A recent article published by The Tennesseanreported that producer and songwriter Kevin Kadish only received $5,679 in royalties from 178 million streams for his hit song “All About That Base”. Kadish spoke at a Congressional roundtable hosted by the House Judiciary Committee, where the major topic of discussion was the Songwriter Equity Act which, via a Copyright Royalty Board, sets the guidelines for artists’ compensation for radio airplay and streaming services .
Many musicians, producers & songwriters currently feel that they are being shortchanged by streaming services because they are not receiving the fair market value for their copyright material. They also claim that the inequity is due to a lack of transparency in how royalties are actually brokered and distributed. Kadish along with several other members from all corners of the music industry are pushing for a modification to the Songwriter Equity Act, which would seek to create a willing buyer, willing seller arrangement for songwriters and publishers. Copyright owners would be able to offer the fair market value of their songs, including synchronization licensing, as evidence when arguing the digital royalty rates at the federal Copyright Royalty Board.
Meanwhile stocks for streaming services like Pandora are spiking with the anticipation that the Copyright Royalty Board will keep royalty rates low for streaming services. While Pandora touts its platform as great exposure for up-and-coming and little know artists, they also try to negotiate the lowest rate possible to pay those artists for the right to stream their music. Considering that the rate of compensation over the last 100 years has only increased by 7 cents, to 9.1 cents per song, its apparent that something needs to change in order to rectify the disparity of compensation that artists must endure.
The Rethink Music initiative at the Berklee College of Music’s Institute of Creative Entrepreneurship recently released a study examining the business practices of the music industry. Business World Online examined the Rethink study finding that the flow of money, which begins with a streaming service and ends at the artist, can often involve a convoluted web of licensing agreements and third-party side deals. Major artists have vast resources and industry leverage to help navigate multilayered and confusing agreements. Smaller artists simply don’t have the resources or influence. Artists such as Taylor Swift can sign lucrative exclusive deals with specific streaming services or, in the case of a band like Tool, can afford to forego digital releases all together in favor of vinyl.
On the other side of the album you have smaller independent artists who draw a certain amount of cache and exposure from streaming entities. These artists are willing to accept the small penance generated by streaming services in order to garner attention for live shows and merch sales. The perception also exists that smaller artists are facing the same challenges they faced in a pre-streaming era: major corporations consolidating their power, money, and influence to divert money from the artist. In many ways, it’s the same old song, just compressed to fit the new digital era.
Depending on which side of the digital divide an artist camps relies on their core philosophy regarding digital music. And for folks like Neil Young, the philosophy is quite clear: “streaming sucks“.
Independent musician service Bandcamp rolled out a new service at the end of 2014 aimed at attracting independent record labels. The new “Bandcamp for Labels” adds a more transparent accounting and stats service that allows all artists within a single label to monitor their uploads and other online activity. Other services within the new platform offer a single fulfillment interface for merchandise sales, direct payments on a per release basis and Bandcamp Pro-level accounts for all the label’s artists. Sub Pop, Ninja Tune, Daptone and Truth and Soul are among the labels already using the new platform.
Considering the surge in self-released and split-vinyl releases, the new service can help streamline promotions and aggregate sales for musicians under the same label. Bandcamp is offering the service at $20 per month for up to 15 artists or $50 per month for an unlimited amount of artists.
Engaging fans has always been at the heart of a musician’s success and social media platforms are proving to be both a virtue and a burden. The ability to promote shows, music and merch through social media has proven to be a long hard slog for some independent musicians. For a while, Myspace was the preferred choice as it allowed musicians to “control” their own image and conversations, not to mention it was easier than maintaining a website. But now, in the never-ending struggle to follow fans, musicians have invested their time and resources into Facebook.
The multi-billion dollar company, who has seen its share of criticisms regarding privacy and format changes, has attracted thousands of bands to their platform. With Facebook’s policy, “always free and always will be,” one would think that the social media platform would be the saving grace of independent musicians everywhere. But certain independent bands like Hillbilly Moon Explosion are experiencing frustrating issues with Facebook as they begin to grow.
So much for the “it’s free and always will be” claim. –Oliver Baroni, Hillbilly Moon Explosion
As the band’s Facebook page neared 14,000 likes, their admin began to receive messages from Facebook saying that they weren’t reaching all their fans. In response, HME posted the following on their Facebook page:
Here’s the problem: Facebook tells us admins how many of our 14’000 fans we’ve reached with each post – often no more than 20%! You want to reach more people? Maybe even ALL of the fans who clicked ‘like’ in the hope of being updated about a band they really dig? Well, PAY! So much for the “it’s free and always will be” claim…
HME’s post was accompanied by a screen shot of a Facebook “Promote” window, which reads “Get more people who like your page to see this post.” Just below the message there’s a dropdown box where an admin can select the amount they want to pay in order to get a further reach. Like a lot of people, I had always been under the assumption that when you post on Facebook everyone who likes your band sees your post. Apparently, that’s not always the case.
