@ tnm___: Women Artists Lose Out When Algorithms Help Book Events

[This is a really important post by Tshepo Mokoena–in a male dominated industry (streaming) that reflects another male-dominated industry (music), with playlists manipulated by men to men, the much vaunted “artist data” benefits for touring falls down both economically, artistically and ethically.  Turns out streaming is a hyperefficient way to make sure the rich keep getting richer and the bias keeps getting stronger.  Thanks, again, Spotify!]

A funny thing happens when a mixed-gender group chats in a room: people, of all genders, tend to think that the women are talking more. And they tend to think that even while the opposite is true….In translation: women have had to fight for a voice in the public sphere so much that their bare minimum participation is seen as Too Much.

I bring this up, because it’s just about that time for the annual rollout of the coming summer’s festival lineups and their inevitable gender imbalances. Welcome! You can almost draw a parallel between that academic idea – how one woman speaking a little, giving a bit of input, is perceived as her being on a par vocally with the men in the room – and the way women can still feel like a box-ticking afterthought at festivals. A 2017 BBC study found that all-male acts accounted for 80 percent of UK festival headliners. The same study also noted that a quarter of those top slots basically were taken by the same 20 acts – your Muses, Kasabians, Foo Fighters, Killers and so on.

But what about outside the traditional rock festival setup? This week, two events – Spotify’s Who We Be Live in London late this month, and Annie Mac’s AMP Lost & Found festival in Malta in May 2019 – shared news of some of their confirmed artists. Both present some pretty incredible talent, from UK rap, R&B and electronic music. Who We Be, after all, is the name of Spotify’s grime and rap-focused playlist. But, look closer and you also start to notice another trend emerge around gender balance, specifically when streaming plays as central a role in booking a live show, as it does for Who We Be. So while festivals are expanding beyond the ‘yes, let’s go see Kaiser Chiefs for the 18th time!!’ format, what space does that leave for women, in an industry that’s still traditionally dominated by men?

….In the US, Spotify’s RapCaviar, with its more than 10.5 million followers, is often cited as a star-maker. Only, hehehe, it turns out that women feature on it very rarely. When writer David Turner looked into the numbers, for Jezebel’s The Muse earlier this year, he found that women rappers accounted for about 4 percent of artists on the playlist between May 2016 and December 2017. Women overall made up 10.8 percent of RapCaviar artists over that time period.

Read the post on Noisy

@cheriehu42: Fraud Has Become the Latest Hurdle for Music Streaming

[Editor Charlie sez:  Cherie Hu presents a good argument for why artists and fans should demand the “user centric” royalty, or what Chris Castle calls the “Ethical Pool” approach that he’s working on.]

Fraud is applicable because there’s a tangible price tag involved in the consumption of a song: Labels and other rights owners are paid on a pro-rata basis, according to proportional volumes of on-demand streams. The average per-stream payout may not look like much — $0.004 for Spotify, slightly more for services like Apple Music and Tidal ($0.008 and $0.012, respectively), although exact rates depend on the type of artist or song….

But they can add up. A top hit like Ed Sheeran’s 2017 monster “Shape of You” would distribute millions of dollars in performance royalties to its songwriters and even more to the master-rights owner. Using Goldman Sachs’ projection that the streaming sector will hit $34 billion by 2030, millions of dollars in fraudulently acquired funds could be making their way through the royalty chain. Though unlike Twitter, which wiped out 6% of its users, the number of fake music streamers has not been determined. Says one major label head: “It’s not something we’re currently concerned about, but that’s not to say we won’t be in the future.”

Music streaming payouts are a zero-sum game,” says another industry insider. “It is imperative that services are vigilant and sophisticated in their controls to ensure that streaming fraud doesn’t dilute payments to the artists who have rightfully earned those payments”….

Here’s how “playola” works at playlist-promotion companies like Spotlister: A customer pays the company to secure prominent placement of a song on key playlists, such as those on Spotify. When a track is uploaded, it is analyzed and its metadata is used to send it to the most appropriate playlists.

Read the post on Variety

[Chris Castle says:  Remember that high profile criminal payola cases were prosecuted under state law commercial bribery statutes and not only the federal anti-payola or plugola laws.  Alan Freed pleaded to commercial bribery for actions which are literally nothing compared to what Spotify does every day.  While the federal payola laws apply to FCC licensed radio stations, commercial bribery prohibitions are not restricted to radio–so Internet companies need to take this a lot more seriously.  “Because Internet” is less of a defense every day.]

Must-Read by @LizPelly: Discover Weakly: Sexism on Spotify

ON MARCH 2, SPOTIFY ANNOUNCED the most Spotify thing imaginable: The Smirnoff Equalizer, a brand partnership in the form of a woke algorithmic discovery tool. Together, Spotify and Smirnoff claimed that the app would analyze users’ listening habits and “equalize” the gender ratio of their listening experience. Applying a binary understanding of gender, the Equalizer would quantify the user’s past six months of streaming, display the percentage of male-versus-female artists in their history, and provide them with a personalized, more “balanced” playlist. The Smirnoff Equalizer will be live through this summer, available for Spotify users of a legal drinking age in the United States and five additional countries, which should serve as reminder enough: this tool is meant to sell vodka.

