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SPOTIFY’S $100M+ JOE ROGAN DEAL REDEFINES ITS PODCAST STRATEGY. SONGWRITERS AND RECORD LABELS SHOULD BE WATCHING CLOSELY 

SPOTIFY’S $100M+ JOE ROGAN DEAL REDEFINES ITS PODCAST STRATEGY. SONGWRITERS AND RECORD LABELS SHOULD BE WATCHING CLOSELY

It’s interesting, when you think about it, that many of Spotify’s biggest rivals – Apple Music, Amazon Music, YouTube Music, Tencent Music – have proudly chosen to singularly define their brands with one type of content: music. 

Guest post by: Tim Ingham of MBW

Spotify, of course, is now much more than a music service. It’s “the largest audio platform in the world”. 

That’s how comedian Joe Rogan described SPOT when making the game-changing announcement yesterday (May 19) that one of the globe’s biggest podcasts, The Joe Rogan Experience, is moving exclusively to Daniel Ek’s platform. 

From the end of this year, both audio and video versions of The JRE will only be available on Spotify, via a licensing deal that the Wall Street Journal suggests will cost Daniel Ek’s company over $100m.

Rogan’s ‘cast is known for its sometimes fascinating, always freewheeling conversations with figures from across the spectrum of politics and celebrity. The show’s typical length runs between two and three hours, with previous guests including Elon Musk (who famously smoked a joint during recording, pictured), plus Bernie Sanders, Candace Owens, Kevin Hart, Mike Tyson, Russell Brand, Malcolm Gladwell and Michelle Wolf. 

It’s also hugely popular. In April last year, Rogan stated that his podcast was being downloaded 190m times each month. The JRE was the most popular podcast on Apple platforms last year, beating the New York Times’ The Daily into second spot. 

Meanwhile, Forbes suggests The Joe Rogan Experience is currently making $30m in revenues per year, though whether Spotify will get a cut of that number – and how SPOT’s own podcast ad tech might affect it – currently remain unknown.

Spotify’s Joe Rogan scoop, then, is a major blow to Apple Podcasts, and will also disgruntle YouTube, where The JRE’s ‘vodcasts’ have attracted over 2 billion views to date. 

What, though, does the deal mean for the music industry on Spotify, still the largest music subscription streaming platform in the world? 

Both record labels (and artists) and music publishers (and songwriters) should be watching the Joe Rogan deal – and Spotify’s current predilection for spending big on exclusive podcasts – very closely. 

Here’s why, for both sides of the industry…

1) MUSIC PUBLISHERS (AND SONGWRITERS) 

“Spotify is not making a fair income, and [music] publishers are doing better than ever. Not a single [streaming] service has managed to reach profitability… certainly not Spotify.” 


“All [streaming] services have struggled in large measures because of the enormous royalty rate for licenses. In Spotify’s case, those royalty payments constitute 70 percent of its revenue. For Spotify and other streaming services to have a viable business, they will need rate reductions, not increases.” 

A couple of telling quotes, there, from Spotify’s attorney, John P. Mancini of Mayer Brown LLP, speaking in front of the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) in March 2017, arguing why Spotify shouldn’t pay music publishers (and their songwriters) more money. 

Spotify went on to lose this legal tussle with US music publishers – who were repped by the National Music Publishers’ Association – regarding improved rates for songwriter payouts from its service. 

Yet SPOT still hasn’t given up its fight to pay songwriters less.

“SPOTIFY IS NOT MAKING A FAIR INCOME, AND [MUSIC] PUBLISHERS ARE DOING BETTER THAN EVER… FOR SPOTIFY [TO] HAVE A VIABLE BUSINESS, [IT] WILL NEED RATE REDUCTIONS, NOT INCREASES.

