Thursday, September 3, 2015

A New Find Could Push The "Happy Birthday" Song Into The Public Domain

Happy Birthday image
If you ever wondered why the "Happy Birthday To You" song that you grew up with is often replaced with some lame version in restaurants, television and movies, it's because the song isn't in the public domain. Its copyright is owned by Warner/Chappell Music, which collects about $2 million a year in royalties from its use.

There have been numerous lawsuits over the years claiming that Warner/Chappell didn't actually own the copyright, but all were defeated. But some new recently discovered evidence might turn the tide the other way and return the song to the public domain.

 A librarian at the University of Louisville found the only known copy of "Good Morning To All," the song written by Louisville natives Mildred and Patty Hill and published in a children's book in 1893. The manuscript for the book was donated to the library in the 1950s but not cataloged.

Warner/Chappell acquired what it believed to be the copyright of "Happy Birthday To You" when it acquired the Clayton F. Summy Company in 1935. The company has aggressively defended its ownership of the song's copyright ever since.

A class action suit by a group of filmmakers, artists and musicians filed in 2013 claims that the song has been in the public domain all the while, and has asked that all the royalties collected by Warner/Chappell be returned. The new find in the Louisville library should add some weight to their claim.

It would be nice to have "Happy Birthday" back in the public domain, if for no other reason than to prevent hearing those bad substitutions ever again.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Are Vinyl Records Headed For The Supermarket?

Iron Maiden Book of Souls image
In what may be a fascinating turn of events, it looks like you may see some vinyl records for sales along with the tabloid papers in the checkout line of you local supermarket before long.

The UK's biggest supermarket chain, Tesco, is going to stock vinyl later this week in a special promotion with Iron Maiden and their first studio record in five years, The Book of Souls.

This is a triple album on Warner's Parlophone label, which is interesting in itself in the Maiden were DIY without a label for a number of years.

This is considered to be a trial run that could see the supermarket chain commit to more vinyl titles and inventory if it goes well.

No doubt supermarket chains in the US are watching this one closely.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Why Ian Roger’s Departure From Apple Music Puts It In A Bad Place

Apple Music image
It’s been reported today that Apple Music executive Ian Rogers has left the company to pursue other interests in an “unrelated industry.” That bodes ill for Apple as Rogers was the operational brains behind both Beats Music and its transition to Apple Music.

Rogers has been a long-time digital music insider, having run Beats Music, Topspin (a direct to consumer marketplace for artists and bands) and Yahoo Music. He’s also one of the smartest and level-headed guys in an industry with a dearth of those attributes.

It’s been long speculated that Rogers was a key ingredient in Apple’s acquisition of Beats. Jimmy Iovine may be a vaunted music exec, but he’s been compared to a New York street hustler by many that have done business with him through the years. Dr. Dre is great producer, but he’s seen as a marketing foil for Iovine. Together they were able to turn some cheap Chinese headphones into gold thanks to a licensing deal with Monster Cable, then flip it for a huge profit to Apple.

Rogers was the guy behind the scenes that quietly created the Beats Music service, which was always going to be limited because of the Beats brand and its tie-in with the headphones. He had his finger on the market and the down-in-the-trenches everyday music consumer much more so than Iovine or Dre ever did, and that’s one of the reasons why Apple bought the company. He was just the kind of guy they needed to run the next iteration of iTunes.

I had the pleasure of hearing Rogers speak many times and even interviewed him for a previous edition of my book Music 4.0: A Survival Guide For Making Music In The Internet Age. I always came away much more enlightened than before, both in local and global views of the music market. Ian knew his customers very well, the tools they were using, and the music they were listening to. Read more on Forbes

Monday, August 31, 2015

Facebook Finally Cracking Down On Video Pirates

YouTube takedown notice image
Facebook has really been pushing its video service as a real challenge to YouTube, but it's failed in a couple of big areas - monetization and piracy. Now it looks like the service is finally rolling out a system to at least take care of the pirates.

On YouTube, if someone is using your video or music without permission, a technology known as Content ID sniffs it out and notifies the copyright holder. The channel using the video or song without permission is then given 2 choices - either taking the video down or allowing advertising to be placed on the video, of which most of the income will go to the content owner.

