Life with a Sound Track

Imagine if your everyday life had a soundtrack. The places you visited from Paris to Hollywood, the same everyday route you took to school or work, the local park down the street or even the closest beach you jog in the morning had a specific soundtrack associated to that location.

Musicians and music lovers alike have had a form of doing this for years through playlist. A group of college students going on a road trip might construct a playlist, or a compilation album that would then become the sounds of a memory forever associating to that road trip. A sixteen year old girl going through a break-up might decide to create a playlist of heartbreaking pop hits.

Adding location awareness to music apps is fast becoming a major mobile trend, as is evident by a rash of new mobile music apps hitting app stores of late. Use of location technology is taking many forms. Many, if not most, are designed to let users tag a location with a song. The result can be a localized, crowdsourced playlist, add context to the discovery of a new song or even be used as a way to find concerts and live shows. Other apps flip it around a bit by letting users in the same area determine what the venue should play. Think about the data local businesses could collect.

For those Spotify Premium listeners, Spotfiy early this year created a new feature for their mobile device app that has tempo detection to the rhythm of your Stride. Here is how it works: Pick from a playlist, such as “Recommended For You,” “Pop Hits,” or “Electronic Moves,” and you’ll hear a woman’s voice say, “Start running to detect tempo.” Your stride shows up as pulses on the green circle until she says that she knows your stride. It takes a few seconds—about ten paces. Then you’ll get a track with matching beats per minute. Genius.

Imagine if these two amazing app features together in one. As a provider of music and sound catalogs such as Spotify, this would open up a whole new world of revenue for musicians. This would create jobs for composers, DJs, playlist makers from all over the world giving them the opportunity to compose and invent infinite sounds/compositions for streaming services. This could re-inspire the consumers value of music and appreciation for it; along with allowing non musicians to compose and create the film score of their own life using the catalog provided by the service.

The Launch & Quick Tear Down of Aurous; The ‘Popcorn Time for Music’

This past Monday Aurous, known as the ‘Popcorn Time for Music’, launched Alpha. This streaming service, like many before it, offers a completely free, on-demand way to listen to music. The biggest attraction to this service is that not only is it ad-free but also allows the user to pull together playlist from multiple platforms whether that is off the internet, Spotify, or from the users own library of music. Creator Andrew Sampsons announces that Aurous has teamed up with ProTip, a tipping services that uses bitcoin’s blockchain technology to pay rights holders so that in this way, users will be able to compensate artists. What seems a bit unclear is whether or not users are forced to pay through listening to a song at a time or are given the option of paying per song.

aurous platform layout

See Aurous layout / interface above.

Essentially illegal to most label and artists a like, Sampson points out that there is a portal for rights holders to take their music off the service if they would like. The idea behind this is simple but is it legal?

According to reports this morning the RIAA has quickly cracked down on Aurous claiming that this service is not only pulling music from companies that to not negotiate with record labels to have their music played on but also with illegal websites that put up free music illegal such as MP3WithMe and VK. Published today on 20KHZ, the RIAA said quote, “This service is a flagrant example of a business model powered by copyright theft on a massive scale.” Sampson earlier mentioned that his intent was geared for users to take off of ad-supported services such as YouTube or paid streaming services.

Although this service seems like a great idea, there are still a clear amount of problems to figure out. Piracy is already a overwhelming problem enough. In my opinion the way in solving this is to make a portion of the website that detects when content is converted from an illegal source that way the company and the user don’t get in trouble pushing the user to legal means of service.

The Tyranny of Choice

Have you ever noticed the immense amount of music that technology allows us to listen to? There are so many choices that it would be impossible to listen to every track out there in one lifetime. This is what a fellow blogger likes to call “The Tyranny of Choice”.  In his blog, he points out simple facts – making relevant points regarding the future of music.