Hillbilly Moon Explosion’s Oliver Baroni wrote to me from his sick bed (the band is in on hiatus while Oliver recuperates) about how Facebook has made HME a victim of their own success. Oliver wrote:
Well people who apparently are in the know claim, the stats haven’t changed much. It always was that only roughly 20% of your fans see your posts, due to the algorithm “worker-outer” that decides for you which topics you want to see in your feed and which not. The difference being that now an admin can actually see how many fans are reached per post. We usually hit something around the 25% mark. Rare items, such asthis galleryreached over 40%. But this is probably due to the fact, that we continually added photos to the gallery and reposted over a period of a couple of days.
But Oliver’s issues with Facebook doesn’t stop there. He also wrote about the glitches and bugs that have started plaguing HME’s account:
You used to add a couple of photos to a gallery and those shots would appear in your newsfeed. Not anymore. So we now re-post individual pictures or re-post the whole gallery to give it visibility. Nuisance. And then sometimes posts magically disappear from your feed. This one, for instance – It’s still around, but not on our timeline.
And as if the band didn’t have enough obstacles with Oliver’s illness and Facebook sticking up the works, HME is also trying to promote their new and aptly named album “Raw Deal.”
As Facebook continues to “modify” its offering to users by offering up the most “eyeballs” to the highest bidder, it will be interesting to see if they can hold onto the independent musician. From my perspective, social media platforms should be an even playing field, where megastars can mingle with independent musicians. Instead, new media looks as if its becoming another capitalist-based proving ground where the artist with the most money wins.
I’m an American, which means I love a good comeback story (especially when the resurrected second-time hero has the potential to lend a hand to independent musicians and bands.) Whenever there’s a down-and-out soul on the verge of slipping into oblivion, my American-born empathy for a second chance rises to the surface.
There was a time when Myspace appeared to be gasping for its last breath, drowning in the sea of social networks. But it seems the once sinking social platform has been thrown a lifeline from Justin Timberlake . Purchased in June by Specific Media ( Timberlake’s media investment group) from Ruppert Murdoch scandal-ridden NewsCorp, the once down and out social network is receiving a facelift, but what, exactly, will Myspace look like when the bandages come off? Colin Petrie-Norris, the international director of Specific Media hopes totake Myspace back to its music roots by using Timerlake’s star power to attract other big name musical acts. The full revamp will attempt to bring commercial entertainment more online real estate, while still having to cater to other lesser known artists. It appears that Fox still has a hand in the direction of the social network as Fox Digital Studio has just announced they willdistribute a 7 episode comedy show exclusively on Myspace. But where does this leave the struggling indy bands trying to get a foothold? It appears that the focus of “music” has left the little guy behind.
In the early and mid 2000’s, having a Myspace page was an obligatory marketing tool for independent musicians, but artists have followed their fans over to Facebook and shifted their marketing efforts to more music-oriented websites like Bandcamp.com and Reverbnation. As the Myspace team re-purposes the ailing social network by injecting a heavy dose of corporate commercial entertainment into the mix, it feels like the indy musician is once again getting pushed aside. But does it matter? The digital landscape has more fertile soil for the independent musician than Myspace. Perhaps only time will tell if the new-and-improved Myspace will be a contender again in the social network arena. The fierce fight for social media users may be aimed more at the consumer than at the indy musician. I love a good comeback, but I certainly don’t know if there is one on the horizon.
With the enormous amount of musical data floating around the Internet and the seemingly unlimited number of ways to distribute it, I begrudgingly admit that I only have a limited amount of time and space to dedicate to the subject, therefore I am wrapping up my multi-part series on Music in The Cloud. Constraints aside, this post will look at some of the other portions of The Cloud that help musicians promote their music.
The Swedish music streaming company Spotify has become a major player in the music industry in just four short years. As a “freemiuim” service Spotify allows registered users to search through and play millions of selected music tracks from a range of major and independent record labels. Commercial advertisements are frequently interjected into the music stream for the free portion of the service, but listeners who upgrade to the premium (paid) service lose the ads and gain access to higher bit rate streams and mobile phone apps.
