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.

May Industry Wrap-Up

Spotify Launches “Spotify Codes”


Remember the QR Code Craze? Sure you do! It took place a couple of years back when we began seeing these funny little squares with unique black and white patterns in them all over promotional materials, from the subway to magazines. People could use their mobile device to scan the QR code and it’d offer them some sort of exclusive content. Marketers saw this as a fun new way to connect with consumers, but ultimately the process involved proved to be just over the line of effort that most consumers were willing to put into connecting with a campaign.

Flash forward to present day, and we see Spotify has announced a new in-app feature called “Spotify Codes”, allowing music fans to scan said codes to share music with friends. It’s being rolled out globally and is about more than just sharing your favorite playlist with a like-minded pal. Music Ally points to the strong potential for artists to market their music using Spotify Codes: “Flyers, posters, billboards… perhaps even TV advertising – something that would take Spotify Codes into the territory traditionally occupied by Shazam.”

A strong and thoughtful point, indeed. Indie artists of all genres can direct potential fans directly to their latest releases using traditional DIY promotional tactics simply by including their unique Spotify Codes within their visual assets. It’ll be very interesting to see how artists get creative with sharing these codes, and of course, how fans react and engage. Get started using them today with instructions via Spotify here.

Amazon Prime Offers Live Streaming Concerts


Is there anything Amazon Prime can’t deliver us? Well, up until this month, you could technically put “concert experiences” in that category (which seems reasonable enough), but alas, the online retail giant continues to out-do itself. In May, Amazon announced that it has begun offering tickets to concerts to its members. Not just any concerts, but a series of live events, with tickets being offered exclusively via the platform to Prime customers, featuring internationally recognized artists playing in small, intimate settings.

While concerts are being booked for Prime members in the UK right now, it has hopes to add U.S. concerts by the end of 2017. Additionally, Prime members out of the market for these experiences can catch recorded and streaming versions of these concerts so fans can get in on the fun from home. (Kind of a different version of those home concerts we’ve written about in the past.)

Amazon’s attempt to attract older, mainstream music fans who consume music – and live music for that matter – differently than the typical 20- or 30-something music obsessives is a great thing for independent artists who are hoping to reach similar crowds. Additionally, this move shows Amazon taking a step to connect artists with fans further, “combining customer data, billing relationships, content and services, infrastructure and consumer hardware.”

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the near future – not just what new ways Amazon offers experiences exclusively to Prime members, but also how they bring independent musicians and bands into the fold.

Facebook Rights Manager Helps Artists Collect Ad Revenue


Good news for music creators looking to benefit monetarily from Facebook videos: the social media giant has updated its “Rights Manager” feature, allowing artists to generate revenue from pirated videos that had mid-roll ads placed within them. If an artist’s song is being used in a video across Facebook (with or without permission), they can now get a cut of that sweet, sweet ad money previously reserved for the video creator.

Facebook pays 55% of ad revenue to rights holders (much like YouTube), and until now, its Rights Manager could only successfully notify a rights holder when their music was being used in a video somewhere on the platform – giving them the option to take the video down or leave it up as a means of promotion. Similar to YouTube’s Content ID (which you can take advantage of using TuneCore’s YouTube Sound Recording revenue collection service), artists can “claim ad earnings” and even choose where the 15 to 20-second ad is inserted in the video.

Any new revenue stream for artists is viewed as a win for TuneCore and the greater independent music community. It will be exciting to see how this adds up for those who get their songs featured in videos across Facebook, and it’s definitely a step in the right direction in honoring copyrights. Artists can sign up for Rights Manager via Facebook here.

February Industry Wrap-Up

The cold weather is slowly on its way out and SXSW is on the horizon – must be the end of February! That’s why we’re here to wind down the month in music industry happenings. Just because it was a short month doesn’t mean there was no action – read on to catch the latest on Facebook’s upcoming video ventures, collaboration among the YouTube and Google Play Music teams, and Spotify’s ‘sunny’ new parter.

 

Facebook to Introduce Longer-Form ‘Premium’ Music Video Content


As online videos become an even more integral part of marketing and promotion for artists – from major label mainstays to indie up-and-comers – competition to serve hungry fans continues to heat up among all the big name platforms. If you’ve been reading around, you know that Facebook is a key contender in its attempts to offer users exciting ways to consume video content, including it’s rolling out of Facebook Live which paid some big name creators to help promote the service in its early stages.

