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

The album “1989”, a gold mine for Taylor Swift, Max Martin and Ryan Adams

Imagine how Taylor Swift and Max Martin (the King writer of pop songs) must feel right now. They co-wrote the majority of the tracks of the successful album “1989” (along with Shellback, Ryan Tedder, …). When Ryan Adams came with the idea of cover, they immediately saw the opportunity of a gold mine. Both RA and TS albums are in the top 10 charts (it’s the first time that situation ever occurred). Let’s do the math : double publishing income for Max Martin and Taylor Swift and huge record royalties for TS and RA. This is literally the dream.

This collaboration is not surprising because the two stars were already friends. They were working on a few demos before her album Red, unfortunately those songs were never released. Actually, Ryan’s work had always been an inspiration for her.

Ryan Adams was a bit bored to play his own compositions (as he delivered enough albums to his label) and then decided to cover “1989”  in its own way : creating a dreamy atmosphere pointed out by the echoes of past. He wanted to change the “colors” of the lyrics.

Ryan Adams said  : “I wanted the music to sound like … inside the movie of my mind … what the parallel universe of my 1989 could be. (-). Where it might have been hopeful before, it might sound more filled with regret, like ‘How You Get the Girl.’ Or like ‘Shake It Off,’ like the way I read the lyrics out loud to myself, I was compelled to side more with the anxiety and the pressure of a feeling like you are the subject matter of people’s conversations that maybe aren’t in the best light. I liked the pressure of that and wanted the music to sound like it was running away from that… That’s a feeling and a place and a time that was inside the movie of my mind — what the parallel universe of my 1989 could be.”

It’s also important to mention that 7 songs of Ryan Adams’s “1989” are in the Billboard charts right now. That album release attracted the curiosity of a lot of users who wanted to hear the way he was transforming the initial records of TS. Surprisingly, songs of Taylor Swift made their way to the alternative songs chart thanks to! “Bad Blood”.  This is an incredible cover success that brings benefits to both parties and it really enlightens the fact that cover projects should be always encouraged by the original artists.

Sources :

http://www.billboard.com/biz/articles/6714591/more-than-half-of-ryan-adams-1989-debuts-on-hot-rock-songs-chart

http://www.billboard.com/biz/articles/6715334/before-1989-did-any-identical-album-titles-share-space-in-the-top-10

http://www.billboard.com/biz/articles/6708212/ryan-adams-cover-of-taylor-swifts-bad-blood-debuts-on-adult-alternative-songs

Who Run The Industry?

Sadly, unequivocally, and unsurprisingly: men. Whether you’re scanning the Top 40 list, or searching for the names of the people in charge of your favorite record labels, you’re more than likely to read an overwhelming amount of male names. We have our lady diva pop stars, sure. And there are people like Michele Anthony and Julie Greenwald– but the thing is, women on top are few and far between in any industry. And these two aren’t even the head honchos- they’re assistants to them. “How progressive,” said Peggy Olson.

Billboard cultivated the Women In Music awards as well as a series of articles on their website in 2007 in order to shed some well-deserved light on the female musicians, executives, and everyone in between in the industry. You’d recognize Taylor Swift, Beyonce, and others who have won the award- but skimming their list of the 50 Most Powerful (Female) Executives from last year, after first being blindly impressed, you begin to realize something terrifying- you’ve never heard of any of these people.

Okay, perhaps you’re a little more well-versed in music industry businesspeople than I am and you do recognize them. But chances are, each name is equally unfamiliar and frankly disturbing in this right. But it’s easy to rattle off the names of Brian Eno, Quincy Jones, Mark Ronson, and so many others.

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That’s why organizations like Women In Music are so important. We need more females not only stepping up as musicians, but on the business side of things as well. Started in 1985, Women In Music is a collective of women in all fields of the music industry, working to make what they do seem more attractive and plausible. They host events such as workshops and panels to encourage girls to break into the industry, no matter how off-putting it can be.

Although, it’s worthwhile to note the growth we’ve seen in the past few years. With pop powerhouses like Beyonce and rap queens like Nicki Minaj promoting feminist ideals (more on that in another post) in their music, and heartwarming singer songwriters like Taylor Swift proving that girls can pick up a guitar and make a song just as catchy as any flannel-clad, horn-rimmed glasses wearing guy can, this past decade has certainly seen lots more girl power. Not that girl groups or female-fronted groups haven’t been present in the past- each decade has certainly been host to some talented ladies. It’s just that we seem to be on the cusp of an estrogen fueled revolution in the music industry, as well as the world. There’s recently been a noticeable influx of these female artists, and certainly more of them stepping up in business.

