Digital Media News

August 2016

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.)

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. .


HD broadcasts, once the future of opera, are now seen by some as its demise

The Metropolitan Opera[‘s]… ticket sales [are] way down to 66 percent of capacity last season. But there’s one new initiative that the Met appears to have gotten right: live HD broadcasts of performances to movie theaters, which are now shown in more than 2,000 movie theaters around the world, to about 2.7 million people, bringing in about $18 million a season. Still, 10 years on, the broadcasts remain controversial. They’re an easy scapegoat for the decline in opera’s audience: They haven’t drawn a significant new audience to the art form, and they appear to be an attractive alternative for people who might otherwise pay to see live opera. Some purists have said that the broadcasts — slickly packaged, with leaping camera angles and tweaking in the sound booth — aren’t really opera. (Source: Washington Post)


Changing how audiences see and hear opera

Are the Met’s HD broadcasts really cannibalizing the opera audience? What effect are they having on other opera companies around the country? A group of leading opera administrators offer their thoughts. (Source: Washington Post)


Sony Music investigated by Rdio for alleged collusion in streaming music

Rdio, which declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November 2015 and then said it would be selling its key assets to Pandora, has recently told a bankruptcy judge it has "potentially highly valuable claims" against Sony for allegedly colluding with Universal and Warner Bros. in the streaming music market. If Rdio moves forward with an antitrust lawsuit, it would be raising similar issues explored in the Justice Department's lawsuit against Apple and book publishers over the way that "most favored nation" clauses in contracts can enforce pricing floors for the licensing or sale of content. (Source: The Hollywood Reporter)


Virtually overnight, Spotify boosts paying subscribers by 23%…

According to a report by MBW, Spotify has hit 37 million paying subscribers, adding approximately 2 million paying users a month in the last quarter alone. If these figures are correct, it means that June was the fastest growth period for the streaming service since launching in 2008. It would also represent the biggest premium conversion rate in Spotify’s history.  (Source: Digital Music News)


Apple Music loses 3 times more subscribers a month than Spotify

According to Cowen, Apple Music has a monthly subscriber churn rate (i.e., the number of subscribers that choose not to renew) of 6.4%, which is nearly three times higher than Spotify, whose churn rate is 2.2%. (Source: Digital Music News)


Apple's publishing royalty proposal takes a shot at Spotify

In what may end up being a brilliant strategic move, Apple discretely made a proposal to the governing Copyright Royalty Board to increase the song publishing royalty rate to 9.1 cents per 100 interactive streams, a significant increase over what is currently paid. On the surface, this is not only a greater payday for songwriters and music publishers, but also a vast simplification over the current complex royalty calculation. While simplicity may seem to be the overriding factor, an increase in publishing royalty payments would severely stress stand-alone streaming companies whose only product is music streaming like Deezer and Tidal, but most especially Spotify. That company still hasn’t turned the corner to profitability, and having to pay roughly 80% more in publishing royalties might keep it that way, which may put the company in a more serious bind with its already itchy investors. (Source: Forbes)


Can anyone realistically beat Spotify in the "streaming wars"?

There has been a lot of discussion over the past few years about the “streaming wars,” the ongoing battle between the many streaming music platforms available to the public. Some have come and gone, while others have managed to stay afloat in the difficult business landscape that is streaming music, but in the end, there is currently and has been one leader for some time now: Spotify. It has been in the on-demand streaming game for a decade, and in that time the company has managed to collect more users than every other player combined, at least here in America. (Source: Forbes)


What if free streaming is causing the vinyl boom?

The music industry is still experiencing a vinyl resurgence. But maybe it’s not a coincidence that it’s happening alongside streaming. Sales in vinyl recently reached their highest level since 1988, and thanks to a recent ICM poll, we also know that free streaming is helping to drive those sales. The poll found that music fans are using platforms like YouTube, Soundcloud and ad-supported tiers on services like Spotify to sample music before they decide if they want to invest in a physical purchase. The study found that the most frequent vinyl buyer is a free-access streamer, a discovery that suggests that free music has the ability to ‘drive real-world sales’. (Source: Digital Music News)


Surprise! YouTube slashed its royalty rate by 50% last year

The argument over whether YouTube is paying labels and artists fairly has been intensifying for some time.  But, that argument is about to reaching a boiling point following recent findings by Midia Research that the revenue paid to music labels and artists was reduced by 50% last year relative to the number of streams, which translates to a potential revenue loss of $755 million for the industry. Last year, streams on YouTube and Vevo grew 132%, but revenue to rights holders only increased by 15%. As a result, the streaming platform’s already low per-stream royalty rate dropped from $0.002 per stream in 2014, to just $0.001 in 2015 (according to Midia). (Source: Digital Music News)


Music downloads post their worst decline ever

According to Nielsen Soundscan first-half figures for 2016, music downloads dropped an astounding 23.9%, with total sales landed at 404.9 million. The severe drop is the worst on record, and comes alongside breakneck gains in streaming.

(Source: Digital Music News)


Your phone has an FM chip. So why can’t you listen to the radio?

Every smartphone in the world has an FM tuner built in. But here in the US, just one-third of them actually works. Broadcasters and public safety officials have long urged handset manufacturers and wireless carriers to universally activate the FM chip, but carriers have little financial incentive to do so because they profit from streaming data. But, the wireless industry is coming around and says anyone who wants a phone with FM radio can find one. FM capability is baked into the Qualcomm LTE modem inside nearly every cellphone, including iPhones. (Source: Wired)


Music Academy live-streaming concerts

Thanks to the Music Academy of the West’s intensive live streaming and archiving of the 2016 Summer Festival, there are more than two dozen chances to see and hear concerts and masterclasses without leaving the house. Set up your computer screen and speakers for optimal viewing, or, even better, use your favorite console to throw the image onto your flat screen and send the music through your surround-sound system via the Academy’s website, (Source: The Independent)


Not even Plácido Domingo can say no to ‘Mozart in the Jungle’

Placido Domingo has become the latest classical star to shoot a cameo for “Mozart in the Jungle,” the Amazon comedy about a fictional New York orchestra. The series has managed to attract several galas’ worth of classical headliners, which is both a testament to its growing success, and a reflection of the fact that there are now far fewer opportunities for classical artists to appear on television, which is still an important medium for reaching, and appealing to, new audiences. (Source: New York Times)