Digital Media News

February 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. .


10 things you need to know about the Copyright Royalty Board decision

Last December, the trio of federal judges who compose the Copyright Royalty Board announced new rates for internet radio and digital webcasting. It was a bit of a mixed bag, and a pretty complicated decision. But for any musician whose work gets played on internet radio, it could affect what you’re earning. The Future of Music Coalition has put together a list of the 10 things you need to know. (Source: Future of Music Coalition)


$9.99 is ‘way too expensive’ for streaming music, study finds

Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Google, and Rhapsody charge $9.99 a month (or more) for unlimited music streaming.  But is that way too expensive?  According to a US-based survey on the matter conducted by Nielsen Music at the end of 2015, a vast majority of Americans are unlikely to pay for music streaming in 2016.  And the number one reason: cost.  At least one company is paying attention: Spotify.  The company has a ‘list price’ of $9.99 a month, but has been offering aggressive discounts to students and trial users.  (Source: Digital Music News)


Columbia’s WKCR goes silent online

Streaming audio is more essential to the music industry than ever before, but recently WKCR-FM (89.9), the radio station of Columbia University, abruptly shut its online simulcast, cutting off the eclectic station from listeners outside the reach of its broadcast signal. The station said it was working on restoring its online service, but it is unclear why it pulled the plug. A Columbia representative said that the problem was not the cost of royalties but contractual terms with the station’s “provider” and that negotiations were underway.  Under federal copyright law, online stations face stricter terms than their broadcast counterparts when it comes to programming. Online stations face limits of how many songs by any particular artist — or even from a single album — can be played in a given period of time.  Some of the station’s shows often involve lengthy surveys of a particular artist’s work, a restriction which may be part of the problem for WKCR. (Source: New York Times)


Spotify hit with second songwriter lawsuit in two weeks

Another songwriter has sued streaming music service Spotify -- accusing the company of "wholesale copyright infringement" -- in an escalation of the ongoing battle over online royalties and licensing.  A complaint filed by artist Melissa Ferrick accused the digital music giant of using her music without properly licensing her work, marking the second such suit in two weeks. Ferrick's complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, is seeking class-action status and says songwriters should get more than $200 million from the Swedish company. This suit comes shortly after Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven frontman David Lowery, a vocal critic of online music services, brought a separate class-action case against Spotify. (Source: Los Angeles Times)


Unlike Spotify, Pandora says they will not launch new streaming service without “appropriate licenses”

In the wake of 2 class action law suits filed against Spotify in the past month, Pandora isn’t taking any chances. The internet radio service acquired the interactive streaming service Rdio this past November. Similar to how Apple acquired Beats which they relaunched and rebranded into Apple Music, Pandora hopes to do the same with Rdio’s technology. Pandora has contracted Music Reports to handle their mechanical licensing. Spotify contracted Harry Fox Agency. (Source: Digital Music News)


If you want iTunes radio, you’re gonna have to pay for it

Apple will reportedly discontinue its ad-supported iTunes Radio station service as of January 29th.  Beats 1 will take over as Apple’s only free station, and all other stations that were previously free will require a paid Apple Music subscription.  (Source: Digital Music News)


Apple’s amazing new music app hits all the right notes

Apple released one of the most amazingly advanced apps it’s ever made—but one aimed at a fraction of its users.  It’s called Music Memos, and it’s for people who write music. Music Memos (free) starts out looking a lot like Voice Memos. There’s nothing there but a Record button. You’re supposed to tap that button and then start noodling on your guitar or piano, playing your idea for future reference.   There’s no metronome, no click track, no count-off; you just start when you’re ready.  Understand, your instrument is not plugged into the iPhone; it’s recording only from its microphone.  So far, none of this is especially impressive. The real magic happens on playback. At that point, the app can add bass and drum parts automatically.  (Source: Yahoo)


YouTube beware: video is coming to Spotify for Android and iOS

Spotify is moving beyond music. Android and iPhone users of the app will now start seeing video from providers such as ESPN and Comedy Central. Right now, Spotify has more than 75 million active users, including more than 20 million who pay for the service. That might seem like a lot, but Spotify has to compete with YouTube, which boasts more than 1 billion users. Like Spotify's popular "Discover Weekly" playlists, the service will suggest video content based on what people have watched in the past.  (Source: NBC News)


2013: Spotify launches ‘Browse’. 2016: Pandora launches ‘Browse’…

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Pandora has been lavishing Spotify with excessive praise. Pandora has announced Browse, which the company calls “a new way to help you discover even more music you’ll love.” Spotify has a discovery feature with exactly the same name, launched in 2013, though Pandora’s copycat may have the upper-hand. The reason is that Pandora’s thumbs-up, thumbs-down mechanism has been collected preference data for years, giving the company a strong data collection advantage.  Pandora’s copycat ploy is nothing new, and reflects a cut-throat level of competition in music streaming. Amazon is also preparing to more seriously dip their toes into music streaming, with the launch of a new subscription service expected in the fall.  A broader subscription streaming expansion would pit Amazon in direct competition with Spotify, Apple Music, and others, while further pushing cash-stretched Spotify to the financial brink.  (Source: Digital Music News)


