October Industry Wrap-Up

Spotify Adds Playlist Pitching Options, Partners With Google & Launches New App


October was a busy month for Spotify! They’ve announced some recent updates that impact fans, labels and artists. For music fans who use Google and Android smart devices, an advanced partnership now allows Spotify subscribers to use voice command control of the app using  Google Assistant. Formerly relegated to Google Home smart-speakers, this marks a move towards Google’s acceptance of Spotify’s high subscription rate and putting it front-of-mind when updating its mobile offerings. While Andorid users can rejoice in their ability to say “OK Google, Play Spotify”, Music Ally points out that the tech giant may still be leaning toward YouTube being the lead music brand for Google going forward, as it merges with Google Play.”

For independent labels, pitching for slots on playlists and Spotify’s ‘Browse’ section can be as difficult for those without representation. There also remains an internal struggle between the promotion of label playlists and Spotify’s own in-house playlists. As such, Spotify has moved to offer a new system for indie labels aimed at giving their artists a better shot at making it onto playlists while also (ideally) giving labels’ playlists “a better chance of building an audience on Spotify.” Read more about the pitching system here, and as indie artists, keep your eyes out for more transparent pitching opportunities in the future!

Finally, as creators are concerned, Spotify launched it’s “Spotify For Artists” app on iOS. We’ve talked about the “Spotify For Artists” app on the Blog before, so it’s exciting to see such a helpful tool being offered to artists right in their pocket. An Android version is soon to follow, but for now, indie artists with iOS devices can edit their bios and their ‘artist’s pick’, as well as update their playlists and keep an eye on their listener analytics.

2017 On-Demand Streams Soar in the U.S.


We know, even though it feels like time is flying, the year isn’t over yet. But as a digital music distributor serving independent artists with the opportunity to make their music available on dozens and dozens of digital streaming platforms, we can’t help but get excited about figures like this: on-demand audio and video streams are up 40.5% in the U.S. so far in 2017

At 442.44 billion streams so far, MusicAlly once again provides a helpful comparison that shows that this year, eight tracks have already toppled last year’s most-streamed track, “Panda” by Desiigner, in the comparative window of time.

While the top artists being streamed are no doubt most of the big-timers you’d expect to see leading the way, it’s important as ever to look at these types of figures as an overall shift toward the trend of streaming. Once a consumption method for the ‘active’ music listener, more and more subscribers means more and more music discovery. With direct access to these platforms, it puts independent artists in a good position to be marketing their releases across fans’ preferred channels for streaming.

BandsInTown Announces “Big Break” Platform For Emerging Artists


BandsInTown – if you don’t already know (and you should) – is a popular app aimed at helping artists promote their concerts/tour dates and helping fans keep track of when all their favorite performers will be playing locally. In addition to helping fans discover new artists by offering concert dates for bands they don’t already follow on Facebook via a “listen-if-you-like” style algorithm, BandsInTown is launching their “Big Break” platform in an effort to promote new independent artists.

The new feature “highlights everything you need to know about the fresh faces turning the industry upside down. From the secrets behind their viral tracks to their big plans for the future…”, supported by a series on their blog. BandsInTown will select 50 artists in order to grow their ‘trackers’ following from 500 to 5,000.
This is a very cool step towards further connecting indie artists with new and potential fans. The app is already right up any diehard music fan’s alley in terms of keeping up with their favorite acts’ performing schedules – even for local artists. Head on over to their blog to learn more about the platform and how to keep up with the opportunities coming from the app down the road.

September Industry Wrap-Up

Spotify Expands Video Features, Partners With Hulu

It’s rare that a month goes by without some sort of news around the music streaming platform Spotify’s latest ventures. Last month, we reported on Spotify extending a test to U.S. customers that added videos to their playlists, specifically within its wildly popular “Rap Caviar” playlist.

This past month, Spotify rolled the feature out globally. The expansion was highlight by an exclusively-shot video for pop star Sam Smith’s latest ‘Too Good At Goodbyes’ single. Included in 40 popular international playlists, this quick development one month from its initial testing shows that the company is feeling confident in the feature’s reception from fans. As MusicAlly points out, the expansion of this feature is notable as it highlights Spotify’s video strategy shifting towards playlists as opposed to original shows.

Speaking of original shows, Spotify has also expanded its marketing of premium subscriptions by partnering with another likeminded and innovative player in the media space, Hulu. The two industry disrupters have teamed up much to the delight of college students heading back to campus this semester by offering a bundled subscription package: just $4.99/month for Spotify Premium and Hulu’s on-demand streaming plan. Spotify already offers a $4.99 student special, but this bundling deal is sure to sweeten the offering for a lot of tempted college kids looking for entertainment on the cheap!

