Digital Media Digest

January 2020

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. .


The NSO plans a new record label
The National Symphony Orchestra will launch its own record label on February 21. The first recording of the orchestra under the direction of NSO Music Director Gianandrea Noseda will feature Antonín Dvorák's Symphony No. 9 and Aaron Copland's Billy the Kid.  In a collaboration influenced by Noseda's role as principal guest conductor for the London Symphony Orchestra, the British symphony's record label—LSO Live—will distribute the NSO's new label. Since becoming one of the first major orchestras to start its own recording label in 1999, LSO Live has grown to distribute the work of groups like the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, to an international audience. The NSO will be the first American group distributed by the label. (Source: Washingtonian)

Classical streaming service IDAGIO launches free tier
Classical music streaming service IDAGIO has released an ad-supported free tier as part of its efforts to make the genre more accessible. IDAGIO Free launches in 190 countries, featuring 2 million recordings. The Berlin-based startup says the free tier will prominently feature its 'Mood Player,' which generates a playlist based on a person's selected mood, as well as playlists curated by staff or well-known artists, including Lang Lang. There are also radio stations specific to composers and artists. The free version is available on the web, as well as iOS and Android devices. IDAGIO is geared specifically to audiophile classical listeners, offering lossless audio (on its premium tiers only) and search function and filters tailor-made for the genre, allowing users to compare multiple recordings. The service says its approach to compensating rights holders is geared specifically to the genre. "We believe in fair compensation," the company says on its website. "Classical music compositions may strongly vary in length, therefore we pay per second of playback, instead of per play. Payments are user-centric. We distribute income depending on the actions of individual listeners, rather than pooling everything together." (Source: Billboard)
 
Is classical music ahead of the streaming curve?
A cursory glance at the music industry reveals that streaming accounts for more revenue than CDs, licensing deals and digital downloads combined. But classical music, which accounts for just 0.7% of digital streaming, is being left behind. According to a new survey commissioned by Primephonic, the classical music-only streaming service ($8 monthly) 34% of the 1,000 Americans surveyed are interested in listening to classical music, but only 16% actually do so. Put another way, only half of the people interested in streaming classical music are actually listening. Primephonic and IDAGIO ($10 monthly)—another classical music-only streaming service—intend to take advantage of the gap in those numbers, to improve access to classical music by offering new-user-friendly software and guided listening. (Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

DSO reveals state-of-the-art tech and camera upgrades for "Live from Orchestra Hall" webcast series
The Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) has made a series of technology upgrades to its groundbreaking Live from Orchestra Hall webcast series, with a $2.5 million investment from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.  Eight Panasonic AW-UE150 4K robotic cameras replace six older Sony models that have been in use for several years. The DSO has also created nine new camera positions in Orchestra Hall, meaning that camera angles can be reconfigured for each webcast. The new cameras perform better in low light and offer a clearer, more colorful image. The upgrade also includes new broadcast equipment and new wiring that will allow the DSO to film and stream events in two additional, smaller venues located within the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center. (Source: Detroit Symphony Orchestra)

Residuals can make up 75% of a musician's movie score paycheque—but not on streaming
New York-based violinist Joanna Maurer says she'll earn 75 per cent less for playing the film score to Noelle simply because it was released on Disney Plus, the new video-streaming service. For the past several months, the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) has held rallies and posted on social media under the hashtag #BandTogether as part of its campaign to fight for residual income on films made for streaming services. The campaign was launched ahead of the union's negotiations for a new agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). Recently, the two parties came to a tentative agreement, which has yet to be ratified. But the agreement does not include streaming residuals for musicians, which are currently paid to actors, writers, directors, and singers. (Source: CBC News)

Residuals can make up 75% of a musician's movie score paycheque—but not on streaming
"According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), about 75 percent of the recorded music industry's revenue comes from streaming. Surely there is pent-up demand for high resolution audio (hi-res audio). After all, doesn't everyone want the 'best sounding' audio?" In a blog post, technology consultant Shelly Palmer explains and analyzes the differences between mp3/AAC files and hi-res audio files, making the case that, while they are demonstrable in the right listening environment, "the vast majority of people probably don't have (or frequent) such an environment, and the convenience of the lower-sonic-quality files make them good enough. This was Steve Jobs's key insight. Good enough! Which is why I believe, as much as I love hi-res audio, it is a solution in search of a problem." (Source: ShellyPalmer.com)

Articles about YouTube:

  • YouTube says it can delete your account if you're not 'commercially viable' 
    YouTube's new terms of service has some users and content creators very worried that the company could delete their account. In the section titled "Account Suspension & Termination" with the subheader "Terminations by YouTube for Service Changes," the site's new terms, which took effect on Dec. 10, adds the following: "YouTube may terminate your access, or your Google account's access to all or part of the Service if YouTube believes, in its sole discretion, that provision of the Service to you is no longer commercially viable." In its most basic terms: if YouTube isn't making money off you, the company can delete your account. The platform's current terms of service do not include this language. (Source: Mashable)
  • YouTube update makes it easier to deal with copyright claims 
    YouTube has updated its Studio platform to allow video creators the ability to more easily deal with copyright disputes. Creators now can directly respond to copyright claims in the platform's interface. They will see the following information there:

