Digital Media Digest

March 2017

With the accelerating pace of technological change, the League posts a monthly digest of relevant news and information regarding changes, trends, and developments that may affect the digital media activities that orchestras use to achieve their institutional missions. For each monthly digest, the League's digital media consultants, Michael Bronson and Joe Kluger, draw from a variety of websites and publications to provide excerpts or summaries of articles. (These do not necessarily represent the views of the League.)

As a service of the League, members with questions about the information in this digest or about other digital media topics – e.g., planning, strategy, and production – may contact Michael Bronson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Joe Kluger at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


WWNO-FM has launched a companion FM station broadcasting classical music 24 hours a day. Airing at 104.9 FM, the new, listener-supported station features local and national broadcasts of classical music and music education shows. Its programming tracks the station's digital channel, HD2, but requires only a standard FM receiver. The signal is heard across New Orleans, east bank Jefferson Parish and parts of West Jefferson. New Orleans Public Radio will continue to transmit classical music on WWNO HD2, available in metro New Orleans and the Northshore via HD radios, as well as on wwno.org. (Source: The Advocate)

Spotify is a good streaming music service, has double the number of paying subscribers that Apple Music has and may also have more customers than all of its major competitors combined. But at what cost? Now, it looks like is postponing their long-awaited IPO because it isn’t making enough money. Today you have to show some path to profitability, especially at the valuation that has been targeting. That might explain why Spotify is frantically trying to renegotiate its major label licenses. But there’s a much bigger problem here. Last year, Spotify started taking monster loans, with investors in each pool making hideous demands if an IPO didn’t occur within one year. The world’s largest streamer is now so wildly over-leveraged that an acquisition makes little sense for anyone. And that includes the biggest whales, like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook. That makes 2017 a seriously boom or bust year. And if it doesn’t all go just right, it could be a bust, with ‘bust’ being ‘bankruptcy’. (Source: Digital Music News)

The clock is ticking for Spotify
Spotify is seen as the music streaming leader, with more than 100 million users, 40 million of them paid-up subscribers to its Premium tier. However, the clock is ticking for Spotify as it hatches its plans to go public. Spotify needs to conclude new long-term licensing deals with the big three record companies — Universal, Sony and Warner — to avoid the risk of suddenly losing major chunks of its content. It's thought that Spotify currently pays 55% of its revenue to record labels in royalties, with additional money going to music publishers. In the interest of finally becoming a profitable company, it would like to lower that percentage, but this is unlikely to go down well with artists, who argue that the royalties they receive from streaming are unfairly low as it is. But if it waits too long before floating, it could face a serious cash crisis. In March last year, the firm raised $1bn from investors at an interest rate of 5% a year, plus a discount of 20% on shares once the initial public offering (IPO) of shares takes place. However, under the terms of the agreement, the interest rate goes up by one percentage point and the discount by 2.5 percentage points every six months until the IPO happens. So as time goes on, Spotify must pay ever larger sums to its creditors just to settle the interest on its loan, while the amount of money it can raise from its IPO is trimmed by an ever greater amount. (Source: BBC)

Google Play is an online music storage service that lets users save 50,000 tracks from their own libraries. It also offers subscribers on demand streaming to any song within the Google Play Music Catalog. YouTube Music, on the other hand, features verticals such as gaming, kids, non-stop music stations and live performance footage. It’s also the largest single outlet for music consumption in the world. Now, both of these applications will merge into one. Studies have found that app users are cutting down the number of apps on their phones. Therefore, combining these well-established platforms gets Google ahead of the curve. If it continues to offer all of the current features of Google Play and YouTube Music, you have a seriously competitive threat. I can’t think of many music apps that allow you to create your own playlists, while simultaneously watching live performances. Stay tuned for more details on this new app, it could be cool. And maybe, eat Spotify’s expensive lunch. (Source: Digital Music News)
In 2016, Universal Music Group posted their best financial performance thus far. Across recorded music, publishing, and other activities, UMG’s overall revenues rose to $5.57 billion, up 4.4% from 2015’s $5.41 billion. Earnings before interest, taxes, and amortization (EBITDA) came to $681 million, up 9.1% from 2015 in constant global currency. The company’s revenues from streaming grew a whopping 58% in 2016. Per the company’s numbers, 2016 streaming figures equated to $137 million a month, $32 million per week, and $4.5 million per day. (Source: Digital Music News)

