Digital Media Digest

January / February 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. .


What streaming music services pay (Updated for 2018)
Thanks to streaming music services, record labels reported record-breaking revenue last year. Despite increasing revenue from plays, how much do artists actually earn? (See linked article for a chart comparing current streaming rates and data for the 30 largest music streaming services.)  (Source: Digital Music News)

Idagio, a classical music streaming service, has raised €8 million ($9.9 million) in a Series A investment round from Tengelmann Ventures, Mülheim/Ruhr, btov Partners, and a number of angel investors. The paid service, launched in 2015, currently lists 140,000 recordings and compensates rightsholders on a play-per-second basis. (Source: Tech.eu)

Netflix for Jazz? Quincy Jones’s Qwest TV takes concerts and films digital
A new video platform is seeking to raise the bar, offering a curated library of high-quality video content from across the jazz world. Quincy Jones, the jazz musician and impresario, is helping to start Qwest TV, an online library of concert videos and feature documentaries, most of them unavailable on YouTube or any other streaming site. Qwest will operate like a highly specialized version of Netflix: Members pay a small fee each month for access to the full video library. (Source: New York Times)

Apple is aggressively scheduling a phase-out of music downloads from the iTunes Store, according to multiple sources. While Apple says that no such phase-out plan exists, one source has repeatedly insisted to Digital Music News that the plan not only exists, but that it is ‘on schedule,’ or even ahead of the original schedule. The plan minimizes disruptions among buyers, with a transition slated for a post-holiday, slower period in 2019. The phase-out strategy also includes a clever transition towards Apple Music, the company’s streaming platform, by migrating a user’s iTunes download collection towards a brand-new Apple Music account. (Source: Digital Music News)

The Philadelphia Orchestra is rolling out a new way to make money: the LiveNote mobile app. For the past few years, the orchestra has been experimenting with LiveNote in concerts at the Kimmel Center. The app is able to “hear” and recognize certain passages of music in the room and provide graphic and text information about that particular musical phrase on the user’s phone, in real time. With its licensing partner, InstantEncore, the orchestra now plans to sell to other orchestras the rights to both the technology and content the orchestra has tailored for particular pieces of music. (Source: WHYY)

Preliminary numbers from Nielsen Music Canada show that while CD sales fell 18 per cent over the past year, still selling roughly 10 million units, they were relatively strong compared to the more dramatic erosion of digital album sales through stores like iTunes. Digital album sales tumbled nearly 25 per cent for the year to 6.2 million units, extending what is expected to be a steep downturn as more listeners embrace streaming services. David Bakula, who oversees Nielsen's industry insights operations, said the changes in digital habits mean the CD is representing a larger share of the declining album sales market. He believes that writing the obituary for the CD is premature as labels look to bolster album sales however they can, while older listeners stick to their usual buying habits. (Source: CBC)

When Facebook announced its plan to launch a TV-centric platform called Watch last summer, reports surfaced that the social giant would shell out as much as $1 billion to develop new shows, putting it in the company of Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu that are spending $6 billion, $4.5 billion, and $2.5 billion, respectively, on content. Several months later, Facebook Watch is still trying to figure out what it wants to be and find its place in the congested landscape of digital programming. Given Facebook’s 1.37 billion daily active users, it should have been able to scale its Watch programs quickly. The trouble is that the News Feed–which has become prime real estate for short-form video viewing–defeats the purpose of Watch. (Source: Fast Company)

Spotify is said to be going public in early 2018
Spotify is finally ready to go public. The streaming music giant filed a confidential registration with the SEC in late December, with the intention of listing its shares on the New York Stock Exchange in the first quarter of this year. As expected, Spotify will pursue a direct listing of its shares, an unusual process in which no new stock is issued—and therefore no money is raised—but existing investors and insiders can trade their shares on the open market. Such a listing would bypass much of the bureaucracy of a standard initial public offering, saving the company time and potentially millions in underwriting fees. The move, if it goes forward as planned, would be the most prominent music-related listing since Pandora Media’s initial public offering in 2011, and would recognize Spotify, which began its service 10 years ago, as a transformative force in the music industry. (Source: New York Times)

Spotify has established itself as the leader in on-demand audio, with 70 million paid-subscribers worldwide. But the company now faces a series of hurdles as it-barrels into 2018, with a long-awaited initial public offering on the horizon for the first quarter and-several copyright-infringement lawsuits that could cost the company dearly—and hang a dark cloud of uncertainty over its head. (Source: Billboard)

Nielsen Media Research released its annual Music Year-End Report for 2017. It found that audiences are increasingly turning to on-demand streaming to get their music, while sales in physical media is declining. But some formats are experiencing a boost: sales of cassette tapes, hitting their best year since 2012, are in the midst of a revival. Nielsen reported last year that sales rose 74 percent to 129,000 units sold. (Source: The Verge)