Read the post on The Baffler

Must Read: @ChrisRizik: How Spotify Is Killing Jazz, Soul, Classical Music

[This is a must read post on the growing revolt against Spotify as the first known example of Orwell’s versificator.  As Chris Rizik notes, Spotify and its ilk are hardly saviors of music, more like destroyers of music and any popular culture that is more than a foot wide and an inch deep and a few years old.  There’s a reason why 10% of the music accounts for 90% of the revenue–and I think it’s more like 5% acccounts for 95%.]

Two events happened recently that caught my attention:

  • Lil Pump, a 17 year old Miami rapper, signed an $8 million recording deal with Warner Bros.
  • Around the same time, one of the leading modern soul singers in the US celebrated on social media the one millionth stream of her latest song on Spotify. Her financial haul on it? Likely around $3,000.

Though these two stories appeared unrelated, they are instructive of the strange new world of music streaming payments, and the inherent bias against soul, jazz, classical and other genres of music aimed at adult listeners….

And while there has been a lot of press about how streaming initially reduced the overall payments to record companies and artists (which has since turned around), what hasn’t been addressed as much is how streaming has changed which artists get paid. And, without a doubt, streaming has stacked the deck toward hip-hop, pop, and other genres whose listeners are teenagers and twenty-somethings.

Read the post on Hypebot

 

 

Must Read by @lizpelly: The Problem with Muzak

The music world continues to be exceedingly vulnerable, and there are looming questions that desperately need to be addressed. Most important: How can artists distribute and sell their work in a digital economy beholden to ruthlessly commercial and centralized interests?

Enter Spotify, a platform that is definitely not the answer.

Read the post on The Baffler

@agraham999: ‘BIG DATA IS ABOUT TO BECOME A VERY BIG PROBLEM FOR THE MUSIC INDUSTRY.’

If you have been to any media conference or read any trade magazine over the past several years, you would know that ‘big data’ was going to be the answer to all of the woes of the music industry.

The idea was simple: utilizing the collection of large amounts of data and profiling those generating that data (citizens) could inform you how to extract more value from your customers.

Essentially, big data was a solution pitched and sold to the music industry as a panacea to fan engagement problems….While big data seems very attractive, using personal data and profiling fans may in fact turn out to be, like oil and plastics, already outdated and toxic.

Reat the post on Music Business Worldwide

@FeaturedArtist’s Lucie Caswell calls for “due reward” to artists from Spotify equity windfalls

[And what about the songwriters?]

As the trading floor eyes up Spotify’s float, the attention of the music industry is on its licensors. None more so than music makers, who created the assets which make Spotify and its rivals, the billion-dollar businesses they are today. In theory, those assets are due for a windfall as option agreements become exercisable and paper value crystallises into cash. This is potentially a moment which proves the extraordinary opportunities of our digital age, the borderless, boundless bounty of music, the leadership of music innovation and, the enormous value in this business we love, music.

Whose value and how much however, is the conversation of the day. Spotify floating as the New York Stock Exchange takes a hit, is hopefully not prescient of the rewards to the music value chain, through rights-owners and rights licensors who included equity in their licensing deals. Premium-priced initial sales would suggest otherwise. Those licensing deals intrinsically exist for the protection and monetisation of copyright – the music rights and songs artists entrusted to those licensors, for the best advantage to achieve fans and revenues. Rights-holders, distributors, aggregators and services like Spotify, all make money from that transaction and, that trust. Surely it is only sound business that the trust will be repaid and the creators receive due reward from those valuable assets, when money is made.  Whether marketing them, streaming them, building a business upon and around them or licensing them, this industry is sustained and sustainable only, with those songs and recordings.

How much value, will be a matter of the deal at hand and the hour at which the licensor cashes in (something which it seems, will be a tightrope dance of timing over the initial roller-coaster period of trading). From that point, the licensor must decide how to distribute the win across all of the assets it has licensed. Notice I say all. There is apparently some discussion of who should be included, of what repertoire may or may not feel the windfall and who is more valuable.

At this stage we point, as we have before, to the demonstrative WIN FairDigitalDeals Declaration. This landmark calling-card for fair play by rights-holders has come of age. Principle statements are now to become practice. This simple document, signed up to by a growing, global swathe of independent labels, is indicative of how good practice is the fair, transparent and creator-led business we strive for as the FAC.  Good players are many but they also provide precedent that business can be done with equal revenue shares, clear reporting and by fit for purpose, full and fair distribution of wealth to those who create it. Now is the time for all labels and licensors to really demonstrate good intent for artists, ensuring that our ecosystem is sustainable in practice and principled throughout.

Read the post in Music Week