YOUTUBE RED TO PLAY ITS ROLE IN THE INDUSTRY

With the provision of videos and also a source of new music discovery to numerous people around the world, YouTube has proved to be one of the successful online sources to provide entertainment to audience. YouTube has built its viewership on the basis of free, ad-supported videos and a growing roster of digital stars. Viewers want more choice when watching their favorite content, more ways to support their favorite creators and, above all, to watch their favorite videos uninterrupted.

A solution to this is the start of You Tube Red, which plays an important role in engaging users with content being provided and it will also bring in returns for the content that has already been created. This feature was launched on October 28,2015 with the motive of providing users with an ultimate YouTube experience. The advantages of this service is that it lets users enjoy videos across all of YouTube without ads, while also letting you save videos to watch offline on your phone or tablet and play videos in the background, all for $9.99 a month. The membership is valid across different devices and whenever you log into YouTube. It is also said that YouTube Red will get better with member only access to new and original content from other YouTube users. With YouTube Red, you’ll be able to support the people who make your favorite videos while watching what you want, when you want, on any device you want, uninterrupted. This is currently available in the U.S for free with a one-month trial. It will come to other countries very soon.

A YouTube Music app will be launched soon which will gather official and fan uploaded music videos available to view at one place. This will also be an advantage for Red users to view them without any advertisements. However, some videos will be taken away from the free service if the content creators do not agree to license them. In my view, this seems to be a good service in providing ad free content to viewers. It will rope in a lot of customers when it starts in other countries.

“SPOTIFY “, A BOON OR BANE

Spotify, the most popular music streaming service in many countries plays its part by providing its users musical content of various artists in one domain. However there have been discussions regarding whether Spotify shrinks the music business by persuading people not to buy music anymore or by helping the music business by telling people not to steal music anymore.

Usually when you buy music from Spotify, you don’t have to buy it from iTunes. Spotify displaces music piracy and the two balance each other. Interactive streaming appears to be revenue neutral for the recorded music industry. Usually the argument that Spotify has is that, if they are not allowed to distribute music properly and money is not got for it, it will definitely lead to piracy of that music. They cannot sell enough subscriptions by replacing albums and single-track sales. A study was conducted which was published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Various record labels and Spotify are in disputes regarding new contract distribution. The streaming services require the content of the music label to exist in order to provide it to the users and the labels also require the streaming services. So, there is no way that they can convince people to buy downloads anymore. However this will not affect content owners or individual musicians. If Spotify grows to greater heights, then it will start growing the overall music pie for everyone in the music business.

The Music Industry in Hong Kong – The Development of Canto-pop Music from 1920-2010 (Part 1)

After discussing the music industry in Japan, it is time to introduce another important music industry in Asia, Hong Kong Music Industry. Although Hong Kong was located in China, she was a British colony in the 19th and 20th century until 1997. Therefore, it is a place with a fusion of east-west culture. Before the introduction of the open-door policy of China, Hong Kong served as a very important hub to connect China with the other part of the world. Because of her special historical background, Hong Kong absorbed the music from both China and the west to form its own Canto-pop songs. The Hong Kong music industry was extremely prosperous from the 1970s to 1990s and played an indispensible role in Asia. However, it starts to decline in recent years with the open of China and the rise of K-pop.

Since Canto-pop has a long history of development in Asia, I am going to explain it in two posts. Below is the brief introduction to the development of Canto-pop songs in Asia from 1920s to 1970s.

