Digital Media Digest

November 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. .

U.S. music industry's revenue growth accelerates as paid streaming subscriptions rise 50 percent
The U.S. recorded music industry has seen revenue growth accelerate again in the first half of 2017, up 17 percent over the first half of last year to $4.0 billion, according the RIAA's 2017 mid-year report. The main driver of that growth is streaming—more specifically, paid streaming subscriptions. The average number of paid subscribers to services like Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal over the period ballooned to 30.4 million, up 50 percent from the 20.2 million in the first half of 2016. (Billboard)

Tencent tried to buy Spotify earlier this year
Spotify has long been linked with going public in the U.S.—it is speculated to be preparing for an IPO-less listing next year—but it has emerged that the company rebuffed the opportunity to sell to a major tech name earlier this year: Tencent, the Chinese internet giant valued at $380 billion. Tencent is said to have approached Spotify with a view to acquiring the company to extend its burgeoning music business outside of China and Asia, a source with knowledge of discussions told TechCrunch. It isn’t clear whether talks got to the point that a price was discussed between the two—Spotify’s intent on going public is clear so it may not have advanced to that stage—but it’s an interesting thread to pull.  (Source: TechCrunch)

Louisville Orchestra has best-selling album
The Louisville Orchestra has released an album that hit No. 1 on Billboard's Traditional Classical Albums chart. The orchestra's album "All In" with conductor Teddy Abrams was released last month. It features an original work, "Unified Field," composed by Abrams. Abrams is also a clarinet soloist on a version of Aaron Copland's "Clarinet Concerto." (Source: US News and World Report)

YouTube plays will count less on the Billboard charts in 2018
Three years ago Billboard decided to take YouTube plays into account for its Hot 100 ranking system and, through that technicality, a sneaky video of the song's chorus on repeat with over 40 million views helped push "Rockstar" to No. 1. After news of the video sparked a conversation about the weight of YouTube views and inflated plays,Billboard announced that in 2018 YouTube videos are going to carry less weight than other streaming services when it comes to chart rankings. The new system will rank digital sales and streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music above Youtube plays. (Source: The Fader)

The frightful five want to rule entertainment. They are hitting limits.
The companies New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo calls the Frightful Five—Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Alphabet, Google’s parent company—have experienced astounding growth over the last few years, making them the world’s five most valuable public companies. Because they own the technology that will dominate much of life for the foreseeable future, they are also gaining vast social and political power over much of the world beyond tech.  Now that world is scrambling to figure out what to do about them. And it is discovering that the changes they are unleashing—in the economy, in civic and political life, in arts and entertainment, and in our tech-addled psyches—are not simple to comprehend, let alone to limit.  In the first of several columns, Manjoo assesses their efforts to infiltrate entertainment—their plans to push deeper into the business of movies, TV and music, and the fears of cultural domination those moves have provoked. (Source: New York Times)

Vinyl Is as good as its flaws
Plenty of technological advancements have followed the modern LP record, which debuted in 1948: audio cassettes, compact discs, MP3 files, and now streaming services. Yet vinyl sales skyrocketed by nearly 4,000 percent between 1993 and 2016. And while CDs still vastly outpace vinyl in total units sold—99.4 million to 17.2 million in 2016—CD sales have plummeted some 91 percent since their peak in 2000. These figures are, on the surface, bewildering. Despite the longstanding rumors, vinyl is not an inherently better-sounding format. Compared to the new audio formats, vinyl offers shaky fidelity, particularly on the low-end bass sounds. Then there’s the issue of portability: You can't bring a turntable on a run. Why are we humans so obsessed with a clunky, out-dated format?  The answer lies in those very flaws: the pop and crack of a guitar jangle; the warm, faraway tone of a croon; the very humanness of its sound. Vinyl offers a sense of sentimentality—of mortality, even—that only imperfection allows. (Source: Pacific Standard)