Recently, Facebook’s VP of Partnerships Dan Rose expressed their desire to begin offering ‘premium videos’, with content shifting into the 5-10 minute length. According to reports, Facebook will offer indie artists and labels the opportunity to test and create episodic content while being paid directly by Facebook in the early stages; Rose says the model will shift to a rev-share after that. With almost two billion users, Facebook remains a major platform for promoting and marketing musical content.

Like anything else surrounding the world of copyright and video content, Facebook is facing concerns from members of the music industry surrounding licensing. When you’re hoping to take a slice of YouTube’s market share, at the very least, a platform should have systems in place that protect copyright holders and ensure that they can be paid properly for the use of their works. Like YouTube’s Content ID system that allows TuneCore to help artists collect their sound recording revenue when their music is used in videos across the platform, sources say that Facebook is in the process of building a parallel copyright ID program. This will be crucial in the potential success of Facebook’s upcoming premium video plans, and it goes to show the importance being placed on protecting copyrighted work – good news for artists of all stripes!

 

Google Merges Play Music & YouTube Music Teams


This past month it was revealed to media outlets that the product teams in charge of directing YouTube Music and Google Play Music will be combined into a single unit. Confirmed by Google, a spokesperson said: “Music is very important to Google and we’re evaluating how to bring together our music offerings to deliver the best possible product for our users, music partners and artists. Nothing will change for users today and we’ll provide plenty of notice before any changes are made.”

What does this mean for artists? Well, we already know that independent music makers can make their music available on YouTube and Google Play via TuneCore, but with the platforms technically being under the same umbrella, this appears to be a play towards creating a better overall user experience for music consumers. As streaming services acquire new subscribers every day, access to independent music grows and artists are able to make themselves available to fans who use all different ‘preferred platforms’ for discovering new tunes.

There’s an array of possible reasons for this internal shift at one of the biggest media companies in the world – perhaps as a move to simplify in-app listening, and more interestingly, a way for Google to negotiate deals with artists and labels. Either way, users of both apps will be able to continue using them as normal for now, and it’s highly possible that artists can look forward to a simpler way to reach YouTube- and Google Play-loyal fans in the near future.

 

Spotify’s Latest Partner is … a Weather Company?


We all know that weather impacts our moods. We all also know that music can play a similar role. But how do listeners build playlists that capture any given climate?

Ever the forward-thinking streaming platform, Spotify announced in February that is partnering with weather reporting website AccuWeather to develop and launch a site called Climatune, offering playlists for various cities based on varying weather conditions. This comes after partnerships with modern apps and companies like Uber, Tinder and Headspace, and shows that Spotify has no intention of slowing down its pace of clever collaboration with those looking to bring music into the fold.

So instead of just throwing on Banarama on those sunny days or curling up to some Morrisey during a morning rainstorm, Climatune offers playlists to music fans based on the hours and hours of research in major cities pointing to habits of listeners based on the skies. For example, did you know that residents of Chicago get excited when it rains, causing a huge lift in happier music? Houston Spotify subscribers, on the other hand, boost their acoustic listening by 121% on rainy days.

While it remains to be seen just how many subscribers will utilize this cool new service, we here at TuneCore see it as just another interesting avenue for music discovery via the popularity of playlists.

July News From Our Store Partners

By Stefanie Flamm

Our stores are gearing up for the second half of the year with some exciting new developments:

  • Spotify attempts to rival Apple Music’s Beats 1 Radio by launching two new radio shows on their service.
  • TIDAL caters to both artists and listeners alike at the twelfth annual Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival in DUMBO.
  • After a two year wait, Deezer has finally been made widely available for listeners in the United States.

Spotify launches two new radio stations to compete with Apple Music’s Beats 1 Radio.

Spotify is giving Apple Music a run for their money by launching two new exclusive radio stations. Similar to Apple Music’s Beats 1 Radio, Secret Genius and AM/PM are artist-focused and feature new music, artist interviews, and more.

spotify-logoAM/PM focuses on the music that guest artists like to listen to, both in the morning and at night. In addition to the interviews, each episode comes packed with an AM and PM playlist curated by the guest. Guests artists thus far include Tinie Tempah, Wolf Alice, Lianne La Havas, and more.

