Digital Media Digest

November 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. .


Amazon bets users will pay up for high-definition music streaming
Amazon just unveiled its latest attempt to attract customers in the crowded music streaming market: high-quality audio. Amazon announced it will offer more than 50 million songs at CD quality and millions more tracks at even better than CD quality as part of a new tier to its streaming music service. The new offering, called Amazon Music HD, will cost $14.99 per month, or $12.99 per month for members of Amazon Prime. That's pricier than standard subscriptions to rivals such as Spotify and Apple Music, both of which cost $9.99 per month, but less than the $19.99 monthly rate Tidal charges for high-fidelity streaming. (Source: CNN)

Podcast sponsorship revenue continues to fuel NPR's financial growth
NPR is projecting that podcast sponsorship revenues will surpass revenues from broadcast sponsorships next year for the first time. NPR Chief Financial Officer Deborah Cowan has told public radio station leaders that the network has budgeted about $55 million in corporate sponsorship revenues from podcasts in fiscal year 2020, about $5 million more than the roughly $50 million total that NPR projects to bring in from podcast sponsorship by the end of FY19 (Source: Current)
 
One-third of all young people use stream ripping to steal music
IFPI, an organization that represents the music industry around the world, has released its annual report on global music consumption, and while it includes some encouraging figures about the increased adoption of legal streaming, there are alarming numbers about the everyday acceptance of piracy. According to the study, 34% of all 16-to-24-year-old music listeners surveyed admitted to using "stream ripping" apps or services to illegally copy music. When all respondents (ages 16 to 64) are factored in, the overall number of admitted stream rippers globally is 23%. (Source: Variety)

Articles about audience smartphone use during performances

  • Star violinist remains unruffled after iPhone recording halts CSO performance
    The German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, performing the Beethoven Violin Concerto with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra recently, suddenly stopped playing when a young woman was observed shooting a video of Mutter's performance with an iPhone, just feet away and directly in front of the star. A confrontation of several minutes ensued, with Mutter exclaiming, "Either I will leave, or you will put away your phone and recording device," while the person stood up and spoke to her, seeming to be pleading her case. Finally, CSO president Jonathan Martin appeared and escorted the disruptor out, to the applause of the audience. (Source: Cincinnati Business Courier)
  • Filming the show: pardon the intrusion? Or punish it?
    Joshua Henry, the star of a new Off-Broadway musical called "The Wrong Man," and the renowned violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter have recently interacted directly with audience members who were using their smartphones to capture their performance. Both artists were cheered for taking a stand against the growing ranks of smartphone addicts who cannot resist snapping pictures and making recordings that are often prohibited by rule or by law, that are distracting to performers and patrons, and that can constitute a form of intellectual property theft. But such confrontations are fueling a new debate about digital-era etiquette. No one likes a ringing cellphone to interrupt a cathartic moment. But both theater and classical music have aging fan bases and a desire to attract younger and more diverse audiences, and some suggest that an emphasis on behavioral restrictions is a form of off-putting elitism. (Source: New York Times)
  • Cellphones are disrupting theaters everywhere. Here's a solution
    Cellular phones and live performance are locked in an existential battle. And the current state of polite detente — announcements and quiet requests — is no longer working. There are too many eager phones to battle. Theaters are going to have to pick a side: embrace the phone in what they are doing, or wrap those things up in a Yondr pouch. With Yondr, a glove-like pouch, you keep your phone but you cannot turn it back on without unlocking the pouch, which uses a simple mechanism not unlike the security tags you find in clothing stores and that have to be removed by cashiers. (Source: Chicago Tribune)

Articles about Spotify

  • Amazon Music introduces lossless, high-definition streaming — Spotify says it's not what people want
    Amazon Music's new HD streaming plan will cost $14.99 a month for the HD tier, or $12.99/monthly for Prime subscribers. Amazon says it has a catalog of over 50 million HD songs and defines HD as CD-quality 16-bit and 44.1kHz sample rate. It will deliver the files in lossless FLAC instead of Tidal's MQA format. Spotify has tested lossless audio in select markets in the past the past but has determined there's no mass appeal there. Apple is flirting with its own AAC format with high-definition but has stopped short of a lossless commitment. (Source: Digital Music News)
  • Spotify hits 113 million paying subscribers worldwide
    Spotify posted better-than-expected quarterly results with a premium subscriber count that now stands at 113 million, a 31% jump over the same point last year. At the end of 2018, Spotify counted 75 million paying subs, and added 5 million in the last three months alone. In total, there were 232 million active users (including 'ad-supported' users), an overall improvement of 30% year-over-year. But tellingly, 90.2% of Spotify's revenues are coming from premium subscribers. (Source: Digital Music News)
  • Spotify for Artists gets an overhaul — now shows real-time listening stats
    Spotify has released a redesigned Spotify for Artists app with real-time listening stats. The new app displays the total number of people who are listening to the artists' tracks worldwide. Those stats will continue to update for the first week the app rolls out live. The update is rolling out now to iOS and Android users, with desktop versions also part of the platform mix. Also included in the update is more information about recent milestones, like new followers or playlist adds. (Source: Digital Music News)

Vinyl is poised to outsell CDs for the first time since 1986
Sales of vinyl records have enjoyed constant growth in recent years. At the same time, CD sales are in a nosedive. In February, the RIAA reported that vinyl sales accounted for more than a third of the revenue coming from physical releases. This trend continues in RIAA's 2019 mid-year report, which shows that vinyl records earned $224.1 million (on 8.6 million units) in the first half of 2019, closing in on the $247.9 million (on 18.6 million units) generated by CD sales. Vinyl revenue grew by 12.8% in the second half of 2018 and 12.9% in the first six months of 2019, while the revenue from CDs barely budged. If these trends hold, records will soon be generating more money than compact discs. (Source: Rolling Stone)

