Monday, May 9, 2016

We've Moved To A New Site!

Bobby Owsinski's Music 3.0 Music Industry Blog can now be found at:

All new posts going forward will appear at that site, but you can still enjoy 6 years of archives here.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Virtual Reality Concerts To Begin This Summer

The future of concertsI'm a big proponent of virtual reality, especially when the audio is done well, and many have predicted that the technology will eventually be a boon to concerts. We're going to see soon enough as virtual reality concerts will actually begin to roll out this summer.

NextVR, which has been a leader in VR broadcasting of sporting events, has teamed up with LiveNation to broadcast a series of concerts, although no artists have been named as of yet. There will be a limited number of VR music events this summer, with a full schedule planned for 2017.

The NextVR broadcast will be available via Samsung's Gear VR using the Oculus Home app, although they will also most likely be available on other VR platforms as well.

LiveNation/NextVR aren't the only companies jumping into the concert broadcast game. iHeartRadio and Universal Music Group previously announced that they would also broadcast VR concerts this year.

Virtual reality concerts hold great promise because it gives the viewer a feeling of actually being there and watching from the best seat in the house, which many feel may eventually eclipse attending an event. Paying $200 for a nosebleed seat might not be a suitable option when you can get a better view from your home while still feeling immersed in the event.

The same can be said for sporting events as well, as NextVR recently signed a 5 year deal with Fox Sports, although there may be more technical challenges in this niche than with music.

One thing's for sure, VR is taking beginning to take off, even though it still hasn't hit the general public yet, as more and more companies are jockeying for position.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Which Genre Of Music Do We Like Best?

Rock's not deadIf you were to listen to a week of nothing but radio, you'd think that all we listen to in the U.S. is pop and country music. If you were to read a week's worth of the music news, you might think that dance/electronic/EDM was close to the top of the heap in what we enjoy. The problem with those assumptions is that they're wrong, at least according to the 2015 Nielsen Year End Music Report that, among other things, looked at the genres of music we liked the best last year.

When taking into account the total amount of music consumption, which includes physical and downloaded albums, downloaded tracks, and streams, here's the order of music genre preference that the study determined:

Rock - 24.5%
R&B/Hip-Hop - 18.2%
Pop - 15.7%
Country - 8.5%
Latin - 4.5%
Dance/EDM - 3.4%
Christian - 2.8%
Holiday/Seasonal - 1.7%
Classical - 1.3%
Childrens - 1.1%

When it came to number of albums consumed, Rock was far ahead at 32.6%, followed by R&B/Hip-Hop at 15.1% and Pop at 22.6%.

For streams, R&B/Hip-Hop came out on top at 21.1%. Rock at 17.5%. and Pop at 14.5%.

Rock might not be the hippest genre and it's frequently portrayed in the press as spiraling downward in popularity and relevancy, but it still continues to out-perform other music genres, for better or worse.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Record Store Day May Have Peaked

Record Store Day peaked imageSince 2008, Record Store Day every April has been a huge hit. In fact, many in the music industry feel that it's been a big reason for vinyl's resurgence, calling attention to a side of the business that had been essential dead and buried and has now returned to a level of surprising growth. Even though the latest Record Store Day a couple of weeks ago was proclaimed the biggest ever, there's evidence that we might've seen its peak.

One of the best things about RSD was that the small Mom & Pop record store was celebrated, but this time many of these stores refused to join in the festivities because they now feel it's been totally co-opted by the major labels.

The reason is that in order for a store to officially participate in the event, they are forced to purchase a slew of "official" new vinyl releases, which they're not able to return if unsold. This has imparted an undue financial burden upon already cash-strapped stores which many are now unwilling to take.

While many vinyl fans do look for new or re-released titles, most record stores make their living on used or early edition releases, and find that new vinyl just doesn't sell in the quantities that the labels require them to take for the event (the big indies are complicit here too).

Small indie labels and artists are also upset too, in that the major labels tie up all the vinyl pressing plants for months prior to RSD, so they're not able to have new vinyl ready for the event.

So like with so many other movements that start off with the best intentions, Record Store Day has been co-opted by big business, and as a result will soon cease to be the event that it once was. Let's hope that the indie record stores find other ways to maintain their visibility so they can still stay in business.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Radiohead Erases Its Online Presence

Radiohead erased online imageRadiohead has always been groundbreaking when it comes to their online presence (the "pay what you want" campaign for In Rainbows being a prime example), but now it's entered some new territory by slowly but effectively erasing its entire online presence.

Yes, that's right. It's pretty hard to find any trace of Radiohead online right now.

