Digital Media Digest

July 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. .

Bloomberg News reported that Apple was set to announce the end of iTunes, which transformed the music business when it was launched. Apple, at its annual developer conference, was expected to announce a reconfiguration that will divide iTunes’ offerings into three newly developed applications for music, TV and podcasts, according to Bloomberg. (Source: Los Angeles Times via Bloomberg)
Classical music has always been a specialized corner of the music business, with a discerning clientele and few genuine blockbusters. But by some measures the genre has suffered in the shift to streaming. While 2.5 percent of album sales in the United States are classical music, it accounts for less than 1 percent of total streams, according to Alpha Data, a tracking service. Two new companies, Idagio and Primephonic, see an opportunity in the disconnect. Both are challenging the big platforms by offering streaming services devoted to classical music, with playlists that push Martha Argerich over Ariana Grande, and databases tailored to the nuances of the genre. (Source: New York Times)
Both Apple Music and Spotify boast thousands upon thousands of classical offerings. And they’re wonderful to listen to if you know exactly what you’re looking for. If you don’t, due to the absence of accurate metadata, you’re likely out of luck. Idagio, launched in the United States and Canada last fall, is a new streaming service focusing solely on classical recordings—but focusing on doing it right. It’s not simply a matter of what they offer (currently over a million tracks, with 20,000 more added each month), but, rather, how they offer it: Idagio’s interface is at once elegant, easy to navigate and understand, and robust in terms of what you can do with it. Searches are a breeze—or if you don’t know just what you’re looking for, you can browse by composers, ensembles, soloists, conductors, instruments, genres, and periods. (Source: Vogue
While the biggest record labels and pop artists are enjoying an economic renaissance thanks to the success of streaming services like Spotify, classical music is dying a slow death in the streaming age. The problem, explains Thomas Steffens, CEO of classical streaming service Primephonic, is that “as a classical music fan, you can't find what you are looking for, you don't get recommendations that inspire you, and you don't get information on what you're listening to." (Source: Forbes)
YouTube is making the case to advertisers that it can be more like TV in reaching consumers. The Google-owned video streaming service announced that it will make all of its original produced series available free to viewers with commercials, similar to the rest of the content on the site. Some of its original programs were running ad-free behind an $11.99-a-month subscriber pay wall. (Source: Los Angeles Times)
The recent budgetary and personnel cutbacks were not a one-off move by S.F. Opera General Director Matthew Shilvock, who said at the time that “reframing our education and media departments” was among the measures pending. The news that’s most visible to patrons is the coming discontinuation of OperaVision. The company’s Koret-Taube Media Suite was providing OperaVision in the balcony where the 3,200-seat theater’s sound is the best, but the view of the stage is problematic. Sad too is the planned phasing out of other products of the media suite, which made commercial projects such as DVDs, cinemacasts, and PBS broadcasts. “The marketplace for commercial opera releases is exponentially harder now than in 2007,” Shilvock says. “Rebuilding the media suite would cost millions of dollars and, without the commercial possibilities that existed in 2007, it does not make sense for us to further invest our financial resources into this area at this time.” (Source: San Francisco Classical Voice)
Once the purview of DIY YouTubers and aspiring creatives looking for a big break, short-form video content now commands a deep well of resources – the backing of major studios, streaming-service budgets and top talent. And as the slate of original content continues to expand, scripted short-form TV may become the most contested battleground for heavyweight tech and content companies, as everyone from Snap to YouTube to Sundance TV compete for a quarter-hour snippet of attention. (Source: The Guardian)
The BBC Philharmonic, in London, has announced a new initiative to allow attendees to use their smartphones during performances. Listeners will be invited to use the new Notes app during all concerts to get real-time information about the music, the orchestra has said. This initiative, aimed to attract new audiences and promote a unique option for viewing a concert, will see a team of workers following the score from the back of the hall and sending 140-200-character real-time notes and titbits about the works. Viewers using their phones will be invited to sit in designated zones in the hall – so not to disturb regular listeners. (Source: The Violin Channel)
As many people head to their favorite summer music festival, they will do so with their mobile phone safely tucked into their pocket. But what most people don’t consider is how this will impact their experience — for better or worse. We’ve come to accept mobile devices as part of our everyday lives and many of us cannot imagine a day without them. Most people give little thought to how our devices impact the experiences we have. Recent research has revealed that the habit of using our devices spills over into our festival visits and that while our phones may present benefits, they can also negatively affect our experiences.  (Source: The Conversation)
The U.S. Justice Department announced it would review two consent decrees reached with music licensing groups ASCAP and BMI in 1941, a decision that could upend the business of licensing music to online companies, movie companies, commercials, bars and restaurants. Under the consent decrees, the two organizations are required to license to anyone upon request, with pricing disputes settled by a judge. The consent decrees may remain as they are, or be changed or scrapped altogether, the department said.  Companies that license music have worried about a sharp increase in costs if the system is changed because ASCAP and BMI license about 90 percent of music. (Source: Reuters)
Mary Meeker just delivered her highly anticipated annual “Internet Trends” presentation on the state of the Web. The longtime Kleiner Perkins general partner, who launched a new firm called Bond Capital earlier this year, ran through the 333-page report during a rapid-fire, 30-minute presentation. Big themes highlighted this year include the rise of freemium subscription business models, encrypted messaging apps, interactive gaming, telemedicine and accelerating digital ad spend. Since Meeker first delivered this annual report in 1995, it’s become Silicon Valley’s favorite slide deck of technology statistics and trends, jam-packed with observations on how the internet and consumer behaviors are shifting. One of the more striking data points from this year’s report: More than 25% of U.S. adults now describe themselves as “almost constantly online.” (Source: Forbes)
Millennial audio consumption in the U.S. is booming, with the demographic listening to audio of more types, at more times, and in more places than any other generation, according to a newly released Ipsos study conducted for iHeartRadio. The Ipsos-iHeartRadio survey found that radio reaches more consumers than any other audio channel, with 85 percent of consumers listening to a radio broadcast at least once per week, outpacing social media at 68 percent and live television at 56 percent. This year, 51 percent of American consumers reported listening to a podcast at some point in their lives, compared to just 22 percent in 2009, according to the Edison Infinite Dial media survey, a separate study that was conducted earlier this year. The Edison Research survey also found that 50 percent of the U.S. population over 12 years old listened to music via YouTube at least once a week, while popular streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music have seen their monthly listener numbers grow year-over-year since 2017 in the 12-to-34 demographic by between three and nine percentage points. (Source: Ad Age)
Twitter has unveiled a slew of new video and music content partnerships, including a streaming concert pact with Live Nation.  Its partnership with Live Nation will feature 10 exclusive concerts from 10 “world class” artists over 10 weeks this fall. The deal will also include video moments from popular festivals, such as Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Electric Daisy Carnival, and Governors Ball. (Source: Digital Music News)
According to a new report, Google now has over 15 million subscribers on its streaming music platforms – Google Play Music (GPM) and YouTube Music. Despite the great news for the Alphabet-owned company, here’s the kicker – subscriptions have abruptly stalled. Growth in Google’s most critical division – YouTube – has all-but-flatlined. In fact, when pressed about coming $1 billion short of Wall Street’s revenue expectations last week, top executives blamed the video platform. (Source: Digital Music News)
Nielsen has unveiled its 2019 Music Mid-Year report for the United States. Breaking down the study, music streaming services reached over 507 billion on-demand streams. (Source: Digital Music News)