Digital Media News

April 2016

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.)

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. .


Is Rhapsody next? Annual losses balloon to $35.5 million…

Last year, the once-promising Rdio slipped into bankruptcy, with annual losses approaching $25 million annually. Is Rhapsody next? According to financial details now disclosed, the struggling Rhapsody suffered losses of $35.5 million last year, a figure that increased 66.7 percent from 2014. The streaming music company counts 3.5 million paying subscribers, though many of those are bundled into pre-existing mobile plans. That suggests lower revenue contributions, unlike higher-paying clientele for rivals like Apple Music and Tidal. Rhapsody’s mounting losses are coming against bullish revenue gains. Over the year, Rhapsody enjoyed a 16 percent revenue surge to $201.9 million, but that cost was very pricey. Breaking $200 million is a record feat for the company, though almost every streaming music rival is displaying a similar pattern of big revenues, but even bigger cash burn. (Source: Digital Music News)


Spotify reaches settlement with publishers in licensing dispute

Spotify will pay more than $20 million to music publishers to settle a long-running and complex dispute over licensing, according to an agreement between the streaming service and the National Music Publishers’ Association, a trade group. The settlement concerns mechanical licensing rights, which Spotify had allegedly failed to properly obtain for large numbers of songs. Spotify countered that it lacked the data to sort out which publishers had legitimate claims over songs, or even how to locate all the parties, because no central and authoritative database existed covering all music rights. Late last year the company committed to developing an administrative system to solve the problem, but by then its settlement talks with the publishers were already underway. (Source: New York Times)


Spotify raises $1 billion in debt financing

According to the Wall Street Journal, Spotify has just raised $1 billion in convertible debt financing, with strict guarantees tied to an IPO. The deal is simple: in return for the financing, Spotify will pay annual interest on the debt, and if Spotify takes the company public, the investors will be able to convert the debt into equity at a discounted rate to the share price that is offered to the public. The massive loan value draws more attention to the company’s stressed financial situation. And there’s little doubt that the music streaming market is being swarmed by the uprise of new entrants. Just last year, both Apple Music and Tidal were launched, with SoundCloud entering subscription recently. Although Spotify is currently in the lead with more than 30 million paying subscribers, Apple Music is not far behind with 11 million. And this is still an early race: Apple acquired those customers in approximately 9 months. Indeed, Apple hit 10 million during its first 6 months, a milestone that took 6 years for Spotify to reach. (Source: Digital Music News)


Music streaming is getting bigger and bigger, but artist revenue isn't keeping up

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has released its annual report on the state of the music industry. Overall, the industry is up almost 1 percent. The MVP, of course, is streaming, which overtook digital downloads as the most profitable format with 29 percent growth amid a decline in both digital and physical sales, and generated more than $1 billion in revenue.  Now for the bad news: While streaming is on the upswing, revenues from on-demand and ad-supported services like YouTube have been "meager," according to the RIAA. "This is why we, and so many of our music community brethren, feel that some technology giants have been enriching themselves at the expense of the people who actually create the music," said RIAA CEO Cary Sherman in a statement, referencing AM/FM broadcasters who are exempt from paying artists and labels, satellite radio's "unfair" rate standard, and the notice and takedown provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. (Source: Mashable)


Streaming has officially taken over the music business

America has a new favorite way to pay for music. For the first time ever, retail revenue from streaming services eclipsed revenue for digital downloads in 2015, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. Music fans are opening their wallets to pay for music subscription services, or listening to songs on free ad-supported platforms. But the two companies most responsible for streaming’s success are Spotify and YouTube, both of which let people listen to music on demand for free. These ad-supported listening experiences brought in less than $400 million in revenue in 2015, compared to $1.2 billion from paid subscription services. This disconnect between massive increases in music consumption and paltry gains in revenue is one reason artists like Taylor Swift and Adele have been withholding their albums from streaming services. But those efforts by certain superstar artists aren’t stopping people from choosing to stream songs instead of buying individual albums. (Source: Time)


In shift to streaming, music business has lost billions

There is plenty of good news in the music industry’s latest sales report, which shows that streaming is up. But a closer look shows that the big sales numbers that have sustained the recorded music business for years are way down, and it is hard to see how they could ever return to where they were even a decade ago. CDs and downloads have been gradually abandoned as streaming has become the platform of choice. The result is that the music industry finds itself fighting over pennies while waving goodbye to dollars. (Source: New York Times)


Which is the best music streaming service?

When it comes to streaming music, there are plenty of options. Digital Music News offers a comprehensive breakdown  of what leading services Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, Tidal, SoundCloud, and Pandora offer. (Source: Digital Music News)


SoundExchange’s New Royalties Tool Designed to Help Musicians Get Paid

A lot has been made about the dearth of music royalties for musicians in the digital music age. There are plenty of places to point the finger, but one of the most basic reasons musicians don’t get paid when they should is the sheer complexity of tracking them down to deliver royalty payments when their music is played across any of the wide array of Internet, satellite, and traditional radio platforms now on the open market. SoundExchange wants to help change all that. The performance rights organization has added a new online tool that will allow music fans and industry members alike to get metadata for their favorite digital recordings, and the company to distribute millions of dollars in unpaid royalties to musicians worldwide. (Source: Digital Trends)


Crunch Digital launches direct licensing service as alternative to compulsory licensing

Crunch Digital has announced the launch of a next-generation music licensing and reporting solution that helps to eliminate the reliance on “Notices Of Intent” (NOIs) and build a healthy streaming economy. This streamlined direct license solution is an alternative to Section 115 compulsory licensing and addresses the mess and the issues that you’ve been reading about in the lawsuits filed against streaming services who have relied on sending NOIs to cover their music licensing needs. Direct licenses issued by Crunch Digital will have the same royalty rates as Section 115 for the same service types. So, the royalty expense for a digital service is going to be the same. Not only will digital streaming services benefit from this service, but music publishers and songwriters will be glad to hear that no commission is taken out of their royalty earnings on direct licenses that are issued by Crunch’s Agency. It’s a 100% royalty earnings pass through to music publishers under a non-exclusive relationship between music publishers and Crunch Digital Agency. (Source: Digital Music News)


What’s the best way to release an album?

