Digital Media Digest

July 2018

With the accelerating pace of technological change, the League posts a monthly digest of relevant news and information regarding changes, trends, and developments that may affect the digital media activities that orchestras use to achieve their institutional missions. For each monthly digest, the League's digital media consultants, Michael Bronson and Joe Kluger, draw from a variety of websites and publications to provide excerpts or summaries of articles. (These do not necessarily represent the views of the League.)  

As a service of the League, members with questions about the information in this digest or about other digital media topics – e.g., planning, strategy, and production – may contact Michael Bronson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Joe Kluger at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


Spotify recently won court approval of a settlement reached with certain disputing songwriters. The settlement calls for Spotify to pay $112.0 million to compensate songwriters who didn’t receive their full royalties. Although the settlement doesn’t entirely eliminate Spotify’s legal challenges related to royalty payments and copyrights, it reduces the company’s legal problems. Wixen, the music publishing company that opposed Spotify’s $112.0 million settlement with songwriters, is suing the company for $1.6 billion. The case is ongoing, and Spotify faces two other copyright lawsuits. (Source: MarketRealist.com

Billboard reports that Spotify has approached numerous smaller artists and managers seeking direct licensing deals. The Swedish company is offering advance fees as well as a 50% cut of revenue per stream. The outlet estimates that most major record labels in the U.S. generally take in about 54% of revenue per stream, but only 20% to 50% of that makes its way down to the artists and managers. For these proposed arrangements, Spotify would effectively be cutting out the record labels and getting direct licenses for the content. That would leave a lot more to go around for both Spotify and artists: Spotify would pay out less than it would normally have to, while artists would earn more as well. (Source: The Motley Fool)

Looks like Spotify isn’t going to become the next Netflix after all.  Nor will it turn a profit in 2018. Spotify published its first quarterly earnings since going public and the news isn’t pretty. Spotify finished the quarter with 170 million Monthly Active Users (MAU) and 75 million Premium Subscribers. The numbers grew 30% and 45% respectively year-over-year, and fell mostly in line with analyst estimates. Spotify reported a total operating loss of $49 million, approximately 4% of its total revenue. Operating expenses totaled $387 million. Net loss totaled $202 million), down 2.3% year-over-year when the company lost $206 million. Spotify executives explained that its financial results have slowed due to a decline in advertising revenue. (Source: Digital Music News)

Spotify is making a big move into direct artist deals, a potentially serious strike against third-party distribution services like CD Baby and Tunecore. Billboard’s Hannah Karp broke the story that the streaming giant is floating initial offers to select independent artists and management groups, specifically those that aren’t signed to a label and are likely using services like Tunecore or other distributors. Instead of working through a third party, Spotify may also be offering to ingest these artists’ tracks directly, and give them a bigger cut. At this stage, everything is preliminary—and involves a small group of artists. So let’s see where this goes—but distributors are undoubtedly watching this development very, very closely.  (Source: Digital Music News)

Hundreds of independently run YouTube channels have begun to stream music nonstop, with videos that combine playlists with hundreds of songs and short, looped animations, often taken from anime films without copyright permission. Such videos, with subscriber counts in the hundreds of thousands, are some of the most popular continuously streaming music stations on the site. The channels occupy a precarious space between YouTube’s algorithm and its copyright policing, drawing comparisons to the unlicensed pirate radio stations of the 20th century, recreated in the digital sphere. (Source: New York Times)

YouTube stars from Taylor Swift to Ed Sheeran, Beyonce and Jay-Z could be in line for big paydays after the video giant lost a crucial vote in Brussels over new copyright laws that will force it to pay billions of dollars in fees for users watching music videos. While the legal affairs committee vote marks a landmark moment, it will face a further challenge before becoming law. It is expected that a challenge will be lodged by members of the European parliament opposed to it, which will result in the entire parliament voting in July to decide whether to approve or reject the committee result. A final vote on the adoption of the overall legislation will be made later in the year. (Source: The Guardian)

Harvard Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig argues in an opinion piece for Wired that “an otherwise harmless act, passed by the House and now being considered in the Senate, which creates a new digital performance right for musical recordings made before 1972” is not in the public interest. He says that “the “Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, and Important Contributions to Society Act” (or CLASSICS) is as blatant a gift without any public return as is conceivable. (Source: Wired)

The Music Modernization Act (MMA) will give birth to a brand-new music licensing organization called the Mechanical Licensing Collective, or MLC. This is a new copyright licensing organization which will create and maintain the world’s most thorough database of music composition copyrights and their owners, collect mechanical royalties from digital music streaming services, and transmit those royalties to copyright holders based on the ownership claims set forth in the database. Specifically, streaming services will pay mechanical royalties to the MLC based on the number of streams each song has racked up. Then, it is up to various music composition copyright holders to enter claims on their songs in order to receive their proper royalty payments. (Source: Digital Music News)