    -Which videos were removed
    -Who submitted the copyright takedown notice
    -How you can resolve the problem

    Even more importantly, the update lets creators cut out the offending portions of a video. Called Assisted Trim, it indicates the "endpoints of the edit pre-set to where the claimed content appears in the video." Users can find this option by visiting the Video Copyright details page. (Source: Digital Music News)

  • Facebook is actively licensing music videos for its YouTube rival, report claims 
    According to a report from Bloomberg, Facebook is seeking to attain rights to music videos for its stagnating video-on-demand service that it hopes will challenge YouTube. Reportedly, the social media giant is negotiating music licensing deals for its Watch service with major labels Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Warner Music Group. While Facebook does not currently have the right to stream music videos, it has already attained some music licensing rights. It has a deal in place that lets the platform's users include music in the background of videos that they specifically post on the platform. Facebook started Watch back in 2017, and a year later it began offering a similar service on Instagram called IGTV. But these services have been struggling to build viewership. Accordingly, the company is betting that music videos, which are the third most popular genre of videos on YouTube, will change all this. (Source: Digital Music News)

  • Billboard changes its mind: YouTube will now factor into the Billboard 200 
    Breaking a policy that has been in effect since 2017, Billboard will now incorporate audio and video data coming from YouTube in its computation of the Billboard 200 albums chart. While Billboard has not included YouTube data in its albums chart, it has included YouTube in its song charts, such as the Billboard Hot 100, since February of 2013. Interestingly, when compiling data for these latter charts, the company includes user-generated content, but they will only use officially licensed content when compiling the Billboard 200 chart. (Source: Digital Music News)

Spotify's 'pay-for-play' advertising program has a price tag: $0.55 per click
It is being reported that Spotify has set a pay-per-click (PPC) rate for its controversial new ad program. According to Rolling Stone, which obtained a pitch deck for the new ad tool, it will be called Marquee and will cost labels and artists $0.55 per click, with a recommended minimum ad buy of $5,000. This amount of money would generate about 9,000 streams. The ads will appear as visual pop-ups along with the caption: "Brand New Music For You." While some are insinuating that the ad program is akin to the notorious payola scandals that have rocked the radio industry for decades and that are still affecting it, Spotify insists that the two are entirely different. (Source: Digital Music News)

The end of owning music: how CDs and downloads died 
As streaming gives the music industry its biggest profits in a decade, the CD business continues to plunge. CD sales have fallen 80 percent in the past decade, from roughly 450 million to 89 million. Downloads – once seen as the CD's replacement – have also plummeted 58 percent since peaking in 2012, their profits now even smaller than physical sales. CDs are also doing fine in some international markets – in Japan, where streaming has been slow to take off, 72 percent of last year's music sales were physical. Older listeners still prefer loading CD carousels rather than configuring Spotify or Pandora on car stereos or home-theater systems; and touring bands still find it far easier to sell a portable CD as a concert memento than an LP or portable hard drive. Still, artists, labels and record stores have been preparing for years for the CD's inevitable death. (Source: Rolling Stone)

Mechanical Licensing Collective hands a juicy contract to HFA—critics call the deal crooked 
The newly-minted—and funded—Mechanical Licensing Collective has just awarded a plum contract to the Harry Fox Agency, owned by private equity firm the Blackstone Group. Critics are quickly pointing to a 'no-bid contract' based on political horse-trading, with HFA assailed for serious licensing problems in the past. Also receiving a choice bid was ConsenSys, an Ethereum blockchain-focused tech play. The awards follow an extremely lucrative funding award of $62 million, which only carries the MLC for one year past its launch date of January 1st, 2021. (Source: Digital Music News)

Congress introduces the 'AM-FM Act' to overhaul terrestrial copyright laws 
Once upon a time, terrestrial radio enjoyed a cozy relationship with major recording labels. AM/FM radio stations played the label's songs, and labels reaped the financial benefits of massive, countrywide exposure. In fact, labels oftentimes paid handsomely for the privilege (see 'payola'), which meant that stations definitely weren't paying a dime for the broadcasting of those recordings. Now, with streaming, online radio, satellite radio, and other formats taking the cake from traditional radio, the balance is shifting a bit. And labels, both major and indie, are pushing to get paid. (Note: Terrestrial radio does pay for the broadcast of underlying compositions (payable to ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and other PROs), just not the recordings based on those compositions. Against that backdrop, Senator Marsha Blackburn and Representative Jerrold Nadler have introduced the 'Ask Musicians for Music Act, which magically translates into the 'AM-FM Act', which–if enacted–accordingly to Nadler "would give artists and copyright owners the right to make a choice to allow AM/FM radio to use their work for free or to seek compensation for their work. The bill would also allow them to negotiate rates with broadcasters in exchange for permission for it to be aired." (Source: Digital Music News)