Digital Media Digest

October 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. .

Music piracy is falling out of favor as streaming services become more widespread, new figures show. One in 10 people in the UK use illegal downloads, down from 18% in 2013, according to YouGov's Music Report. The trend looks set to continue - with 22% of those who get their music illegitimately saying they do not expect to be doing so in five years. "It is now easier to stream music than to pirate it," said one survey participant. Another respondent said: "Spotify has everything from new releases to old songs, it filled the vacuum, there was no longer a need for using unverified sources." (Source: BBC)


Musicians received just 12 percent of the $43 billion in sales generated from their work in the U.S. last year, according a report by Citigroup. The figure includes revenue from CD sales, on-demand streaming, advertisements on YouTube, radio royalties and concert tickets. The report is likely to fuel longstanding complaints that record labels and technology companies are getting rich off the work of artists. The report could help push musicians further into the arms of streaming services like Apple and Spotify, which can potentially offer them a larger share of sales if they forgo a record deal. Separating artists from record labels would enable streaming services to reduce their costs dramatically. Paid streaming services pay out the majority of their sales to rights holders, a relationship that prevents them from turning a profit. (Source: Bloomberg)


“Royalties” are the sums paid to rights-holders when their creations are sold, distributed, embedded in other media or monetized in any other way. Rolling Stone has put together a useful guide to how musicians, songwriters and producers in the digital era actually get their hands on that money. (Source: Rolling Stone)


Deutsche Grammophon and Apple Music announced the launch of a new classical music audio and visual playlist that will highlight recordings from the iconic label's 120-year history. "The DG Playlist" will feature a selection of audio and visual recordings the label intends will create a "destination" for classical music fans. (Source: BIllboard)


Since its 2008 launch, Spotify has realigned the global music industry toward streaming, popularizing the idea of music as a service rather than goods that consumers own. As the company has grown—it now has 170 million users in more than 60 countries and 75 million of them are paying subscribers—it’s turned around the fortunes of what had been a declining industry. After global music revenues slumped from 2001 to 2014, streaming has put the recording business on an upward trajectory again, growing more than $3 billion in the past three years. Spotify reported $1.3 billion in revenue for the first quarter of 2018, and analysts expect it to generate more than $6 billion this year, 90% of it from subscriptions and 10% from advertising. (Source: Fast Company)


For decades, the path to stardom in the music industry has usually gone through one of the three major record companies that control around 80 percent of the business: Universal, Sony and Warner. Now Spotify is experimenting with another approach, one that is making those labels nervous. Over the last year, the 12-year-old company has quietly struck direct licensing deals with a small number of independent artists. The deals give those artists a way onto the streaming platform and a closer relationship to the company — an advantage when pitching music for its influential playlists — while bypassing the major labels altogether. (Source: New York Times)


Spotify has announced a new beta feature that will allow independent artists to upload their music directly to the platform instead of through a label or digital aggregator. Normally, artists who aren’t signed to a major label (which can directly upload music to Spotify) have to pay a fee to a third-party service like Tunecore to upload their music to Spotify. The company will offer artists 50 percent of Spotify’s net revenue and 100 percent of royalties for the songs they upload. (Source: The Verge)


There's actually more strategy behind Spotify’s direct upload feature than meets the eye. For one thing, direct uploads become a big differentiator between platforms, since major rival Apple Music is such a closed environment that it's doubtful that it would ever be open to something similar. Many indie artists are likely to upload to Spotify alone (not a great idea in the grand scheme of things, but it's easy to go with just the market leader), thereby giving the platform what amounts to a great deal of exclusive content. It may not be the top hits, but it could add up substantially over time even on an indie level. Second, it may boost the number of users as artists who were not subscribers must now do so in order to upload their songs. Finally, it's a way to increase the catalog volume, which can be another differentiator in the market. (Source: Forbes)


A new streaming service devoted exclusively to classical music has launched in the United States, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Called Primephonic, the platform claims to have nearly all classical music ever recorded, with over 1 million tracks available at the push of a button. Catalogues on offer include those from Warner Classics, Sony Classical, Universal Music Classics, Decca, Deutsche Grammophon and EMI, in addition to more than 400 other labels worldwide. Users can search by composer, title, artist, musical period and genre; and background information, including colorful anecdotes about the artists and recordings, is also available. (Source: Los Angeles Times)


Berlin-based classical music streaming service Idagio has raised more than $11.75 million for its North American expansion. Idagio currently offers more than one million classical music tracks for streaming, with licensing deals from all major record labels. The music streaming service also has agreements with more than 1,000 independent labels and rightsholders with a catalog is only growing with time. The firm estimates that more than 20,000 new tracks are being added each week to the service. Perhaps the best feature is its professionally curated playlists with content from virtuoso performers, orchestras, and opera companies offered for listeners to enjoy. (Source: Digital Music News)


Steve Robinson, the former general manager and executive vice president of WFMT and the WFMT Radio Network, is out to revolutionize the way we listen to classical music and the way radio delivers it. He recently launched “Classical Profiles” (, an audio download series that he believes “might just create a new audience for classical music.” This venture is not a podcast in the conventional sense, in that it is not scheduled on a regular basis. Unlike most podcasts available for free, this is not free but is reasonably priced with individual episodes $4, and all of them for $9. There is also the opportunity to buy companion downloads of all the musical compositions excerpted in each episode. (Source: Chicago Tribune)


