level of trust and respect?
    How do you measure this since trust and respect are built over time? In the beginning, it boils down to personal chemistry. Do you feel comfortable with this person managing your business and representing you? Do your homework. Research their background and check industry references, education and training to determine whether their skill set will be additive to you and your team.If you already have a manager and it isn’t working, you need to ask yourself why and address the issue(s). Then trust your gut. In the end do your best to make the right decisions and if it turns out to be wrong, correct the mistake.
  3. Do you communicate well?
    Your relationship with your manager is the most intimate business relationship you will have. It’s a two way street. You both need to be able to speak honestly and without reservation on any topic. You will need to strategize together, support each other, constructively criticize each other and hopefully congratulate one another on mission accomplished. As an artist you are responsible for writing, recording, promoting your music, touring on the road, as well as keeping an eye on your business, i.e. – You’re busy as all hell! It is critical that the two of you can communicate almost telepathically and regularly. Make sure to put some strong systems in place that respect each of your personal styles, withstand busy schedules and changing time zones.
  4. As CEO what level of detail do you want to be involved in?
    Like a producer who manages the recording process in the studio, you need to be clear what you want to be involved in and just as importantly what you don’t. This is not a one size fits all template, since like a producer you organize your team to work fluidly with your personal style, strengths and weaknesses. Are you a delegating leader or do you like to be in the weeds on day-to-day decisions? What frequency of reporting and level of detail works for you? When are you able and ready to process business information given your responsibilities as an artist?Before any unnecessary confusion and frustration arises, you and your manager need to be in agreement on this issue. Expect to have to revisit this frequently. Your business is dynamic and constantly evolving. As such, the amount of information and decisions to be made increase with the growth of your career.
  5. What is your business plan?
    Assuming you and your manager are in sync on the previous four topics, a formal written business plan on how as a team you are going to execute building your career is absolutely critical before you take another step. This is the road map that will guide you towards achieving your vision. What tools and resources will be needed for touring, recording, promotion and administration? How do you plan to fund each part of it and manage the cash flow? Are you selling rights to your songs or recordings to raise capital? Taking on investors? Bootstrapping it, using one source of revenue, say touring to pay for the recording? Or a combination of all three? Keep in mind that a business plan is not set in stone rather it is an evolving document that provides a clear rational guide for your career journey at each step. As you face challenges and opportunities it will need to be modified. But having a clear well thought out map to begin your journey beats the hell out of flying by the seat of your pants, simply reacting to external factors rather than proactively dealing with them.

I hope this helps give you some perspective and a common sense guide to managing your career. Best of luck. Remember, it’s a marathon not a sprint, so stay true to your vision and learn to smell the roses along the way. It definitely makes for a more fulfilling life.

July Industry Wrap-Up

Facebook Moves Closer Towards Copyright Protection


Folks in the entertainment industry (among other sectors of business) have been following Facebook’s growth and expansion into the music space, whether it’s sharing videos, partnering with streaming platforms to encourage social engagement and discovery, or supporting user-generated content and live feeds. With that, of course, comes pressure to protect songwriters, artists and other creators in the realm of copyrights and licensing and ensure that they are able to collect their owed share of revenue. Like YouTube before it, critics have been waiting to see what the social media giant does next in this realm.

This month, Facebook acquired Source3, a content rights management startup, whose goal is “to recognize, organize and analyze branded intellectual property in user-generated content”. Source3’s technology serves brands or users uploading content to “measure their presence or take action against infringers of their copyrights and trademarks.”

While this move for Facebook looks to serve users and brands outside of music, the company did begin hiring its first music licensing staff recently, likely satisfying labels and publishers seeking to further cement social media streaming royalties as a revenue source. And for independent artists outside of the label system, this acquisition can be seen as a step in the right direction as it hints at future revenue opportunities and a tightened up system to combat copyright infringement.

Amazon Music’s 3rd Place Status – Bigger Than It Sounds?


According to MIDiA Research, Amazon Music is now the 3rd largest music subscription service. MIDiA has been tracking usage of streaming apps on a quarterly basis since 2016 and claims Amazon has grown strongly quarter upon quarter: it ranks 2nd behind Spotify as ‘most widely used’; boasts the ‘largest installed base’ of active users (weekly); and as mentioned above, it ranks 3rd in subscribers with around 16 million, greatly surpassing the 4th and 5th placed QQ Music and Deezer (respectively).

Mark Mulligan of MIDiA’s Music Industry Blog argues that while those figures are impressive in an ever evolving streaming market, the real beauty in Amazon’s growth lies in its ability to convert Prime Subscribers (Amazon’s premium shopping service with annual fees) to Amazon Prime Music or Amazon Prime Music Unlimited users. With no additional costs, new payment schedule or commitments, users of the Amazon Prime app can seamlessly shift their music consumption habits – or adopt streaming for the first time entirely – to a trusted source that they are already actively using on a weekly basis.

In addition to subscriber growth, Mulligan also acknowledges not only the advent of the Amazon Echo (Amazon’s proprietary home speaker, of which they’ve sold upwards of 13 million) but also what he calls “The CD Factor”. As TuneCore Artists who have distributed to Amazon Music On Demand know, CDs can easily be made available for music fans who still prefer the physical medium.

While that might not strike some as a huge advantage, consider that physical sales still dominate in Japan and Germany, the world’s 2nd and 4th largest music markets – two out of the four markets in which Amazon Prime adoption is concentrated. Between this and a growing subscription rate, artists have good reason to look to Amazon Music as a propeller of revenue and discovery when they’re ready to release new music.

Pandora Hits Milestone and Introduces New Features


If you’ve visited our site, read our blog, scanned the industry trade sites, or signed into your TuneCore dashboard recently, you’ll know we’re very excited to be approaching a $1 billion  cumulative payout to independent artists this year. Leave it to our friends at Pandora to hit their very own BILLION milestone: one billion impressions on its “Artist Marketing Platform”. Congrats, Pandora! The AMP was revolutionary for its time as it allowed artists to use listener data to learn about their audience – similar to how TuneCore allows you to view data that makes it easier to decide where to spend ad dollars or concentrate touring destinations.

With the ability to pass direct audio messages to fans, Pandora says the platform has been used by over 11,000 artists, who have collectively driven said one billion impressions, which is a major benchmark for the relatively young direct-to-fan marketing approach.

On top of this news, Pandora announced two new direct-to-fan features for the AMP: the ability to promote a single (via pre-recorded audio message), and the ability to promote concert dates (via customized flight dates, ticket purchase links, and geo-targeted messaging). While Pandora remains a curated service, TuneCore announced last year that we’ve partnered with the internet radio heavy-hitter, allowing TuneCore Artists to submit their releases for consideration. With these added features, it makes more sense than ever to be taking advantage of this submission!