Streaming has rapidly transformed the music industry and if there is to be a single moment to confirm the format's arrival, it may be the Grammy Awards. The music industry's most prestigious awards this year for the first time considered releases that were only streamed online. The biggest beneficiary has been Chance the Rapper, whose "Coloring Book" came out in May only by streaming — first through Apple Music and then on other services including the most popular one, Spotify. (Source: Yahoo)

Seattle Symphony Orchestra is the latest cultural institution to respond to President Donald Trump’s travel ban, barring immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations and indefinitely blocking entry for Syrian refugees. On Feb. 8, the orchestra hosted a concert featuring music from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen ― the countries affected by Trump’s executive order. Within hours of announcing the concert, all of the available tickets were claimed. The symphony catered to the massive interest in the event by streaming it live on Facebook. (Source: Huffington Post)

As reported by The Hill, President Donald Trump’s transition team staff met ahead of the inauguration to plan federal bureaucracy cuts, which reportedly included privatizing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). If the CPB were privatized, the stations that were able to continue to support themselves on private contributions would do so. Those who could not would have to figure out a way to pay the bills on their own — or risk going completely dark. But Southern California Public Radio founding president Bill Davis said the impact would be much different for stations in small or rural areas than it would for a station like KPCC, which is in an urban center, because the amount of money each station gets from CPB differs. He worries that privatizing CPB could mean some public radio stations that get a majority of their funding from the feds could be forced to shut down. (Source: SCPR.org)

Should the Web be a battle of private enterprises butting up against one another to, theoretically at least, provide consumers with the fastest, most reliable, most affordable service? Or should it be thought of as a public utility, something like electricity or sewage, owned by singular communities? The biggest argument for keeping the Internet as it currently exists is that its “free market” incentivizes innovators to invent new products. The other pathway would lead toward a bureaucratic mess that takes over any public institution. But the failure with this line of thinking is that the Internet marketplace was never really a free market. In the eight years following the Telecommunications Act of 1996, cable companies spent upwards of $65 billion laying down additional broadband networks and, because of this initial investment in infrastructure, have had close to full control over the market. As a result, only a few massive companies have been able to compete with one another, and in a kind of stalemate they just end up carving up the marketplace block by block, or building by building, and forcing the residents to either choose their service or choose nothing. This kind of thing already happened in American history a little over a century ago with this newfangled thing called electricity, which was soon considered a “natural monopoly,” meaning that the high barrier of cost of entry meant that it didn’t make sense for competitors to invest money in this business. Many would argue this is the direction American Internet should head. (Source: Pacific Standard)

Last year, more songs were streamed on any single day than were downloaded during the entire year. Sales of physical albums and downloads are in free-fall, and the rise in vinyl purchases isn’t enough to reverse the larger trend. Musicians are suffering under this new economic model, as the shift from physical recordings to digital tracks has benefited tech companies instead of musicians. But, the transition from physical to digital music may be less damaging than the shift from ownership to streaming. Most people in the industry are complacent about the latter change. They care about cash flow — they want listeners to pay for streaming. But they rarely worry about how the behavior of music fans changes when they no longer own recordings. This is a big mistake. The music industry was built on the passions of record collectors. Do the geniuses running the major record labels really understand what happens when you remove this irrational pride of ownership from the musical experience? Will fans devote as much discretionary income to music as in the past? (Source: The Smart Set)