“There’s an experimental edge to what we’re doing: let’s try this out and give it a go,” said Spotify’s Rob Fitzpatrick. “…AM/PM is an artist-friendly way of doing that without it becoming a thing that turns into a slog for them.”

Secret Genius concentrates on songwriters, interviewing different artists every week to discuss the songwriting and collaborative process. Guests have included breakout star James Blake, as well as more behind-the-scenes songwriters Nick Van Eede, Ed Drewett and Nicky Chinn.

The radio stations are available to all Spotify users, including those with free accounts.

Brooklyn Bridge Park provides a backdrop for TIDAL’s latest exclusive concerts at the 12th Annual Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival.

Brooklyn Bridge Park was pulsing with the sound of hip hop earliertidal logo this month. The TIDAL-sponsored 12th Annual Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival was a major attraction for hip hop lovers from New York and the Tri-State Area, featuring headliners like Nas and TuneCore artist Talib Kweli.

The 4-day event was held in DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), a small neighborhood tucked in between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges that is home to both the festival and TuneCore’s Brooklyn office. Each day was unique, offering a different flavor of hip hop entertainment for every day of the festival.

Wednesday, July 13th kicked things off with the “Hip Hop Institute,” a series of lectures and workshops with artists and executives of the hip hop world. The lectures covered everything from making it as a musician to what it means to be a woman in hip hop. In the aftermath of several police shootings this month, keynote speaker DeRay McKesson inspired listeners with words about Black Lives Matter.  

Day two focused on hip hop and film with the Dummy Clap Film Festival. Screenings included 86-32, the 1983 documentary Style Wars, and the 25th Anniversary Screening of New Jack City. Day three took a page from Jay Z’s “Picasso Baby” video, combining visual art with music from DJ Midnite, TuneCore artist Taylor Bennett, and more. Finally, the weekend was capped off by a blowout finale concert on the waterfront, including Fabolous and Rapsody, in addition to headliners Nas and Talib Kweli.

TIDAL helped bring the Brooklyn festival to hip hop lovers everywhere, offering a live stream of the concerts throughout the weekend that can now be viewed at any time on TIDAL.

Deezer is ready to tackle the US streaming market with the long-awaited launch of their service in the United States.

Spotify, TIDAL, Apple Music, etc. have another streaming service to compete with, starting this month. The French streaming service Deezer has been working to launch a US version of their site for the past two years, offering limited beta memberships through partners like Bose and Cricket Wireless during that time. However, the wait is now over for the rest of us, and Deezer is fully live for streaming in the US.

“We are thrilled to make Deezer available to all music fans in the U.S., at a time when the company is growing stronger and developing new technologies that enable us to deliver a much more personalized experience. We’ve already received an overwhelmingly positive response since offering Deezer via our partners Sonos, Bose and Cricket, and now look forward to making our service available to everyone,” Deezer Global CEO Dr. Hans-Holger Albrecht said in their launch statement.

Deezer-logoDeezer’s US service is Premium-tier only, meaning there is no option for listeners to stream music free in exchange for ads. Instead, Deezer is offering a 30-day free trial for all new customers, who will then be required to pay $9.99 per month to continue with the service.

With 16 million monthly users across 180 countries, Deezer is one of the most widely-available music stores around. The service is already a household name in Europe, but it faces some tough competition this side of the Atlantic including goliaths like Apple Music, TIDAL, and Spotify. The newly-updated “flow” discovery feature, along with their quirky and hilarious advertising campaign, should be a big selling point for US listeners.

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March Songwriter News

By Dwight Brown

Spring forward. Get ahead.

The publishing industry is becoming an investment goldmine. Artists who applied to a songwriting competition TV show get a wakeup call. A Berklee professor sues Spotify, while Spotify settles with NMPA. A hot debate over the length of copyright terms erupts.

There’s a lot going on for songwriters.

Michael Jackson’s estate scores $750m payday through publishing.

“An important, unrealized asset in this business is music publishing,” says Paul Young, a music industry studies professor at USC’s Thornton School of Music. “You’re giving permission to use a song … to a radio station, film company, TV company. Transactions that are far less threatened by music’s digital revolution.” His remarks are quoted in Marketplace.org’s article “Why Music Publishing is Still Lucrative,” which highlights the $750m mega deal Michael Jackson’s estate scored for selling its 50% share of Sony/ATV.

