Guest Post by @sarahickman: Streaming Royalties Are Ending Opportunities for Working Musicians

[Sara Hickman is one of Austin’s most beloved songwriters.  She has allowed us to republish her viral Facebook post on how streaming is hollowing out the “middle class musician”.  (If you want data on this phenomenon, see the Austin Music Census, the most comprehensive work of its kind that actually connects with working musicians as opposed to the usual hoorah Chamber of Commerce bunk.)  Trust me–it’s not just Austin. As Maria Schneider has written, low streaming royalty rates and increased consumption are essentially destroying the music infrastructure from the ground up.  And the recurring theme from the World Trade Center offices of Spotify is that royalties are too high.  We’re honored to republish Sara’s important post.  And a 44% increase in streaming rates is still $0.00144.]

There were many reasons why I retired from music last year. I’ve never explained them or felt the need to, so I’m not going to start today.

But I do want to point out something that made a chilling difference in my decision. And that is streaming and downloading music versus selling physical cds/vinyl/cassettes, what have you. You’ve all heard how it affects us: the songwriters, the musicians, the bands. I want to share a living example of what streaming does. Because streaming is killing the opportunities of musicians to make a living off of their creations.

My song “I Couldn’t Help Myself” was my biggest success, in consideration of what the industry expects, it wasn’t much. But when it came out in 1990, there was a lovely video, lots of airplay, touring, promotion teams and I was flown to radio stations all over the country to perform live and chat with the DJs. All this to say hard work helped move the song to #3. I was blessed to appear on “The Tonight Show” while it was the single.

All this to lead up to the fact that it is 2018 (28 years later)
and I just received my quarterly royalty statement from Warner Music Group for all the songs from “Shortstop”. Believe it or not, my songs still get airplay around the globe, which blows my mind and, of course, makes my heart smile.

I hope you’ve read this far.

Because the pay off is you’re not going to believe what I’m about to tell you.

I recognize the numbers I’m about to share don’t amount to beans when compared with musicians who have made it to the big, BIG time. But I’ve always considered myself a working middle class musician; I worked my ass off to make a decent living and I was cool with that. I had a niche. I learned how to diversify my talents, read contracts, distribute, create and publish content (music) to support my dream. I enjoyed understanding what I was making and releasing into the world, knowing there would be end results of, hopefully, satisfied listeners and a financial reward parallel to the work, time, effort and costs associated on my end.

Having said that, I’ve watched how income numbers on royalties have dropped since streaming/downloads started.

This new earnings notice (Oct-Dec 2017) shows “I Couldn’t Help Myself” played 14,789 times (U.S., Italy, Canada, Japan, United Kingdom, United Arab Em., Belgium, etc) and here’s what that provided:

$15.98

That’s right.

FIFTEEN DOLLARS AND NINETY EIGHT CENTS for 14,789 captured results of people listening to my song.

That equals .0010 per download or stream. It’s not even
a PENNY per play. And it’s not because it’s me. That’s the level playing field of payment for all of us in music on Spotify, YouTube, Amazon download, Apple iTunes, Google Play, Tidal, Rhapsody, Slacker…even something called Neurotic Media.

Let me hip you to how many of those were downloads (as in paid for content):

19

Here’s how much streaming this one song of mine received:

14,770 plays

As today is the International Day of Women, I thought it was important to remind you of not only how women musicians are treated, but how ALL musicians are compensated and WHY it is IMPORTANT to remember to pay for music.

Video may have killed the radio star, but streaming is ending wages and opportunities for your creators.

Must read: @HITSDD: The [Billboard Stream] Weighting is the Hardest Part

[Editor Charlie sez:  Just in time for the Spotify IPO…or debt rollover…Billboard is poised to visit agita on streaming boosters when it corrects the absurd equal weighting of free streams and subscription streams in its sales/airplay/streaming chart, which should also change the way some people…ahem…average the revenue value of the ad/paid streams.]

One of the biggest stories of 2017 is playing out right now, as Billboard works on a revamp of its Top 200 album chart that will give greater weight to paid streams, while ad-supported streams will be devalued. Most majors have been lobbying for just such a revenue-based revamp.

Presently, all streams are weighted equally, with 1,500 streams counted as one album. Those in the know believe the formula for paid streams will be adjusted to 1,250:1, while ad-supported streams will be devalued to 5,000:1. In other words, premium streams would have four times the weight of ad-supported. Under the existing metric, 100m streams of any kind would count as 66,667 albums, while under the new proposal, 100m ad-supported streams would count as just 20k albums, and 100m paid streams would count as 80k albums. On the other hand, albums that rely heavily on ad-supported streams for long periods of time could lose thousands of chart units.

YouTube streams will supposedly continue to be excluded from the Top 200, following vehement protests by rights holders over their possible inclusion.