And we can’t lose momentum. Billboard took a step in the right direction with their awards, Women In Music is a beautifully empowering organization that only has room to grow and everything to gain, and there are emerging publications like She Shreds that showcase some talent that might not get picked up in Rolling Stone. More and more ladies are picking up the microphone, the guitar, the drum sticks, you name it. But we need more. We need to keep going until Queen Bey is satisfied, and the industry, and maybe some day the world, is run by girls.

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Prince Royce The Next Latin Crossover King?

We all know the main Latin king and Queen of crossing over to the English pop world and that is Pitbull and Shakira. Now, Prince Royce says he is ready for change and wants to be Latin’s next crossover king. The Bronx/Dominican star Prince Royce known as making his bachata tunes, Darte Un Beso and his rendition of B.B. kings Stand by Me is ready to change his voice (literally) and is officially up for the challenge. Meeting his vocal coach Mauli B. who has worked with Katy perry and Boyz II Men tells Royce to change every syllable with “nay” on his new single with Snoop Dogg, “Stuck on a Feeling.” Coach says, “and put your finger right here,” while Royce presses the tip of his nose.

Royce Rojas first language is English but is famous among spanish people and has four No. 1s on Billboard’s latin songs chart as well as being voted among the most beautiful by People in spanish. He has done all this and more, by singing bachata which is a Dominican folk style filled with acoustic guitars and lots of romance. This April coming up he will be releasing his first English language Pop album with his new label home RCA. He has confirmed to be involved with Chris Brown and Magic singer Nasri and al though a risky move that could upset loyal falls and fail to capture pop lovers, its one he is willing to take. “What i put out in English, that’s who most people are going to think I am – that’s why I’m being so careful,” said in a recent Billboard interview. “I love hip-hop, R&B, techno and Latin,” Which is what Prince Royce grew up listening to and what the album has an overall combination of.

People didn’t always agree with him starting off with Bachata as people warned him that singing pop and doing English joints was the way to go, but he didn’t listen and that was the best thing he could have done. He was first signed to Indie Imprint Top Stop by the Salsa legend Sergio George, who co- produced his first self titled album in 2010. His cover “Stand by Me,” racked up more than 70 million youtube plays and 471 million clicks for his single “Darte un Beso.” He knows crossing over wont be easy, and although artists like Ricky Martin have had a smooth transition going from Spanish pop to English pop, for Royce it’s a different rhythm and a different language which makes it twice the challenge for him.

RCA president Tom Corson knows the risk but he says, “You have to bring them along with you in that journey. Some artists can do it, some can’t – We’re convinced he can.” As far as I see it, he’s doing great so far as his new single “Stuck on a Feeling” is #17 on mainstream Top 40 chart. As a latin woman I am excited to see him on the rise as he begins his journey as an international global star and can’t wait to see what else he does in the near future!

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Check out his latest single here

Po’NO’!

I thought I’d take a couple moments to address a couple of quick thoughts I’ve had about Pono. I realize i’m a little late to the game in addressing this, but my newsfeed seems to be congested with the preamble of ‘Record Day’, but when the silent release of Neil Young’s cover album caught my attention it created the connection.

To begin, any ‘Download’ service immediately draws a red flag for me. As a user, I’m moving away from bogging down my laptop, it already runs at a snail’s pace, the collection of various third-party applications, Adobe Files, Microsoft Documents and music files absolutely crush anything that was once magical about my Apple experience.

However, the idea of a loss-less file for me sounds great, but i’d rather stream it. That being said, the difference between a compressed MP3 and Flac File on my shitty earbuds and laptop speakers isn’t likely to make a significant enough difference to validate purchasing additional hardware ( or an application specific one, like the Pono Player ).

In addition, the major issue I have with most streaming/ download services is the lack of depth in the catalogue. I’m interested in user generated content, but I also want to hear every possible version of my favourite songs by artists that i’m interested in.  With the exception of Youtube and in some cases Vimeo, my interests in works have already come and gone by the time they reach these catalogues ( if they do at all ); they are not adapting to the way most users consume content. I also don’t see platforms digging into labels catalogues and remastering the full breadth of music libraries to provide these file formats.  I also don’t see Pono as a service with longevity, It’s too niche to be sustainable and it’s not innovative enough to validate a change in the way I consume information.

