Digital Media Digest

February 2019

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. .

When to watch Lyric Opera of Chicago’s ‘Orphée Et Euridyce’ on PBS Great Performances
PBS showcased a performance of “Orphée et Eurydice” from the Lyric Opera of Chicago on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. The broadcast at 9 p.m. EDT starred Andriana Chuchman, Dmitry Korchak, and Lauren Snouffer. Other performances slated for showcases on PBS include “Doubt” from the Minnesota Opera as well as numerous productions from the Metropolitan Opera, including “Marnie,” “La Fanciulla del West,”“Samson et Dalila,” ”La Traviata,” “Adriana Lecouvreur,” “La Fille du Régiment,” “Carmen,” “Die Walküre,” and “Dialogues des Carmélites.” (Source: OperaWire)

Vinyl and cassette sales saw double digit growth last year
Albums sold on vinyl and cassette both saw double digit sales growth in the US last year, according to a new report produced by BuzzAngle. Vinyl sales grew by just shy of 12 percent from 8.6 to 9.7 million sales, while cassette sales grew by almost 19 percent from 99,400 to 118,200 copies sold in the US. It wasn’t quite the 41.8 percent growth seen in music streaming, but it’s still very impressive for two formats that are decades old.. (Source: The Verge)
Classical music strikes a chord with listeners as sales soar by 10%
Sales of classical CDs and streaming of the music increased by more than 10% last year compared with the previous year, according to data collected by the Official Charts Company for BPI, the UK's record labels association. This compares with a 5.7% rise in music consumption across all genres during the same period. Almost 60% of classical music was bought in CD format, while streams of the genre increased by 42%, compared with a 33% rise for the UK music market as a whole. (Source:
Creative industries collaboration to explore potential for immersive performance
Manchester International Festival, the Philharmonia Orchestra, Punchdrunk, the Royal Shakespeare Company and The Space are among 15 organizations embarking on a £16m initiative to discover and develop the next stage of immersive performance experiences for audiences around the world. The project aims to create opportunities for the UK cultural sector to change the way audiences experience live performance, using virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR). The aim is that by using devices such as mobile phones, Extended Reality (XR) headsets and streaming into live performance environments, or even in the home, audiences will be able to experience live performance in entirely new ways. (Source: Arts Professional)

Spotify. It’s not just for music anymore
When Spotify began more than 10 years ago, it had a simple goal: to establish itself as a force in the music business by making millions of songs instantly available to listeners worldwide. But with its recent announcement that it had acquired two podcast companies, including Gimlet Media, the streaming service sent a strong signal that it has broader ambitions. No longer does it aim to be a go-to destination for just music fans. It now sees itself as a provider of online audio, period. (Source: New York Times)
Spotify now has 200 million monthly active users — but how many are paying?
Spotify continues to add millions of users. But how many are now paying for a subscription? Several months ago, during the company’s Q3 2018 report, Spotify reported 191 million monthly active users (MAUs). That number jumped 40% over the same period last year. The company’s total subscribers also totaled 87 million. Dustee Jenkins, Spotify’s Global Head of Communications, has confirmed that the company now has 200 million monthly active users. The 200 million-mark comes alongside a continued focus on ad-supported revenues. Jenkins didn’t specify what part of the additional 9 million were paying consumers. But straight math puts the figure at roughly 91 million. (Source: Digital Music News)
Spotify narrows its ‘preferred distributors’ list to just 3 companies
Last year, Spotify selected 5 preferred distributors: CD Baby, Distrokid, EmuBands, FUGA, and The Orchard. Now, Spotify is clearly defining two tiers: ‘Preferred’ and ‘Recommended,’ with ‘Preferred’ now occupied by just three companies: Distrokid, CD Baby, and The Orchard. Others weren’t so lucky. Artist distributor EmuBands has been moved to the Recommended level, while FUGA has simply remained at Recommended. (Source: Digital Music News)

Apple Music officially hits 50 million subscribers
During a recent earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed that Apple Music officially hit 50 million subscribers over the busy holiday season. The last official number was 50 million, which included paid and trial users. Apple Music’s latest numbers only include paid subscriptions. (Source: Digital Music News)
Pump up the volume: Podcast apps keep pushing toward the money
While the podcast industry raked in over $300 million in ads in 2017, that number is estimated at $400 million for 2018, and is expected to cross $600 million by 2020, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau. That’s a tiny sum relative to newspaper and radio ad sales, which are around $17 billion each. Still, it’s up from nearly nothing in just a few years. (Source: Fast Company)

Analysts estimate that smart TVs now make up about 70 percent of all new TV sales. The television is no longer a mere display, but a full-fledged computer, for good and for ill. And what is a computer now? On the one hand, it’s something companies sell to consumers for money. But after you’ve purchased an internet-connected device of any kind, it begins to generate information that the company can use itself or sell to third parties. Earlier this month, Vizio’s chief technology officer, Bill Baxter, told The Verge that the reason his company can sell TVs so cheaply now is that it makes up the money by selling bits of data and access to your TV after you purchase it. Baxter called this “post-purchase monetization.” (Source: The Atlantic)
Young people are turning to classical music to escape ‘noise of modern life’
To many, the decision announced recently to launch Scala Radio, a major new station founded on the belief that classical music can appeal to younger audiences, will have come as a surprise. But research has shown clear indications of new listening trends, with almost half (45%) of young people saying they see classical music as an escape from the noise of modern life. The launch of a new classical entertainment station aimed at younger listeners is based on more than a hunch. Research found that a new generation of listeners was switching on to classical music through different sources, with 48% of under-35s exposed to it through classical versions of popular songs, such as the Brooklyn Duo version of Taylor Swift’s Blank. And 74% of people in the same age group had experienced classical music via a live orchestral performance at a film screening, according to analysts at Insight working for Bauer Media, owner of the new station. (Source: The Guardian)