There are no longer any Facebook posts or tweets on the band's accounts, and singer Thom Yorke has deleted his tweets as well. The band's Google Plus account is now blank too. And most bizarre is that its website has been slowly fading away as the opacity has decreased until it too went totally blank.

Then over the weekend, fans received postcards from the band via old fashioned snail mail that simply said, "Sing the song of sixpence that goes 'Burn the witch'."

There's speculation that there's a new Radiohead album about to be released since the band registered a new company called Dawn Chorus LLP in February. Previous to the the band's In Rainbows and The King of Limbs albums, the band also established companies in their names.

So there's a new album coming, and we can be pretty sure that won't be online, since the band has long shown it's contempt for streaming. It should be interesting to see exactly what the marketing play is this time.

Update: The band reappeared this morning with a couple of short animated clips on Instagram, then a new music video presumably from their new album on its website.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Old Music Outsells New In 2015

Nielsen's latest music report is out and, as always, it's very revealing about what we listen to in the U.S. Perhaps it's biggest revelation is that, for the first time, old music (known as catalog sales) outsold new music in 2015.

Catalog is defined as a music release that's more than 18 months old. Of course, we're also talking about music sales and not streams, which is an entirely different matter.

That said, sales of older music came despite the huge sales numbers for Adele's giant 25 album, which was only available for sale and not as a stream. The album went on to sell 7.2 million copies in the last 6 weeks of 2015 in the U.S. alone.

But lest you think that CDs are completely dead, 2015 saw 125 million of them sold for about $1.52 billion in revenue, which is still a huge amount of money.

And that's only the CDs that were tallied by Soundscan. CDs sold privately on events and online aren't counted.

Beyond that, there were 103 million digital albums downloaded, and 11.9 million vinyl albums sold.

As you can see on the chart on the left, catalog music leads over new music in all facets of sales. I guess the "Long Tail Theory" must be working.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Your Cover Songs May Not Be Streamed

Cover songs might not be streamed imageDoing a great cover version of a hit song has been a successful tactic in helping to raise the visibility of an artist or band for some time, but that practice may soon come to an end thanks to new efforts by iTunes, Spotify and other streaming services.

More and more, digital streaming services are either hiding or removing cover songs, sound-alikes, re-recorded songs and live performances in an effort to simply their catalogs and make it easier for users to find the song they really want.

And they have a point. Searching for a popular song sometimes turns up more than 50 choices, making it difficult to find the original that you're looking for.

The problem is that there are many unintended policies that come with this editorial decision.

For instance, it's been reported by Billboard that one service's "blacklist" of recordings that include 400 artists that range from B.B. King, Frank Sinatra, John Coltrane and Pete Seeger.

Re-records, the practice of an artist or band re-recording one of their hits so they own the recording instead of the record label, are also frequently marginalized as well, although many fans aren't all that unhappy as most prefer the original versions.

So beware if you're recording a cover song in the hopes of gaining some extra streams. While the practice may still work on YouTube, chances are your cover won't see the light of day on the other streaming services from now on.

Apple Music Up To 13 Million Subscribers

Apple Music 13 Million Subscribers imageIt looks like all the naysayers were wrong. Apple reported on its recent earnings call that its Apple Music streaming service was now up to 13 million paid subscribers and still growing.

Much of that growth has come recently in fact, as it was reported that 2 million subscribers signed up since February alone.

The present growth looks to be at around 1 million a month, which means that the tech giant should be battling Spotify for the top space in the streaming industry by the end of year.

Spotify claims to have 20 million current subscribers, but many are on a "student discount" tier at half the $9.99 monthly price.

One advantage that Apple Music has over Spotify is that it's available in 58 more countries than Spotify, including Russia, China and Japan. All in all, the service is available in a total of 113 countries, leaving Spotify to play catch-up.

One reason for AM's growth spurt has been albums from Drake, Coldplay, The 1975 and Gwen Stefani, where were releases to AM for a period before Spotify. Having an advert with Taylor Swift was also a big help.

Despite the recent hype around Tidal, it's Apple Music that seems to be making the most headway.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Tidal Exclusives Bring Back Piracy

Tidal Exclusives Lead To PiracyJust when you thought music piracy was dead and buried it comes roaring back as alive as ever. The reason? Exclusives by Kanye West, Beyonce and Prince on Tidal.

These exclusives have been great for Tidal, as they have helped it to jump more than 100 places on the App Store most downloaded app chart, where it now sits at #3 on the iOS list.

As a result, Tidal is now the most popular music app in the US, even above Pandora and Spotify (Apple Music doesn't chart since it's a native app).

