Is Streaming a New Shadow Economy?

…there was lunch in the larger, first floor cafeteria where, in the corner, on a small stage there was a man, playing a guitar, who looked like an aging singer-songwriter Mae’s parents listened to.

“Is that….?”

“It is,” Annie said, not breaking her stride.  “There’s someone every day.   Musicians, comedians, writers….We book them a year ahead.  We have to fight them off.”

The singer-songwriter was signing passionately…but the vast majority of the cafeteria was paying little to no attention.

“I can’t imagine the budget for that, ” Mae said.

“Oh god, we don’t pay them.”

The Circle, by Dave Eggers

The New York Times teased their reporting today by Andy Newman on “canning” entitled “Making ends meet, five cents at a time.”

In New York City, a shadow economy has sprouted up around recyclable bottles and cans. Dionisia Rivera, above, sells the items she collects on the Upper East Side.

Our reporter takes you inside the world of “canning,” which provides a lifeline to thousands as stable low-skill jobs disappear in the city.

“Five cents a time”?  Really?  That’s at least 10x more than a Spotify stream.  Maybe we’re in the wrong business.  In fact, maybe we should be in the business of canning at Spotify’s palatial offices in the World Trade Center.

It’s kind of amazing that Spotify doesn’t have “Cans for Musicians” as part of their extensive recycling program.  You know, help them musos get their side hustle on.

It may be the only thing green about streaming.

Photo by Andrew Seng for the New York Times

@terry5mag: Purged: How a failed economic theory still rules the digital music marketplace

[Must read takedown of the “long tail” (aka utter shite) by the erudite Terry Matthews]

Unless you spent a lot of time listening to early ’00s techno-utopian babble, the Theory of the Long Tail probably means nothing to you. Yet if you live in the US or Europe and you run a digital music label, you’re living it – or the fallout from it – almost every day.

In 2004, Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson proposed The Long Tail, an economic theory blown up by futurist steroids. It theorized that with the introduction of the internet, blockbusters would matter less and everyone would sell “less of more.” The Long Tail prophesied “How Endless Choice Is Creating Unlimited Demand,” according to the subtitle of Anderson’s later book, which if true would turn the field of economics on its head.

For a practical example of what this all means, compare a brick-and-mortar record store like the old Tower Records vs. an online retailer like Traxsource. Your local Tower Records had to limit its inventory to take into account a finite shelf space. Their stock might have consisted of a couple hundred records. And each record didn’t get equal shelf space: your hippie boomer parents were going to buy more copies of Beatles records than all your Belgian techno records, so the store would stock and give more attention to the former. This “artificial” scarcity of physical products taking up physical space and depriving it from other products had bent consumer behavior out of shape for basically all of history.

Read the post on 5 Mag

@RBMillado: Too much streaming content is causing viewer ‘paralysis’: Nielsen

Playlistomania?  I wonder what it is on Spotify–that’s what 50 million tracks will do for you.  If this replicates to “listener paralysis” (which seems plausible), it may help explain why the streaming revenue share model leads to declining royalty rates and greater concentration of wealth in a hyper efficient market share distribution.  (Deezer reportedly conducted a similar study in 2018 using a casual poll with findings based more on age than choice.)  Less is more, kids, less is more.

Nielsen’s new Total Audience Report found that the average TV viewer takes seven minutes just to pick what to watch….[A]mong adult subscription-video-on-demand (SVOD) users, only a third of them bother to browse the menu to find content, with 21 percent saying they simply give up watching if they’re unable to make a choice when bombarded with options.

Read the post on the NY Post

Must read by @mr_trick: Music Streaming Services Are Gaslighting Us

…[W]e have a chronic abundance problem — one that dovetails into a much broader societal issue. Silicon Valley recognised that in a digital realm, you can have everything of everything. This is why we are all glued to our phones, because with infinite content — however facile — to hoover up, we gorge away; a fairly literal representation of Huxley’s “amusing ourselves to death”. This end result is not a positive step; we are burning ourselves out and mental health issues are constantly on the rise. Quite simply, we as humans were not made for an “always on” lifestyle.

With music, the same thing has happened. By giving us everything of everything, we overload and take nothing of anything, overwhelmed in the face of it all.

Read the post on Medium.

@musicindustree: Everything That’s Wrong With Streaming Music Networks

The majority of people who champion streaming are not your average artist, they are not even the top 10 per cent of artists. The advocators of the commentary we hear day to day are music industry press, mainstream press, the streaming networks themselves, aggregators and Digital Service Providers (DSPs) and of course users, who get an amazing experience of all the music in the world for 9.99.

Read the post on MusicIndustTweet

@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.]