@MicahSingleton: SoundCloud to Let Fans Pay Artists Directly

[Editor Charlie sez: The “virtual gift” is kind of old news and we’ve been covering it since 2018–but–it’s another market confirmation that streaming royalties are inadequate (nobody talked about virtual gifts with Tower Records or iTunes Music Store). It would be better if Spotify spent less time gorging themselves with their snouts in the public markets trough and more time figuring out how to pay performers a sustainable royalty.]

SoundCloud is preparing to introduce a new payment system that would allow fans to pay artists directly, multiple sources close to the situation tell Billboard, setting what could be a game-changing precedent for the streaming world.

The move would make SoundCloud the first major music streaming service to embrace a direct payment model, a strategy that has been popular with Chinese streaming services like Tencent Music’s QQ Music for years, and one that subscription services like Patreon and OnlyFans have built their businesses around, as musicians and fans around the world clamor for bigger digital music distributors to do the same.

Read the post at Billboard

Read Chris’s 2018 post about virtual gifts: Ethical Props–How Streamers Can Empower Fans on the Path to Sustainability 

@xpangler: Universal Music Pulls Song Catalog From Triller, Saying TikTok Copycat ‘Shamefully’ Withheld Artist Payments

[There are some people you meet in life who just always seem to have the wrong side of the deal. We’ve seen this time and time again where services talk a big game and end up screwing you either on the front end, the back end or in the cracks. If they would do it to Universal, imagine what they’ll do to everyone else. And don’t think for one minute that TikTok is any better. Pulling a catalog, particularly given the size of Universal, is not something you do on a whim. A lot of thought and desperation went into this move. It’s a ballsy move, and it’s one that the publishers should have done long ago rather than suing people like Peleton, lest these people think you’re all talk and no action which they clearly do.]

Universal Music Group has removed its entire music library from video app Triller, a would-be TikTok competitor, alleging Triller has withheld payments to the music giant’s artists.

“We will not work with platforms that do not value artists. Triller has shamefully withheld payments owed to our artists and refuses to negotiate a license going forward,” a UMG rep said in a statement to Variety. “We have no alternative except to remove our music from Triller, effective immediately.”

Read the post on Variety

@shoshanazuboff: The Coup We Are Not Talking About: We can have democracy, or we can have a surveillance society, but we cannot have both.

The intolerable truth of our current condition is that America and most other liberal democracies have, so far, ceded the ownership and operation of all things digital to the political economics of private surveillance capital, which now vies with democracy over the fundamental rights and principles that will define our social order in this century.

The license to steal came with a price, binding the executives to the continued patronage of elected officials and regulators as well as the sustained ignorance, or at least learned resignation, of users. The doctrine was, after all, a political doctrine, and its defense would require a future of political maneuvering, appeasement, engagement and investment.

Google led the way with what would become one of the world’s richest lobbying machines. In 2018 nearly half the Senate received contributions from Facebook, Google and Amazon, and the companies continue to set spending records.

Surveillance capitalism originates in the discovery that companies can stake a claim to people’s lives as free raw material for the extraction of behavioral data, which they then declare their private property.

Read the post on the New York Time opinion.

It’s Not “Premium,” but It Sure Ain’t Free: Spotify’s Bait and Switch on Podcast Advertising

Unlike the censorious Apple, Spotify has held on to its “free” ad-supported service and is very much in the advertising business. (I’ve always suspected that the only reason Spotify has shown any interest in credits or lyrics is that those text renderings are also known as advertising keywords.)

But Spotify appears to be disrupting truth in its own advertising according to the Independent. Spotify “announced on 21 January that it would be bringing Spotify Podcast Ads to the UK for all users – meaning Premium subscribers who paid to avoid adverts will still have to listen to promotional content….The ads are only available on podcasts that Spotify produces itself, so it will receive money both from subscription fees and company ads.”

In the UK, false advertising is regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority, the industry-controlled “regulatory” authority. According to the Independent, “If anyone has concerns that Spotify is making a misleading advertising claim about ‘no ad interruptions’, whether the claim is on its website, in app or elsewhere, we encourage them to contact us and we’ll assess the matter further”, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) told The Independent.” The complaint webform is here.

US users can complain to the Federal Trade Commission and their webform is here.

@musictechpolicy: How Songwriters Get Screwed by Cheese and Pies

For some reason, there’s a focus at the moment on songwriter royalties and in particular for streaming royalty rates.  Notice that I said “rates” not “share” or the one I find particularly irritating, “share of the pie.”  Let us be clear—there is no “pie” there are only “rates”.  Or should be.  Let’s investigate why.

To frame this idea (speaking for the U.S. market), let me take you back to a conversation I had with a Nashville session musician and hit songwriter many years ago back before physical mechanical royalty rates were frozen.  

He looked at me and said, “Why do I have to take this government cheese royalty rate?  I get double scale when I play a date, why can’t I get double stat?”  

What he was really saying was why can’t I set my own price as a songwriter for mechanical royalties?  And the answer is the same today as it was then:  Because songwriters allow the U.S. government to set the price and terms for mechanicals.  Or rather the “minimum statutory rate” which is a joke because the “minimum statutory rate” has never been a minimum, it has always been both a minimum and a maximum.

There has also long been an obsession with songwriters and publishers comparing their rates to what artists and record companies get.  This comparison was only compounded in the digital era particularly for interactive streaming.  If you combine song rates and recording rates, some people get a pie.  Other people (like me) get an error message.  I’ll explain why.

Read the post on MusicTechPolicy