JOHN P. MANCINI OF MAYER BROWN LLP, REPPING SPOTIFY, IN MARCH 2017

In March last year, we learned that Spotify had clubbed together with Google, Amazon and SiriusXM/Pandora to appeal the CRB’s rate decision, which was set to bring songwriters and publishers a 44% pay rise from these services between 2018 and 2022. 

That appeal is ongoing (it reached the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in March this year), but, for loss-making Spotify, it’s wrapped up in a key argument: there is only so much money, as a percentage of its revenue pie, that SPOT can pay out to artists, labels, songwriters and publishers, combined, while still running a functioning business. 

If the CRB-mandated songwriter payout figure rises too high, suggests Spotify, it could threaten its very existence. 

An obvious question, then: Does this argument really hold the same amount of water when Spotify is simultaneously spending hundreds of millions of dollars on podcasts? 

Spotify has spent approximately $600m on podcast-related acquisitions in the past 18 months, including its buys of Anchor FM ($154m), Gimlet Media ($195m) and Parcast ($55m) last year, plus Bill Simmons’ sports podcast The Ringer (up to $196m) in Q1 2020. 

The $100m Joe Rogan deal, which isn’t an acquisition but a licensing deal, reportedly takes this podcast spend up towards the three-quarters-of-a-billion dollar mark.

“EVENTUALLY WE WILL GET TO MORE OF A POINT OF MATURITY WHERE WE’LL FOCUS MORE ON PROFIT OVER GROWTH, BUT FOR THE NEXT FEW YEARS IT’S GOING TO BE PREDOMINANTLY GROWTH FOR US.” 

DANIEL EK, SPOTIFY, SPEAKING IN APRIL 2020

Spotify founder Daniel Ek recently stated that SPOT has no plans to curb its M&A expenditure in the face of what he sees as a major opportunity to steal away traditional radio’s ad dollars with a podcast/music combination on Spotify. 

Ek said last month: “We’re in the growth stage… Eventually we will get to a point of maturity where we’ll focus more on profit over growth, but for the next few years it’s going to be predominantly growth for us.” 

That’s all very well (although, 12 years on from Spotify’s launch, that’s one lengthy “growth phase”). Yet at the same time, Spotify is telling the CRB that pay rises for songwriters are impossible, due to its status as a perpetually loss-making company. 

According to Spotify’s annual report for 2019, it posted a €73m ($82m) operating loss last year. That’s less than the amount of cash it’s just committed to spending on Joe Rogan alone. 

The logical next question: As Spotify attempts to deny songwriters a pay rise because it supposedly can’t turn a profit, are those same musicians actually subsidizing Spotify’s huge podcast acquisitions, and therefore its rapid market expansion?

2) RECORD LABELS (AND ARTISTS) 

If you want to know all about how podcasts could destabilize the market share of record labels on Spotify’s service, this piece from December last year will fill you in

The highlights: a recent surey from Edison Research showed that, in 2014, 80% of the US population’s listening hours were dedicated to music, with 20% going to spoken word. 

Yet in 2019, largely thanks to the popular eruption of podcasts, music’s share had fallen to 76%, with spoken word growing to 24%.

In its Q1 2020 results, Spotify gave away some important updates to this narrative, with two key data points: 

(i) 19% of Spotify’s total Monthly Active Users (MAUs) engaged with podcast content in Q1, which equates to 54m people (out of 286m total MAUs); 
(ii) There are now more than a million podcasts available on Spotify, with SPOT’s fully-owned distributor, Anchor (cost: $154m), powering 60% of them. 

The big worry for record labels here will be the potential volume of music track plays that these growing podcast habits on Spotify are now erasing. 

For example, if those 54m people in Q1 each played an hour’s worth of podcasts in the quarter – and we say that songs are on average three minutes long – these podcast plays could have ‘blocked out’ 1.08 billion music plays. (This is obviously a hypothetical, where we assume, if these people didn’t have access to podcasts on Spotify, they would be instead playing songs.) 

At Spotify’s approximate current $0.0035 per-stream recorded music payout rate, those 1.08bn hypothetical streams would have made the record industry in the region of $3.8m. 