There is a noticeable imbalance in the music industry. There a numerous music services world wide. These music services are focusing on a small percentage of consumers as opposed to targeting a much larger market share. Streaming plays an important rule in the music industry and it has caused cd and download sales to decline. By targeting that small percentage of consumers, music streaming services are simply taking the downloading money and converting it into streaming money. This means the consumers are switching but not spending more. Larger target market is not necessarily being considered meaning there is just revenue transition rather than revenue growth in the music industry.

According to fellow blogger, there are three things to focus on that are predicted to shape the future of digital music – (1) Consumer Behaviour (2) Tech Companies Strategies (3) Income Distribution. Consumer behavior of the next music generation listeners and not the generation transitioning from downloads or cd’s will be the ones music services need to pay attention to. By understanding the next generation, the music services will be able to properly grow and evolve. Technology companies such as Apple, Amazon, and Google control digital music in one way or another. For this same reason, others such as labels and producers can focus specifically on the music while these companies strategize to focus on their own established goals which mostly involve product/service sales. It is a win-win. Finally, artists and songwriters have begun to pay more attention to income distribution. Although it may not happen overnight, the pressure to more evenly distribute this income is an important movement.

Music listeners may not be expected to spend money on downloads or cd’s in the future, however they are expected to listen to the numerous music choices available to them more than ever before. The Tyranny of choice will influence the way we all listen to music. This provides artists and labels with new opportunities though. Because of “the tyranny of choice” technology has created and will continue to create in the future, artists and labels must come together to create partnerships that will allow them to sell an experience – an unique music experience that they can both sell to the next generation listeners. To provide unique music experiences to listeners is what music has always been about so to focus on this same principle in the future despite how technology continues to change our lives is truly a beautiful thing.

To read the blog post and see charts that served as inspiration for this blog post, follow this link – http://musicindustryblog.wordpress.com/2014/09/29/digital-ascendency-the-future-music-forum-keynote/

Musical Nostalgia

I purchased my first CD at a very young age. Holding it in my hands and knowing it in was mine was pretty neat. Playing it over and over again until I knew all the lyrics to every song was an even better feeling. Those days seem to be over though. Technology has provided us all with convenient ways to listen to our music now. Every day it seems as though there is new evidence pointing to the fact that streaming is the evident future in the music industry. Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the effortless convenience that is opening up my Spotify account… listening to my favorite artists as well as easily discovering new ones! Is streaming changing the way we relate to music though?

I am sure I am not alone in saying that there is a certain beauty in owning music from that band you have followed and loved for years. Then again, there is also the music quality you can hear in say a vinyl than you could never hear while streaming that contagious song you can’t get enough of. It is true that streaming exposes us all to unlimited amounts of music we would probably never had discovered or even had the ability to purchase (even if we wanted to). As music consumers… or simply music lovers… we are able to appreciate the technological advances that make life a little easier however, every now and then we are entitled to feel a little nostalgia about the good old days and questioning how streaming is changing our musical experiences.

Article link served as inspiration. Read “Why I Rushed Out To Buy An Apple Classic: Soon It’ll Be Too Late” as it will surely take you for a stroll down your own memory lane. – http://www.nme.com/blogs/nme-blogs/why-i-rushed-out-to-buy-an-apple-ipod-classic-soon-itll-be-too-late

Music Streaming Vs. Music Downloading

Music streaming has changed the music industry. It is easy to recognize that music streaming services such as Spotify, Pandora, or YouTube continue to overpower downloading services such as iTunes or even the more physical music goods such as CD’s and Vinyl. This year, streaming has become even stronger and more apparent within the industry. Although many streaming services have the free subscription option, consumers are now willing to pay for the actual premium subscription option in order to have less advertisements. While physical music sales and downloads continue to weaken, it is only fair to wonder how long it will take for music streaming to take over completely the music industry? It would also be fair to wonder if the beauty of actually owning music from our favorite artists will disappear with time? It will be interesting to see how music streaming will monetize its services so that everyone involved, artists included, can benefit? It is important to ask such questions as both consumers and simply music lovers. For now, we can only wait to see how streaming (and any other technological advances) will continue affecting music in the near future.

