Digital Media Digest

August 2018

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. .

Since their inception in 1958, the Billboard charts served a window to pop music history. Along with statistics collected by RIAA and Nielsen, they offer a road map of what tunes, musicians and genres Americans found interesting enough to consume en masse. Now, the charts are desperately trying to figure out how to rank music in the streaming age and remain a relevant barometer of success in a rapidly changing business. (Source: Washington Post)
A new on-demand arts TV service dubbed a "cultural entertainment platform for the Netflix generation" has launched. Marquee.TV offers viewers access to content from across the world, including dance, opera, music and theatre. It is available as an app on iOS or Android, as well as online and through Apple TV, Amazon Fire and smart TVs, at a cost of £8.99 a month. Content available from its launch includes David Tennant in Richard II and New York City Opera's Brokeback Mountain, based on the story by Charles Wuorinen and Annie Proulx.  Marquee has also teamed up with Opus Arte, the company that supplies filmed productions from the Royal Opera House and Glyndebourne. (Source: The Stage)
The Pew Research Center has released a research report called "The Future of Digital Life and Well-Being." Pew interviewed technology experts and scholars about the benefits and drawbacks of our digital lives and was designed to answer the question: Over the next decade, how will changes in digital life impact people's overall well-being physically and mentally? About 47% of respondents predict that individuals' well-being will be more helped than harmed by digital life in the next decade, while 32% say people's well-being will be more harmed than helped. (Source: Beth's Blog)
Nancy Baym, a Principal Researcher at Microsoft who's been studying new media, community, identity, and relationships since 1991, has written a book, Playing to the Crowd: Musicians, Audiences, and the Intimate Work of Connection, which chronicles the role that music fans played in making the internet central to 21st century life. "Where musicologists see mass media as thwarting audiences' capacity for participation, researchers have spent decades documenting and analyzing how productive and creative audiences became—and now, even as musicians struggle to find their ways in an internet-mediated music world, audiences flourish." (Source: Wired)
Spotify has led the streaming music space for some time now, but over the past year, Apple Music has evolved into a serious threat. Apple Music's growth accelerated past Spotify's, and now, for the first time, Apple has pulled ahead. Spotify's global subscriber and user numbers still beat Apple by a good margin, but that lead could shrink if it doesn't take action. (Source: Slate)
A new study by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP) explains why Spotify has seemingly 'lost' the music streaming wars in the US. And, why it will continue to lag behind. Josh Lowitz, Partner and Co-Founder of CIRP, says "The US is a competitive market with a number of options for both free and paid streaming music." Amazon Prime members – 90 million in the U.S. – can get access to Prime Music for free, which means that signing up for a $9.99 individual plan on Spotify doesn't really make much financial sense.  In addition, CIRP found that Spotify's free, ad-supported model remains the company's Achilles' heel. 16% of Premium subscribers ended their subscription, choosing instead to stream music on the ad-supported model. Only 11% of the company's users on its ad-supported service started a trial Premium subscription. (Source: Digital Music News)
Looking for a way to stream your favorite music without using a lot of space on your Android device. Don't mind having a ton of crucial streaming music features — offline playback, for example — left out? Then, Spotify has the perfect app for you. The company has started testing an alternative version of its app. Dubbed Spotify Lite, the 15MB app is currently available in Brazil. Visually, both apps look exactly the same. Yet, under the hood, you'll see the company has changed several key features in an attempt to capitalize on emerging markets. Under Settings, Spotify Lite allows users to set a monthly mobile data cap – 250 MB, 500 MB, 750 MB, 1 GB, 2 GB, and 3 GB. The company has also removed Spotify Connect, which allows users to stream their favorite tracks on wireless audio devices. (Source: Digital Music News)
After a strategic alliance was formed with Spotify last year, Tencent will attempt to follow in the footsteps of its western partner. With a Wall Street IPO, investors can now place their bets on the streaming music industry in China, which seems to be booming just as it is within the US and Europe. According toBloomberg, Tencent Holdings Ltd. will spin-off their online music business as an IPO in the United States, with a valuation that could be as much as $32 billion. All of that could spell another windfall for Spotify, to the tune of $3 billion, since Spotify owns 10% of Tencent Music. (Source: Digital Music News)
It's no mystery to anyone who has spent time on the site that YouTube has a plagiarism problem. The company knows it too, which is why Google introduced Content ID back in 2007. Content ID has had arocky history, though, which may account for the newest tool on the video streaming site: Copyright Match. The Copyright Match Tool aims to protect YouTubers' original content from illicit re-uploads. Here is how the tool works. You upload and publish your original content. After that, you can search for duplicate videos. If you find re-uploads, you can take one of three options. Option one is that you do nothing. For those engaged in brand building or awareness advertising, rather than monetizing content, this option makes sense. Option two is that you contact the other channel and ask them to take it down. The final option is asking YouTube to remove the duplicate video. (Source: Digital Music News)