Minneapolis-based Public Radio International will merge with PRX, a Boston audio technology company. The combined organization will reach an audience of 28.5 million people each month in broadcast and online, and have 56 million monthly podcast downloads. Kerri Hoffman, CEO of PRX, will become chief executive of the new organization. Alisa Miller, chief executive of PRI, will be executive chair of the new organization's board of directors during its first year. Miller said PRI sought out PRX for the merger, and the two firms said that Boston's WGBH has committed $10 million to the new enterprise. The money will be spent on new content, including improvements to PRI's "The World," the creation of an audio production studio, and to open new PRX Podcast Garages (community podcast studios) beyond the flagship Boston location. (Source: Star Tribune)


As part of the campaign for his new album, “Six Evolutions – Bach: Cello Suites,” Yo-Yo Ma has created an experience for Amazon Alexa to engage a new audience of listeners with classical music. In 36 short episodes, Ma will take listeners on a journey through the music of J.S. Bach, sharing snippets from “Six Evolutions” and stories from a lifetime of playing Bach’s cello suites.  the conversation will be available as an Alexa Skill and on Sony Classical’s Today in Classical Flash Briefing on Amazon Alexa-enabled devices. (Source: Variety)


Research conducted by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra has suggested that film, television, and computer game soundtracks are ‘the biggest single influence for introducing children to orchestral music’. Of a representative sample of 586 children aged 6-15, 44% said film introduced them to the classical genre, followed by TV (34%) and YouTube (16%). By comparison, 29% of children said they had listened to orchestral music at school. 32% said their school did not encourage them to learn an instrument; of this number, 23% said they had never experienced orchestral music at all. 15% of children said they had discovered the genre as a soundtrack to a computer game they had played. (Source: Rhinegold Publishing)


Classical music often gets a bad rap in movies. When you hear Mozart in a James Bond film, chances are the villain is using his trusty feed-foes-to-the-sharks contraption. Wagner is a soundtrack for violence. Bach? Dinner music. For Hannibal Lecter.  So the release of “Bel Canto” — an adaptation of Ann Patchett’s hugely successful 2001 novel of the same name, starring Julianne Moore as an American diva caught up in a hostage drama in South America — gives opera a welcome chance to return to the screen in a very different key. “Bel Canto” is the rare film that does not use opera to comment ironically on bloodshed, or signal sinister depravity, or provide the sonic equivalent of a heart-shaped box of chocolates in a moment of slightly cloying Valentine’s Day-style romance. Mixing elements of thriller and romantic drama, “Bel Canto” is not exactly an opera film. But it uses music as character and catalyst, a vital force uniting artist and fan, hostage and guerrilla, plutocrat and revolutionary. (Source: New York Times)


James Rhodes, a pianist, performed a Bach composition for his Facebook account, but it didn't go up — Facebook's copyright filtering system pulled it down and accused him of copyright infringement because Sony Music Global had claimed that they owned 47 seconds' worth of his personal performance of a song whose composer has been dead for 300 years. (Source: Boing Boing)


The empire strikes Bach
A Boing Boing report about how "you can't play Bach on YouTube" without getting served with a takedown notice, because Sony has claimed that it owns the copyright for the works of Johann Sebastian Bach, is partially correct and partially misleading. As it happens, Sony genuinely does hold the copyright for several major Bach recordings, a collection crowned by Glenn Gould's performances. The YouTube claim was not that Sony owned Bach's music in itself. Rather, YouTube conveyed Sony's claim that Rhodes had recycled portions of a particular performance of Bach from a Sony recording.  The fact that James Rhodes was actually playing should have been enough to halt any sane person from filing the complaint. But that's the real point of the story. No sane person was involved, because no actual person was involved. It all happened mechanically, from the application of the algorithms in YouTube's Content ID system. (Source: Free Beacon)


Cellphones, bird calls welcomed at symphony season opener
The Shreveport Symphony Orchestra's first concert marches into the new season with "pomp and pageantry." composer Tan Dun's “Passacaglia: Secret of Wind and Birds" will begin the evening. The piece will call for audience participation and cell phone use. As the musicians play the aviary-themed selection, guests will be cued to play the provided audio track of birds chirping. The experience will be completed with a visual display of photographic images of birds projected behind the orchestra. The images of birds were contributed by local photographers and curated by Shreveport artist Neil Johnson (Source: Shreveport Times)


After a long and complicated journey, the Senate passed the Music Modernization Act by unanimous consent, paving the way for improved royalty payments to songwriters, artists and creatives in the digital era. Next, the bill returns to the House for approval of the Senate version, then it will go before President Trump to be signed into law. Sources tell Variety that a last-minute deal was struck between SiriusXM, the National Music Publishers Association and the Recording Industry Association of America, brokered through Global Music Rights chief Irving Azoff, that led to the unanimous vote. While SiriusXM did not succeed in resolving one of its major and longstanding issues — that terrestrial radio does not pay performers or sound-recording royalties for the broadcast of their music, although it does pay songwriters and publishers — it did secure an amendment that guarantees artists will be paid 50% of the monies SiriusXM pays to labels for pre-1972 sound recordings, which were not covered by federal law. (Source: Variety)