I remind you at this point that each Joe Rogan Experience podcast – and there are some 1,477 of them in the can, all presumably coming to Spotify on September 1 – lasts in the region of three hours. 

Of course, Spotify doesn’t actually pay out ‘per stream’, as it were, instead paying an agreed net percentage of its revenue to labels and distributors (around 52% for the majors), allocated against their market share of plays. 

How podcasts affect this payout calculation is thought to have been a serious sticking point in Spotify’s long-dragged-out renegotiation with Warner Music Group for the twosome’s recently-agreed global licensing deal. 

The major record labels want a guaranteed minimum percentage of Spotify subscription revenues, regardless of how much music (versus podcasts) the platform’s subscribers actually consume. Spotify reportedly takes a different view, suggesting that if a subscriber listens to nothing but podcasts on its service, the labels shouldn’t get any money. 

Adding to the intrigue: Goldman Sachs just published an update to its influential Music In The Air report, in which author Lisa Yang and others comment that they believe record labels (and artists) will be “the largest beneficiaries of the growth of music streaming given they receive 52%-58% royalty rates from the major DSPs”. Goldman Sachs adds: “[We] expect no major change to these rates in the near term given the competitive dynamics amongst the DSPs”. 

To put it another way, with a 35% market share of global music subscribers today, Spotify isn’t dominant enough to try and reduce that 52% label rate any time soon (in Goldman’s view, any time over the next decade). 

Yet what if Spotify reduced the majors’ payout via stealth, by giving them their 52% revenue share, just not of all audio plays on the service (i.e. not when it comes to podcasts)? 

According to Spotify’s year-end filings, as recently noted by Midia Research’s Mark Mulligan, the combined market share of annual streams on SPOT cumulatively claimed by Universal, Sony and Warner, plus indie agency Merlin, is already falling.

“WE’RE NOT ON SPOTIFY, AND THE REASON WHY WE’RE NOT ON IT IS BECAUSE IT DIDN’T MAKE ANY SENSE.” 

JOE ROGAN, SPEAKING IN 2018

These four parties claimed approximately 87% of streams on Spotify in 2017; they claimed approximately 85% in 2018; and they claimed approximately 82% in 2019. 

So what happens if Spotify’s investment in podcasts, especially big-money flagships like The Joe Rogan Experience, now take this figure below 80%, or even below 70%, in future? 

It will not be welcomed by the major labels – aka Spotify’s biggest customers. Ahoy, there, commercial tension! 

Those same majors are unlikely to forget that, in February 2019, Daniel Ek told his investors: “We believe that, over time, more than 20% of all listening on Spotify will be non-music content, and we strongly believe that this opportunity starts with podcasts.” 

The good news for Universal, Sony et al in the face of these issues? Daniel Ek and his team can clearly be pressured into paying out big checks by dominant market players who take no nonsense. 

Joe Rogan knows this better than anyone. 

He’s just inked a $100m-plus deal with Spotify for The Joe Rogan Experience, almost exactly two years after telling Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler (see below) on the very same show: “We’re not on Spotify, and the reason why we’re not on it is because it didn’t make any sense. 

“They were like ‘We want to put you on it, it’s gonna be great for you!’ And I was like, how is it great? 

“You guys are gonna make money. You guys are making money and you don’t give us any.” 

And then they did. All nine figures of it. 

Now that’s what you call negotiating in public.

Spotify now enables fans to pay artists money direct, via Cash App and PayPal.me partnerships 

Spotify now enables fans to pay artists money direct, via Cash App and PayPal.me partnershipsSpotify just announced some big news for artists – and their bank accounts. 

The streaming platform has long enabled artists to highlight a piece of music on their profile via the ‘Artist’s Pick’ headline. 

Now, Spotify has launched a sister version of this feature, ‘Artist Fundraising Pick’, which allows acts to pin a specific destination on their profile where fan can pay them ‘tips’.