Have any thoughts? Leave them in the comment section below.

The Surprise Release Method, Is it Sustainable?

By this time everyone knows of the success Beyonce had with her recent “surprise” release of her 5th Album “Beyoncé”.  Yes, she sold a bunch or records and made headlines for doing so with no promotion whatsoever, but is this strategy sustainable or just accessible to huge artists like Adele, Justin Timberlake, P!nk, etc.  ?  There are definitely some polarizing perspectives.

 

Adam Pyarali over at Next Big Sound  seems to have a positive perspective when discussing EDM artist Skrillex and the surprise release of his debut album “Recess”.  Pyarali thinks that the numbers speak volumes:

Skrillex is seeing a large boost in numbers similar to those of a big-budgeted, label-supported campaign. Since the launch of the app on March 7, Skrillex has seen sizable percentage gains across all social platforms. He’s seen a gain of 359k new Facebook fans—up 71% from the two-week period before. Additionally, the EDM artist has seen spikes of 81% and 53% in Twitter mentions and Wikipedia views respectively—seeing major gains on Tuesday March 11 (the day after the album leak).

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People aren’t just talking about Skrillex on Twitter—he’s also receiving new followers, with numbers up 48% percent. In regular Skrillex fashion, the artist uploaded Recess to his SoundCloud account on March 18, resulting in a 104% spike in SoundCloud plays. Over these two weeks, Skrillex has seen 6.2 million plays on his account—roughly 8% of his total play count.

In terms of developing more of a following  I agree that this method my attract more media attention but it might just be doing so because of the recent success Beyonce had with her album.  “Recess” did sell well but not nearly as close to the numbers that Beyonce hit with her release.  Skrillex sold about 45-50k while Beyonce moved and impressive 600k+ copies.  To me it seems as if though this strategy is more of a stunt to gain a buzz for the album rather than a real strategy and if more and more artists continue to use this strategy then does it not lose its appeal?  Some industry executives seem to think so:

“I think the surprise release is a one-trick pony,” says the distribution executive. “I am not sure it will work again.”

“I wonder when this is done frequently, does the surprise factor wane? If there are a lot of releases promoted this way, it will become less impactful. If mid-level and lower-level artists pile in, will the surprise get applied to the point where the public doesn’t care anymore?”

I side with these executives,  I don’t think is method is going to be accessible and effective for all artists, I mean if the artists want to decrease spending and self release of course it might be less cost effective but I doubt it will induce more sales. What do you think? Can this ‘surprise’ method be a sustainable approach for artists  in the music industry?

Sources

“Skrillex Goes Direct To Fans: And It Works”, Next Big Sound:  http://blog.nextbigsound.com/post/81388559458/skrillex-goes-direct-to-fans-and-it-works

“Is the Beyonce ‘Suprise’  Album Drop Working For Others?”, BillboardBiz:  http://www.billboard.com/biz/articles/news/retail/6029292/is-the-beyonce-surprise-album-drop-working-for-others

 

Next Steps: The Future of Twitter in the Music Industry

As cited today by The New York Times, Twitter and Billboard have now teamed up to release a real-time music chart, based on consumer twitter data. This seems to follow in-line with the recent steps taken by Twitter’s increasingly active stake within the music industry. These can be characterized by the deal with the music label / content company 300 and more recently the removal of #music app from Apple’s iTunes store. Twitter has seemed to realign it’s interests to become an imperative player within the music industry.

Key Takeaways:

Usable Metrics and Time Decay: A new shift towards a real-time based music chart places further emphasis on artist’s use of Twitter as a viable means of conversation and visibility. One of the largest issue’s with sharing over twitter is ‘time decay’, depending on the number of users one follows, a ‘tweet’ or ‘retweet’ can appear in any given user’s feed for a variable period of time.

The trending topics sidebar ( although geo-located ) is too holistic in terms of music visibility/ discovery (often only unattainable through unreplicatable events, usually based on an artist or act’s size – see Beyonce ). That being said, if the chart’s are geo-based, there will most likely be a high level of artist repeatability, but may allow for some variability ( hopefully an up-and-coming localized act ). Therefore, it may also spawn greater analytical tools for artists to make adaptations to their outreach / social marketing campaigns.