That's the good part of the story. The bad part is that some people just don't want to pay a monthly fee to stream a single album, they're not fond of Tidal, or they already subscribe to another service, so they resort to piracy instead. As a result, it's been estimated that West's The Life Of Pablo was torrented over 500,000 times in just its first day of release!

It looks like the same thing all over again in the initial hours after the release of Beyonce's Lemonade, as it's already on top of the the charts of both Kick Ass Torrents and The Pirate Bay.

And while Lemonade may be getting all the credit for Tidal's sudden ascendancy, the fact of the matter is that it's the only place online (other than YouTube, of course) where you can stream Prince's entire catalog. After his passing last week, there's been a tremendous appetite for his music, again helping Tidal tremendously.

So it looks like the only one making out on these exclusive's is Jay-Z and his Tidal service. The artists lose sales and streaming royalties to piracy, and the entire industry loses a chance to further the streaming cause. It's a missed opportunity.

The real smart move here would have been to make the exclusive's available only on the paid premium tiers of every service to give consumers a reason to sign up or upgrade. It could have happened with Adele's 25, it could have happened with The Life Of Pablo, and it could have happened with Lemonade.

Instead they've resurrected a scourge to the music industry where no one benefits except the pirates.

(This post was first posted on Forbes)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

What Do People Listen To On Their Smartphones?

Smartphone listening imageEdison Research recently completed a study on smartphone usage and discovered that the listening habits of users isn't quite what we believed it to be. in fact, the results were pretty surprising.
  • 54% listened to a radio channel
  • 16% listened to music they own
  • 15% listened to Pandora or other radio-like streaming services
  • 7% listen to Sirius XM
  • 5% to TV music channels
  • 2% listen to podcasting
Heavy listeners (those defined by listening to 2 hours or more per day) have a slightly different consumption pattern.
  • 43% listen to music they've downloaded and own
  • 37% listen to streaming audio
  • 9% listen to AM/FM radio
  • 7% listen to podcasts
Finally, 87% of adults from 18 to 34 never let their smartphones leave their sides.

All that said, we're under the impression that the listening world belongs to exclusively to streaming, but that's far from the case, according to the study. While radio listening and downloads may be dropping, they're still a vital portion of our listening day.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Prince Passes, Record Store Day and Songtradr CEO Paul Wiltshire On My Inner Circle Podcast

Paul Wiltshire imageAs those of you who are songwriters or copyright holders know, you make money when people use your songs, especially on television, films or commercials. It's not easy to get placement though, but it's getting easier thanks to Songtradr, a marketplace that matches songs and cues to people and brands who are looking for them.

Paul Wiltshire's the founder and CEO of Songtradr and he's my guest on this week's podcast. Prior to coming up with the idea, Paul was an award-winning songwriter and producer in Australia, and he's also had some big successes in the US with the likes of the Backstreet Boys, so he knows what it's like to be on the creative end of things.

In the intro I'll take a look at a part of Prince's legacy that not many see, his business acumen that changed the music industry in many ways. I'll also give you a report on the backlash by record retailers at what was once their biggest day of the year - Record Store Day.

Remember that you can find the podcast at, either on iTunes, Stitcher and now on Mixcloud and Google Play

Major Labels Say That Content ID Not Effective Enough

YouTube Content ID and CopyrightThe 3 major labels are furthering their attack on YouTube, the platform they love to hate.

With licenses up for renewal soon, the majors are trying their best to gain some leverage in the negotiation, so they have filed a submission to the US Copyright Office claiming that YouTube's Content ID is ineffective in identifying uploads using content illegally using their copyrights a great deal of the time.

Content ID is YouTube's secret sauce in that it's the content recognition technology that allows the copyright holder to identify and monetize unauthorized uploads of copyrighted material.

Universal Music Publishing claims that it fails to identify as much as 40% of its compositions, according to an article in the Financial Times.

YouTube, of course, claims that Content ID is successful 99.5% of the time. Even if that were true, 0.5% still represents hundreds of thousands of unlicensed uploads, so there's a lot of money being left on the table.

Ultimately, the labels would like the 55/45 revenue split with YouTube to be increased, since all other music streaming platforms are in the 70+% range. YouTube has little incentive to change, however, since even if the labels pull their licenses, the user generated uploads will continue, so the label's vast catalog of music will still remain on the platform.

If it's true that Content ID doesn't catch 40% of the unauthorized uploads, that only puts YouTube in a stronger negotiating position. One should never bet against the major labels in a negotiation, but in this case, my money is on YouTube coming out on top.


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