Jane Chu, the former head of the National Endowment for the Arts, has joined PBS as an arts adviser. In her new role at PBS, Chu will help identify opportunities for public media to broaden access and representation in its presentation of the arts to audiences nationwide. (Source: Playbill)
The Saratoga Performing Arts Center has announced the dates of four Philadelphia Orchestra concerts that will be recorded for future broadcast on the public radio stations WMHT in Troy and WRTI in Philadelphia. (Source: Times-Union)
This past academic year, the AMT Lab at Carnegie Mellon University has researched the feasibility of streaming for orchestras and will publish their interesting findings in a series of articles, covering the digital and orchestral audience, the logistics of streaming, and what opportunities streaming opens up for orchestras.  The first of these articles centers around who is listening. Orchestras have done a lot of research on who their audience is, but who is streaming music? Are there overlaps between online streaming and an orchestral audience? (Source: AMT Lab)
Opera Australia has recently premiered a "digital" production of Verdi's Aida. The production's set consists of ten movable LED panels that provide digital background scenery ranging from a massive black panther to an ominous, blood-red sky. While Aida may be a hi-tech departure from the set designs usually seen at Opera Australia, Terracini's digital revolution is far from new and has been used in many other opera productions, such as those in recent years at Komische Oper Berlin, San Francisco Opera, Cleveland Orchestra, Royal Opera House and The Metropolitan Opera. The real difference between these productions is not the size of the opera company or even the kind of digital technology being used. Rather, it's a question of how live performers are being integrated with the digital elements on stage.(Source: The Conversation)
Dutch streaming music service Primephonic is set to launch on 1 August, entirely focused on classical music. The service will go live in the Netherlands, the UK and the US, with a global rollout planned for 2019. At launch, the service will feature the full works of 500 top composers. Subscriptions will cost EUR 7.99 per month, with a free introduction period of two weeks. Primephonic will provide the music in hi-res 24-bit, which it says gives a better audio quality than many other providers of streaming music. (
London's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra has filmed a 360-degree video of a performance, designed to immerse the viewer in the music through the power of virtual reality. The RPO filmed the performance Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra on Google's 360-degree Jump camera rig earlier this year. Filmed from within the center of the orchestra, a viewer wearing a VR headset is able to turn to focus on the individual instruments being played at any one time, including harps, trumpets, violins and French horns. It is available to view for free on Google's Arts and Culture website, and can be viewed on desktop as well as via a VR headset. (Source:
We live in the age of the smartphone camera, aware that the everyday devices in our hands and pockets are increasingly able to record professional-quality images. This aspect of how we live now was presumably on the minds of the organizers of the Mobile Dance Film Festival at the 92nd Street Y, the first to require that all its selections be shot on mobile devices. Does the mobile dance film advance the art of choreography or of dance on film? Should it count as a new artistic category? By the evidence of this crop, not yet. It's a testament to the sophistication of mobile devices that the strengths and weaknesses of the films have little to do with technical issues. The flaws are artistic: the pretentiousness, sentimentality, inscrutability and unintentional or lazy comedy that can be found in dance and film of any kind. (Source: New York Times)
Vinyl records are still enjoying double-digit growth — up 19.2% 
In 2018 Vinyl records aren't so vintage anymore. In fact, figures from Nielsen Music indicate that sales of LPs are up 19.2% this year. According to first-half, US-based stats, sales of LP albums landed at 7.6 million. Of course, that's a big change from the early 2000s. At that point, the LP format was essentially declared dead.  But even a mid-2000s resurgence was dismissed as a temporary fad, a mere blip that would ultimately get eviscerated by iTunes MP3s. Now, iTunes downloads are dying and there's a full-blown, decade-plus vinyl records revival. (Source: Digital Music News)
Music downloads are nearing extinction as sales tank 27.4% 
Song downloads tanked nearly 30% during the first half of this year, according to US-based stats from Nielsen. During the first half of 2018, sales of song downloads tanked 27.4% to 223.1 million, from 307.2 million during the same period in 2017. Separately, album downloads slipped 21.7% to 27.5 million units, down from 35.1 million previously. Albums, of course, include a lot of songs in a bundle. But the number of bundles is getting dangerously close to zero. (Source: Digital Music News)
SoundExchange has just announced its Q2 2018 results, and the results are up. The company revealed more than $208.7 million in payments to registered artists and labels for the quarter ending June 30th. During the first half of 2018, the company paid out $398.6 million to music rights holders from royalties on music streaming services like Pandora and Sirius XM Radio, up 17.4% from the previous year. The combined figure of nearly $400 million during the first half of 2018 has outperformed payouts in 2014 and 2015. But the payout is less than 2016's numbers — though that makes sense given that Pandora started inking independent deals with recording labels during that year. (Source: Digital Music News)