  1. 1920s-1940s: The Origin of Canto-pop
    It is not easy to trace the origin of Canto-pop. The word “Pop Music” was originally from the US in the 1920s. In the 1920s, China was facing the danger of imperiled by the western countries. At that time, wester culture spread to China unconsciously. It was believed that Shanghai was the melting point of east-west culture in the 1920s and also the origin of Canto-pop.In the 1940s, due the the Great Depression and the Second World War, a lot of Shanghai citizens migrate to Hong Kong along with the western culture, leading to the formation of Canto-pop. However, the status of Canto-pop was incredibly low. Its blueprint was mainly from Mainland China and old songs from the west such as Over the Rainbow etc. Therefore, Canto-pop music, in the1920s to 1940s, lacks its originality.
  2. 1950s: The Turning Point of Canto-pop
    Although Canto-pop has been developing for several years, it status remained low. However, it was highly influenced by western pop and Cantonese Opera. Most of the pop song singers sang like Cantonese opera. Yanfen Fang’s Belle of Penang (檳城艷) was a very good example. She used a very high pitch to sing the song.As you notice, in the 1950s, Canto-pop music still lacked its own characteristics and originality.
  3. 1960s: The Downturn of Canto-pop
    In the 1960s, Canto-pop music was severely hit by western-pop. At that time, people were extremely into The Beatles. In 1964, The Beatles visited Hong Kong and spread the “Beatlemania“, leading to the trend of playing band music, singing English songs. This undoubted undermined the status of Canto-pop in Hong Kong.At that time, people generally believed that western music were more high-class, better taste, the entertainment of the upper class while Canto-pop were more localized, usually for the general public. That was why the lyrics of Canto-pop was more “rude” and localized as to cater for the taste of the general public. Wan Kwong (尹光) was a Canto-pop singer in the 1960s. The lyrics of his songs include a lot of foul languages.
  4. 1970s: The Rise of Canto-pop

In the 1970s, Canto-pop started to gain more popularity and social status because of the emergence of television. Hong Kong people loved watching TV, as a result, every theme song of TV series was popular.

There were two important people in the 1970s, James Wong (lyricist) and Joseph Koo (songwriter). They cooperated and produced a lot of famous TV theme songs. One of the example was Sandra Lang‘s  “The Yuanfen of a Wedding that Cries and Laughs” (啼笑姻緣).

Joseph Koo used the pentatonic scale to compose pop-music. As you can hear, Canto-pop at that time was full of Chinese style but with played with western instruments.

With the complementary impact of TV dramas, Canto-pop music was super prosperous in the 1970s. Its influence even spread to Mainland China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and so on. It definitely marked a milestone of Canto-pop music and paved the way to its indispensable status in Asian music industry.

Hotline Bling On Top of The World

For the past week, the internet has been set ablaze with comments, critiques, and some incredible parodies of hip hop artist, Drake’s latest video for his single, “Hotline Bling”, which was released by Apple Music on October 19th. Even Mike Tyson couldn’t resist showing off his rather ‘colorful’ interpretation of the video.

But beyond the vines and buzzfeed lists lies a truly prolific result. Billboard reports that, “Drake is the top musical act in the U.S. on the Billboard 100 chart.” The chart is an aggregate of all of Billboard’s most significant charts. It factors in top 100 songs, album sales, and the social 50–the latter of which, purely denotes how much an artist is trending on social media channels. Among the composite that constitutes Drake’s position at the top of this chart includes digital song sales, up 43 percent, and social reaction (the Mike Tyson’s of the world), which has risen 78 percent.

Since the conception of his hip hop career, Drake’s antics have always put him in the limelight of internet banter. My initial supposition then, was this must aid his live sales. Naturally, facebook fangirls would kill to be able to put Drake snogging Madonna in their Snapstory. Or Drake remarking on his jewish upbringing on their instagram. A genius of marketing, I never thought this would actually transcend into actual music sales. I was wrong. “Hotline Bling” has already been downloaded 153,000 times according to Nielsen. And his mixtape, If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late, sold 495,000 copies in it’s first week!

To frame this in the context of my hip hop themed blogs, where many hip hop artists are struggling, Drake, who is at his core a rapper is making serious money on all fronts in the volatile 21st century music industry. He may be a source of many laughs across the great expanse of the internet, but Drake’s recent domination of the music industry as a whole is no joke. Watch the original “Hotline Bling” video below:

Source: http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/chart-beat/6745217/drake-returns-number-1-billboard-artist-100-demi-lovato

http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/6738389/adele-justin-bieber-drake-one-direction-first-week-2015-sales

A Mau5 In The Courtroom

International dance music superstar Joel Zimmerman (p.k.a. Deadmau5) has found himself in the courtroom once again. The notorious twitter bully and social media antihero is back in the face of justice, though this time it is to defend his… moral rights?

