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.
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
[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.Â 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.
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.
One of the internet’s core strengths is its ability to create communities on a scale that were never possible before. People from around the world can loosely group together around a topic remarkably easily. What used to be a niche interest can suddenly be shared with millions of other people.
This has obviously had something of an impact on the music industry….
These “fake hits” are fascinating because they are hits. They have millions upon millions of streams, coming from a huge global audience. And those streams equal a very significant revenue stream. For example, if you get on “Today’s Top Hits”, the biggest playlist on Spotify, you can expect to get at least a couple of hundred thousand streams a day – more if you’re near the top of the playlist – and that adds up to a decent amount of money if you do the math. From one playlist, on one platform.
But they’re still fake. Outside of the bubble, there seems to be very little resonance or connection. You can’t sell out shows based on big streaming numbers alone. These numbers represent attention and revenue, which is great, but the engagement is transitory, at least to the scale that the numbers would suggest. They’re the start of a fan’s journey with an artist rather then the end. The fans listening to tracks on Today’s Top Hits are listening to exactly that – they’re listening to the playlist, not the tracks. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this – in fact, quite the opposite, it’s an amazingly powerful new mode of music discovery. Where things come unstuck is where this new pattern of engagement – curation bubbles and echo chambers – slams into the traditional record industry.
Is streaming music a good business?
Streaming has taken over as the dominant music format and is attributed with revitalizing the moribund business of record labels big and small. But for streaming companies, the answer is not as clear-cut.
[Editor Charlie sez: This day has been coming since we first ran this spoof picture of Daniel Ek–but not everyone was laughing after they got their Spotify royalty statement. Mark Mulligan has parsed Spotify’s recently release financial statements and has some interesting admissions by Spotify–starting with a more accurate total of paid subscribers.
This tweet was widely reported as “50 million paid subscribers” by Spotify’s boosters in the press:
But Mark Mulligan points out–as did many privately–that the correct number was much less than 50 million, although Mulligan’s analysis results in an even more generous number than the whisper number (assuming “paid user” means the same as “paid subscriber” which it might not given Spotify’s premium deals like its partnership with the New York Times):
That would be the New York Times that did not cover Spotify’s $44.3 million class action settlement with Melissa Ferrick. Here’s an excerpt from Mr. Mulligan’s excellent post]
As Spotify nears a public listing or an acquisition by Alibaba or Tencent, it remains the benchmark for the health of the streaming economy. With the underlying fundamentals remaining largely unchanged in 2016 despite stellar growth, here are a few thoughts on how the economics of streaming might change:
An often repeated argument from record labels is that streaming services will hit profitability when they reach scale. So, when does that happen? 48 million subscribers can lay a good claim to being ‘scale’, but it isn’t driving profit. While the market establishes itself, streaming services have to overspend on product innovation and marketing (and then, later, on user retention). So, these costs will likely rise in relative terms. Meanwhile, rights are always going to remain largely in line with revenue (though the UMG and Merlin deals reward growth with some discounting, which is a welcome innovation). But even these deals will not change the fact that rights will be large enough to challenge margins and will largely scale with growth. Which means no truly meaningful scale benefits. So here are a few alternative ways in which streaming margins might be improved….
Stuart Dredge over at Music Ally is reporting Spotify’s losses widened to $600 million last year. Read his article here.
I just wanted to point out that some significant portion of these widening losses are due to currency swings. March 29th 2016 Spotify announced a $1 billion US denominated convertible debt deal with TPG and others. Since that time the US dollar has risen considerably against most currencies. A disproportionate share of Spotify’s income is NOT in US Dollars. Therefore the vig on that convertible debt is now headed towards payday loan rates. Ouch!
This is good news and bad news for artists.
The good news is this may force Spotify to limit the free tier and convert more US subscribers to premium. They need more US dollar income to stop the hemorrhaging from the US debt! Remember artists’ royalties from premium subscribers are 8-10 times higher than free listeners. More premium subscribers is a good thing for artists.
The bad news is Spotify has already indicated they want to pay lower royalties to artists because they are losing so much money. This is completely fucked up. It’s not our fault the company is so poorly managed.