Between finding new ways to entice paying subscribers and expanding artist-friendly creative features that we’re seeing in their video strategy, all signs point to Spotify staying on course as an innovative leader in a space in which indie artists can earn more revenue. We already know that music videos continue to be a big part of artists’ marketing strategies, and this combined with college campuses being a breeding ground for new music fans gives artists all the more motivation to get creative in this space.

 

RIAA Reports Strong Growth in Music Industry Thanks to Streaming

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) dropped it’s 2017 mid year music industry review in September, and it turns out everything is coming up streaming! Not a huge surprise to most, obviously, but the numbers are definitely encouraging overall.

Comprising 62% of U.S. industry revenue in 2017 so far, paid streaming is now the largest contributor to the industry, a slice of the pie once dominated by digital downloads. In fact in just two years, that number jumped up from 33% in 2015 – while digital downloads accounted for 22% less this year, down to 19% from 41% in 2015.

Another less surprising point from this report is Spotify and Apple Music remaining ahead of the pack in terms of paid subscribers; but it’s important to note that paid music subscriptions overall grew in the U.S. to 30.4 million – a 50% jump.

Music to investors in the space’s ears? Probably. But the big takeaway for TuneCore and the indie artist community we support: streaming continues to grow among music lovers, giving artists more and more opportunities to get their music heard and discovered on the platforms we distribute to.

 

Australia’s Music Market Emboldened by Indies

A joint report by Deloitte and AIR (Australian Independent Record Label Association) dropped this month, revealing that Australia’s independent labels account for 30% of the country’s $400 million music market.

Always known for some its legendary independent labels and innovative music, Australia ranks #6 in the world music market share. Streaming accounted for 55.9% of digital revenues in 2016, up almost 30% from 2014-15.

While some indie artists may overlook the continent’s power in terms of music discovery, we here at TuneCore are celebrating the figures in this report – because whether it was an indie label or directly through distributors like TuneCore, this shows an encouraging trend towards independent music’s popularity.
Additionally, it’s a helpful reminder that when you distribute your releases worldwide, territories you might not personally visit or tour in can be viable when it comes to revenue and building a fanbase. Read the whole report here.

August Industry Wrap-Up

Spotify Begins Testing Videos Within Playlists


It’s amazing to think about the progress that streaming platforms have made over recent years. Streaming itself was and is a groundbreaking way to listen to music digitally, but one can even point to the amazing influential powers of playlists as an example of how quickly the way fans discover music and engage with their favorite artist changes. Any independent artist who has been added to a higher profile playlist will likely be able to tell you about the positive impact it has on their career, too.

This month, Spotify – which also announced that it has surpassed 60 million subscribers – officially rolled out the inclusion of videos within its incredibly popular “Rap Caviar” playlist (it began testing this feature in March, as reported by MusicAlly). While this is only available in the U.S. for now, it marks another impressive step towards integrating new forms of content for fans to geek-out on. One could say this move also shows video giants like YouTube that Spotify can keep up with the demand.

Outside the realm of traditional music videos, this will be exclusive video content from various artists aimed at engaging fans in a less traditional manner: Spotify claims fans will be able to see everything “from 2 Chainz visiting Dr. Miami to assist him with a butt-lift surgery to Sza hanging out in the woods and talking about her rise to fame, or Wale getting a gourmet meal from a five-star weed chef”.

As this feature is sure to be rolled out further in the coming year, independent artists can see this continued commitment to playlisting as a positive. Getting placed on a playlist can be a powerful way to market your music to new fans, and the opportunity to include video content down the road only sweetens the deal. TuneCore always offers artists the opportunity to be considered for feature placements (with no guarantees, of course), and this facet of marketing and promotion should be implemented into their upcoming releases.

 

Nielsen Report Shows Interesting Millennial Music Consumption Trends


Tired of reading reports and headlines about how ‘millennials’ are eating, drinking, ruining industries, and interacting with the world around them? Too bad! But hey, at least this recent report by Nielsen actually pertains to folks – millennial or otherwise – making music and distributing to digital platforms.

Millennial music fans display “Lots of Love, Lack of Loyalty”, Nielsen says. The report touches on a lot, but when it comes to music, it appears as though fans in the 18-34 range are using multiple platforms to tune in with little regard for the brands fueling them. 57% of millennials are using two or more apps to stream music, compared to only 39% of those streamers over the age 35.