The Guardian breaks down impressive numbers for a company that owns the publishing rights to some works by The Beatles, Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga:

1985: Jackson buys ATV Music for $41.5m ($11m cash investment).

1991: Jackson sells 50% stake in ATV to Sony for $100m.

2016: Jackson estate’s sells 50% share of Sony/ATV to Sony for $750m.

Publishing gave Jackson, posthumously, his most massive payday ever. Way bigger than Thriller. And Billboard is quick to point out that the lifetime earnings from the original deal are closer to 1.31b, when annual dividends and other fees are included. Making Jackson’s song “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” sound prophetic.

Controversy regarding Songland TV show stresses songwriter rights.

March 20, 2015, Billboard ran an article spotlighting a new NBC show for songwriters called Songland, that would be produced by Dave Stewart, Audrey Morrissey (The Voice EP) and Adam Levine (The Voice coach). “While artists make money on songs that they record, songwriters have multiple avenues and points at which they can generate hefty revenue from their works.”

In March 2016, Hypebot featured a guest post by entertainment attorney/blogger Wallace E.J. Collins III Esq., in which he delved into onerous details on the Songland Submission Form.

Key areas of concern:

  • NBC owns all rights to use and exploit all songs involved in show. Songwriters lose rights to songs that weren’t even selected.
  • Songwriters waive rights to royalties and rights to sue.

Wallace, never assuming malicious intention, still made clear points:

  1. Most songwriters make their life’s savings off just a few big hits and giving away their best work for free is extreme.
  2. Writers should read all of the language in any agreements and decide if the risk is worth the reward.

Shortly, Billboard relayed an exclusive from NBC which stated that the language on the submission form had been changed to alleviate writers’ concerns. Morrissey clarified, “We wish to be abundantly clear that by signing the casting application, songwriters do not transfer ownership of any of their original songs. This show is truly a celebration of songwriters and their craft.” Problem solved and several lessons learned.

Berklee Prof. sues Spotify. Spotify settles with NMPA. Now what?

Billboard notes that singer-songwriter Melissa Ferrick (an associate professor at the Berklee College of Music) and the law firm Gradstein & Marzano filed a class-action suit against Spotify. “They’ve infringed on 127 of my copyrights. Infringe-now-and-pay-later cannot become the norm,” says Ferrick. Her lawsuit follows one by Cracker frontman David Lowery. Both are complicated by a recent settlement…

The National Music Publishing Association (NMPA) announced its $30m settlement between Spotify and its members over over unlicensed and unpaid mechanical royalties due to publishers and songwriters. Billboard.com reports the agreement covers the period between Spotify’s inception through June 30, 2017. This settlement, together with the pending class action suits, serves to highlight the absence of (and real need for) a centralized and reliable database covering all music rights. In the wake of these legal actions, several companies have come forward with proposed solutions to this problem. 

To reduce or not to reduce Copyright Terms? That is the question.

In a guest post on Hypebot Stephen Carlisle, of Nova Southeastern University, contemplates the possible demise of the current copyright term: Life plus 70 years after death for a human author, or 95 years for a corporate author. Post 70/95 years, a song enters public domain and is available for anyone’s use—free.

The rationale for supporting shorter terms:

  • If copyrights are in public domain earlier, the public benefits.
  • A copyright length of 14 years is close to that in the first copyright law.
  • Protection offers negligible incentives to authors.

Carlisle counters with reasons for the longer copyright terms:

  • The Berne Convention, signed by U.S. and 170 nations, commits to a minimum copyright term of ‘life of the author plus 50 years.’
  • Terms begin upon death and a 14-year term cheats heirs out of viable income from songwriters who die young. (E.g. Kurt Cobain died at 27.)
  • The 5th Amendment to the Constitution states that “…private property [cannot] be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

Shortening copyright terms may not be such an easy feat, all things considered.

It’s now common knowledge: Publishing is a really, really smart investment. Writers should read agreements carefully before signing. The fight for proper compensation for songwriting is a work in progress. Copyright terms make a big difference.

This spring is a great time to have TuneCore Music Publishing Administration in your corner, and remember with TuneCore, songwriters always retain 100% of their songs’ rights.

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