Thursday, December 18, 2014

What We Can Learn From The Top 20 Streamed Artists Of 2014

Streaming Music image
One of the ways that streaming music differs from radio is that it's so democratic. You listen to what you want to, so any streaming chart or list better reflects the musical tastes of the listeners.

Soundexchange put together a list of the 20 most streamed artists in 2014 based on royalties it has collected, and it will surprise you. The list shows a variety of new and classic artists, as well as a cross-section of genres. Here it goes:
  1. Drake
  2. Pearl Jam
  3. Rihanna
  4. Katy Perry
  5. Bruce Springsteen
  6. Lil Wayne
  7. Luke Bryan
  8. Imagine Dragons
  9. Eminem
  10. Pink Floyd
  11. Usher
  12. Maroon 5
  13. Jason Aldean
  14. Bruno Mars
  15. One Republic
  16. Lorde
  17. Chris Brown
  18. Tim McGraw
  19. Beyonce
  20. Taylor Swift
And the top 5 streamed tracks of 2014?
  1. "Counting Stars" - One Republic
  2. "Dark Horse" - Katy Perry
  3. "Demons" - Imagine Dragons
  4. "Royals" - Lorde
  5. "Happy" - Pharrell Williams
The Billboard charts have always been skewed towards pop music because they were based on radio airplay, which has a very limited playlist that gets even more so every year. That said, streaming is a much better way to see what people actually listen to, and the analytics are far more accurate than the surveys traditionally used to determine radio airplay.

I think you'll see a much better reflection of music consumers tastes in the coming years, which could very well influence the music available, as record labels follow the analytics.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Highest Paid Musicians Of 2014

When it comes to making money, it sure helps if a musician has another source of revenue besides royalties, touring, merch sales and licensing.

Take the case of Dr. Dre, who made more money than any musician in history last year on the basis of his interest in Beats Electronics, which was purchased by Apple for $3 billion. As a result, Dre comes in at #1 of the highest paid musicians with $620 million, according to the following chart by Statista.

Some familiar faces fill out the rest of the top 10, but relative newcomers Justin Bieber, One Direction, Calvin Harris and Toby Keith all had banner years.

Notice who's not on the chart - Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, and Katy Perry, among other current stars.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Skinny Puppy Sues The US Government For Torture Songs

Skinny Puppy torture image
Skinny Puppy
When the spooks at the CIA were interrogating their terrorist captives at the prison at Guantanamo Bay Cuba in 2002, one of their techniques was to play songs at a very high volume from the industrial band Skinny Puppy for 6 to 12 hours straight.

Tipped off by a prison guard who happened to be a fan, the band is now suing the US Department of Defense for $666,000 (an interesting amount) for the unlicensed use of their songs.

Having your songs used as a torture device isn't exactly a badge of honor for any artist, and the band can't even be faulted for being "un-American" since they're from Canada, but the suit probably has more value for its promotional merits than its legal ones. Since the band's CD was played in a private setting by the owner (presumably the CIA) of the CD, you can't call it a public performance, so the suit most likely has no legal basis. That said, there may be some legal precedent that we're unaware of, so you never know how a judge might rule, or even if the DoD might settle to make the whole thing go away.

You still have to wonder if 12 hours of very loud Bon Jovi, Britney Spears, or Iggy Azalia might have the same effect though. Thankfully, most of us will never know.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Universal Music Group Using Big Data For Big Decisions

big data image
For most of its lifetime, the music business was run on the gut instincts of its executives in everything from artist signings, which songs to release as singles, marketing, promotion, and just about everything else.

The major labels of today and their precursors were built on these decisions, but we live in the age of Music 4.0, where just about any decision can be a lot more precise and pragmatic, thanks to the influx of data on just about every aspect of the business, and that's exactly how Universal Music Group is going about things, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.

The company is using a new software tool that was built in-house called Artist Portal to help its execs make smarter marketing decisions. The app allows a user to track everything from artists sales, music streams, airplay and social media buzz happening globally and in real time, then overlay sets of data that include television appearances, concert dates, commercials featuring an artist's songs, social media posts and promotional events. This allows the company to be able to better analyze sales and interest spikes, which in turn helps it to better allocate marketing funds as needed.

Something that's a bit more insidious is that upper level label management can also track how much each Universal employee uses the app, which could play into future staffing decisions, which seems to take the gut instinct out of the picture entirely, which at least some is needed when it comes to creating, selling and creating art. That said, the tool is proving a big help in a variety of ways, with one major example being that its data used as a help to show promoters in Finland that there was indeed an audience for the label's hip hop acts in that country.