Guest post by: Tim Ingham of MBW

Artists wishing to use their Fundraising Pick to encourage their fans to pay money to good causes are welcome to do so – either via GoFundMe, or direct to a range of causes supported by Spotify’s COVID-19 Music Relief project. 

However, artists wishing to use Fundraising Pick to encourage their fans to pay themmoney, can also do so – via a link to one of two endorsed e-wallet services, PayPal.me and Cash App. 

The timing of the launch of ‘Artist Fundraising Pick’ is obviously apt, amid a global pandemic that has wiped away any hope of live touring income for artists, while also hurting physical music sales and licensing revenues.

Said Spotify in a blog today: “Given the urgency and impact of the COVID-19 crisis, we’re working as quickly as we can to develop this new product and get it out to as many artists as possible. However, we’ve never built a fundraising feature like this before. We consider this a first version that will evolve as we learn how to make it as helpful as possible for the music community.” 

Time will tell how committed Spotify is to the long-term idea of fans being able to ‘tip’ artists money directly on its platform, or whether these features will be retired after (fingers crossed, everyone!) the COVID-19 pandemic dissipates. 

Online fan ‘tipping’ has become commonplace on platforms such as Twitch (via the platform’s ‘Cheering’ feature), and has also become a key tenet of Tencent Music Entertainment’s business in China

“GIVEN THE URGENCY AND IMPACT OF THE COVID-19 CRISIS, WE’RE WORKING AS QUICKLY AS WE CAN TO DEVELOP THIS NEW PRODUCT AND GET IT OUT TO AS MANY ARTISTS AS POSSIBLE.” 

- SPOTIFY 

YouTube launched a ‘Fan funding’ virtual tip jar feature for creators in 2014, but later retired it. In 2017, YouTube essentially replaced this tip jar with ‘Super Chat’, which enables fans to pay to have their live chat messages highlighted; creators  earn a share of this money. 

One of Spotify’s new partners, Cash App, has pledged a $1m fund for artists in the US and UK on the service as part of today’s announcement, which has the double benefit of helping acts during a difficult time… while also monetarily incentivising them to use Cash App rather than PayPal.me. 

How that fund works: Spotify for Artists users that submit their “$cashtag” username as their Artist Fundraising Pick — and secure at least one monetary contribution through Spotify — will receive an extra $100 in their account from Cash App, until a collective total of $1 million has been contributed. 

According to Spotify, artists from all over the world and at various stages of their careers have helped launch the Artist Fundraising Pick. 

Tyrese Pope is fundraising through Cash App. 

He said: “I’ve been using Cash App to raise money for a while but now that listeners can contribute through Spotify, it’s going to make a big difference. With touring now impossible, it’s never been harder for artists to make ends meet, so the extra contributions from Cash App and listeners alike will really help when we need it most.” 

Boy Scouts (aka Taylor Vick) is also fundraising through Cash App. 

She commented: “Like so many others right now, I am out of work as our tours have been cancelled or postponed because of COVID-19. Any help is appreciated as we keep in our efforts to find new ways to get by.” 

“I’VE BEEN USING CASH APP TO RAISE MONEY FOR A WHILE BUT NOW THAT LISTENERS CAN CONTRIBUTE THROUGH SPOTIFY, IT’S GOING TO MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE.” 

- TYRESE POPE 

Benjamin Ingrosso is fundraising for Musikerforbundet. 

“I want to be helpful in the ways I can during these difficult times,” said Ingrosso. “I’ve seen lots of my fellow musicians lose work due to the current situation. Most of us don’t know when we will be able to go back to work. 

“Music is something that always helps us in rough times like these as well as being there with us to celebrate all the happy moments. I’m hoping that this fundraising for Musikerförbundet can help us get through this and get us back up on the stage, when all of this is over, to bring happiness to people with live music again.” 