The way that Spotify benefits the independent musician is that it pays royalties to artists and/or labels for every time they play their song. Because all the music played on Spotify is tracked – all participating labels and artists have access to reporting from Spotify allowing the artist the ability to see where and how their popularity is growing. Spotify actually encourages independent artists to use artist aggregators in order to license their music so that it can be played on music streaming sites. For instance, Tunecore is one of many digital music distributors (or aggregators) that enters into agreements with music labels and artists. For a fee, Tunecore will distribute and stream digital copies of single tracks or entire albums to retail outlets like iTunes and amazon.com or music streaming sites like Spotify. Some of the other benefits Tunecore claims to offer musicians (from Tunecore’s website):
Musicians retain 100% of royalties and maintain all rights to their music
Songs can be made available on music video games like Rock Band
Physical on-demand distribution at Amazon
A streaming music player for the musicians’ webpage that plays the artists’ own music
Physical distribution, licensing and endorsement deals
Free digital cover art or physical CD art
Music streaming sites are usually heavily embedded with social media features as well. Grooveshark, another music streaming service, allows users to sign in with their Facebook, twitter or Google plus account. As users listen to songs, they can post comments and the link to the music on their social media page of preference. This has huge benefits for musicians when building a fanbase. For artists, the task of gaining exposure through “word-of-mouth” promotion is transformed online with these types of embedded social media applications.
I’m sure this will not be the last post regarding music in The Cloud, but I want to open the blog to another range of topics. And besides, it’s been too long since I mentioned Valient Thorr.
Nowhere is the The Cloud more dense than in a social network. For most musicians, navigating the world of social media means trying to get the word-out about a gig on twitter, distributing a new video on Facebook, or sharing a music recommendation link with fans on Tumblr. Executing a thoughtful multi-platform campaign can mean the difference between an audience of one or one hundred.
Musicians also have a need to communicate with other musicians. Whether it’s co-ordinating a three-country European tour or just looking for some new music to refresh the ipod, social networks like Facebook or twitter, no doubt, have a an immense and immediate impact. But sometimes, a musician may have a need to go deeper into a peripheral social network to fulfill sub-genre musical needs that isn’t as satisfying at the twitter and Facebook-level. Ning, the self-proclaimed “world’s largest platform for creating social networks” is helping musical sub-genre networks to flourish.
Ning mainly offers users the ability to build a custom social network alongside other users with similar interests. Whether the topic is cars, gardening, politics or music, a point-and-click social network can be built with relative ease. With Ning, the technical hurdles of building a social network online are easily overcome with several different page design templates. Also, built-in “social integration” is made easy with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The next largest hurdle to traverse is recruiting other users to help build content, but with the right group of people, the “do-it-yourself” social network could become a vibrant online community. An example of a musical sub-genre that has successfully burrowed out its own niche in social networking is GaragePunk Hideout.
The Garagepunk.com url redirects visitors to the modest 1114 member network operating on the Ning platform. The Hideout offers musicians a member forum, chat room, band and musician groups, and (my personal favorite) GaragePunk Pirate Radio. This section of the network is a collection of garage punk-themed podcasts showcasing music from bands like The Swingin’ Neckbreakers and The Hydes. The network also offers submission guidelines for musicians hoping to have their music played on a GPPR podcasts. The submission policy requires prospective musicians to register with MeVio’s Music Alley to upload their music. The podcast producers, who are also members at Music Alley, search through the appropriate musical genre (or in this case sub-genre: Garage Punk) for the bands they want to play on their podcasts. For musician’s protection, the Music Alley submission policy stipulates that musicians and/or labels maintain full ownership of their music. What really stands out to me about the Garage Punk Hideout is the coverage of the sub genre of the sub genres which can include: surf punk, psycho punk, rockabilly. Another admirable feature of GaragePunk is the idea that it’s somewhat a “musician’s hang out.” The posting guidelines on the GaragePunk band and musician page claims:
This is the place for bands and musicians to talk shop. Discuss your favorite gear, recording techniques, how to get that certain sound, touring, promoting your band, vinyl pressing services, CD duplication services, etc.
This is just an example of how musicians and music lovers with a DIY attitude can carve out their own place in the social cyberspace.