UMG isn't the only major label to employee a big data app though, as both Warner Music Group and Sony Music are also developing their own versions of Artist Portal. In fact, Sony now has 25 people on its analytics team, showing its deep commitment to the concept.

I equate this to baseball in that it took the sport a long time to begin to use precision metrics to help executives get a better picture before they made their biggest decisions. It took the music business a long time to come to the same party, but big data is now becoming a major part of the way a major label does business.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Top 10 Highest Grossing Concerts Of 2014

The results are in and the highest grossing concerts from this year will astound you. The following chart from Billboard shows that some music acts are making some serious money on the road. Keep in mind that the chart isn't for an entire tour - it's only for 1 show!

The One Direction/5 Seconds Of Summer tour was obviously a blockbuster, capturing 5 slots of the top 10, including the single highest attendance with 236,566 at London's Wembley Stadium, but The Stones were the highest grossers, capturing almost $28 million for a single date at the Tokyo Dome.

All that said, actual total concert attendance was actually down a little over 1% in 2014, but people paid more money than ever, as the concert industry made nearly 20 billion worldwide - a record.

Highest Grossing Concerts 2014 image

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Spotify Gaining Ground On YouTube

Spotify vs YouTube image
While YouTube is still the king of the online music stream, it looks like Spotify is gaining ground, a development that might mean more money to songwriters, artists, labels and publishers alike.

According to Billboard, the on-demand streaming marketplace has risen by 50% in 2014. This means that Spotify has delivered about 413 million streams this year so far as compared to 274 million in 2013.

Spotify's market share in the streaming market has gone from 22% to 33% this year while YouTube's has decreased from 66% to 58%. That said, 91% of all on-demand streaming traffic is from these two services.

One of the more interesting aspects of YouTube's market share is that it can fluctuate greatly depending upon the posting of a hot new video. For instance, there was a large spike in activity in August when Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off" and Nicki Manaj's "Anaconda" were released. "In fact, Anaconda" now holds the Vevo record for most views in 24 hours at 19.6 global views.

With the introduction of YouTube's new Music Key streaming service next year, you have to wonder whether the market share numbers will increase at Spotify's expense instead of the current trend. Then again, there's always Apple Beats that can change the equation yet another way when it's released in full in 2015.

One things for sure, the music streaming market will continue to be one of the most interesting aspects of the music business next year.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

What's The Most Important Social Network For An Artist?

Artist social network image
When it comes to social networks, most artist's have the same question - which is the best one? That's a difficult one to answer since our social world is such a moving target as technology and tastes constantly evolve. That said, Jacob Tell of the digital services company Oniracom has some answers in this excerpt from my Music 4.0: A Survival Guide For Making Music In The Internet Age guidebook. Here's what Jacob had to say.

How have things changed since we talked for the last version of this book?
Actually the techniques are somewhat the same but the platforms keep changing. There are new ways for artists to get content out to the world, but that content is now two fold. Where before the content was mainly generated by the band or artist directly in regards to a new single or behind the scenes video or something similar, now we’re seeing more user generated content as the other half of the story. 

Some of our most effective marketing is based around user-generated content where we might grab hashtags from Instagram photos, throw them on a map based on geo-location, and then visualize the fanbase across a geographic region that’s posting content around a certain campaign. A good example of that is something we did for Thirty Seconds To Mars called You can see hundreds of Instagram, Twitter pics and Vine videos from all over the world on a map. This has become an extension of community and it really helps the artists connect directly with their fans on another level.

What’s more important today - Vine or Instagram?
For a minute there we really thought that Vine was going to be the most amazing new platform. There was something needed in the short form video space and Vine did the trick. I think the format is a winner, and being that they’re owned by Twitter, they have a built-in audience right off the bat. That said, because that there are so many Instagram users, as soon as it released its video feature to catch up to Vine, the Vine user numbers started to drag. Now you have this split of really hard-core users between the two, with another small contingent on Viddy. The Instagram people say, “I’m already on it and since it pastes to my Facebook wall I’m just going to stay there.”

We always tell our artists that we don’t want them to do things that feel like homework, so if they’re already on Instagram, we don’t want them to try to learn something else and have yet another social network to track. I don’t think Vine is going away, but I think the convenience factor of having both photo and video on Instagram is a huge benefit for artists and managers who have too much to manage already.

How important is Google+?
You ask most people and they’ll sort of scoff at Google+, but I’m one of the outliers who really believes in it as a centralized platform. There aren’t as many active users or bands or brands on it yet, but those numbers are definitely increasing, and there’s a lot of content available if you’re following the right sector. I get a lot of new information and news that way personally. There are also a lot of influencers in the music and tech space that I follow on G+, and I find that its mobile and tablet interfaces are very compelling. 