Gen Xers, millennials, and even some Gen Zs choose vinyl and drive record sales up
Vinyl sales have been surging in the last few years, as CD sales stay flat and digital downloads decrease. In the United Kingdom, data from 2016 reveals that vinyl LP sales revenue surpassed that of digital downloads. And in the United States, LP sales are on par with the sales of CDs. Despite being a 20th century technology, it turns out the young today still account for part of the new surge in vinyl sales. RIAA data shows that 25-to-34-year-olds and 18-to-24-year-olds accounted for 19 and 16 per cent respectively of U.S. new vinyl sales in 2018. (Source:The Conversation)

Apple Is officially shutting down iTunes — but song downloads aren't completely dead
When Apple released the newest version of its MacOS operating system on October 7th, it marked the end of the iTunes era. iTunes is officially going away after close to two decades in operation. The company has moved its functionality into 3 different apps: Apple Music, Podcasts and Apple TV. Those with large MP3 libraries collected from the glory days of iTunes can still listen to their songs through Music, despite the app's focus on music streaming. What's more, the iTunes Store still exists for those not subscribed to Music, so people can still purchase individual songs if for some reason they do not want to use a streaming service. (Source: Digital Music News)

Musicians fear for livelihood without streaming residuals
The life of a studio musician in Los Angeles is becoming increasingly precarious, and the rapidly changing tech landscape may play a large role. The denial of streaming residuals — layered on top of the offshoring of large amounts of scoring work to London and Eastern Europe — has been a growing source of anger for musicians as Hollywood conglomerates make bets on direct-to-consumer platforms, with Disney, Comcast and WarnerMedia all launching efforts within the year. And while singers (through their membership in SAG-AFTRA) receive residuals, instrumentalists are left out. (Source: Hollywood Reporter)

YouTube Music says it pays the same royalty rate as Spotify — at least on its subscription streams
Spotify is notorious for low royalty payouts to artists. But compared to YouTube, Spotify's per-stream rates are downright lavish. Thanks to its reliance on ads and a relative disregard for meaningful monetization, YouTube's per-stream royalties to creators are embarrassingly paltry. In fact, when it comes to artist and songwriter royalties, YouTube always finishes dead last against other streaming platforms like Spotify, Amazon Music, Pandora, and Apple Music. Now, it looks like Google/Alphabet is making some effort to change that — at least on the paid side. Just recently, YouTube said that per-stream royalty payouts from its paid YouTube Music platform are now equal to that of Spotify Premium. (Source: Digital Music News)

Metallica makes box office history with 'S&M²'
The international theatrical film release of Metallica and San Francisco Symphony: S&M² has cemented itself as the largest ever global rock event cinema release having earned $5.5 million at the box office across 95+ countries in 3,700+ cinemas worldwide.  Filmed over the two sold out Metallica shows that opened the Chase Center — the new 18,064-seat arena in San Francisco — Metallica and San Francisco Symphony: S&M² captures more than two and a half hours of James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett and Robert Trujillo joining forces with the nearly 80-strong SF Symphony, with a special appearance by legendary conductor Michael Tilson Thomas. (Source: The Music Universe)

Jim James and the Louisville Orchestra appear on "The Tonight Show"
What were James of My Morning Jacket fame and members of the Louisville Orchestra, led by its musical director and conductor Teddy Abrams, doing on the show?  "Jimmy (Fallon) is a big fan of Jim James," said Abrams. "I think the last time Jim was on 'The Tonight Show' they talked about all this upcoming work with the Louisville Orchestra, and he and the producers were immediately excited."  Abrams is referring to "The Order of Nature" — a unique collaboration between the Louisville Orchestra's conductor and James, who is known worldwide as a genre-bending solo artist and leader of the legendary rock band My Morning Jacket. The work was performed and recorded recently in Louisville and was then showcased on The Tonight Show. (Source: The Courier-Journal)

Appeals court says the Trump administration can't force states to repeal net neutrality
The Obama Administration's FCC initially implemented net neutrality to force internet service providers to treat all traffic equally. A reversal by the Trump Administration strikes that federal requirement, while further attempting to block state and local attempts to impose net neutrality requirements. While a U.S. federal court has now upheld the FCC's decision to eliminate net neutrality rules back in 2017, the decision was hardly a victory for the Trump Administration. The court indicated that the FCC must rework certain parts of its neutrality repeal and also overturned the FCC's attempts to prevent localities from adopting their own net neutrality rules. (Source: Digital Music News)

Musicians, tired of paltry streaming payments, protest the HBO Max Launch at Warner Bros. Studios
Los Angeles musicians held a protest and an impromptu performance under the water tower of Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, as they continue to attempt to receive fair pay for streamed content. The musicians were protesting the launch of a new streaming service called HBO Max from WarnerMedia. It is part of their long-running #BandTogether campaign, which is trying to bring residual payments to musicians in new media in line with other workers, such as actors, writers and singers. The American Federation of Musicians (AFM) members insist that, when studios stream their work, they effectively receive a 75% pay cut. So far, the major film and television studios, as they move more and more films and television shows to streaming platforms, are refusing to meet the musicians' demands. (Source: Digital Music News)