Netflix unveils plans to adapt theatre for on-demand platform
Netflix is exploring a foray into filmed theatre productions, as it announces it will adapt its first stage play for the platform this year. The move may signal a wider expansion by the streaming giant into capturing theatre for the small screen, which experts say could see it capitalize on a demand for more accessible ways to watch live performance. Netflix is producing a specially created version of the Broadway play American Son, which its subscribers across the globe will be able to stream. (Source: The Stage)

Japan extends Its copyright protection to 70 Years
As part of a new trade agreement with the US and Mexico, Canada will extend its current copyright term to 70 years after the creator’s death. (Source: Digital Music News)

BuzzAngle Music has released its 2018 Year-End Report for the US music industry. Audio on-demand streams set a new record high in the US of 534.6 billion total streams. This number rose 42% over 2017, when audio on-demand streams reached 376.9 billion streams. Total on-demand streams also set a new high last year with 809.5 billion streams, up 35% over 2017’s 598 billion. And one of the more interesting takeaways came late in the year. During the fourth quarter of 2018, subscription streams accounted for 85% of all on-demand audio streams (157.4 billion). (Source: Digital Music News)
Sony unveils a brand-new 3D audio format — introducing ‘360 Reality Audio’
Forget 5.1 audio surround. Sony Corporation is introducing something far more immersive, called 360 Reality Audio. According to Sony, the goal is to replicate actual live experiences using object-based spatial audio technology. The net result is a spatially-mapped audio experience that mirrors the reality of experiences like live concerts. (Source: Digital Music News)

SiriusXM now has 34 million subscribers — but has this platform plateaued?
SiriusXM has posted its 2018 year-end results. The satellite radio company added 1.4 million self-pay subscribers to finish off the year. It now has 28.9 million self-pay subscribers, beating the company’s initial 2018 guidance by 40%. Total net subscriber additions last year rose an additional 1.3 million. SiriusXM now has approximately 34 million subscribers. That’s a sizable mass, though SiriusXM’s gains are practically flat compared to the likes of Spotify and Apple Music. The company’s guidance doesn’t account for Pandora Media’s acquisition, expected to finalize in Q1 2019. (Source: Digital Music News)

5G is coming: so what does this mean for music (if anything)?
5G has the potential to make loading websites, streaming music, and downloading up to 10 times faster than 4G. The United States isn’t expected to see the first 5G-compatible networks until 2020, but that hasn’t stopped telcos from openly bragging. But for now, it’s unclear just how much the protocol upgrade will impact music-specific properties. One quick possibility is that higher-fidelity streams can be consumed more readily, and production collaboration could be catapulted. Another impacts the live experience: with a 5G connection, companies like BASE Hologram, could upgrade these experiences and bring them to broader audiences. The advent of 5G could also impact VR/AR concerts, with immersive experiences suddenly more realistic and realtime. But even without VR, performance collaborations in realtime could become strikingly like the real thing. Here’s one 5G-distributed music concert experiment involving performers from separate locations. (Source: Digital Music News)
Pandora announces ‘Hey Pandora’ voice controls — powered by SoundHound
The Pandora app now features a native smart assistant that can be activated with the command, ‘Hey Pandora.’ The new smart assistant provides a hands-free experience for controlling your music. The rollout is a beta access feature for iOS and Android users. Pandora says the feature will roll out for all mobile users coming soon. (Source: Digital Music News)
The Bitfury Group unveils music industry open-source blockchain platform
Global Bitcoin mining giant The Bitfury Group has broken into the music industry with the launch of Bitfury Surround, a music entertainment division. As with most blockchain ‘solutions,’ Bitfury’s division will use blockchain technology to address the challenges facing the music industry. The company will create an open-source music platform secured by blockchain to help artists and other rightsholders. The open-source platform, dubbed SurroundTM, will encourage collaboration and promote innovation. SurroundTM aims to streamline the secure transfer of copyright assets. This includes better monitoring and management systems. To accomplish this goal, Bitfury says the platform will create a digital system for sharing and monetizing intellectual property. SurroundTM will also provide transparent management functions and ‘trusted data.’ (Source: Digital Music News)
The CEO of ‘non-profit’ SoundExchange makes $1.4 million a year
According to 2017 tax filing details, SoundExchange paid more than $5.1 million to just 10 top executives, with CEO and President Michael Huppe collecting a large percentage of that amount. Huppe’s total compensation for the year 2017 topped an impressive $1.4 million, an approximate $300,000 increase over year-2016 compensation. The figure includes a hefty base salary, bonuses, tax-deferred retirement, and various ‘nontaxable benefits’. (Source: Digital Music News)