Mr. Zimmerman recently filed a multimillion dollar law suit against Play Records its operator, artist Meleny “melleefresh” Brown over the use of bootleg remixes and mashups.

For any of those who do not know the difference between a remix and a mashup: a remix is an approved recreation of a piece using stems from the original recording, and a mashup is a combination of two or more songs (i.e if you laid Twinkle Twinkle Little Star over the Star Wars theme song). A mashup does not use stems from an original recording, but rather pieces of full recordings placed on top of each other to create a new, still recognizable work).

Read the summons here:

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2487472-deadmau5-vs-play-records-inc-10-26-15.html

Deadmau5 is essentially most upset over the fact that Play Records has authorized remixes and mashups to be made without his consent, and released without his approval. In addition to the pending unauthorized releases, Zimmerman claims that they are also not of “good technical and commercial quality.” One interesting piece outlined by this case is the differences of moral rights and laws in various countries and the varying definition of “Fair Use” from country to country.

Read the full article here:

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/deadmau5-sues-remixes-mashups-834630

Taylor Swift Angers Photographers

Everyone admires Taylor Swifts standing up for the artists that aren’t selling out arenas when she publicly announced her disapproval for Apple’s new streaming source.  However what was overlooked is that Taylor Swift is controlling about the content of her shows, limiting photographers to only two songs worth of material and strips them of their rights to use the photographs more than once while she is able to use them endlessly.  In simple terms Taylor Swift can use the pictures endlessly without paying the photographer any form of compensation.  This might not seem like an issue but if the photographer uses it for the one publication that is the only time they will be paid.  So if in future another publication looks to use the photographers photo for some sort of historical publication of the singer the photographer will not be paid.  This was stated on her Firefly Management contract.

Taylor Swift’s management group responded quickly, slight too quickly apparently mixing up the U.K. tours with other tours.  In their response they said the contract was amendable and could be negotiated to which the head protestor Jason Sheldon replied on twitter “If you have a contentious contract that you present to people, yet say that it’s amendable for anyone that objects to certain parts of it… then you’re clearly aware that it’s not a fair contract and if it IS amendable, then there is no point having it in the first place.”

In the contract the points argued as unfair were that the photographs were used on a “one time basis” and further more “If you fail to fully comply with this Authorization, authorized agents of FEI, the Artist or the Related Entities may confiscate and/or destroy the technology or devices that contain the master files of the Photographs and other images, including, but not limited to, cell phones and memory cards, and the Photographs and any other images.”  Joel Goodman a U.K. freelance photographer tweeted this contract as he was handed it at one of her shows.

This seems like an egregious act for anyone to do and given the circumstances it takes away a lot of credibility from her open letter, making it appear as much more of a publicity stunt then anything else.  You can’t pick and choose which artists are better than others and I’d have hoped for more from Taylor Swift.

Style over Substance: Skinny Girl Diet’s Battle with Image

tumblr_nw858oKYOX1qdbixko1_1280

Whether or not you agree with the saying that “image is everything,” you cannot deny the fact that image is a huge topic of discussion in the music industry. With fashion brands taking advantage of collaborations with musicians more than ever before, the importance of having good style is definitely a priority for bands; however, having a great sense of style does not always work in their favor.

Meet Skinny Girl Diet, a three-piece underground band based in London currently making waves with their authentic punk sound and bold, funky fashion sense. Take one listen to their music and you may be transported to that time when  you got down with 90s grunge. So you can probably now understand why after discovering this group I immediately became obsessed.

But what surprised me the most about Skinny Girl Diet was not the juxtaposition between their impeccable style and punk sound, but rather finding out in a ClashMusic.com article that they have had to deal with people labeling them as having better style than substance in their music.

