Digital Media Digest

September 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. .


Guest editor of Classical Music magazine Costa Pilavachi appraises the state of flux of the recording business and offers some back-to-basics advice. He asks, “What will happen if and when classical streaming really takes off? Can Apple, Spotify and Amazon, today’s streaming market leaders, convince the classical consumer to pay for a subscription? Can the digital giants cater to this sophisticated demographic or is there a viable market for classical-only sites like the worthy start-ups Idagio and Primephonic? What is the future of an audio-visual streaming site such as Medici, which is now ever-present in the world’s concert halls and competitions, drawing large audiences, especially for free content?” He also offers “just one piece of advice: take a page out of the business of football and start thinking more about the ‘fan’. Know your customers, treat them well, build up that trust, follow them but also lead them and you will never go wrong.” (Source: Classical Music)

Classical music devotees around the world were able to hear the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra live on social media during the ensemble’s recent European tour. The PSO’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6, “Pathétique,” at the Lucerne Festival in Switzerland was streamed live on the Facebook pages for the PSO, the Musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the Lucerne Festival. The social media broadcast was projected to reach more than 100,000 viewers worldwide, the first time that the orchestra used the platform to stream a performance. (Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Work for Los Angeles studio musicians continues to decline as production companies find cheaper alternatives elsewhere, so musicians’ union executives are backing California legislation designed to provide financial incentives to return film- and TV-scoring jobs back to Hollywood. Assembly Bill 1300, the “Music Scoring Tax Credit Bill,” recently introduced by Assembly Majority Leader Ian Calderon, would offer a 30 percent tax credit to U.S. productions made in foreign countries, as well as for low-budget films, that use California musicians. Union officials believe that passage could mean millions in regained wages for studio players. (Source: Variety)

Since his new song dropped on iTunes, where it is on sale for $0.99, Samir Mezrahi’s “A a a a a Very Good Song” — a silent track that runs for just under 10 minutes — is sitting in the 95th spot on American iTunes and is being praised for solving what some iPhone owners have found to be a wildly annoying glitch. Last year, Mezrahi wrote a Buzzfeed post about a frustrating problem: every time he plugged his iPhone into his car, it would automatically play the first track on the phone, in alphabetical order. He picked the title so it alphabetically tops any playlist. The song was initially supposed to be longer, but Mezrahi went with just under 10 minutes to avoid having to pay the full-album fee. (Source: Toronto Star)

Your online life is an embarrassment of media riches. You can hear virtually every song ever recorded through Spotify, or jump onto YouTube and find a million covers and mashups. Unless you're sitting on a plane. Or lying on a remote beach. If you're offline, you're out of luck. Paying customers should have access to all of the content a service offers, anywhere and everywhere you want, in whatever format you want. You can blame product and security challenges for some of this, but the biggest problem is the ongoing legal cage match between those who make content and those who distribute it. (Source: Wired)

While rapid gains in streaming revenue have helped the major record labels recover from a decade of shrinking profits, little of that new money has trickled down to the middle class of musicians. Royalties paid out by Spotify or Apple Music still yield significant returns only for the Taylor Swifts of the world. And labels are less likely to spend time and money developing an up-and-coming act. So licensing agreements — known as “sync deals” — have become a bigger priority for independent artists. And as digital platforms such as YouTube, Amazon and Netflix host an expanded range of content, the demand for new sync deals is growing. Among the local companies looking to capitalize on the growth in music licensing is Songtradr, which gives musicians and rights holders a simple way to license music on their own terms, no matter where they live or whom they know. Licensing deals can range from $30 to $4,000 for a $10-million movie. (Source: Los Angeles Times)

Twenty-five thousand songs recorded onto 78RPM discs in the early 20th century have been released online, for free. They are the first batch of an estimated 400,000-piece virtual record collection to be made available by the Internet Archive, a San Francisco-based digital library run by Brewster Kahle, who is also archiving hundreds of thousands of books and millions of web pages. The task of digitizing all of those old records is being undertaken by George Blood Audio LP, an audio preservation company, that has been quietly preserving America's musical heritage, one 78 at a time. (Source: Newsworks)

Is your YouTube video eligible for advertising money?
YouTube unveiled icons to help content creators understand how their videos are being monetized. If they believe that the platform has misclassified them, it will also allows creators to appeal their videos in the Video Manager. The icons will appear in the Creator Studio.
  • Green means enjoy that sweet advertising revenue money from top advertisers. The green dollar icon indicates the videos that can earn money from the broadest set of advertisers. It will also earn money from YouTube Red.
  • Yellow means you’ll make some money, but probably not a lot. The yellow dollar icon indicates the videos which can still earn money from YouTube Red. However, unlike videos with the green dollar icon, these videos will have limited to no ads. Why? YouTube explained that the yellow dollar icon means that the platform has deemed these videos unsuitable for all advertisers. It may also indicate that they’ve been demonetized because it doesn’t meet YouTube’s advertising guidelines.
  • No dollar means no money, no video, nothing at all. So, what happens with videos that have the slashed dollar sign? These videos won’t receive any revenue at all from ads nor from YouTube Red. The YouTube Creator blog gives some insight as to why this may happen. “This might be because of a copyright strike, Content ID claim, or Community Guidelines strike.” The slashed dollar sign means that YouTube has completely taken down the video from the platform.  Thus, it won’t earn any revenue at all. 
(Source: Digital Music News)