The removal #music & the marking of a new age: I wouldn’t be surprised with if the missteps associated with Twitter’s #music that popular thought has shifted towards a more integrated user-interface. It would seem that a real-time chart would also lead towards direct purchasing power for twitter users. If your fans are already there, then why would you send them somewhere else?

Have some thoughts? Leave them in the comment section below.

Thanks for the read!

Tech Spotlight: Stageit l A front row seat to a backstage experience.

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“‘Your Online Concert Venue’– Stageit is an online venue where artists perform live, interactive, monetized shows for their fans directly from a laptop, offering fans unique experiences that are never archived.”

Created by Evan Lowenstein ( of “Crazy for this Girl” fame ) and backed by the likes of Sean Parker and Jimmy Buffet, enters StageIt.  An online video streaming service that garnered steam last year as it was named one of the “Top 10 Music Startups of 2012” by Billboard Magazine; featuring some of the biggest names in music, including Rick Springfield, Ingrid Michaelson, Jason Mraz, Phillip Phillips, Jimmy Buffet and Jake Owen (to name just a few).

 Its been almost a year since these accolades, but where is Stageit now?

The buzz has gone, and all that remains is a virtual graveyard of the unknown, built upon a platform that rivals the beta utility of Ustream.

Why?

It’s no longer new, it’s not cool and it’s failing to adapt.

That’s why the big names aren’t coming back.

Stageit relies on basic features such as  a “tip jar” and a “creative rewards” system, which have been the backbone of donation-based crowd funding since its conception. It lacks creativity and rivals a streaming platform that is far superior in every possible way.

 How does Stageit change? How does it become relevant again?

It needs to be creative, it needs to incorporate one-click options, call-to-actions and an integrated merch interface. And it needs to make the right partnerships (e.g. Topspin).

It needs to be everywhere and needs to not solely exist within the Stageit application.

Unfortunately, these changes should have been incorporated about a year and a half ago, when the big names where there. Now, it looks like Stageit has lost its shot.

It’s going to be an uphill battle, but as a soon as Ustream or Youtube introduces a donation-based system, it’s over. It’s I.S. (Instagram Syndrome).

Billboard’s 2012 Maximum Exposure

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Billboard’s Maximum Exposure chart ranks the 75 most effective platforms in music discovery. Essentially this chart rates the best ways to generate buzz and drive sales of a music release for established stars. The panel who creates this list is made up of prominent artist managers, record label executive, publicists and agents.

They compare various platforms such as TV advertisements, Super Bowl performances, coverage on Fox’s Glee, YouTube videos, social media activity, and many other platforms that help generate excitement to an artist’s release.

The top ten promotional platforms for this year where:

1.  A Superbowl halftime-show performance

2.  A Grammy Awards performance

3.  Homepage placement on iTunes

4.  Placement in TV commercial that runs during a special event

5.  A performance on Saturday Night Live

6.  An artist’s first arena-level headlining tour

7.  Placement in a high-rotation TV ad for a leading car company

8.  A performance during the Country Music Association Awards

9.  Placement in a high-rotation TV ad for a leading shoe brand

10.  A performance on Coachella’s mainstage

Simon Cowell is trying to launch X Factor USA winners using maximum exposure platforms, last year’s winner performed during half time at the Superbowl and this year’s winner will be performing at the Grammy’s next year.

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Sources: http://persisholdings.com/news/billboard-taps-golnar-khosrowshahi-for-maximum-exposure-issue/

Business Matters: Spotify UK Shows That the Freemium Model Is Not ‘Unsustainable’

ottobre 09, 2012   |   By Glenn Peoples (@BillboardGlenn), Nashville

A business model that pays rights holders nearly every dollar, euro or pound generated is clearly not sustainable. This fact is obvious to Billboard readers as well as a digital service’s management and the company’s investors.

Last week I wrote about Spotify’s financial statements posted at PrivCo, a website that posts the financial statements of privately held firms. My first impression was that PrivCo’s numbers looked off. After PrivCo’s CEO sent me a link to the full financials and walked me through the numbers, I better understand how the numbers line up — but I don’t agree with his negative assessment.