While it’s commonplace to bemoan the decline of terrestrial (and even digital) radio listening among this generation, figures around how much radio they’re dialed into have barely dropped since last year (10 hours and 14 minutes per week down from 11 hours and 17 minutes per week). An interesting thing to note, though, is that millennials are “21%more likely to frequently choose songs than to let the music play without making changes” – an obviously different listening experience from what broadcast radio offers.

As mentioned above – if you’re an artist distributing to popular streaming platforms, this is some must-read stuff. The report concludes that loyalty to platforms aside, “the reality of today’s media scenario is that the addition of new offerings has actually inspired increased consumption.”

 

YouTube Begins Offering In-App Messaging & Sharing


Tired of reading what those animals in the YouTube video comment sections have to say? Yeah, we all are. The good news is that YouTube has launched an exciting new way for fans to share their favorite content with their friends and chat about it without ever leaving the app. As streaming services like Spotify scale back their messaging offerings, YouTube hopes to inspire more sharing, discovering and private conversation while keeping folks in-app.

YouTube Product Manager Benoit de Boursetty says, “We think it’ll make sharing easier, faster and more fun on your phone… These shared videos all live in a brand new tab on your YouTube mobile app, making it easier than ever to catch up on videos your friends have shared or to show them a few of your own favourites.”

The demand for music on YouTube continues, and thankfully independent artists are offered a way to not only distribute properly but also collect sound recording revenue from the Google-owned giant. It’s not hard to believe that we’ll see a spike in sharing among dedicated users who might shy away from music-first platforms such as Apple Music, Deezer or Spotify. As an app that attracts less-than-active music listeners at higher rates, YouTube’s new features stand to make it a friendlier place for artists to share their new releases.

July Industry Wrap-Up

Facebook Moves Closer Towards Copyright Protection


Folks in the entertainment industry (among other sectors of business) have been following Facebook’s growth and expansion into the music space, whether it’s sharing videos, partnering with streaming platforms to encourage social engagement and discovery, or supporting user-generated content and live feeds. With that, of course, comes pressure to protect songwriters, artists and other creators in the realm of copyrights and licensing and ensure that they are able to collect their owed share of revenue. Like YouTube before it, critics have been waiting to see what the social media giant does next in this realm.

This month, Facebook acquired Source3, a content rights management startup, whose goal is “to recognize, organize and analyze branded intellectual property in user-generated content”. Source3’s technology serves brands or users uploading content to “measure their presence or take action against infringers of their copyrights and trademarks.”

While this move for Facebook looks to serve users and brands outside of music, the company did begin hiring its first music licensing staff recently, likely satisfying labels and publishers seeking to further cement social media streaming royalties as a revenue source. And for independent artists outside of the label system, this acquisition can be seen as a step in the right direction as it hints at future revenue opportunities and a tightened up system to combat copyright infringement.

Amazon Music’s 3rd Place Status – Bigger Than It Sounds?


According to MIDiA Research, Amazon Music is now the 3rd largest music subscription service. MIDiA has been tracking usage of streaming apps on a quarterly basis since 2016 and claims Amazon has grown strongly quarter upon quarter: it ranks 2nd behind Spotify as ‘most widely used’; boasts the ‘largest installed base’ of active users (weekly); and as mentioned above, it ranks 3rd in subscribers with around 16 million, greatly surpassing the 4th and 5th placed QQ Music and Deezer (respectively).

Mark Mulligan of MIDiA’s Music Industry Blog argues that while those figures are impressive in an ever evolving streaming market, the real beauty in Amazon’s growth lies in its ability to convert Prime Subscribers (Amazon’s premium shopping service with annual fees) to Amazon Prime Music or Amazon Prime Music Unlimited users. With no additional costs, new payment schedule or commitments, users of the Amazon Prime app can seamlessly shift their music consumption habits – or adopt streaming for the first time entirely – to a trusted source that they are already actively using on a weekly basis.

In addition to subscriber growth, Mulligan also acknowledges not only the advent of the Amazon Echo (Amazon’s proprietary home speaker, of which they’ve sold upwards of 13 million) but also what he calls “The CD Factor”. As TuneCore Artists who have distributed to Amazon Music On Demand know, CDs can easily be made available for music fans who still prefer the physical medium.

While that might not strike some as a huge advantage, consider that physical sales still dominate in Japan and Germany, the world’s 2nd and 4th largest music markets – two out of the four markets in which Amazon Prime adoption is concentrated. Between this and a growing subscription rate, artists have good reason to look to Amazon Music as a propeller of revenue and discovery when they’re ready to release new music.