My reaction to this statement was more or less like… Are we really trying to have this conversation in 2015?

tumblr_n90iimPUPv1qdbixko1_1280

Delilah Holliday, lead singer and guitar player in the band, sums up the issue perfectly:

“I think society is very looks conscious so, you’ve kind of got to succumb to it, and having a good look is part of what people see before they listen to your music,” offers Delilah. “It is sadly a part of music – what you look like – and if you’ve got a certain style people like that because it’s something new I guess.” (ClashMusic.com)

While I do agree that society is very ‘looks conscious’ and that some situations call for one to succumb to this fact, I still find it disturbing that these even girls have to deal with people questioning their talent based on their excellent sense of style. Discrediting the band and their ability as musicians because they do not have the stereotypical “punk” style is so middle school. What we should be doing is applauding this band for fighting stereotypes by having a no f*cks given attitude and speaking truths like this:

“I don’t think there is a punk way to dress either, I think that’s a common misconception, that punk is a look,” decides Ursula. “It’s like, punk started out as just expressing yourself; if you wanted to look like Marilyn Monroe in the 70’s and go to a Sex Pistols concert you could. I feel like so many people have these lists and tick boxes; just wear what you want and if people chastise you for it, then they’re dumb, it’s how it is.” (ClashMusic.com)

Despite the criticism, these ladies have managed to secure partnerships with designers like Dilara Findikoglu for Findikoglu’s SS16 presentation London Fashion Week, which is huge. Bridging their music and fashion together, they have not only managed to create a unique collaboration that is becoming the new norm for fashion presentations (like Tom Ford & Lady Gaga’s latest collab), but also have opened the door for other girl bands to follow in their footsteps.

I applaud Skinny Girl Diet for continuing to not be bothered with these issues. Rock on girls!

I Don’t Trust Antitrust Laws In Music Publishing

The big news in music publishing is that a 2 billion dollar asset is suddenly up for sale. Sony and the Michael Jackson estate are co-owners of Sony ATV which is the largest music publisher in the world. They have reached a point in their business arrangement together where one side will have to sell their stake. You can read more about that here.

I find it disturbing that antitrust issues are being discussed in this case. “Vivendi-owned industry titan Universal Music Group is not expected to be a buyer, due to antitrust hurdles.” However, they do think it is possible that a major private equity company will get involved. “Potential candidates include  private equity firms such as Apollo Global Management.”

The main reason that the government enforces antitrust laws is because of the supposed damaging effects of monopolies on society. When a company is too large in its industry, people assume that they will gouge consumers and damage the economy.

In the case of music publishing I doubt that any company can set “monopolistic prices” that will damage society. The rate for mechanical royalties is already capped at 9.1 cents per song. The rate of performance royalties is generally set by the performing rights societies.  I don’t believe that a private equity company whose sole aim is to make huge returns will be a more ethical steward of those assets than Universal.

Peter Thiel also makes the argument that monopolies rather than being evil are good for society. “A monopoly like Google  doesn’t have to worry about competing with anyone. It has a wider latitude to care about its workers, its products and its impact on the wider world. Google’s motto—”Don’t be evil”—is in part a branding ploy, but it is also characteristic of a kind of business that is successful enough to take ethics seriously without jeopardizing its own existence.

A Bright New Future for the Business of Live Event Planning

The new music startup I am discussing this week is a company in the live music space called Gigstarter. The live music experience has certainly changed drastically with the advancement of technology, introduction of social media, and shift of consumer tastes towards more visual demands of the entertainer. Despite this, the economics behind the live music industry hasn’t changed in years. Gigstarter hopes to be that change. Put very simply, currently when artists go on tour the booking agent will contact venues and book shows far in advance, and then a promoter will market the show and try to sell as many tickets as possible. Thus it is largely a guessing game as to what the most profitable venue is. Gigstarter’s idea is basically to reverse engineer the process. Namely, they will sell tickets and measure demand from fans before the show is booked, and only when they are sure they will make enough money they book the venue. Gigstarter’s idea is so simple that it seems painfully obvious, however it is clearly not given how long the industry has traditionally operated. Here is a video that helps explain what they are all about:

The benefits to the artist are numerous. First of all, basically all of the financial risk of touring is taken away. Usually, when a show is booked, the promoter and the artist don’t know if the costs of the show and marketing will be recouped by ticket sales. In general, the promoter will take the brunt of this loss, but the artist obviously has a main interest in getting many tickets sold as well. With Gigstarter, the venue is not booked until sales are made, and more importantly until the best venue is chosen. The way that Gigstarter is able to do this is through the social media channels of the artist. It is all about targeting and finding the artist’s fans and literally asking them where they want the show to be, rather than telling them where it is and hoping they’ll be happy about it. The locations with top support will be picked and sold ahead to those fans, and only if the target sales figure is met will the show actually be booked. This is basically the equivalent model to Kickstarter (which must be where Gigstarter got its name from). Kickstarter crowdsources money for projects of many kinds, and will not actually do project until the target funding number is raised. If it is not, everyone gets there money back fair and square and nobody wins, but nobody loses. This genius business model that skyrocketed Kickstarter to the top of the startup world is the same reason Gigstarter has so much promise.

And not just risk-reduction is a benefit. It is also very effective in increasing fan engagement. In the Gigstarter model, fans are engaged from the beginning, and given power in the decision making of the tour. They almost function as a tour manager of sorts. This is a very exciting proposition for superfans, who are always looking for ways to get more personal with the artist, which in turn will get them more involved in the artist social media, and also likely cause them to be willing to pay higher prices for the tickets (the figure presented was that Gigmaster ticket sales are on average 33% higher than traditional sales).

Lastly, and very simply, Gigmaster takes out the middleman. The promoter is no longer necessary, because the show is already sold if the artist chooses to book a gig. Not only this, but because the tickets are sold direct to fans through the Gigstarter website, ticket fees are reduced. All of this allows the artist and their team to keep a larger part of the pie.

This is the first time in a while that the current industry structure of live music is legitimately threatened, however it seems if it does in fact change, it will certainly be for the better.

http://gigstarter.com/

Adele, a silence well-orchestrated

adele-hello-video-still-2015-billboard-650

One week ago, nobody would have expected to get so much news and content from Adele, the world critically-acclaimed pop-star. On October 21st, she published a letter on Facebook in which she explains the creative process of the album “25” and apologizes for the long silence because “you know, life happened”. One day after, she reveals the release date of the new album which is basically one month after. On the same day, the new single and video “Hello” is released. That’s a brilliant commercial coup from Adele that makes all the internet crazy and enthusiastic about hearing the singer in a new production.

12017562_10153471860189279_12877880934909346_o

The strategy of the management and label was pretty clear : Get the most out of the last album (which is full of hits and sold 11,2 millions copies in the US) by making it highly profitable for a long period of time (4 years till now). Creating silence and mystery really worked well, Adele announcement came like a bomb! I personally don’t think the reasons of that absence were so “philosophical” as described in the letter, it’s a mix between the time needed for the new album production including the songwriting (and I even wonder if most of the songs were already written way before) and marketing strategies. This is not a coincidence if the release date is just before Christmas, that’s a holy period for the music business. Imagine how much albums of Adele will be wrapped under the tree : “How thank you, that’s exactly the CD I wanted, Adele is amazing, …”

It’s also important to mention that Adele worked a lot on her image by loosing a lot of weight for example. She needed time to fully perform that new strategy and now she gets the benefits of that effort even though I’m sure she would have sold a lot even without working on that aspect. Her voice is far beyond any superficial judgments.

The recent numbers of sales and streams are unbelievable : more than 70 millions views on Youtube 4 days after the release of the video. According to Billboard, Adele would have sold already 450,000 single digital songs in US.

The radio critics are ultra-positive about the new song. For example, Mike Mullaney, WBMX Boston assistant pd/md says :“The amount of passion for this artist and this song is truly incredible. Just look at social media, people’s reaction to the song and support for her as an artist. She is just dominating Facebook and Twitter”. Sharon Dastur, iHeartMedia senior VP programming integration adds : “It’s incredible. With an artist like Adele, expectations are already set so high, and she’s far exceeded those expectations. She draws you in with her compelling storytelling and really has a voice like no other. I can’t tell you how excited I am for this project.”

We can be almost sure that the new album will break records and go beyond the sales of “21”. Adele has everything to be highly competitive : Powerful songs, powerful voice, high effective image, a big database of fans, a wide social media presence… Everything is ready to make the new album of Adele a unique success in the music industry history.