Digital Media News

September 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. .


Hi-fi music streaming: people can't tell it when they hear it

A new batch of high-fidelity streaming services, including Tidal and Deezer, are now competing against companies like Spotify, Google, Apple, and Amazon, which offer standard sound quality in their streaming products. We wanted to find out: How much better are the higher-quality services? Research by CNBC suggests that most people can't hear any difference. (Source: CNBC)

How a Justice Department ruling could affect your favorite musician

The Justice Department announced that it had decided against making changes to the regulatory consent decree agreements that govern ASCAP and BMI. But it added a requirement, saying that for ASCAP and BMI to comply with the existing regulations, they must offer “100 percent licensing” of their songs. Some executives and analysts in the music industry said the government’s proposed changes would drive down the amount of money artists received because it would give an incentive to groups like broadcasters and streaming services to shop for the lowest royalty rates. Advocates for technology companies say that by helping keep costs down, this will lead to more consumer choice. (Source: New York Times)

Symphonies in space: orchestras embrace virtual reality

Virtual reality technology was used as part of a performance of the Hubble Cantata, an hour-long composition for orchestra, 100-voice chorus, soloists and narration, by composer Paola Prestini and librettist Royce Vavrek. Staged at the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn concert series, the cantata’s climatic moment came in its last five minutes, when audience members were cued to slip their phones into free cardboard VR headsets that were distributed at the gates. The event demonstrated that classical musicians aren’t content with sitting on the sidelines as more pop and rock artists get involved with VR videos. (Source: The Guardian)

Seattle Public Library has a new free downloading service for local music

Seattle Public Library has instituted a program called PlayBack that allows the public to download local music for free, if you're a library cardholder. (Anyone can stream the music for free.) Currently, PlayBack contains songs by 50 Seattle artists, each of whom receives a $200 honorarium. (Source: The Stranger)

Why does Spotify pay out such a terrible per-stream rate? The answer is more complicated than you think

Spotify initially went to the three major record labels, asking to license their song catalogs and, in exchange, agreed to high price royalty advances that the major record labels set. Spotify also gave the major labels stock so they have ownership in Spotify and an incentive to keep costs low. Spotify insisted on a low streaming rate of $0.00004 to the artists, “because the advances the majors received are not recoupable.” This also allowed the labels not to pay “the artist any of that [royalty advance] money.” (Source: Digital Music News)

Spotify reaches 39 million paying subscribers…

Spotify has now reached 39 million paying subscribers, a strong milestone that helps to validate the controversial ‘freemium’ business model. The threshold has been fueled by heavy discounting for new (and returning) subscribers, including a three-month, $9.99 introductory deal. Back in March, Spotify had 30 million paying subscribers and 100 million total users, suggesting that Spotify is now in the neighborhood of 125 million total users. But paying subscribers are the most important metric for the music industry, with Spotify boosting its paying userbase by an astounding 30+% in just 6 months. (Source: Digital Music News)

Universal reportedly outlaws streaming 'exclusives' after Frank Ocean release

Just two days after FMusic rank Ocean’s Blonde, one of the biggest releases of the year, was released on Apple’s iTunes, Lucian Grainge, CEO of Universal Group, has reportedly ordered the company’s labels to stop the practice of making “exclusive” distribution deals with streaming services. According to Bob Lefsetz, author of an influential music industry newsletter, making exclusive distribution deals is anti-competitive and ultimately harms the consumer and the artist. He says Apple Music should be investigated by the government over anti-trust concerns “because there’s a conspiracy between Apple Music and the industry to change the game, to get everybody to pay for a subscription by putting hit content behind a paywall.” (Source: The Guardian)

Why the industry must kill the Billboard album charts…

Once upon a time, the Billboard album charts mattered, because albums mattered. But instead of shifting their charts towards other formats like downloads, streaming, and playlists as albums died, Billboard and its tracking partner Nielsen Soundscan have repeatedly insisted on cramming these formats into an “album” chart that makes no sense. Now, calculating labels are starting to game the album chart according to these ridiculous new (and constantly changing) formulas, essentially gaming number one albums without actually selling albums. (Source: Digital Music News)

What makes for a No. 1 album in the on-demand age of streaming?

On Monday’s Billboard Top 200 album count, the Apple Music-released “Blonde” debuted at No. 1, with a first-week tally of over 275,000 “equivalent album units” sold — note the wording in quotes. So, what, exactly, is an equivalent album? It’s a complicated mash-up of streaming and sales data, where 10 digital-track downloads sold and 1,500 songs streamed are equal to one album. (Source: Los Angeles Times)

Is Bandcamp the Holy Grail of online record stores?

Does streaming from Spotify, Apple Music or Tidal answer your needs in terms of audio quality and how well the artist is paid? Do you have a good record store nearby, and does it sell cassettes and vinyl, too? Do you only buy new records directly from artists, with a cash transaction and a handshake? Do you love spending time on iTunes?  If you answered no to all these questions, you probably know about Bandcamp, the online music site known for its equitable treatment of artists, and one of the greatest underground-culture bazaars of our time. From it, you can stream music to the extent each artist allows, or buy songs at a price set by the artist — which is sometimes “pay what you wish” — or order physical products from the site. The artist gets 85 percent. Always, the artist gets to know who’s buying, without a third party in the way. (Source: New York Times)

Computers and robots don’t count

An article in Slate discusses some of the complicated legal and philosophical issues relating to the application of the section of the Copyright Act that sets out what counts as infringement, for which the very first Thou Shalt Not is “reproduce the copyrighted work.” (Source: Slate)

Ratings are no hit for MTV Video Music Awards

Ratings for Sunday’s broadcast of MTV’s Video Music Awards plummeted, drawing an audience of 6.5 million viewers, about a 34 percent drop from last year’s total of 9.8 million. The decrease in viewership comes shortly after this year’s Olympics saw a surprising ratings drop, suggesting that live events are no longer immune from a broader trend of diminished ratings that has plagued the industry. MTV, however, pointed to significant gains online: The network said that the V.M.A.s drew 45.8 million streams on Facebook, a huge increase over the 4.4 million from last year. Likewise it said that the V.M.A.s had 62.8 million streams on Sunday, up 70 percent versus what it had last year. But despite those gains, networks still earn most revenue from commercial time on a traditional broadcast. (Source: New York Times)

What killed the jingle?

Marketing ditties once had a distinctive, hokey sound, but today’s advertisers have ditched them for standard pop songs. (Source: The Atlantic)