Read the must read on HITS Daily Double

@noamcohen: Silicon Valley is Not Your Friend

Late last month, Mark Zuckerberg wrote a brief post on Facebook at the conclusion of Yom Kippur, asking his friends for forgiveness not just for his personal failures but also for his professional ones, especially “the ways my work was used to divide people rather than bring us together.” He was heeding the call of the Jewish Day of Atonement to take stock of the year just passed as he pledged that he would “work to do better.”

Such a somber, self-critical statement hasn’t been typical for the usually sunny Mr. Zuckerberg, who once exhorted his employees at Facebook to “move fast and break things.” In the past, why would Mr. Zuckerberg, or any of his peers, have felt the need to atone for what they did at the office? For making incredibly cool sites that seamlessly connect billions of people to their friends as well as to a global storehouse of knowledge?

Lately, however, the sins of Silicon Valley-led disruption have become impossible to ignore.

Facebook has endured a drip, drip of revelations concerning Russian operatives who used its platform to influence the 2016 presidential election by stirring up racist anger. Google had a similar role in carrying targeted, inflammatory messages during the election, and this summer, it appeared to play the heavy when an important liberal think tank, New America, cut ties with a prominent scholar who is critical of the power of digital monopolies. Some within the organization questioned whether he was dismissed to appease Google and its executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, both longstanding donors, though New America’s executive president and a Google representative denied a connection.

Meanwhile, Amazon, with its purchase of the Whole Foods supermarket chain and the construction of brick-and-mortar stores, pursues the breathtakingly lucrative strategy of parlaying a monopoly position online into an offline one, too.

Now that Google, Facebook, Amazon have become world dominators, the question of the hour is, can the public be convinced to see Silicon Valley as the wrecking ball that it is?

These menacing turns of events have been quite bewildering to the public, running counter to everything Silicon Valley had preached about itself.

Read the post on the New York Times

@sarahfrier @gerryfsmith: Media Companies Are Getting Sick of Facebook

[Editor Charlie sez: royalty deadbeat Facebook is making friends all over.]

When Facebook Inc. wants to try something new, one of its first calls is to CNN. It was a key partner when Facebook introduced its news-reading app, Paper, in 2014. When the social network shuttered Paper soon after, transmogrifying it into a series of fast-­loading News Feed stories called Instant Articles, CNN remained on board. And last year, when Facebook began focusing on hosting live video, CNN was one of the few parties to which it paid a nominal fee to produce clips of, say, election results being projected on the Empire State Building.

But strain is showing in the relationship. Facebook’s latest pitch to publishers such as CNN is for them to provide a regular stream of TV-quality, edited, original videos that will give Mark Zuckerberg’s company a chance to compete with YouTube to siphon some of the $70 billion pouring into TV ads each year. In exchange, the publishers can share some of the revenue for ads that roll in the middle of the videos. Facebook will control all the ad sales.

It’s getting tougher for CNN and others to view these arrangements as mutually beneficial. “Facebook is about Facebook,” says Andrew Morse, general manager of CNN’s digital operations. “For them, these are experiments, but for the media companies looking to partner with ­significant commitments, it gets to be a bit of whiplash.” Morse says the financial compensation Facebook offers isn’t enough to convince him that working directly with the social network will be worthwhile in the long term.

Jason Kint, chief executive officer of the industry trade group Digital Content Next, was more blunt. “Media companies are like serfs working Facebook’s land,” he says.  [Editor Charlie sez, “Aren’t we all?”]

Read the post on Bloomberg

@andreworlowski: Google, propaganda, and the new New Man

Google has begun to infuse American TV and movies shows with propaganda – “good propaganda”, the company insists. However, it’s unlikely to please two groups who rarely agree on anything: those who think Google isn’t diverse enough, and conservatives who fear its political and media power.

So far, Google’s “interventions” have so far been limited to making computer geeks appear more attractive. For example, following Google’s advice, a greater proportion of programmers portrayed will be women, rather than guys in hoodies. Shows apparently benefitting from the Google touch include Halt and Catch Fire, and the sitcom Silicon Valley. And expect more of the usual homilies to “learn to code” – another more subtle form of indoctrination.

President Obama was kept up to date on the efforts. White House logs show that he met both Google’s co-ordinator, media program manager Julie Ann Crommett, and the academics Google funded to study the initiative, Professor Stacy Smith at USC Annenberg, a prominent commentator on gender issues.

Diversity campaigners and conservatives have good reason to be wary when Google inserts itself in the business of mass communication. Let’s take each case in turn.