Spotify knows you’ve been listening to that podcast at work
Podcasts are often associated with your morning commute or drive, but Spotify’s latest finding shows that mornings are not the most popular time for podcasts. The music streaming giant looked at what a typical day of music and podcast listening looks like for their listeners—and discovered that podcast listening peaked during the middle of the day. Interestingly, when they looked at weekday numbers versus the weekend, people listened to fewer podcasts on the weekend. The finding raises some questions. Why are so many people listening to podcasts in the middle of the workday? Are they doing it on their lunch break? Are they multi-tasking? Slacking off? Has podcast listening become the new social media scrolling? Interestingly, Spotify also found that different types of podcasts peaked at different times of the day. News podcasts were more popular in the morning, whereas longform and niche podcasts like Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History were more popular during the day, at times when people are supposed to be working. (Source: Fast Company)

How to get your copyrights back from your label or publisher
There’s a little-known section in the US Copyright Act of 1976 enabling any copyright owner to get their rights back after 35 years. Meaning, if you wrote or released a song with a label or a publishing company after January 1, 1978, you can terminate your agreement and get all your rights back. It doesn’t matter if you have unrecouped royalties or not. You can cut ties, free and clear, and get everything back. Boom!  Most musicians and songwriters don’t know about this—and the labels and publishers would like to keep it that way, so they are attempting to keep this quiet. There is only a 3-year window once you hit your 35-year mark to let your rights owners know you want out. There are also other conditions and parameters in Section 203 of U.S. Copyright Law, which must be met. (Source: Digital Music News)

Spotify is worth $16 billion and I’m getting scared
Private trading in Spotify shares have valued the company at around $16 billion, ahead of their rumored direct listing on the New York Stock Exchange. Business Insider noted that thanks to rising subscription numbers and a strong demand for shares, Spotify may be worth $20 billion once it goes public. Investors and venture capitalists have stated that Spotify has cemented its position as the “undisputed market leader” in streaming. While this sounds all well and good for the company, investors just have to look at the numbers to start worrying. Since Spotify first launched on October 7, 2008, the company has yet to post a profit. Losses have also continued to increase and doubled in 2016 to $600 million. Spotify’s opulent spending has caused more than a few investors to become anxious. Layer fears of a market softening ahead, and Spotify starts to look a bit shaky. (Source: Digital Music News)

Streaming service guarantees artists $0.01 per stream—in Bitcoin
Will bitcoin technology help ensure that every artist gets paid fairly? Arena Music believes so.  According to Arena Music’s website, the platform pays the highest royalties in the world. It also invites fans to “contribute to the new music industry.” But how can it make such bold claims? In a press release earlier this year, Arena Music announced that it would offer royalty payments in Bitcoin. According to Arena founder and CEO Damon Evans, bitcoin technology “forces a level of transparency and fairness in reporting and payouts.” Thus, cryptocurrency will eliminate the music industry’s “black box.” (Source: Digital Music News)

Spotify pays 75% more than YouTube on free streams; 515% more on paid streams
Does the YouTube ‘value gap’ actually exist? According to Google and YouTube, of course not. Yet, multiple studies have shown the contrary. Last July, the team at Information is Beautiful reported that the popular video platform only pays $0.0006 per play. For an unsigned artist to earn $1,472 (monthly minimum wage), they would need 2.4 million plays. The RIAA found that, at best, YouTube pays around $1.50 per 1,000 views (CPM) in the US. In August 2017, Spotify’s free, ad-supported streams had an effective CPM of $2.11. Furthermore, Spotify’s subscription-based streams had an effective CPM of $6.19.  (Source: Digital Music News)

Florida Supreme Court rules that oldies recordings are public domain
According to a unanimous decision by the Florida Supreme Court, anything recorded before the year 1972 is in the public domain and can be used freely. At least in the state of Florida. Prior to 1972, artists and labels simply relied on a patchwork of state laws to determine copyright. But even after 1972, Congress left pre-1972 copyright decisions to the states. And in the case of Florida, copyright protection for recordings simply didn’t exist. “The crucial question presented is whether Florida common law recognizes an exclusive right of public performance in pre-1972 sound recordings,” the justices opined in a 35-page ruling (see below). “We conclude that Florida law does not recognize any such right.” (Source: Digital Music News)