SoundExchange has launched Music Data Exchange (MDX), a quiet release that is likely to play a big role in the future of US-based royalty payouts. Developed in cooperation with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and National Music Publishers Association (NMPA), the free software facilitates the exchange of sound recording, publishing data, and ownership claims between record labels and music publishers. Basically, MDX is all about bringing more efficiency and transparency to the process of connecting recording data to publishing data. (Source: Digital Music News)

In celebration of turning the big 1-2-0, Deutsche Grammophon will be giving classical fans a nice birthday gift. In a massive undertaking, the label has been busy digitizing tracks from their massive archives of music. Deutsche Grammophon joined forces with Google Arts & Culture to bring 40 previously unheard recordings, dating back to the early 1900s, into the digital landscape. In addition, Google Arts & Culture is planning a dozen online exhibitions brought to you by Deutsche Grammophon, including the ‘The Evolution of Recorded Sound’, ‘From sound to sound carrier: How records are made’, and several biographical presentations on famed classical music conductors and composers such as Leonard Bernstein and Herbert von Karajan. (Source: Digital Music News)

Warner Music Group has quietly launched its alternative to established digital distribution platforms.  Dubbed Level Music, the platform allows self-releasing artists the opportunity to “release their music everywhere for free.” As with Distrokid, CD Baby, Tunecore, Ditto, and UMG’s Spinnup, Level Music lets artists release their music on Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, Amazon Music, Google Play, TIDAL, Pandora, Deezer, and Napster. According to the music aggregation platform’s About page, it won’t charge artists a dime. Level Music vows to let artists have complete ownership over their works and keep 100% of their rights, royalties, and earnings, which is misleading, since the “fine print” says that Level Music automatically subtracts an 8% commission fee along with applicable taxes. (Source: Digital Music News)

Facebook’s long history of flagging content, removing videos, and punishing creators may be ending. After years of successful negotiations with major rights owners, Facebook has just announced that videos containing copyrighted works will be authorized — and monetized. There’s also a video editing tool called Sound Collection. The tool, first announced back in December, allows users to insert audio clips into Facebook and Instagram videos, including songs, vocals, noises, and instrumental tracks spanning genres like hip hop, pop, jazz, country and more. (Source: Digital Music News)

Facebook’s Instagram has been quietly rolling out some new features. Users on Spotify and GoPro’s mobile apps can now tap share buttons and send content via Instagram Stories. From Spotify, users can simply share a sticker of songs, playlists, and albums currently streaming. The stickers feature a link to play the music on Spotify. Now, more details about these music stickers have emerged. And, it appears that Facebook’s ready to do away with Musical.ly. (Source: Digital Music News)

Apple Music has finally opened up its promised analytics platform for musicians and labels. Apple Music for Artists has officially entered into beta. According to the website, the platform provides “everything you need to understand your music’s impact across Apple Music and iTunes.” (Source: Digital Music News)

You have probably noticed a flood of emails and alerts from companies informing you about changes to their privacy policies. Don’t ignore them. All those privacy messages are appearing now because a law called the General Data Protection Regulation has recently gone into effect across the European Union. The law has been heralded as the world’s strongest protector of digital privacy rights. And while it was designed for Europeans, the borderless nature of the online world has virtually every commercial entity that touches the web making changes to its sites and apps to comply. The data regulation law centers on two main principles. The first is that companies need your consent to collect your data. The second is that you should be required to share only data that is necessary to make their services work. (Source: New York Times)

Smaller public radio and TV stations continue to struggle financially compared with larger organizations, according to CPB’s latest “state of the system” analysis. On the positive side, the overall trend is growth. Radio revenues are up 18 percent to $1.03 billion, according to Moustapha Abdul, CPB’s director of station analysis. TV revenues grew 10 percent to $1.27 billion. But a closer look reveals that revenues actually dipped 4 percent among 194 radio grantees with annual budgets of less than $1 million and 5 percent among 75 TV grantees with budgets under $5 million. Among sources of funding for radio, state and local support to large stations grew 20 percent; midsize stations saw an 18 percent hike. But that outlay to smaller stations fell 18 percent. Income from individual and major donors grew 34 percent at large stations and 13 percent at midsize organizations. Smaller stations saw a 1 percent dip, though. (Source: Current)

Film musicians residuals fund collects record $100 million
The record industry might be tanking, but the music industry is thriving within the film and TV business. Employer contributions to a residuals fund for musicians whose work is heard on the big and small screens hit a record $100 million last year, according to the latest report from the Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund. Although the residuals usually amount to less than 1% of the distributor’s gross receipts, over the past 10 years, the fund has collected more than $860 million. (Source: Deadline.com)

The aural magic of Stanford's Laptop Orchestra
The orchestra members have gathered at Stanford's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics to rehearse a new kind of musical composition. Together, sitting on meditation pillows in front of MacBooks, they create songs that stretch the definition of music. The orchestra plays laptops like accordions, turns video games into musical scores, and harnesses face-tracking software to turn webcams into instruments. But at this rehearsal, the Stanford Laptop Orchestra (SLOrk) looks less like the symphony of the future and more like an overworked IT department. (Source: Wired