Pandora Hits Milestone and Introduces New Features


If you’ve visited our site, read our blog, scanned the industry trade sites, or signed into your TuneCore dashboard recently, you’ll know we’re very excited to be approaching a $1 billion  cumulative payout to independent artists this year. Leave it to our friends at Pandora to hit their very own BILLION milestone: one billion impressions on its “Artist Marketing Platform”. Congrats, Pandora! The AMP was revolutionary for its time as it allowed artists to use listener data to learn about their audience – similar to how TuneCore allows you to view data that makes it easier to decide where to spend ad dollars or concentrate touring destinations.

With the ability to pass direct audio messages to fans, Pandora says the platform has been used by over 11,000 artists, who have collectively driven said one billion impressions, which is a major benchmark for the relatively young direct-to-fan marketing approach.

On top of this news, Pandora announced two new direct-to-fan features for the AMP: the ability to promote a single (via pre-recorded audio message), and the ability to promote concert dates (via customized flight dates, ticket purchase links, and geo-targeted messaging). While Pandora remains a curated service, TuneCore announced last year that we’ve partnered with the internet radio heavy-hitter, allowing TuneCore Artists to submit their releases for consideration. With these added features, it makes more sense than ever to be taking advantage of this submission!

Five Tips To Increase Your Value as a Performer

By Mason Hoberg

 

Contrary to what you may believe, learning to play an instrument well is only the first step in becoming a musician who is commercially valuable. To really be an asset to labels, or even just other musicians in your scene, you need to constantly be improving your skills and marketability.

The five tips below are a great place to start, but don’t stop there. If you really want to make it, you need to be constantly increasing not just your musical abilities but your worth as well. After all, everyone wants to be a rockstar: but few are willing to put in the work to get there.

1. Learn Another Instrument

Learning another instrument opens a world of opportunities. Different scenes tend to have different populations of musicians, though most are pretty guitarist-heavy. Knowing how to play the bass in addition to the guitar (or, if you really want to gig a lot, the drums) for example gives you access to the opportunities available to both guitarists and bassists in your area.

Even better, if you’ve already learned one instrument you’ve got a huge head start when you go to learn another one.

2. Build a Resume of Performance

A resume of performance is a document which shows where you’ve performed. It also contains the contact information of the owner at the various venues you’ve played. This alone isn’t going to land you any gigs, it just makes you look more professional.

A harsh reality of any creative industry is that there are thousands of people who are amazing at what they do, all of whom are looking for work. And you’re probably not the best out of them. If anything, you’re lucky if you’re in the top 70%.

This is something I personally struggled with a lot while I was getting my writing career off the ground. There were all these people who were so much better than me (and still are), so I had a really hard time finding work.

A huge part of why I succeeded at being a writer is that I worked at it and got better, but the majority of the success I’ve had is because I pretend I’m a professional. Seriously. I’m just some guy who writes, and in all honesty I’m not awesome at it. But it pays my bills, because I’m willing to market myself as a professional. Thankfully, I don’t have to dress like a professional because I work at home (I’m writing this whole thing in just my boxers and fuzzy socks).

3. Launch a YouTube Channel (A Musician’s Portfolio)

In addition to being a musician, I’m also a freelance writer. Part of how I get new gigs as a writer is that I keep a portfolio. A portfolio is a collection of a person’s work, whether that’s music, art, or in my case writing.

In addition to showing off your work, your portfolio also shows how you approach your work. It shows your voice as a musician, your work ethic (shown by how much you post), and your creativity. A portfolio is a must-have tool for anyone in a creative industry.

In addition to showing off your work and how you approach it, a YouTube channel/portfolio also shows off how well you can build an audience. Having a loyal YouTube following shows that people like your music, which in turn shows venue owners and members of the industry that you have commercial potential.

4. Be Nice

Would you rather work with a musical savant who’s a jerk, or a mediocre musician who’s personable and reliable? When looking at it this way, just about anyone would say that they’d rather work with the person who’s not a drag to be around.

If you aren’t friendly to your fellow musicians, or are dismissive of the abilities of musicians in your scene, you’re going to get a reputation for being a jerk. So instead, just be nice. While it might be really cathartic to lay into someone you don’t like, or tell your friends how much you hate a local band, always remember that you’re a brand and you should represent yourself as such.

You want to be seen as the fun, friendly, and talented musician; not the jerk with an over-inflated ego.

5. Learn To Play Different Genres

Even if you’d never dream of stepping outside of your preferred genre, you’d be surprised at just how much overlap there is between the different genres that make up Western music. For example, sweep picking is used extensively in both Metal and Gypsy Jazz (Gypsy Jazz uses a picking style similar to sweep picking, even if it’s not strictly sweep picking).