Article below provides recent numbers and facts in relation to the same thoughts mentioned above – http://www.cnet.com/news/streaming-music-swiping-sales-from-music-dowloads/

Is Spotify’s long tail bringing benefit for New and Indie artists?

 

Thanks to the internet, anyone can have access to a big diversity of music content at anytime, anywhere. In addition, this technological tool has changed the music industry helping to bring out new and independent projects. This recent phenomenon is thanks to the easy accessibility and cheap distribution of tons of music.

 

Back in time, as soon as a CD album decreased in popularity, it was released from the retailers giving no chance for long tail revenue. Thanks to the digital catalogues the music could still being purchased long after it was first released and its buzz decreased. Basically, the tail of distribution is the time when non-common product sales become profit due to the low cost in distribution and marketing. The long tail is when these sales are made giving us the context of how consumers interact within the digital tools.

In theory, this situation would give a chance for new music to appear in the scene making a more balanced market against the blockbusters-hits. The creation of these niches was supposed to grab new consumers that can follow a diverse content on the web. Social media, blogs, forums and platforms such as Youtube and music stream channels like Spotify seem to build a perfect environment where new projects will finally fight for some space in the market against big labels.

 

The problem is that the mainstream music is pushing down from the top instead of the bottom (new artist) pushing up and fattening the tail of the indie music. The consumption of the product on the head of the tail (commercial-mainstream music) has increased due to several reasons including:

  •       Mediocre content in the middle of the tail
  •       High level of competition within the Indie market
  •       Low barriers to enter into the Indie market
  •       People used to listening to the same music. For instance classic and commercial music.
  •       Consumers are still influenced by the trend of blockbuster-hits
  •       Water cooler effect: people adapt their tastes to fit in social groups
  •       Consumer’s “Tyranny of Choice” in which excessive choice actual hinders discovery.

Statistics show that 1% of the music projects represent 75% revenue in recorded music and 79% in the subscription revenue.  This means that in the economic sense it has become an unrewarded situation for most of the projects especially for the non-commercial ones.

In an era where digital music and streaming is increasing each year, Spotify seems to be the perfect window where new music will be exposed. Unfortunately 5% of the music streamed through this website are the most popular tracks representing 80% of the streams. One fifth of the 25 million tracks available have never been played. In addition, the revenue per streams is ridiculous. As it is shown in the following chart, a song should be streamed around 145 times in order to equal the payout from one iTunes Store song download.

 

In conclusion, although there are people that still believe that long tail is working well for music aficionados and undiscovered projects, it is a fact that it works much better for super projects backed for the big companies that can still make money for many time after the date when the music is released.

If you care about music, should you ditch Spotify?

This week in the Econ class the topic for debate was whether Spotify is killing the music industry or not. My team members, Chris Wade, Jasmine Shepard and I were debating against the topic that spotify is not killing the music industry.

It was a fairly easy debate for us because two of us are regular spotify users and have subscribed to their monthly premium subscription. We got the opportunity to point out some really interest facts and figures and our research only increased our knowledge about the worlds largest music streaming service.

For some of you, who don’t know, Spotify is an online and offline music-streaming platform, which was launched in 2008. It is currently the largest streaming service out there with 20 million-song catalogue and 1 billion playlists. It currently has 24 million active users and 6 million monthly subscribers. It was launched in Sweden and is now available in 54 other markets. 2013 turned out to be their biggest year with a stream count of 4,500,000,000. This streaming platform is easily accessible and has music on the go 24*7. One of the best things I find out about Spotify is the ease of discovery of new artists. Artists like Lorde, who is now on top of the billboard charts were discovered on spotify. You can easily create and share playlists on one platform.

Apart from this, what made us win the debate were the figures that Spotify is alternative to piracy. The young generation is the biggest consumer of pirated content and ever since Spotify, the piracy rate between the people from 18-29 has significantly reduced by 55%.

