Saturday, December 27, 2014

2014 Year End Review On The Latest Inner Circle Podcast

Bobby Owsinski's Inner Circle Podcast image
On the latest Inner Circle Podcast, I look back at the biggest stories in both the music industry and the world of recording and audio in the last year.

So much happened in 2014 that it almost seems like two different years, with many of the biggest stories happening in the first half. It just goes to show how much things can change during the course of 12 months.

I'll take a look at the 10 biggest stories that happened in the music business, as well as the big stories in the world of audio, then I'll tell you my Top 5 audio products for the year. It's all there in this year-end special.

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

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Google Now Provides Automatic Song Lyrics

Google Search song lyrics image
For years dedicated lyric sites have been both the bane and glory of music publishers. If the lyrics were unlicensed, then that was obviously taking money form the the artists that the publisher represented as well as the publisher itself. Of course, if the lyrics were licensed then that was another source of income. As a result, quite a few fully licensed lyric sites like LyricFind and Musixmatch began to dominate the space.

They may be in for a rough time though, now that Google is incorporating lyrics into the results of any search for a song, as you can see from the graphic on the left. The lyrics are now part of Google Play (as you can see here for the Foo Fighters song) and are in a large database that's totally licensed from the publishers. No, you don't need to be a Google Play subscriber to access them.

Many of the current lyric sites are crowd sourced, so you can never be sure if the lyrics are correct or not. With Google's licenses in place, this is no longer the case, plus the lyrics are now easily accessible via the link in the search results.

Why did Google do this, you might ask? For Google, the search experience itself is paramount. You can see this in its rankings, where a page with a good user experience consistently ranks higher one where info is difficult to find. It seems that Google is using the same criteria on itself as well.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Top 10 Best Selling Christmas Albums

Everyone thinks that Christmas albums are giant moneymakers, but while massive radio airplay may bring songwriters of Christmas songs some big royalty checks, Holiday albums haven't really sold that well.

Below is an infographic from Statista based on Billboard chart information that shows the 10 best selling Christmas albums since 1991. It's surprising that Kenny G is #1, but it's even more surprising that the total album sales is only 7.3 million units. Also a surprise is that Mannheim Steamroller has such a strong presence on the list, taking up the 5, 6 and 7 positions and totaling just under 11 million.

Of course, selling a million albums today is quite a feat, but remember that most of these top sellers were around during the heyday of the CD business, when selling a million merely got you into the game.

Have a very merry Christmas, and thank you kindly for your continued support of this blog!

Best Selling Christmas Albums graphic

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Music Royalty Ecosystem

If you ever wondered why an artist with a massive number of views or streams (or even sales for that matter) is receiving what seems to be a pittance in royalty payouts, then this overview infographic from Music Reports of the royalty payment infrastructure might explain it.

At the very top of the graphic is all the potential sources of income from digital, while the very bottom shows all the potential revenue sources from analog. Take notice how few lines actually lead to the performer or songwriter. There are a lot of fingers in the payment pie and unfortunately the artist's are the smallest.

This is one of the reasons why it's so attractive for an artist to go DIY, yet the real problem is you still need the infrastructure of a record label and publisher in order to get any traction, especially if you're a new artist. This is a dilemma that will continue to vex artists for a long time, I'm afraid.

That said, the graphic is very instructive and worth a minute or two of study.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Just Who Is Buying Vinyl Anyway?

buying vinyl records image
Vinyl record sales are up 38% this year with projected total sales of over 8 million units, up over 200% since 2008. But just who's buying these records anyway? MusicWatch did a survey and this is what they found.
  • 56% of all vinyl purchases are made by men
  • Surprisingly enough, just under half of vinyl buyers are under 25 year old, with 13 to 17 year olds making up 21% of buyers and 18 to 25 making up 26%.
  • The 26 to 35 age group makes up 25% of buyers
  • 36 to 50 represent 14% of buyers
  • Even more surprising is that baby boomers don't buy as much vinyl as previously thought, coming in at only 13%.
So how did the vinyl resurgence start? Most media watchers trace it back to Record Store Day in 2008, which has gone on to becoming a major retail event in not only the US, but Europe, Canada and Mexico as well. Many labels and indie acts prepared special releases for this day, which helped launch the event.

Another factor is that with vinyl being more in demand, record labels are releasing more vinyl as well, which helps prime the pump for more sales. Most labels now are confident that they can sell at least a small number of units (anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000) to justify the expense.

That said, vinyl still is only a blip on bottom line of the industry, although that blip is growing a little every year. As of December 7th, vinyl accounted for only 3.4% of US album sales and 6% of physical album sales.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The 10 Biggest Bombshells In Music In 2014

U2 image
We’re almost to the end of the year and it’s always instructive to take a look back at the biggest stories that occurred in the music business. The ones that happened in the first two quarters seem so far away now, but that doesn’t mean they were any less important to the overall evolution of the business. I’m going to provide an arbitrary ranking of the top 10 stories from most to least important, but the order can easily change depending upon your outlook or station in the industry, or the current news that’s trending today. Here we go:

1. Apple purchases Beats Electronics and Beats Music. As I said at the time, I think this was more about acquiring the talent (meaning Jimmy Iovine and Ian Rogers) than the company, infrastructure or products, but time will tell. Not much has happened since the purchase in May, but look to 2015 to see how both Beats Electronics and Beats Music are implemented into the Apple ecosystem.

2. Streaming is way up and downloads are way down. Although there’s still a pretty healthy business in CDs and downloads in terms of total revenue, it’s dropping off rapidly as streaming has finally breached the threshold of consciousness for most music consumers. Look for this trend to continue to gather steam in 2015, with the next big battle being between streaming platforms rather than the different delivery systems.

3. YouTube’s Music Key service is finally announced. Rumored for more than a year, Google’s Music Key subscription service was announced and launched as a closely held beta in November. With no ads, offline listening, and access to the entire Google Play catalog, the platform has the makings of a formidable competitor to iTunes, Spotify and every other streaming service. 2015 will tell the tale.

4. Taylor Swift pulls her music catalog from Spotify. This story would rank a lot lower except for the public uproar, as it’s really more of a money grab than a philosophical stand. Swift claimed that she was standing up against the low royalty rate that Spotify was paying, yet her music remained on other streaming services, which contradicted the argument. The real reason for the hubbub is that her record company (of which she owns a piece) is angling to get acquired, so selling more CDs would help the bottom line a lot more than additional streams. The controversy and the fact that many fans were driven to buy the CD because they couldn't access the songs on Spotify took care of that.

5. U2’s free iTunes album giveaway backfires. Both Apple and U2 proved to be both short-sighted and out of touch when a copy of their latest Songs Of Innocence album showed up in every iTunes account. The problem was that everyone under the age of 30 felt that they were spammed. Hopefully the lesson was learned that music is only valuable when it's wanted. Read more on Forbes.


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