This is how money is made on YouTube. Not so much on the video you post, but on the many others that repost it virally.

Unfortunately Facebook hasn't had any method of doing that - until now.

The service is rolling out what it calls a "video matching technology" that will let content owners tell Facebook that a video clip belongs to them.

This is an important first step to monetization, which is crucial if Facebook wants to give YouTube a run for its money.

Facebook says that it now fields more than 4 billion daily video views, but some estimate that as many as 70% are videos that were illegally lifted from YouTube. Now there's a way for the original posters to begin to take advantage of what Facebook has to offer.

Friday, August 28, 2015

3 Ways To Discover New Hashtags image
When it comes to many social media platforms, hashtags are the bread and butter of organic SEO. Finding the ones that work is always a challenge, but a number of websites can help you along the way. Here are 3 that I've found to be especially good.

1. This is one of my favorites. Just search for a hashtag and will show you its popularity as well as other connected keywords and their relevancy (see the graphic on the left). It also shows the latest trending hashtags, influencers who use the hashtag, and the latest tweets.

2. Topsy. Topsy is a great tool to check on the popularity of a hashtag. It will give you the number of people who have used it in a tweet in increments from a day to a month as well as a sentiment score. There's also a trends chart so you can see if there are certain days when the hashtag seems to be working the best.

3. Twitter Advanced Search. I've always been big on a basic Twitter search at, but its Advanced Search takes it to the next level. It allows you to zero in on a keyword phrase, a URL, a person, place or date and see the latest trends and tweets.

The next time you're going to post anything that uses a hashtag, check it out on a couple of these sites to see how powerful it is or find an alternative. It could mean the difference between someone reading your post or not.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Survey Finds The Music That Label Execs Hate

Lady Gaga running a record label image
Billboard Magazine just conducted an anonymous survey of label execs and the results are interesting, to put it mildly.
  • Taylor Swift is the artist that most would like to sign if just starting a label, followed by Lady Gaga and Adele.
  • Speaking of Gaga, she was named the artist that isn't running a label but should be.
  • 62% said they had a better handle on technology than the average 14 year old (I don't know if that's something to be proud of or not).
  • 54% said that they'd take a job with Apple or Spotify if the money was the same as what they're making.
  • 71% said Jay-Z's Tidal streaming service would last less than a year.
  • 58% of execs admit that the music industry is unfair to artists.
  • There was one topic that was a little surprising. When asked which type of music they hated the most, Rap/hip-hop was #1, followed by EDM and pop.
The survey also asked a few gossipy questions that had many execs up in arms, the most salacious being "Who do you believe, Kesha or Dr. Luke?" Kesha has taken legal action against Dr. Luke (her longtime producer) accusing him of a variety of sexually related charges.

So there you have it, a short but interesting look into the psyche of the executives running the music business today.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Instagram May Have Hit A Plateau

Instagram plateau image
Social networks are a lot like artists, bands and music - they're hot for a period of time but usually don't stay that way. This looks to be the case with Instagram, which may have already hit a plateau in terms of users and engagement.

According to social analytics company Locowise, Instagram follower growth is down to just 0.34% in July, a decrease of 77% from May alone.

Engagement was also down by 19% from May.

Both these figures are still better than Facebook, although not by much, and way better than Twitter.

That said, the days of Instagram being the hot new network on the block may be numbered.

That doesn't mean that you shouldn't abandon the service though. If your fans are there and they're actively engaging with you, then there's no reason to change your strategy.

If your posting and no one seems to be home, then it might be time to re-evaluate whether Instagram fits into your long term online goals.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Most Played Artists On Beats 1 During Its First Month

Beats 1 on iPhone image
There's been some grumbling about the music being played on Apple Music's vaunted Beats 1 global radio station after the first month. For one thing, it appears that the music is repeated in 12 hour blocks so it's not truly a 24 hour station.

Secondly, it's hardly global in that almost all of the songs played are from English speaking countries. Finally, the tastes of the DJs seem to lean heavily towards hip-hop and alternative.

