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.

4 Myths Musicians Believe About Succeeding in the Music Industry

[Editors Note: This was written by Krizel Minnema and appeared on her blog, Music Road.]

 

Glamour and luxury has shaped the way a lot of musicians perceive the music industry. Even the way few musicians are discovered seem like glorious happenstance that seem sort of in reach. 

This turns into two things for aspiring musicians. First, success looks like a millionaire life with tons of fame. Second, to achieve this success, you need to keep hustling until you stumble upon the right record label exec to get you signed.

As a result, I’ve found that there are 4 big myths that musicians end up believing about succeeding in the music industry. And unfortunately, a lot of this blind hope only sets them up for failure.

MYTH 1: IF YOU PERFORM ENOUGH GIGS YOU MIGHT JUST BE DISCOVERED BY THE RIGHT RECORD LABEL EXEC

Sure, artists like Rihanna and Taylor Swift were discovered. But TONS of musicians are discovered and only a few of them make it. 

Regardless, musicians will gig around as many places as possible. They might even do some covers and originals on their YouTube channel hoping to be the next viral hit.

The problem with this is that it’s a “spray and pray” or “scratch and maybe win” process. It’s aimless, tactless, and it  hardly works. I call these musicians the “lottery musicians”. 

Doing gigs and sharing music needs to be strategic and meaningful. For example, The Civil Wars started in small areas and very specific areas. Their other strategy was to offer a free live recording EP in exchange for emails and zip codes. They got over 500,000 new subscribers from this!

Not only did they get an excellent way to connect DIRECTLY with fans, but they knew where their fans were to build tours around them. This is deliberate and strategic – not random. 

The kicker? They became a grammy-award winning success all without a major record label. 

In fact, record labels don’t even look for talented musicians anymore. They look for artists that have a following. For example, Bhad Bhabie. She has absolutely no rap experience. She had a few one-liners in a Dr. Phil show, and then she became an internet sensation. Not long after, she was offered a major record label deal from Atlantic.

MYTH 2: THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN BE SUCCESSFUL IS WITH A MAJOR RECORD LABEL

The Civil Wars, Chance the Rapper, Dodie, KING, Ingrid Michaelson, Kina Grannis and other artists are all independent artists that don’t have a major record label. 

Yet, they’re making 6-7+ figures in their music. Aside from their salaries, they’re able to create music full-time while paying the bills. For most people, this is success.

Nowadays, “getting discovered” is like winning the lottery. Much worse, even if you are signed, record labels aren’t obligated to get an album out of you. In fact, only .2% of those signed manage to dodge the bullet of being dropped by a label. In other words, that means 99.8% fail. Even more, 99% of the acts signed never even get to release an album (Avalon, 2011). 

You might think to yourself, “But I’m different. I’ve got real talent, and they just gotta find me.” I’m sure this *might* be true for you. But you can’t bank on happenstance to get a deal. If you do, your likely failure rate just increases.

The reality is, successful musicians are strategic and smart about how they promote and grow their fanbase.

MYTH 3: IN ORDER TO BE SUCCESSFUL MUSICIANS NEED TO JUST FOCUS ON THEIR CRAFT, EVEN IF THEY’RE A STARVING MUSICIAN. 

This isn’t just a musician problem. It’s an artist problem. The mentality is “if you love something, wouldn’t you just do it for free”? This reason comes from the idea that being poor means more passion and more authenticity. This couldn’t be more wrong. 

Deep down, it’s an excuse to not think strategically or try harder. As a result, they convince themselves that real opportunity will be handed to them. “Real art is found.” However, like in The Civil Wars example earlier, opportunity is created not hand delivered.

The music industry is changing and it demands a change in mindset. This leads me to the next myth.

MYTH 4: THE MUSIC INDUSTRY IS DEAD, SO WHY EVEN TRY

Ever since P2P file-sharing back in the early 2000s and, now, the growing streaming industry, CD sales have plummeted. Demand, however, has not.

People are listening to music more than ever before. In fact, there is countless academic research that show that streaming increases the interest of music consumption. In other words, streaming increases a fan’s listening palettes AND increases their interest to buy full CDs and/or physical albums. Like, for example, classical music.

And I mean music that was made CENTURIES ago is having a comeback in this changing music industry. All thanks to streaming. Back in 2016, Mozart (yes, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) had one of the highest album sales of the year.

The way in which fans consume their music is completely different from the early 2000s. How much they’re consuming is also changing. This also means artists need to be creative with the ways we reach fans and how we sell to them. 

Beyonce created a visual album. Chance the Rapper gave all his music away and made money from concerts. Kina Grannis ran a Patreon campaign to create her own label with her fans. Radiohead released their album at a “pay what you want” model and made more that way than any other major record label release.

Thanks to the changing digital landscape around music, there are even MORE opportunities to connect with fans and succeed in the music industry.

CRUSHING THOSE MYTHS AND THE NEXT STEPS FOR YOU

As a musician you can build a tangible – and strategic – plan to succeed in the music industry. It all starts with a shift from a “lottery musician” mentality to an “opportunist musician” mentality. 

Here are three jumpstart steps for you to get into that mind shift:

  1. Have smart, digestible goals. Being strategic means being reasonable with your goals. Make simple, tangible goals that make it easier to get to your biggest goal. If your goal is to have 100,000 fans, start with the first 10, then 100, then 1,000, then so on.
  2. Think of different streams of revenue. Don’t just focus on getting fans. Think of ways to monetize your craft. This includes streaming sales, single/album sales, merchandise sales, sync licenses, collaborations, lending your voice in projects, live digital shows (yes, that’s a thing!), crowdfunding, and more.
  3. Keep learning. Keep investing in your education. Not just your craft. This includes music business. Learn how to network with the right people. Understand smart promotional strategies to get more fans by reading books or watching courses on marketing. Never stop learning and APPLY what you learn.

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.

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!