The fact that everyone in the business world is now moving to the Google Apps ecosystem and Google+ directly integrates with that is important. And Google Hangouts have been one of the most vital collaborative tools to our business. We started those with managers and artists as much to collaborate with them on as to show them the technology and how easy it is to use, so you can plant that seed of “You can do this with your fans.”

What’s the most important social network to an artist right now?
Personally I think visual content wins, so I’d say Instagram and YouTube. YouTube is ubiquitous across every device, the content is instantly searchable and available, and within seconds it can tell the story of a brand or an artist.

When it comes to the other networks though, personally I’m a big Twitter guy. I’m not so much into the Facebook and Google+ world on a day to day basis because of the obligation to connect. For an artist with a busy life, Twitter’s great because it’s more of a broadcast technology yet you can still engage with people and stay authentic and true to your brand. There’s a little bit more of a wall there so that offers some protection if that’s needed.

What’s the first thing you do with a new client?
We have a whole process that we call DNA that stands for discover, engage and advance. The first step is discovery, which means that we listen, since it’s all about hearing the client’s story. Marketing is all about story telling so I get the client to tell me theirs. They may not even think they have a story but they always do, even if we might have to coax some of that information out sometimes. 

Once we understand the story, then we dive into goals. How to achieve those goals is really based on audience demographic. Without a fanbase you’re not going to monetize and sustain a business, so you have to proactively listen back to your audience. It’s a game of give and take. We’ve had a lot of success in listening to audiences because we ourselves are indeed fans of art, music and culture, so that really makes it easy because we’re so passionate about the subjects. That means we can explain why it might be necessary to do something that maybe the artist isn’t so comfortable with in the social space.

Do you do the social day by day with them? How much do you ask them to engage?
It’s a case by case basis, but if we’re talking about an artist on tour, we absolutely want either the artist themselves or someone with day to day access to them like a tour manager, publicist or assistant to be posting content. Anything that’s more from management like an announcement of a tour cycle, album cycle or product release, we become more hands-on, crafting the copy to make sure that it matches the brand and voice and goals. 

Even with the day to day content, we’ll work with them to craft their content strategy document. We have a website called New Media Rules of Engagement or that outlines the best practices on every single social network. We take all those practices and filter them down based on their audience and goals. From there we come up with a content strategy document that says how frequently you should be posting content, how you should be posting that content, how you should be generating that content, how you should be repurposing content from your fanbase, and how you should be responding to your audience. That’s the blueprint for the artist, the management and the publicist to stay within the framework. 

With wireless bandwidth and speeds enabling us to engage with audio and video content from anywhere we are, it should be easer than ever for an artist to be able to engage with their fanbase. 

You can find out more about Jacob and Oniracom at"


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Cost Of Breaking A Major Label Act

IFPI logo image
The latest IFPI (International Federation of the Phonograph Industry - boy, is that name outdated) recently came out with a report about the state of the music industry and a few of the elements that were analyzed included how much the major labels spent on developing new acts.

Here are some interesting figures.
  • The cost of breaking an act is between $500k and $1 million.
  • The typical advance averages between $50k and $350k
  • Typical album recording costs are between $150k and $500k.
  • The typical video production goes from between $50k to $300k.
  • Tour support is between $50k and $150k.
  • Typical marketing and promotional costs are between $200k to $700k.
Major labels spent $4.6 billion dollars this year on A&R and marketing their acts, and 27% of the major label's revenue went to A&R. According to the IFPI, this is greater than what the computer, pharmacology and biology industries spend on R&D.

Finally, there are 7,500 artists signed to major labels around the world. One in 5 is a new signing.

Most artists today really like the DIY aspect of building their career, but there's nothing like the monetary clout of a large label.

Monday, December 8, 2014

High Prices For Vintage T Shirts

Led Zeppelin Back Stage Pass T Shirt image
It's worth $10,000!
Merch has always been a major revenue source for an artist, but it turns out that once an item becomes "vintage" it can also be considered art too. Take for example the case of old artist t-shirts. Believe it or not, there's a huge market for vintage t's, with some costing as much as $10,000. has a great gallery of the most expensive shirts that go from an original Iron Maiden 1982 Number of the Beast tour shirt for $812 to a Who tour staff shirt at $3,000 to a Run DMC My Addidas shirt at $13,000 to Kurt Cobain's Sonic Youth shirt at more than $14k.

Now is probably a good time to look in your closet to see what you haven't worn in ages. It might buy you a very nice vacation.

