Digital Media News

January 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.)

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. .

Something unexpected happened near the top of the album charts this year: Pop stars were acting like artists. They weren't desperately chasing the broadest possible audience with the most surefire formulas. Instead, some of them grew eccentric and adventurous. And they found that listeners were willing to pay attention.  Chalk up these artistic choices, in part, to performers' creative ambitions, stubbornness and the increasing clout of individual stars. Yet looming behind the change is also a shift in the medium and delivery system — to streaming — and in the metrics that streaming enables.  
Because streaming services automatically count clicks, they make it possible to tabulate more precisely what people are listening to, measuring usage beyond the one-time purchase. And those streaming statistics, along with sales and radio plays, are now included in compiling the pop charts.  A higher chart position is positive feedback for a star who's thinking about taking chances.  Even better, streaming changes the incentives for listeners. With streaming rather than downloads, access replaces ownership and the commitment is of time, not money. That's still significant, but it doesn't feel so irrevocable. Where downloads and playlists favored the lone song, streaming gives the artist and the album a fighting chance again.  (Source: New York Times)
All of a sudden, Facebook Live is everywhere.  We all know the importance and power of video. Google reports that 26% of people reported online video as most influential in influencing their likelihood to go to a show, and performing arts buyers watch 5 million YouTube videos every month.  A blogpost on offers insights and answers to some back questions for arts organizations, such as:
  • What Is Facebook Live?
  • Yes It's Everywhere...But Should Your Organization Use Facebook Live? 
(Source: Capacity Interactive)
Sales of LPs and 45s are outstripping digital sales in the UK, according to the Entertainment Retail Association (ERA). Sales of vinyl reached £2.4 million ($3.03 million) over the seven-day period, whiledigital purchases only reached £2.1 million ($2.64 million).  That's the first time this has ever occurred in the history of the music industry. As sales of iTunes music downloads continue to tank, music fans are increasingly attracted to vinyl records.  Sales of vinyl records are also beating ad-supported streaming.  According to a shocking finding that surfaced last year, sales of LPs and 45s trumped revenues from YouTube Music, VEVO, SoundCloud, and Free Spotify combined. (Source: Digital MusicNews)
United Record Pressing plant, a mainstay of vinyl production since 1949, is expanding its operations to a new 142,000-square-foot facility in South Nashville. United said that the new facility, estimated to be the size of "two football fields," would double the plant's production capacity, and that the expansion would help the country's largest vinyl manufacturer keep pace with strong market demand.  United produces up to 40,000 records a day and accounts for 30 to 40 percent of all vinyl records available in stores.  (Source: New York Times)
Apple released their latest numbers for Apple Music, and the news is good. In just 18 months since launch, Apple Music has crossed 20 million paid subscribers. In September, the Cupertino company reported 17 million. This marks an impressive 15 percent jump in just three months. The music streaming service's gamble on exclusive contracts seems to have worked.  Apple Music is now just under half of Spotify's total paid subscribers. This is also bad news for Jay Z and Tidal. The company reported back in May barely 3 million subscribers.  (Source: Digital Music News)
Facebook is embarking on a plan to bring exclusive entertainment content to its platform, saying it will fund and license original programming spanning a range of formats — including scripted and unscripted shows — from media companies and individual digital stars.  Facebook's aim is to seed content for the new video tab in its mobile app, to make it more of a destination for users to spend time watching video content. (Source: Yahoo)
Previous research has shown that MP3 compression changes the similarities of musical instruments, while other research has shown that musical instrument sounds have strong emotional characteristics. A research paper prepared for the International Computer Music Conference 2016 investigates the effect of MP3 compression on music emotion. The researchers conducted listening tests to compare the effect of MP3 compression on the emotional characteristics of eight sustained instrument sounds and compared the compressed sounds pairwise over ten emotional categories. The results show that MP3 compression strengthened the emotional characteristics Sad, Scary, Shy, and Mysterious, and weakened Happy, Heroic, Romantic, Comic, and Calm. Interestingly, Angry was relatively unaffected by MP3 compression. (Source: Research Gate)
Even 10 years ago, long after the MP3 had changed everything, the pop industry was fairly diffuse: Major labels serviced music to stores and radio while also handling additional marketing. Music videos, paid for by those labels, had their premieres on MTV or, increasingly, on free online platforms; late-night shows and glossy magazines did interviews around long-planned release dates; and the lucrative business of touring was largely a separate concern.  Since its debut in the summer of 2015, however, Apple Music has separated itself from Spotify, the industry's streaming leader, by trying to become a one-stop shop for major artists — part platform and part promoter. (Source: New York Times) 
Streaming music services such as Apple Music, Spotify and Tidal are shifting not just how music is consumed, but increasingly how it is funded, created and marketed. The talk of the industry is increasingly about playlists and how labels and artists can seed their music into high-rotation mixes on streaming services to blend their new offerings with old favorites. (Source: The Globe and Mail)
Back in September, the Financial Times reported that Spotify might purchase streaming competitor SoundCloud, which would have given Spotify a stronger position against competitors, including Apple Music, Amazon Music Unlimited, and Pandora.  Now, the FT is reporting that the acquisition deal has fallen through. Spotify has set its sight on their upcoming IPO. A source told FT that the company would slow down their IPO plans considerably if it acquired SoundCloud. Reasons for slowdowns include costs, as well as SoundCloud licensing agreements.  (Source: Digital Music New)
Google announced recently that YouTube paid the music industry over $1 billion in advertising revenue alone in 2016. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) claims, however, that the Google-owned video site released "unexplained," and thus, incorrect numbers and that this pales in comparison to the revenue generated by other services, ranging from Apple to Deezer to Spotify, which paid record labels $2 billion. YouTube only earns $1 whereas Spotify earns a whopping $18 per user.  Labels say that YouTube can simply allow users to upload music and place ads alongside "pirated" content.  YouTube pays nothing yet earns revenue in advertising, a win-win for YouTube. (Source:Digital Music News)