Marshmello is fundraising for MusiCares: “So many of us have been affected by the COVID-19 virus, and now more than ever we need to stand together and help each other. 

“MusiCares is helping all working musicians, producers, songwriters, engineers and so many. Let’s all do our part to help those who need it most!” 

Spotify said: “This is an incredibly difficult time for many Spotify users and people around the world — and there are many worthy causes to support at this time. 

“With this feature, we simply hope to enable those who have the interest and means to support artists in this time of great need, and to create another opportunity for our COVID-19 Music Relief partners to find the financial support they need to continue working in music and lift our industry.”Music Business Worldwide

AMAZON MUSIC OPENS UP STREAMING DATA WITH AMAZON MUSIC FOR ARTISTS APP 

AMAZON MUSIC OPENS UP STREAMING DATA WITH AMAZON MUSIC FOR ARTISTS APP

Here is some much needed good news for today! Amazon Music has announced the long-awaited beta launch of Amazon Music for Artists – a new mobile app for artists and their teams designed to help acts “better understand their business on Amazon Music”.

Guest post by Tim Ingham of Music Business Worldwide

The music streaming landscape just got more transparent.

Available on both iOS and Android, the app serves up information regarding artist streaming performance on Amazon Music’s various tiers, as well as insights into each act’s fanbase. 

According to Amazon, its features include: 

  • New success metrics, including the Daily Voice Index, which illustrates how an artist’s music is performing on Amazon Music with Alexa – including insights into voice requests by artist, album, song, and lyric. 
  • Access to near-real-time streaming data, providing artists with the latest streaming data across their entire catalog. 
  • A fan insights tab, which provides a breakdown of an artist’s most engaged listeners –Fans and Superfans – so they can focus on growing these segments over time. 
  • A custom date filter, so artists can choose specific dates, or length of time to track performance in near-real-time, including the last 24 hours of a release. 

CD Baby is a verification launch partner with Amazon Music for Artists, meaning any artist who is distributed through CD Baby can get expedited access to join.

The launch is coupled with a companion website (artists.amazonmusic.com) where artists and their teams can learn more about the app, as well as opportunity areas, best practices, additional resources, and more. 

In January, Amazon Music confirmed over 55m global ‘customers’ were now using the firm’s various tiers; this number included an estimated subscriber count of approximately 50m, up 16m year-on-year. 

Last August, Amazon Music rival Apple Music launched Apple Music for Artists, which in turn was designed to rival Spotify’s analytics tools. 

And in November, Universal Music Group revealed its own data/insights app. 

The Universal Music Artists (UMA) app can be used to view personalized, global data insights from Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon and YouTube (with data from Deezer set to be included in 2020). 

At launch, Amazon Music for Artists is available globally in English to download via the mobile app store on either Android or iOS

Tell @Spotify and @AmazonMusic to #StopFightingSongwriters 

Tell @Spotify and @AmazonMusic to #StopFightingSongwriters

Songwriters - You must develop and flex your music business muscles or you’ll continue to be pinned down by those who do not have your best interests at heart. On Instagram tell @Spotify and @AmazonMusic to #StopFightingSongwriters

BMG RESPONDS TO ARTIST STREAMING REVOLT IN GERMANY: ‘IT IS TIME FOR RECORD COMPANIES TO CHANGE.’ 

  BMG RESPONDS TO ARTIST STREAMING REVOLT IN GERMANY: ‘IT IS TIME FOR RECORD COMPANIES TO CHANGE.’

As the Grammys continues to dominate discussion in the US music industry, an important story regarding artist streaming royalties in Germany is gathering pace.

Guest Post BY TIM INGHAM of Music Business Worldwide 

As MBW reported Friday (January 24), a group of managers and lawyers representing some of Germany’s biggest artists have written a joint letter to the leaders of the four biggest music rights companies in Germany – Universal, Sony, Warner and BMG. 