Despite the problem of royalty payment to the artists, Spotify has emerged as a leading platform for music streaming. Clearly, we were able strengthen our point that Spotify is NOT killing the music industry.

I really hope Spotify launches is India soon enough, else I don’t know what will I use for music accessibility and discovery when I go back to India upon graduation.

Here’s a song by an artist I discovered on Spotify

When I Lost a Debate About Spotify.

Is Spotify Killing the Music Industry?

I recently took part in a class debate where our team was arguing that ‘Yes’ Spotify is killing the music industry.

With a class of music lovers, who predominantly use Spotify to listen to music everyday, it was always going to be an up hill battle trying to convince them.

Our team of three, brainstormed many different arguments but couldn’t find any validity in that the decline in the music industry is solely due to Spotify, as it takes up such a small market share. Instead, we decided to use our passion, what I like to call the Thom York approach and go for the emotional tact. The three of us do not use Spotify and are quite passionate that it is the devil. Trying to articulate that proved pretty hard.

Below is my section of the speech, it gets quite convoluted at times, I hope however, that the audience were entertained and could see some valid points in my argument:

Today, we are not going to use the aid of a slide presentation to tell you why Spotify is killing the music industry. As a class of music aficionados, passionate, next generation leaders, we hope to prove why Spotify is killing the music industry  – creatively, through the choice paralysis and finally the hit song complex.

Here we have a brothel more commonly referred to as the music industry. The major labels are the pimps and the whores are the artists. You can buy that more desired worker, but for a larger price. Or you could just pay for that indie band who you wouldn’t brag to your mates about.

In comes spotify, the STD known as chlamydia that is slowly infecting the music industry. And no, I’m not talking from personal experience.

Amanda Palmer, our favourite TED talker said not to ask an artist about Spotify. “He’ll go on about the glory days of vinyl and recording to tape”…Spotify started in 2008 as a band aid solution to illegal downloading and has killed the value of songs and albums that I Tunes were offering. Just like video killed the radio star, Cd’s killed the vinyl star, Spotify is killing the music industry. Palmer says not to ask the artist but without the artist and their creativity, where would the industry be?

We define the music industry as a creative industry that over the last ten years has seen a detrimental downturn.  The industry is not measured in sales, it’s measured by creativity. We saw at MIDEM music conference, the need for innovation and new business models but the underlying theme of the festival was nostalgia. These big dogs of the music industry were crying out for a need to go back to the model of the 80’s. But why did it ever stop? It is the the global mega stars, often with one hit wonders, that Spotify holds (excuse the pun) – major  biases for that are killing the industry.

Yesterday, Kid Cudi released his 4th studio album. Blogs across the internet cleverly marketed it with a “download here”  button tat automatically directed the user to I Tunes. On I Tunes, Cudi sold it for $10 as a buy album only. Where we were once saving our pocket money for that new parental advisory album our parents didn’t want us to buy, we now pay the same amount to play millions of albums once, make a quick assessment of whether there’s a ‘Gangnam’ hit on it or not, then dispose of it. It is in this quick disposal of music the creative side of the industry is being killed.

Needless to say, we were crushed in the debate, the opposing team spoke well and used many figures proving that Spotify are currently doing some good in terms of sales for the music industry.

We concluded the debate with:

The record industry has been a cold twitching corpse for a long time now, Spotify has just given them a chance to choose their coffin.

I enjoyed the way the results were announced by our teacher over Twitter and the conversation that ensued:

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Last.FM & Spotify

spotify LASTFM

It’s good to be back!  A couple years ago, I wrote about the emerging importance of Last.fm in today’s industry and how it can greatly impact the listening experience fans get from their music.  From compiling data from your iTunes and Spotify library to keeping you updated on events customized to your library, I was always heavily adamant on everyone joining together in using the app.  Sure enough, Spotify optimized Last.fm to run as a complement to the Spotify app so that users could keep their last.fm profiles up to date even while streaming music.  Part of me always felt that the unity between these two would grow, and surely enough, we have now come to a point where Last.fm and Spotify completely run each other’s services off one another.