We are music collectors by design and by necessity—an identity threatened by the rise of streaming. In previous decades, physical formats like CDs, vinyl, cassettes and 8-tracks required us to limit our music consumption, if only to keep our wallets in shape. We invested wisely in a handful of albums and artists, with whom we developed intimate relationships through repeated listens and colorful liner notes. The three recent stages of digital disruption in music — which can be bookmarked by Napster, iTunes and Spotify — have made our collections more public, more granular and more abstract, respectively. They have lead to a new type of digital music fan and collector: one who prioritizes breadth over depth, who sees collecting as performative rather than inquisitive, and who defines their tastes more by the how (the streaming services) than by the what (the songs). This profile presents a challenge for the music business in drawing attention away from music creators, the very lifeblood of the industry. Indeed, while streaming makes it easier for artists to reach potential new fans, it also makes it even more difficult to retain a group of loyal listeners. (Source: Medium.com)

BBC Arts and The Space presented Richard Wagner’s monumental Ring cycle, in a radically stripped-back, critically acclaimed production by Opera North. Filmed during live performances in Leeds in 2016, audiences worldwide can watch the complete work for free via the BBC’s website. (Source: BBC)

Google just joined the “skinny bundle” TV war with YouTube TV, a paid subscription service that streams a slew of premium broadcast and cable networks to your mobile device, tablet, computer, and anything with Chromecast. Just $35 a month gets you six accounts and access to live TV from more than 40 providers including the big broadcast networks, ESPN, regional sports networks and dozens of popular cable networks. Subscriptions include cloud DVR with unlimited storage, AI-powered search and personalization, and access to YouTube Red programming. So-called skinny bundles include only those channels you really want, at a price that is cheaper than traditional cable. They also bring the world one step closer to the day when you can watch what you want, when you want, when you want, on the device you want. (Source: Wired)

If you’re an average, internet-connected citizen of this world, chances are you’re overloaded with media and entertainment apps. The selection typically includes Pandora, Spotify, Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, Kindle, Sirius XM, and a myriad of others. The question is whether people are needlessly overloaded with competing services, multiple subscription payments, conflicting rules, and needless complication. All of which introduces the next logical question: would people be willing to pay one price for everything? That is the major bet for Playster, a company whose mission is to simplify the massive media world. Basically, Playster buckets major content areas like music, film, books, and games, with lower per-month payments for each. So, a subscription for books is $9.95 month, while games is $3.95 a month. But the real kicker is in the combo, which is $24.95 a month. (Source: Digital Music News)

For the fourth quarter of 2016, Pandora reported revenue of $392.6 million. Although the figures beat Wall Street expectations ($374 million), it has yet to answer the question that also haunts Spotify: will the streaming service ever make money? In the three months that ended December, the company reported a $90 million loss, or 38 cents per share. After removing one-time gains, costs, stock option expense, and pretax expenses, the loss comes out to 13 cents per share. Wall Street expected slightly higher losses, at 21 cents per share. (Source: Digital Music News)

Appeals court judge delivers a stunning blow to oldies artists
A 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge issued another stunning blow, both to The Turtles and oldies artists nationwide, in ruling they cannot collect royalties on the recordings of their pre-1972 recordings in New York. Specifically, the challenge was brought by Sirius XM Holdings Inc., a company seeking to avoid hundreds of millions in royalties to oldie artists. Earlier, the band prevailed on the national stage, though Sirius fought based on a patchwork of contradictory state laws on. Just ahead of Christmas, Sirius secured a victory in New York’s Court of Appeals that overturned the earlier decision. The similarly named 2nd U.S. Circuit Court has now accepted that ruling. The NY Court of Appeals decision likely spelled the death knell for efforts to secure performance rights for pre-1972 sound recordings in the courts under existing law. That means pursuing legislative channels, though it’s unclear if the current Congress cares about music industry problems. (Source: Digital Music News)
If you want to make money on YouTube, don’t get millions of views. Get billions of views. Because the only way to make YouTube make sense it with extreme volume. That was confirmed by the latest YouTube royalty statement shared confidentially with Digital Music News, by an artist who is capturing royalties through ContentID (YouTube’s system for recognizing music used in videos). Once the music is identified, the rights owner can block it, or collect a portion of the ad revenue. As of the last reporting period, this artist received a cumulative total of 1,048,305 plays. Here’s how much money he made.
  • Total monetized views: 1,048,305
  • Cumulative revenues: $64.60
  • Total revenues per view: $0.0000616
(Source: Digital Music News)