Spotify, YouTube music to end Free streaming In 2-3 Years, sources say
Right now, the music industry is losing its war against YouTube. But maybe that’s because they haven’t yet deployed the nuclear option. That is, turning the lights off entirely on free music streaming. According to separate sources at major music content groups, a free streaming shutdown is now on the roadmap.  More specifically, the plan would involve a concerted effort by the ‘big three’ major labels to terminate free access on both YouTube and Spotify. The terminations would occur after an agreed-upon threshold of paying streaming subscribers is reached. In just 2-3 years, that threshold could materialize. (Source: Digital Music News)

Right now, the paid on-demand business driving [music] streaming revenue is dominated by Spotify and Apple, which this summer announced that they have 60 million and 27 million respective subscribers worldwide. Amazon has never announced subscriber numbers for Amazon Music Unlimited, although most analysts now believe it is, or will soon emerge as, No. 3. As TIDAL, Pandora, iHeartRadio and SoundCloud all try to gain traction among more serious music fans, they must also battle [with Spotify, Apple and Amazon] for casual listeners. (Source: Billboard)

After months and months of arduous negotiations, Warner Music Group has renewed its licensing agreement with Spotify, which is immensely important for Spotify and its Wall Street ambitions. Warner represents the third (and final) major label to ink an updated Spotify deal, and finalizes a tense period for investors. Earlier, both Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment concluded their updated licensing pacts.  But not without securing some critical concessions, including ‘gated access’ agreements, which would limit access to coveted releases to paying-only subscribers. In that model, free users will have to wait. All of which puts YouTube in an extremely advantageous position, and explains why Spotify staunchly resisted the measure. But hey: no gating, no IPO.  And that explains that. (Source: Digital Music News)

Recently, Congress proposed a global, centralized music database to ensure that artists get paid on every distribution platform. It was an ambitious first step. But just one of several competing database initiatives. And the beginning of a pernicious intra-industry war. Within days, performance rights organizations (PROs) ASCAP and BMI announced that they had started work on a joint authoritative music database. Now, the RIAA and the NMPA have shared news of their own music rights database initiative. And here’s the best part: all of these initiatives are now fighting against one another. Even though each contains critical pieces for a successful, global, industry-wide resource. (Source: Digital Music News)

The music industry bands together to finally get paid online
Last fall, a group of music industry heavyweights gathered in New York City to do something they’d mostly failed to do up to that point: work together. Representatives from major labels like Universal, Sony, and Warner sat next to technologists from companies like Spotify, YouTube, and Ideo and discussed the collective issues threatening their industry. And there were many. For decades, major labels have watched record sales nose dive. Meanwhile, streaming services are growing in popularity but drowning in lawsuits. “It’s a really fragmented industry,” says Dan Harple, founder of Context Labs and one of the organizers of the group now called the Open Music Initiative, whose purpose is to figure out how to ensure the music industry has a more sustainable future. (Source: Wired)

The next 3 interfaces for music’s near future
Understanding the music business means understanding how people access, discover, and continuously listen to music. Our changing media reality means everyone in music will have to come to grips with three important new trends:  
  • People don’t download as many apps as they used to. So, in dealing with this new media reality, you go to where the audience is, which apparently is on social networks and messaging apps. Some of the latter, and most prominently Facebook Messenger, allow for people to build chatbots, which are basically apps inside the messenger. The challenge with chatbots is that designing for a conversational interface is quite different from designing visual user interfaces. Sometimes people will not understand what’s going on and start requesting things from your bot that you may not have anticipated.
  • Touch-based user interfaces, like tablets and smartphones, are being replaced by voice user interfaces (VUIs), like Amazon Echo. This is a challenge for artists and businesses, as there is no home screen. There is nothing to guide you. Because it’s easier to mentally navigate to an artist than to remember the playlist, VUIs will make the branding of playlists crucial. The downside is that, as the music plays, we will become less aware of the artist names.
  • Google Glass was too early. Augmented reality will be nothing like it. Instead of issuing awkward voice commands to a kind of head mounted smartphone, the media reality that augmented reality will take shape in is one of conversational interfaces through messaging apps, and voice user interfaces, that are part of connected smart environments, all utilizing powerful artificial intelligence. One way in which augmented reality is going to change music, is that music will become ‘smart’. It will learn to understand our behavior, our intentions, and adapt to it, just like other aspects of our lives would. 
(Source: MusicXTechXFuture)