Musicians at every level — superstar, mid-sized, or emerging — are now struggling with one simple question: how to release their music. And the options are now overwhelming and confusing. But sifting through all of these options, artists are generally trying to accomplish two objectives:

(a) maximize the amount of revenue made, regardless of the ultimate source; and

(b) maintain and strengthen relationships with fans.

Sounds easy, but those two basic questions can be difficult to address if there’s little data on who’s out there listening and buying. An article in Digital Music News outlines how to acquire and analyze the data needed to evaluate the album release options.   (Source: Digital Music News)


GLITCH partners with the Minnesota Orchestra to explore music in digital gaming

The Minnesota Orchestra partnered with GLITCH to bring a unique mix of music and gaming technology to concertgoers. At the Playful Sounds exhibit, held at Orchestra Hall, 7 local composers showed off examples of their music in the form of digital games. The exhibit was free and open to the public, so people drawn from the street by the colorful displays also enjoyed the games along with the 2,085 concertgoers attending the soldout show. (Source: TECHdotMN)


NPR decides it won’t promote its podcasts or NPR One on air

NPR is an entity based in Washington, D.C.; “public radio” includes it, but also other radio distributors like PRI, APM, and PRX and, most importantly, the over 900 NPR member stations that dot the landscape. And these players don’t always have the same interests. This tension — between the local stations who pay the largest share of NPR’s bills and the network that sees a future beyond terrestrial radio signals — is basically everywhere you look in public radio. And it’s the right frame through which to view this new “ethics” policy from NPR, which says that NPR can’t promote NPR One — the lauded, loved app that is basically the future of NPR — to what is literally the group of people that would be most interested in it, NPR radio listeners. NPR is investing substantially in developing podcasts —but it isn’t allowed to tell radio listeners where to find them or how they can listen to them. (Source: Nieman Lab)


Streaming service BroadwayHD bulks up with ‘Buried Child’ livestream

BroadwayHD, the stage-centric subscription and on-demand service that launched last year, will take its latest step on the challenging path toward establishing itself as a Netflix for Broadway, with a live stream of the current Off Broadway revival of “Buried Child” starring Ed Harris and Taissa Farmiga. Although live cinemacasts of stage product have become relatively commonplace with shows originating in London (through the National Theater’s NT Live series) or at the opera (via the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD program), live streams from New York are still novelties. Viewers can purchase access to the live stream — the equivalent of single-ticket sales — for $9.99; annual subscribers (who shell out a hefty $169.99 for the year) will be able to watch without additional payment. (Source: Variety)


Paul McCartney strikes out to gain control of his share of the Beatles catalogue

Paul McCartney has begun the process of regaining control of his share of the US publishing rights in the Beatles’ catalogue. The publishing is currently owned by Sony/ATV Music Publishing, but U.S. law allows living artists to apply to take back the right 56 years after initial publication, meaning the Lennon-McCartney catalogue becomes available in 2018. (Source: The Guardian)


Latest ad specs for Facebook, Instagram (infographic)

The specifications for ads on Facebook and Instagram are always changing, and WebpageFX compiled an infographic with the latest information. WebpageFX examined 10 objectives for ads on the two social networks:

  • Clicks to website
  • Website conversions
  • Page post engagement
  • Page likes
  • App installs
  • App engagement
  • Local awareness
  • Event responses
  • Offer claims
  • Video views

 (Source: AdWeek)


Facebook's new Insights will help marketers win auctions so more users see their ads

Facebook is giving advertisers a glimpse behind the curtain of its marketing platform in order to better understand how ads perform and how they can better compete. Facebook is introducing Delivery Insights, a tool that will help brands understand how their promotions are performing in Facebook's ads auction. The social media company uses the platform to pair ads with the right users based on price, intent, and quality. Delivery Insights allows marketers to see which ads are underdelivering and tweak them to better reach the desired audience size. The tool, located in the "Delivery" column of a campaign or under the "Tools" tabs, is rolling out globally over the coming weeks. (Source: AdWeek)


Instagram confirms it's changing the feed to an algorithm

Prepare to panic: Instagram said it’s changing users’ timelines to an algorithm. In a move that shadows its sister social network Facebook, the photo-sharing app said in a blog post that it will soon do away with the chronological-based approached it’s used since 2010. Photos and videos will soon appear based on “your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post.” The New York Times, which first broke the news, revealed that Instagram is reordering the timeline because users miss about 70 percent of their feed. And with more than 400 million regular visitors, the platform’s chronological timeline is becoming increasingly more difficult to keep up with. (Source: DigiDay)


Twitter is now turning on its new algorithmic timeline for everyone

Twitter’s new algorithmic timeline was heralded as the end of the service by many, but when it launched, it amounted to nothing more than the natural evolution of the prior ‘while you were away’ feature. The algorithm now appears to be enabled by default across the social network, with users reporting that the company started turning it on it across the service as early as March 15. The feed’s documentation was updated in February at launch adding a paragraph saying that the behavior must be switched off, rather than on. (Source: TheNextWeb)