Last.fm fell off the map a few years ago when its then-limited streaming capabilities paled in comparison to emerging competitors like Pandora and Spotify.  It was back in the day when music still had a debatable price tag on it; companies refused to admit that the future of music was in free streaming.  Of course, now the business model has been completely workshopped, and Last.fm has done, in my opinion, what it needed to do to survive: it has utilized the well-known Spotify to bring back its once-waning forte of streaming services.

Before the merge, listeners wouldn’t be able to listen to a specific song on Last.fm, unless the artist was offering it for free through promotion, or if the user had a subscription.  Now, you can just head on over to your Last.fm library, click on any artist, and, as long as the track is Spotify-endorsed, listen to any track as you please.  Once you do, a Spotify toolbar will appear in your browser, managing your audio stream for you.  It’s a simple move that has revitalized Last.fm’s website.

Of course, these two have been working into each other for a while now.  Last.fm accounts are now accessible directly in the Spotify listening application as a part of the official Last.fm Spotify app.  Just go on ahead under the “App Finder” category in the left toolbar and you can access a streamlined version of your Last.fm information, through Spotify.  Let’s also not forget that scrobbling features from Spotify can still be enabled from the preferences section.

The question now arises: what is in the future of Last.fm’s radio features?  I remember the radio war between Pandora and Last.fm, and it should be noted that the Last.fm Scrobbler app still will not play radio without an account subscription.  It brings up a point that Last.fm has merged with a company that just has a better business model.  Subscribing to last.fm just guarantees you a decent quality radio stream, but you can get that out of Spotify for free.  A subscription to Spotify also gives you playlists you can use during offline mobile access.  Let’s also not forget the free radio services offered by both Pandora and the developing iTunes Radio.  So, to me, it just sounds a lot like a “if you can’t beat them, join them” effort from Last.fm.  Don’t get me wrong, both of these companies are largely responsible for my satisfactory music listening experience in the past few years, so, while this is a dream come true for me, it’s hard for me to see the bigger picture with Last.fm at the moment.

My guess is that Last.fm will just have to keep merging itself slowly into Spotify.  I can’t imagine its subscription feature keeping it on its feet when its users are referred directly to a better service in Spotify.  There are still a lot of personalized features that Last.fm offers almost exclusively, but these are all free, and, as I wrote before, we all know that free in the music industry should be always looked upon as a contingency plan, not a means to an end.

-@NishadGeorge

Online Radio / Music Streaming needs a better Business Model

Over the course of the semester I’ve been writing about developments in the streaming services sector of the music industry.  These services have seen expansive growth in terms of revenue, but to date have been unable to make a profit.

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Many critics believe that the main issue contributing to this problem is the high cost of music royalties. (In 2012, Pandora paid 54% of its revenue for “content acquisition, while Spotify CEO Daniel Ek has recently stated his company has paid over 70% of its income to the recorded music industry).   The cost to license music without a doubt contributes to the net losses of these services, one must consider the business models they employ and evaluate the effectiveness of these strategies.  Consider the following charts:

Distribution of Spotify’s revenues from 2009 to 2011

Pandora’s revenues from 2007 – 2012 by source

Pandora’s revenue sources 2007 to 2012

Granted, the Spotify chart displays distribution of revenues by percentage and the Pandora chart displays total revenues by each source, but the message is clear in both cases – Both services (as well as the majority of similar services) heavily rely on advertising dollars, and far less on subscription services while attempting to subsidize their extremely large group of free users.  It’s no question that online radio and streaming services have brought about the new age in music consumption where access is replacing ownership, but as it stands today, the most popular services have yet to made a profit, while copyright holders (labels, artists, publishers, etc) feel they aren’t compensated enough for their works available on these services. One thing is clear, however, that being both online radio/streaming services and copyright holders need each other in order to succeed – A business model that satisfies all parties involved is clearly needed for the music industry to witness growth in the digital age