Spotify is indeed losing money, but I don’t think its business model is unsustainable.

The difficult with assessing Spotify’s prospects is that its financial statements tell many stories at once instead of one single story. Because the service operates in many different markets and launched at different times, Spotify is effectively many companies within a company. And each of those companies has a business model that apparently needs time to develop.

Spotify operates a freemium business model that offers free, ad-supported listening in the hopes of luring paid subscribers. The model is a leap of faith. Spotify is on the hook for the free streams whether or not it monetizes them. It hopes people will sign up for the paid subscriptions. Labels and publishers hope, too.

But the model has attracted investors in spite of its critics. According to the financials posted at PrivCo, Spotify ended 2011 with cash and cash equivalents of €104,271,498 ($135 million), up from €47,251,972 ($62.6 million) in 2010 and €2,083,601 ($2.99 million) in 2009.

More money is reportedly on its way. The company is said to be near a $400 million round of funding that would value the company at $4 billion.

Paris-based Deezer, which operates the same freemium business model, just raised $130 million in a round led by Access Industries, the owner of Warner Music Group. Deezer now has 2 million subscribers to Spotify’s 4 million subscribers.

There should be a natural lag time in the success of a freemium business model. When Spotify enters a new market, it has a relatively high number of free listeners, a relatively low number of marketing partnerships and a relatively immature advertising sales force.

The model itself suggests a lag will occur. Free listening is used to encourage people to try the service before becoming subscriber. The more people use the Spotify, the more people share listening on social media, the more likely they are to eventually subscribe.

If we could see Spotify’s financial results from just one country, we could isolate its business model and reduce the noise from other markets. Financial results from one country might show this lag. Financial results for the entire company show more than a dozen lags happening at different times.

Indeed, proof of the lag time can be seen in the UK. As Billboard.biz reported in September,Spotify reported a net loss of only £2.1 million in the UK in 2011. Clearly the launch in the U.S. in the summer of 2011 weighed heavily on the financials of the company.

Financial statements for 2011 found online show Spotify Ltd., the UK subsidiary, posted a £2.06 million loss in 2011 after posting a net operating loss of £26.5 million in 2010. Revenue grew 51.1% to £95.5 million from £63.2 million. (Due to an intracompany sale of intangible property, Spotify Ltd. actually turned a net profit in 2011.)

The key evidence of the freemium model’s lag time appears to be Spotify Ltd’s improved cost of sales, which represents royalties paid to rights holders. The UK subsidiary’s cost of sales dropped to 85.7% in 2011 from 102.6% in 2010. In other words, Spotify Ltd. paid rights holders about 1.03 for every pound it generated in 2010 but paid out only 85 pence from every pound it generated in 2011.

Another key factor was the improvement in subscriber growth. Subscriptions accounted for 84.8% of revenue growth in 2011 and grew as a percent of revenue from 71.3% in 2010 to 75.9% in 2011. The company obviously got better at converting free listening into paid listening and using partners – such as Virgin Media – to bundle the Spotify with broadband service.

These two factors show the freemium model has potential but will experience a lag as cost of sales becomes manageable and the lure of the freemium model takes time to positively impact subscriber counts.

The key is cost of sales. When Spotify Ltd improved cost of sales by 16.9 percentage points in 2011, it gave itself an additional £16.1 million to cover costs. By lowering costs of sales again in 2012 – through better monetization of free users and better conversion to subscribers – Spotify Ltd. will generate even more gross margin. At its current pace, Spotify Ltd. should be able to turn an operating profit in 2012.

When Spotify US will turn an operating profit is another story. It goes without saying that the Spotify launched in 2008 in the U.K. would have a far better cost of sales last year than the service that launched in the U.S. in July. A large market such as the U.S. will require years of hard work.

Every market is different. In Sweden, for example, Spotify helped streaming services account for 89% of all digital revenue in the first half of 2012, according to the Swedish Recording Industry Association. But nothing is mentioned about Spotify’s inability to resuscitate a moribund Spanish digital recorded music market that ranked five places behind Sweden — #9 vs. #14 – even though Spain has population five times greater.

The freemium model might not work in Spain right now. Not much is working in Spain right now. Even a workable business model has to deal with difficult exogenous factors such as social norms and economic malaise. But the 2011 financials for Spotify UK show that a freemium model can work over time.