Read the post on The Register

@royaltyclaim CEO: Services are Spending $50,000 a week to file “address unknown” NOIs

Press Release Teaser:

“DSPs are collectively spending an average of over $50,000 PER WEEK to file mass ‘address unknown’ NOIs under the Section 115 compulsory license provision of the US Copyright Act.” – Dae Bogan, Chief Researcher at Royalty Claim / CEO at TuneRegistry

More facts to come out next week when he presents Royalty Claim’s report on the state of unclaimed royalties and music licenses at the Music Industry Research Association’s MIRA Conference on August 11th at UCLA. www.themira.org

Must Read Post by @adamkraymond: The Streaming Problem: How Spammers, Superstars, and Tech Giants Gamed the Music Industry

[Editor Charlie sez: When you read Adam Raymond’s post about Spotify, you’ll probably wonder how these scummy tracks get onto Spotify in the first place.  Who thinks of this stuff?

Remember this from Tunecore’s “Music Industry Survival Guide” circa 2009?

TIPS TO SELL MORE MUSIC ONLINE
You’re an artist, composer, performer, you make music: you used TuneCore to distribute your music into iTunes and other stores. Here are some easy ways to get discovered and sell more music.

Cover Popular Songs
Cover versions of songs sell well. Known songs have a built-in audience already. People looking for “Let It Be” or “America the Beautiful” know what they want. If you “cover” (record your own original version) of these songs you create a way to get discovered and make money. And once someone buys a song of yours they are more inclined to listen to and buy other songs you have recorded.

Also, naming your song the same name as a more popular song allows it to surface when people search.  With one click to listen to a 30 second stream within the digital stores, you can increase getting heard.  However, you do want to be careful as to not make a potential fan angry at you for tricking them into listening.

Record Holiday-Themed Music
Music tied into or about a holiday sells well. For example, “spooky” Halloween sound effects or “scary” themed music (i.e. “Tubular Bells”, the theme song to the movie the The Exorcist) sells enormously around Halloween. Christmas music sells really well around the Christmas season. This ties back to covers: a cover of “White Christmas” or “Jingle Bell Rock” can fund you through the rest of the year. Don’t forget other, perhaps neglected holidays throughout the calendar-there is no doubt the world needs a great Groundhog Day or Columbus Day anthem. Be sure to name your songs with easily searchable words.

Searchability
Stores like eMusic, iTunes and Amazon Music have millions upon millions of songs in their stores. Most customers use the “search” function in the store to find music, so take advantage of it: put words in your album, artist/band and song titles that will help you show up when people search. Are you a mariachi band? Put the word “mariachi” in your name. Is your album a collection of nature sounds? Consider words like “forest” and “natural,” and so on. This is a gray area: if your music sounds like Bob Dylan, don’t necessarily use his name, but you could use words with association, like “folk.” It’s your music, but ask yourself, what words can I use in my band name, album name and/or song name that will cause my music to appear when people search?

Keep this in mind when you read Raymond’s post!]

Excepts from The Streaming Problem: How Spammers, Superstars, and Tech Giants Gamed the Music Industry [and Spotify]

On a website with more than 100 million active daily users, there are plenty of ways to game the system, be it for attention, or, if the streams pile up enough, profit. And the frauds cashing in on the latest hot single are hardly alone. A bevy of unknown artists have found ways to juice their streaming totals, whether it’s covering songs from artists who don’t allow their songs on Spotify, or uploading an album of silent tracks, each precisely long enough to generate a fraction of a cent for the artist.

Gaming Spotify does not rely strictly on deception. Some artists, a term used very loosely here, are providing people exactly what they want. It just so happens that what they want is ephemeral nonsense. Take, for example, the artist Happy Birthday Library, whose Spotify catalogue consists of hundreds of personalized versions of “Happy Birthday” streamed more than a million times.

The success of this gimmick — obvious by the sheer number of “Happy Birthday” artists — provides a handy illustration of how much on-demand streaming has changed the way we use music. Twenty years ago, finding a personalized version of “Happy Birthday” for your towheaded son Grover required a trip to the novelty-music kiosk at your local mega mall. Now, you just have to ask Alexa and seconds later the song’s blasting throughout the playroom. The seamless integration of streaming music into our daily lives has encouraged the creation of disposable songs that, years ago, no one would have imagined listening to through speakers. But now that a jazz version of the Gilligan’s Island theme is easily available, why not?….

A cynic might look at all of this and shrug his shoulders. Craven opportunism has been a part of the music industry since the first concert ticket was sold. But even if the money-grubbing isn’t new, the manner in which it’s grubbed is. And no matter who’s doing it, the effect is the same: Music is devalued.

Never before has a song title or artist name been more important than the actual songs themselves. There are no consequences for deception, either. Every day there’s a new mark searching for “Lucky for You That’s What I Like,” and listening to a song by Franz Horrman before realizing his error. Never before have so many songs existed just so an album can have a 20th, 30th, or 40th track. Now, major artists hoping for quick success on the charts can perfect ten songs, or they can just churn out three dozen. The streaming numbers could be the same either way.

Read the post on Vulture [EVERY WORD!!]