In my seemingly never-ending search for information about how new media is used by musicians, I run up against a few barriers; for instance, emails to new media companies go unanswered. But the corporate cold-shoulder aside, my biggest hurdle is the size of The Cloud. Everyday I discover different bands using an array of online tools to embed their music to a blog or to post gig announcements in some form of social media. So, without admitting I’m overwhelmed, I’ll just say that I will try to give as much attention to each online service that I can. Today I will start with a big one: reverbnation.com
Created in 2006, reverbnation.com claims to have “the best tools for musicians and the best music for everyone else.” With nearly 2 million artists using their service, they certainly claim a large chunk of music real estate in The Cloud. From reverbnation’s about page:
ReverbNation.com is the leading online music-marketing platform used by over 1,995,000 artists — plus managers, record labels, and venues — to grow their reach, influence, and business across the internet. ReverbNation.com provides free and affordable solutions to individual artists and the music industry professionals that support them in the areas of web promotion, fan-relationship management, digital distribution, social-media marketing, direct-to-fan e-commerce, fan-behavior measurement, sentiment tracking, web-site hosting, and concert booking and promotion
Quite a lot there, I know, but reverbnation is a monster when it comes to building relationships with fans, labels, venues and producers. More than 100,000 artists use their free FanReach emailing service which allows musicians to directly connect with fans. For a premium upgrade, artists can have access to FanReachPro which is for bands who are trying to grow their fan base, book gigs, and earn money from selling merchandise and music.
In the true spirit of the “freemium” service, rudimentary tools get bands started with a profile, which allows them to access to music players and widgets and a multitude of other services. If bands want upgrade to the paid service they can access tools to customize their e-newsletters and press kits and get more detailed stats regarding their fan activity.
Reverbnation’s GigFinder service helps artists find venues that showcase bands similar in genre to their music. It also allows users to search in a specific geography which is extremely helpful when booking tour dates. With over 100,000 venue listings around the world, bands can extend their reach for gigs beyond their own backyard.
I didn’t intend for this entry to be a reverbnation commercial, but I have to admit that the sheer breadth and depth of their services for musicians is staggering. It is an excellent alternative for bands that don’t have the time and resources to build and maintain their own website. For more about what they have to offer check out reverbnation’s Artist Features Page.
I am taking a break from my multi-part series on “how The Cloud assists musicians” in order to discuss SOPA or the Stop Online Piracy Act that is currently being debated in the US. As a gesture that the US Justice Department means serious business about online piracy, a large online file sharing site called Megaupload was shut down yesterday by a co-ordinated medley of 8 countries including New Zealand. FBI agents who structured the case against Megaupload call it an international crime ring — a racketeering enterprise. The US charges that the website made $175 million from pirated movies and music since 2005 and cost copyright holders nearly half a billion dollars more. With that in mind, how does this affect the little guy, the indy band struggling to “make it” on downloads, touring the US and t-shirt sales?
Valient Thorr‘s lead singer Valient Himself manages the band’s twitter page and he posted a multi-tweet “ramble” on what SOPA and the Megaupload shutdown means to his band. Below I have pieced together Valient Himself’s 12 tweet monologue with expletives censored.
From Valient Thorr’s Twitter page (Jan 20, 2012):
I wanna ramble for a sec here- don’t wanna clog feeds too much, so hopefully you won’t unfollow, but I wanna address something:
there’s a big difference between censorship & piracy. I’ve been against SOPA & PIPA from the beginning, but not because they may take away
my ability to download free movies or music. That (hopefully) is NOT why MOST artists are against it. We are against it b/c the bills are
written SO poorly as to allow corpos & the gov’t to BLOCK or CENSOR our sites & therefore our thoughts & freedom much like in China, etc.
Downloading flicks & jams that are not free is illegal, & REALLY takes bread out of all artist’s (big & SMALL) pockets (read: mouths).
I’m still against SOPA & PIPA & I think the MPAA & RIAA are f****** up. But if Megaupload goes down, that’s not censorship. They were pirates
Everyone is guilty of illegal downloading. Me including. Since Napster was invented. But its out of hand. There are still tons of sites up.
I’ll not shed a tear for megaupload. The point of this ramble is this: SOPA & PIPA were written poorly. Most in gov’t couldn’t tell you why
If they were purely anti-piracy they may not have been that bad. But they were full of flaws that would have endangered our freedom.
But piracy endangers plenty as well. Many artists have spoken out about this. Gillionaires may not care, but hundredaires can’t afford rent!
Just wanted our Anonymous friends to know that while we’re mostly on their side, All stories aren’t black & white.
Thanx for reading… sorry for the ramble. Hope yall dig that. now back to your regular scheduled horse****. #peace
Valient Himself has never been more outspoken or elegant in his opinions and because we are witnessing a milestone in online privacy/piracy/speech, I would be remiss to neglect devoting some time and space to the issue here on Project Bandwidth. I tend to agree mostly with Valient Himself’s opinion. Poorly written legislation can have a chilling effect on free speech. Perhaps a more contemplative piece of legislation will replace SOPA in the future, but even with SOPA not officially “on the books” the long arm of US law has already managed to take down an internet monolith like Megaupload. Imagine what the US could do with SOPA in full effect.