More than 20 prominent music organizations representing U.S. music publishers, record labels, songwriters, composers, artists and performance rights organizations formally announced their united support for four pending music bills, paving the way for a unified piece of music legislation for 2018 in support of:
  • The Music Modernization Act of 2017, which reforms Section 115 of the U.S. Copyright Act to create a single licensing entity that administers the mechanical reproduction rights for all digital uses of musical compositions;
  • The CLASSICS Act, which would benefit artists and music creators who recorded music before 1972 by establishing royalty payments whenever their music is played on digital radio;
  • The AMP Act, which adds producers and engineers, who play an indispensable role in the creation of sound recordings, to U.S. copyright law; and
  • A market-based rate standard for artists from satellite radio
The joint statement is notable in that it indicates consensus from writers, performers and digital services sides for most of the high-profile pending music bills. Notably omitted is the Fair Play Fair Pay Act, which would provide royalties to performers for terrestrial radio airplay, something the National Association of Broadcasters fiercely opposes. (Source: Variety)

The Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) confirmed its decision concerning the compulsory mechanical rates which will be distributed to songwriters for 2018–2022. The ruling includes a significant increase in the overall percentage of revenue paid to songwriters from 10.5% to 15.1% over the next five years – the largest rate increase in CRB history. In practical terms, that would mean a near-44% jump in royalties.  Additionally, the CRB removed the Total Content Cost (TCC) cap, which according to the National Music Publishers Association will “give publishers the benefit of a true percentage of what labels are able to negotiate in the free market resulting in significantly higher royalties for songwriters.” (Source: Music Business Worldwide)

The New York Times published a story about a big announcement from Mark Zuckerberg about a change in the Facebook algorithm and newsfeed, which would now prioritize what friends and family share and comment on, while de-emphasizing content from publishers and brands. While tweaks to the Facebook newsfeed are not new, this shift is a major change. The newsfeed change will also have an impact on nonprofits and others that rely on their Facebook Brand Page to reach their audiences and stakeholders, so de-prioritizing their content or “organic reach,” will require them to invest more paid social.  Many nonprofits, especially small organizations, do not have the resources. (Source: Beth’s Blog)

Back in 2014, Hip-Hop artist Nas performed his classic 1994 debut album Illmatic live for its 20th anniversary, backed by the National Symphony Orchestra, at Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center. Now, the unique performance will be aired as part of PBS’ “Great Performances” series. Nas Live From the Kennedy Center: Classical Hip-Hop premiered on February 2 on PBS. (Source: Brooklyn Vegan)

States are starting to make good on their promises to fight for net neutrality in the wake of the Federal Communications Commission's decision to jettison rules that banned broadband providers from blocking or discriminating against internet content. Montana Governor Steve Bullock has signed an executive order, effectively barring state agencies from doing business with internet service providers that violate net neutrality. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a similar order. The moves follow a lawsuit filed last week by 21 states and the District of Columbia challenging the FCC's decision to overturn its own protections. (Source: Wired)

What if you could combine blockchain technology with music streaming? And, what if you could guarantee higher payouts in the process. Next year, Gareth Emery will launch a new music start-up. Dubbed ‘Choon’ (British-speak for ‘a piece of popular music’), the publishing and distribution platform will focus on getting artists paid a whole lot more than other streaming platforms. Choon will return 80% of all streaming revenues to musicians on the platform. (Source: Digital Music News)
Musicians on Facebook, the world’s largest social network, love posting videos. Major rights owners, however, most notoriously Universal Music Publishing Group, aggressively issue DMCA takedown notices on popular songs. Facebook has willingly complied. Now, however, as part of a new initiative to promote original content on the platform, Facebook has launched the “Sound Collection.” Users can now upload videos and other content using 1,000 free, pre-cleared songs from mainly unknown artists. Nothing gets ripped down as long as you use content from this library. Facebook owns the songs, so anyone can use them to create and share videos on the platform and on Instagram. (Source: Digital Music News)

Facebook just signed a deal with the largest music publisher in the world
Facebook’s music ambitions are rapidly taking shape, thanks to a pair of momentous deals.  Late last year, the social network finalized a groundbreaking pact with Universal Music Group, which includes Universal Music Publishing Group. Now, Facebook has finalized an agreement with Sony/ATV, the largest music publisher in the world. Collectively, the pair of mega-deals ensures that Facebook users will not have videos containing copyright music ripped down.  Or, this at least dramatically reduces the chances — at least until other publishers and labels fall in line.  (Source: Digital Music News)

Technology has been a connector for culture since before music was taken from the concert hall, etched into shellac, and sent out into living rooms across the globe. But the technology is accelerating as institutions compete harder for smaller slices of the attention pie, raising some critical questions. The obvious one is whether there is a decent return on investment. Digital transformation takes tremendous institutional energy. Is it paying off in increased ticket sales and donations? Harder to know than the payoff in ticket sales and donations is the question of whether new digital tools are really getting us any closer to the art and culture itself. Do these new toys add to our understanding, or are they a destination in and of themselves? As they navigate the digital waters, cultural groups will have to arrive at a sensible test for whether their core offerings are being well-served by new digital delivery systems and interpretive aids. (Source: Philadelphia Inquirer)