Here's a list of the top Beats 1 artists and how many times they were played in the first month of the station.

You can find a lot more interesting data about the Beats 1 playlist in the Quartz article.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Room Tuning Expert Bob Hodas On My Inner Circle Podcast

Room tuning expert Bob Hodas
This week I'm pleased to have on my podcast the go-to guy that studios big and small use to fix the sound of their rooms - Bob Hodas.

Bob has been tuning rooms for over 20 years and there's nothing he hasn't seen. From big commercial studios (like the famous Record Plant) to home studios to mobile trucks to dubbing stages to home theaters, Bob as tuned them all.

In this episode we discuss some of the common problems that listening environments have, as well as how he goes about tuning a room.

On the intro I'll take a look at the music video site Vevo and why Warner Music might finally sign on, and look a little into the pitfalls of self-production.

Remember that you can find the podcast at, or either on iTunes or Stitcher.

Universal Music To Get A Piece Of Soundcloud

Universal Music Group logo image
Soundcloud is trying hard to go legit and if industry insiders have it correctly, a deal with Universal Music is imminent. This would be the second of the 3 major labels to license their music to Soundcloud, the first being Warner Music Group in November of last year.

As with most licensing deals these days, Universal is said to have pushed for equity in Soundcloud as well as an advance in exchange for the deal. Warners already owns 5% of the company, and it's said that Universal will actually receive a larger piece based on its market share, which is much larger than WMG.

This is a continuing trend in music distribution today where the 3 major labels will not grant a license unless they receive equity in the company. This worked out well for Warners in the Beats Music deal when Apple purchased the company, as the holding company that owns Warners walked away with a hefty profit.

The major labels are hoping that happens again with Spotify (they all hold equity), and now also with Soundcloud.

Of course, none of that income goes to the artist, falling instead to the company's bottom lines. Once again the artist only sees a trickle of the major income. Same as it ever was.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Are Online Dating Sites Killing Live Music?

Empty bar caused by online dating image
Bar managers are complaining that online dating sites like Tinder are taking a bite out of their business, and not just in the US either.

Australia is one of the last bastions for a healthy live music scene but it's been suffering a lot lately, and many feel that's because it's easier (not to mention cheaper) to hook up with someone from the opposite sex through a phone app than in a bar.

Live music in the US has gone through ups and down over the years, but for other reasons. There was a peak of activity during the 70s when almost every town had multiple bars that showcased live music, many on almost every night of the week.

The reason why live music proliferated then was because the drinking age in most states had been lowered to 18, mostly because of the Viet Nam war.

At the time the youth of America declared "old enough to fight, old enough to drink" and many in their state congress agreed, so bars sprang up everywhere to cater to the thirsty youth. The best way to get them into a bar was with live music, so real live paying gigs where everywhere as a result.

That all began to change in 1982 with the MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) campaign that got every state to raise the drinking age back to 21. The new and much tougher DUI laws then caused many to question whether it was worth even going out for a drink. Bars closed everywhere and the music business hasn't been the same since.

One of the things that has never changed is that young people go to bars with live music to connect romantically. Take that element away, and you can see why live music venues might suffer.

Still, blaming online dating sites might be a little extreme. Could it be the music, perhaps?

What do you think?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Google Launches A Dedicated Hangouts Site

Dedicated Hangouts site image
As predicted, Google has begun the process of spinning off its popular Hangouts from Google+ by launching a new dedicated Hangouts site.

The new site allows you to do everything from instant messaging to one-on-one video calls to the killer app of G+ - group Hangouts, or Hangouts On Air.

The new site looks good and is easy to use compared to Google+. There's a navigation panel on the left side that allows you to switch between your phone contacts, chat contacts and conversations, but the main part consists of the big three buttons in the middle of the screen (see the graphic on the left). These allow you to immediately initiate a video call, phone call or message.

Everything is pretty much the same as it is in G+ after you initiate a call.

This is only the latest step in dismantling Google+ as Photos was spun off from the service in February.

While not a success as a social network, Google+ did have a few killer features in Photos and Hangouts, and thankfully they'll continue to live on.


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