We have to admit a few years back Pandora was our go to streaming music choice. Some of us have been evangelists ever since. We loved the fact that we found a lot of great new artists and songs based on the crazy algorithm that determines what you may or may not like. Then, probably while listening to Pandora, they made some major news. And all they had to do was make the musicians who use and the support the service, very unhappy. According to an article in The Register:
The leading backer of a bill passing through US Congress that will slash musicians’ pay by 85 per cent, as well as effectively outlawing them from bargaining collectively with their paymasters, has been selling stock worth $1m in his own internet company every month.
If that’s not yucky enough for you, Hypebot announced Pandora is suing ASCAP for lower licensing fees on behalf of ASCAP songwriters. Execs cash in while suing songwriters is not going to win you any PR awards. What do you think about what Pandora is doing of late?
Is it just us or has the music industry been in a transitional period for the last decade? It must have been Napster that started this tumultuous period. We went from $20 CDs at Tower Records to .99 cent songs over Itunes and free albums and even CATALOGS using illegal means. Ignore all the doomsayers and lets look positively towards the new year and some things we are excited about. As you recover from your break at LAMA over the holidays, it’s important to brush up with the latest happenings on the business side of things.
WILL STREAMING FULFILL IT’S PROMISES?
For the last few years industry insiders have been heaping praise on streaming services such as Spotify, Pandora, and Google Music as being possible game changers. A way to have all the music available – while offering users premium features to pay for the music they listen to. Supporters pointed to Europe and how Spotify took the world by storm there. The cold hard reality is that labels are realizing there will never be a replacement for the CD when it comes to profit. Metal label Century Media Records famously pulled their artists catalogs from Spotify earlier this year citing that the pricing plans just don’t make sense. Perhaps 2012 will be the year that the artists and labels finally admit to themselves that the profits of the mid 90s are gone forever and keeping music from streaming services is only going to hurt them.
WHAT ROLE WILL YOUTUBE PLAY?
YouTube went from the website to watch cute kittens and silly children to the #1 destination for people to discover, listen, and watch music of all kinds. Radio and MTV don’t even come close to the amount of music being consumed on YouTube on a daily basis. A significant shift came with the VEVO alliance with Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and EMI. Fans hate the ads but the labels and artists love the revenue. It will be interesting to see how YouTube moves into the new year, look for more Live “special” broadcasts such as they did with Coachella this year. Now that Google+ and Google Music are here look for the Google owned YouTube to get more and more compatible with these two services.
WHAT WILL THE CONCERT INDUSTRY BE LIKE?
The live entertainment landscape has been a paradox for a while. For some artists like U2 and Roger Waters it is the best of times while for other less lucky artists it is the worst of times. For the first half of 2011 Pollstar reported that earnings increased 11% but that probably doesn’t tell the whole tale. With the rise of Groupons, Goldstar, and the internet in general, there have been some embarrassing discounted ticket mishaps with tickets for some big name acts practically being given away. Legacy acts such as Bruce Springsteen and The Eagles learned that fans are getting fed up with their constant returns to their cities and aren’t as willing to pay those expensive service charges to hear the same show they saw last year. On the indie level smaller clubs are having a hard time bringing people in to hear unheard bands when they have to compete with the internet, Playstation, TV, and every other cheaper form of entertainment.
SOCIAL NETWORKING ROLE?
Facebook already aligned with Spotify – but do you really want to see a feed of every song your friend is listening to? We are guilty of finding quite a few new bands just by seeing what YouTube videos our friends post on their wall. There has long been talk about a dedicated music social media service – but it seems that it is more likely the social media music impact will come from one of the pre-existing services. We are very excited to watch Google+ grow and how music will fit into it – especially with their new Google Music service which has some big names attached to it.
WILL THE INTERNET BREAK A BAND?
Were not talking about your Rebecca Black — so bad its good type novelty act or an Animal Collective ultra cool hipster act — nor are we referring to those with 5 minutes of fame. We are talking about the internet version of The Beatles on Ed Sullivan. A band that has immense pop appeal but also artistic merit. One might try to say Lady Gaga broke on the net – however we would argue she is a hybrid between old wave (MTV, Radio) and new wave (social media, on-line video). We wonder if 2012 will be the year a band breaks completely independently through the internet.
There you have it musicians! The different things music-wise we are looking towards in 2012. Did we leave anything out? Do we have it wrong? Let us know! Have a great break and an even better 2012.
It’s not called the music business for nothing. As great as it is to know about music in general, if you aren’t following the business side of things, you are losing out on a lot of helpful info. A music subscription service called Spotify, that took Europe by storm the last few years, has now arrived in the States.
Spotify is a Swedish DRM-based music streaming service offering selected music from a range of major and independent record labels including Sony, EMI, Warner Music Group and Universal. What separates it from other current streaming services is that their catalog is supposedly extensive, the software is excellent, and you are able to sync it with your smartphone. It is completely free to use Spotify on your computer, but the company makes their money by charging for the premium accounts which have smartphone sync. Monthly subscriptions range from $4.95 to $9.95.
We’ve heard from friends that the free catalog available to the US, for the moment, is rather limited unless you are a premium member. But the industry speculates a game changer for a long-suffering music business that has been searching for a new way to make money off of music. YouTube has shown us that the way of the future is streaming. You can think of Spotify like the music version of Netflix Streaming, which has been incredibly popular.
You can sign up for Spotify today if you buy a premium subscription, but free invites have been trickling out and you can request them by going to the spotify.com or searching Twitter for a myriad of free invites from popular musicians and tech services. In fact Lady Gaga gave out a thousand invites over her Twitter recently. Same with Foursquare.
Music students/lovers, listen up! The future of music and streaming go hand-in-hand, so if you want to get paid for your lovely music, you should be aware of something currently going on with Pandora. The “free” streaming music service acts as a radio station with you as the programmer declaring what you like and don’t like. Pandora has realized, however, with the high cost of music licensing and needing more and more bandwidth, that they would supplement the music with both visual advertisements and audio ads. Anyone else annoyed by some of those ads?
Have no fear, Pandora unveiled an ad-free listening subscription: just $3 a month.
As much as I love hearing the ending piano part of “Layla” segueing into a Living Social ad, segueing into “Stairway To Heaven” sounds just a little bit nicer. It sounds like we aren’t the only ones. Digital Music News says:
The past has been discouraging (for Pandora subscriptions). In fact, just last year, founder Tim Westergren seemed to be giving up on premium. But the numbers are gradually getting better, and maybe the ‘annoyance whip’ can work.
Is commercial free Internet radio worth the cup of a Starbucks’ coffee? We think so. However, everyone is trying to get into the streaming business and become the Netflix of music so very soon Pandora will be sharing the marketplace with some ruthless competitors like Spotify, Apple and Google. In the meantime $3 a month seems like a fair price for unlimited ad-free streaming music at your fingertips.