Universal, Sony and Warner license new streaming platform CÜR music

CÜR Music, a platform vying to compete with heavyweights like Spotify and Apple Music, has launched in the US this week with 10 million licensed tracks.  According to Music Business Worldwide, Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group have all licensed CÜR Music in the past few weeks.  CÜR Music is most commonly described as a “hybrid streaming service” that “intersects internet radio services like Pandora and on-demand services like Spotify”.  (Source: Digital Music News)


Study will examine future of classical music in pubmedia

Classical Music Rising, a new project spearheaded by the Station Resource Group and other public media organizations, aims to help classical radio stations grow audience and navigate their digital futures.  The project received a $400,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in December. Five of its founding public media organizations also donated $20,000 apiece.  In addition to growing audience for classical music on public radio, currently about 11 million people weekly, Classical Music Rising also aims to develop new revenue and business models, find new talent and encourage digital experimentation. (Source: Current)


On-demand programs prove alluring to PBS station members

More than 30,000 members of public TV stations have signed up for Passport, the new video-streaming service offering on-demand playback of signature PBS shows that went live last Dec. 15.  Twenty-four stations reaching roughly a third of PBS stations’ total membership have begun offering Passport, which appears to be prompting many viewers to become members. Most stations are offering the service to viewers who give $60 annually, or $5 a month — the base membership level for most stations. (Source: Current)


Jukely: can the ‘Netflix of Concerts’ really disrupt the live music industry?

Picture this scenario: It’s a Tuesday night, and you’re home from work, sitting on the couch, bored out of your mind. Sure, you could pull up your Netflix queue and pick a new cancelled sitcom to binge, but what if you had an on-demand option that actually involved going out? What if you could check out a hot new band as easily as a raved-about TV show? Would that be enough to get you off the couch? Bora Celik, the founder of Jukely, sure hopes so. Jukely is a new live-music-subscription app, the so-called “Netflix of Concerts.” For $25/month, you can go to as many shows as you like (with some strings attached, of course, more on that later), reducing the friction and longterm planning normally associated with going to concerts. (Source: FlavorWire)


Tech at the symphony: Boston orchestra loaning patrons iPads

As part of an effort to draw in a younger audience, the Boston Symphony Orchestra is loaning select patrons iPads loaded with content specific to each performance. They'll be able to view sheet music for the pieces being played, video interviews with musicians, podcasts about the composers and analysis on the works themselves. They'll also get a close-up view of the conductor from the musicians' point of view from video monitors set up in the hall.  The storied orchestra, which was founded in 1881, is the first to offer audience members use of customized iPads.  (Source: Associated Press)


ClassicsOnline HD*LL: a simply stunning place to stream hi-fi classical music

ClassicsOnline HD*LL, a premier high-resolution classical music streaming and download service, has just rolled out its all-new 2.0 version.  This update includes an improved audio player, easier-to-use navigation, and faster downloads. ClassicsOnline HD*LL offers streaming and downloading up to 192kb/24bit.  CD quality downloads available in ALAC, FLAC, and WAV formats start at just $5.99.  Many of the world’s favorite classical labels are available on ClassicsOnline HD*LL including Naxos itself, BIS, Brilliant Classics, Chandos, Harmonia Mundi, Ondine, Sony Classical, and many other great labels.  Over 70,000 albums are currently available with more added every week. (Source: Digital Music News)


Touring can’t save musicians in the age of Spotify

Touring is, of course, the most ancient business model available to artists — and in many ways, it remains a vital part of their livelihood, even while the surrounding industry undergoes major upheaval to accommodate the new paradigm of streaming music. In response to the shift in revenue sources, standard recording contracts now intrude into the numerous nonrecording aspects of an artist’s career. But the advice given to the creative generators of this multibillion dollar industry is still one that would be recognizable to a medieval troubadour: Go on tour.  (Source: New York Times)


Playing for the screens – is our obsession with video changing the live arts experience?

In an ArtsJournal essay, Doug McLennan shares his views on the impact of technology on the live arts experience. “Most people’s primary relationship with artists now is through screens or speakers. Self-evidently, the screen/speaker medium is different from the live experience. Understanding this is what made the Met Opera movie theatre project so much better than a Live from Lincoln Center broadcast. The movie theatre streams speak the language of the screen; by comparison, Live from Lincoln Center imagined its broadcasts as facsimile of the live theatre experience.  Inevitably, the language of the screen will increasingly change how artists will think about the live theatrical experience.  I still maintain that the perfection of audio recording in classical music in the 60s, 70s and 80s’ changed expectations of audiences in the concert hall for note-perfect performances. Over time, the recording fetish of “perfection” bred a sterility that damaged the spontaneous connection between artist and listener in the hall. If artists more and more start playing for the screens, how will that change what happens to the live in-the-space performance?” (Source: ArtsJournal)