The agenda of the letter, undersigned by representatives of 14 artists, “becomes clear very quickly”, according to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper (F.A.Z), which published a more detailed story on the matter today (January 26) on the front page of its business section. Translated, F.A.Z says that the artist reps are demanding “more money from the booming business [created by] music streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music”.

What’s also clear from the letter, according to F.A.Z: unlike prior artist protests against streaming, the letter does not direct its ire towards digital platforms, but instead “attacks record companies” and is “of the opinion that [the majors] are taking too much of the streaming millions”. 

It should be pointed out for context that most of the artists represented – including the 15m-plus-selling pop star Helene Fischer (pictured) and rock band Rammstein – have traditionally enjoyed large sales of physical records and downloads. 

According to F.A.Z, the artist reps say there is “an urgent and fundamental need to review and, if necessary, restructure the billing and remuneration model in the area of streaming”. This suggests that they may be seeking a switch to a ‘user-centric’ style of payment from the streaming services, who have to date been reticent to embrace this model. 

Last year, Deezer announced that it planned to launch a pilot of a ‘user-centric’ payment system in 2020, if it could gain the requisite support from the major record companies. 

“WE DO NOT FIND IT JUSTIFIABLE IN A WORLD IN WHICH RECORD COMPANIES NO LONGER HAVE THE COSTS OF PRESSING, HANDLING AND DELIVERING PHYSICAL PRODUCT FOR THEM TO TRY TO HOLD ON TO THE LION’S SHARE OF STREAMING REVENUES.” 

BMG SPOKESPERSON 

The letter contains a segment where the artist reps call into question the “adequacy of the remuneration” their clients are receiving from the record companies. 

The artist reps have asked record companies bosses to meet in mid-February in a Berlin hotel to discuss the letter, which F.A.Z reports has a tone “reminiscent of a court summons”. 

Sony and Universal are yet to publicly respond, says the newspaper. Warner has said it won’t be participating in the Berlin meeting due to antitrust concerns that would be created by powerful music companies plus so many representatives of stars coming together to discuss collective business arrangements. Instead, Warner says that “bilateral talks” are being held. 

The MD of JKP – the management company behind Die Toten Hosen – is Patrick Orth. A signatory of the letter, Orth says that the group of 14 artist reps have “very different motives” for backing the collective action. 

Of the music companies targeted, BMG, led by CEO Hartwig Masuch, has been the most forthcoming with its response to the letter. 

A BMG spokesperson said today: “We strongly welcome this attempt to highlight some of the inequities of the traditional record deal. This letter is signed by some of Germany’s most respected music managers and should be taken seriously. 

“We need a sensible, grown-up debate. We do not find it justifiable in a world in which record companies no longer have the costs of pressing, handling and delivering physical product for them to try to hold on to the lion’s share of streaming revenues. 

“The world has changed. It is time for record companies to change too.” 

The headline of the F.A.Z business story today is ‘Der Aufstand der Stars’, translated: ‘The Revolt Of The Stars’.

How Many Spotify Streams Are Necessary To Live Above The Poverty Line?  

How Many Spotify Streams Are Necessary To Live Above The Poverty Line? 

The royalties earned off of Spotify streams are notoriously low but do provide some income to artists. So just how many plays does it take for a musician to live above the poverty line? 

Guest post by James Shotwell of Haulix 

Spotify streaming royalties often upset artists, but how many plays does a musician need to live above the poverty line? We did the math. 

The streaming wars are raging on. Spotify has more than one hundred million monthly subscribers worldwide, which places the platform far ahead of its peers, but Apple Music and Amazon Music are gaining millions of new users with each passing month. Whether or not the global economy can sustain the numerous streaming platforms won’t be decided for some time, but whether or not artists can survive the streaming economy is a hot topic that needs to be addressed. 