These techniques are used differently in different genres, so seeing how other guitarists outside of your preferred genre implement them can help to boost your own creativity. You may also find that once you start getting into these genres you actually like them. It may even turn out that you get into the genre to the point where you join a band focused around it, which will give you even more opportunities to find gigs.

Wrapping It All Up

Music is a business, and if you want to make a living at it you’ve got to play the game. While it can be hard to transform yourself into a marketable musician, you’ll find that the effort you put in will pay off in spades.

June Industry Wrap-Up

Spotify Tests “Sponsored Songs” and Expands Concert Listings

In lieu of traditional audio ads that ‘freemium’ tier users of Spotify hear during a given listening session, Spotify is testing a new process that would allow artists and labels to pay for placement of their song – thus monetizing the free listening associated with this kind of membership. This opens up the potential for artists to to secure a place on playlists, which have soared in popularity among subscribers of all kinds over the past couple of years.

Users of the ad-supported tier will have the option of opting out of this test; and Spotify has confirmed that even if the test is successful, this feature will only remain on this tier. Relying heavily on its plethora of data, Spotify will target sponsored song placement based on listening habits.

While sponsored songs’ likeness to the traditional ‘payola’ models of old terrestrial radio is up for debate, it does represent a shift in how Spotify manages its ‘freemium’ platform and drives revenue from those still unwilling to subscribe for a monthly or annual fee. Spotify has remained one of the few popular streaming platforms to offer a free listening tier, and there has long been speculation around whether or not the company would be willing to eliminate it; the ‘freemium’ model is a key differentiating offer when compared to its growing and formidable streaming rival Apple Music.

It remains to be seen how this will be rolled out and made available to independent artists, but if it is made reasonably affordable and accessible to music makers outside of the label system, they could stand to benefit from the feature by reaching new listeners who are more likely to tune into a ‘sponsored song’ then a generic advertisement.

Spotify also announced that in addition to its partnerships with Ticketmaser and digital ticketing platform SongKick, users will now be able to access artists’ upcoming tour dates via a collaboration with Eventbrite and AEG’s AXS. This means more hometown venues, more touring territories, and more opportunities to promote local live experiences for fans.

LANDR Celebrates 1 Million Users

TuneCore’s pals over at LANDR – the tool that allows independent artists to instantly master their tracks at an affordable rate – have hit a major milestone: one million users! LANDR has continued to offer a great solution to artists hoping to polish the sounds of their tracks while lacking a robust mastering budget.

Throughout most of June, LANDR partnered with TuneCore Artist Chance the Rapper, donating $1.00 for every user that masters a track Chance’s Chicago-based “Social Works” Music Academy, as well as 10% of all purchases. We always love to see great brands connecting with great artists, and the charitable element of this arrangement only warms our hearts more.

Google Play Music’s New Release Radio Feature Launches

No matter what music streaming platform your fans dig the most, (and remember, we help you get your releases on a lot of ‘em!), we can all agree that they should be aware of new releases each week. After all, with so much music being digitally released each year, listeners can feel a bit overwhelmed, and it helps to have a little curated direction when it comes to being alerted about the latest and greatest.

Much like Spotify’s “Release Radar” or Apple Music’s “My New Music Mix” features, Google Play Music announced this month that it’s now offering a feature for subscribers called “New Release Radio”. It’s essentially, according to the Android Authority blog, “a playlist that offers up the latest new release and is actually updated on a daily basis to ensure that you’ve always got something new to listen to.”

As personalized, data-driven playlists and features continue to increase in popularity among streaming platforms, Google’s New Release Radio is a welcomed addition. We look forward to seeing how TuneCore Artists can make their music more discoverable to more fans.

ASCAP and YouTube Strike a Performance Rights Deal

In an era in which artists and songwriters have been forced to be more vigilant when it comes to collecting digital royalties, video streaming giant YouTube and performance rights organization ASCAP have reached a multi-year agreement for public performance rights and data collaboration in the U.S. This comes as a sigh of relief to many who have been seeking ways to ensure that royalties are being paid to songwriters, composers and publishers when their works are streamed on YouTube.

ASCAP CEO Elizabeth Matthews says, “This agreement achieves two important ASCAP goals – it will yield substantially higher overall compensation for our members from YouTube and will continue to propel ASCAP’s ongoing transformation strategy to lead the industry toward more accurate and reliable data.”

Good news for TuneCore Artists who are affiliated with ASCAP: this new deal will allow the two parties to address the issues around identifying and compensating songwriters using the extensive amount of data they have available. This, in general, is also another important step towards creating a system within the digital music economy that holds platforms and rights societies responsible for proper royalty payments.