Check out the gallery here. Thanks to my buddy Jesse Siemanis for the heads up.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

YouTube's Latest Impressive Stats

YouTube image
If you're an artist, much of your life revolves around YouTube these days. It's not only the #1 way that consumers discover new music online, but it's also the place where most people consume their music as well. Recently the service posted some very impressive new numbers.

  • More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month
  • Over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube—that's almost an hour for every person on Earth
  • 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute
  • 80% of YouTube traffic comes from outside the US
  • YouTube is localized in 61 countries and across 61 languages
  • According to Nielsen, YouTube reaches more US adults ages 18-34 than any cable network
  • Millions of subscriptions happen each day. The number of people subscribing daily is up more than 3x since last year, and the number of daily subscriptions is up more than 4x since last year
Mobile and Devices
  • Mobile makes up almost 40% of YouTube's global watch time
  • YouTube is available on hundreds of millions of devices
Content ID
  • Content ID scans over 400 years of video every day
  • More than 5,000 partners use Content ID, including major US network broadcasters, movie studios and record labels
  • We have more than 25 million reference files in our Content ID database; it's among the most comprehensive in the world
  • Content ID has generated hundreds of millions of dollars for partners
Now with the introduction of Music Key, it looks like these numbers can only grow. It will be interesting to see what they look like next year at this time.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

How To Pin Or Highlight A Post On FaceBook

At some point it's worthwhile to transition from a personal Facebook page to a fan page. Here's an excerpt from my Social Media Promotion For Musicians book that outlines a couple of the cool things that you can do with your posts on a fan page - pinning and highlighting.

"Perhaps the two biggest reasons why a personal page is no substitute for a fan page is the fact that a personal page can have a maximum of 5000 friends, plus you can’t access any of the analytics (called Facebook Insights) available. 

Your Facebook Fan Page

The fan page differs from a personal page in that you can have an unlimited number of Likes and access to Facebook analytics, but it also has a number of additional advantages beyond that. These are the things other than the privacy aspect that make a fan page attractive.
  • Pinning posts on the Timeline. If there’s a particular post that you’d like to appear at the top of your timeline, the administrator (hopefully you) can pin it there (see Figure 6.1). This will keep the post at the top of the page for seven days, after which it will return to the date when it was posted. This ensures that everyone will see that particular post for a week, at which time it’s probably old news anyway. To pin a post, click on the edit button on the top right of a post.
Figure 6.1: Pinning a post to the Timeline
  • Highlighting a post. This is a variation on pinning, the difference being that instead of appearing at the top of the page, highlighting makes it stretch out the width of the page so it’s more noticeable (see Figure 6.2). It still stays in the same place, but it visually sticks out of the page. To highlight a post, click on the edit icon at the top right of the post and select highlight next to the star.
Figure 6.2: Highlighting a post
  • A unique experience. The beauty of a fan page is that each fan gets a different experience. If someone visits your fan page, they also see what their friends are posting about you, even though it’s not posted directly on your fan page."

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Biggest Spotify Artists Of 2014

#1 on Spotify
Spotify just released it's 2014 most-streamed figures and a lot of familiar faces show up once again. That said, one surprise is the rise in popularity of Ed Sheeran, who comes out on top as the most streamed artist in general, the most streamed male artist, and had the most streamed album. Here's the top 5 for a number of Spotify categories.

Top 5 Most Streamed Artists
1. Ed Sheeran
2. Eminem
3. Coldplay
4. Calvin Harris
5. Katy Perry

Top 5 Most Streamed Males
1. Ed Sheeran
2. Eminem
3. Calvin Harris
4. Avicii
5. David Guetta

Top 5 Most Streamed Females
1. Katy Perry
2. Ariana Grande
3. Lana Del Rey
4. Beyonce
5. Lorde

Top 5 Most Streamed Groups
1. Coldplay
2. Imagine Dragons
3. Maroon 5
4. OneRepublic
5. One Direction

Top 5 Most Streamed Tracks
1. "Happy" - Pharrell Williams
2. "Rather Be" - Clean Bandit
3. "Summer" - Calvin Harris
4. "Dark Horse" -  Katy Perry
5. "All Of Me" - John Legend

Top 5 Most Streamed Albums
1. X - Ed Sheeran
2. In The Lonely Hour - Sam Smith
3. The New Classic - Iggy Azalea
4. GIRL - Pharrell Williams
5. My Everything - Ariana Grande

Spotify is an on-demand service so anyone getting into the Top 5 of any category has a measure of popularity that can't be denied. That Ed Sheeran's brand of acoustic music could be so popular shows that just about any type of artist or genre of music can make it in Music 4.0.


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