Any industry expert will tell you that musicians today have it easy. There are more avenues for exposure than ever, recording music is (or can be) cheap, and an increasing number of artists are finding success outside the traditional label system. It is theoretically possible for anyone with access to a laptop and the ability to convey a melody to become a digital sensation who has fans all over the world without the aid of big label money (though, to be fair, big label money still makes a sizable difference). 

Streaming payouts are a relatively new revenue stream for musicians. No one is suggesting artists survive on streaming royalties alone. Still, with physical media sales bottoming out and competition for tour revenue increasing, the money made from streaming can have a significant impact on an artist’s ability to develop, not to mention sustain themselves. 

Still, every other week someone goes viral online and builds an entire career of the profits made from streaming royalties. The majority of these overnight sensations are young and without families to support, but they still have the cost of living expenses that need to be met. That got us to thinking: How many streams does it take to survive on streaming revenue alone? 

According to the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), the poverty line for single-person households is $11,770. If we ignore how that figure would be hard for anyone to live on in a major city (and most mid-size cities), then we can round up to $12,000 and use streaming revenue calculators to figure out how many Spotify streams someone would need to sustain themselves. 

At an average payout of $0.006 per song stream, a musician living in the United States needs 3,000,000 plays annually to have a gross income of $12,000. 

Of course, if the artist has a label deal the record company would get paid before the artist. Depending on the amount owed to the label, the artist may need millions of addition plays to see the same amount of income themselves. 

But what about people with families? The ASPE puts the poverty line for a family of four (2 adults, 2 children) at $24,250. Using the same average royalty rate, a musician would need 6,062,500 Spotify streams to earn that amount of gross income. 

These numbers get much bigger when the musician is part of a larger group. If a band has four members and all four have families where they were the sole source of income, the group would need to generate 24,250,000 Spotify streams to gross enough so each member’s family would be at or above the poverty line. 

Again, no one is saying an artist should survive on streaming royalties alone. Some will be able to make it work, especially if they have a large following and low overhead, but most will need to create as many revenue streams as possible to survive. The key to a long career in music today is through the development of a community around an artist and their work that promotes purchasing merch, physical media, and concert tickets. That has always been true, and likely won’t change anytime soon.

MLC Chooses As “Digital Services Provider” Company That Sent Fraudulent License Notices To Songwriters  

MLC Chooses As “Digital Services Provider” Company That Sent Fraudulent License Notices To Songwriters 

The new Music Licensing Collective board of directors has chosen the third-party licensing company, the Harry Fox Administration (HFA), to be its digital service provider. That’s the same HFA that musician and artist advocate David Lowery alleges sent songwriters fraudulent license notices. 

Guest post by Dr. David C Lowery from The Trichordist 

The picture shows dozens of backdated “NOIs” for compulsory mechanical licenses sent to me by HFA in 2016.  By purporting to be valid NOIs for licenses when they were not, HFA committed mail fraud. 

Music Row is reporting the music licensing collective board of directors has selected HFA as a digital service provider: 

Technology company ConsenSys and mechanical licensing administrator Harry Fox Agency(HFA) received unanimous approval from the MLC Board to become the primary vendors responsible for managing the matching of digital uses to musical works, distributing mechanical royalties, and onboarding songwriters, composers, lyricists, and music publishers and their catalogs to the database. 

The problem is that HFA was the 3rd party licensing contractor hired by Spotify and other streaming services to obtain licenses from songwriters and publishers.  HFA did not properly do their job leaving streaming services exposed to massive copyright infringement lawsuits (from people like me).  They created the problem that led to the creation of the Music Licensing Collective so now they are rewarded with the contract to run the matching of musical works and paying artists?!?!  Didn’t they just fail spectacularly when asked by Spotify to do this job?  Didn’t the Spotify class action and the four other private lawsuits prove HFA incapable of doing the job? 

Even worse, in order to attempt to cover up the mess, they sent me, many fraudulent “Notices of Intent” or NOIs that purported to execute the federal compulsory mechanical license. They were not valid as they were backdated to make it appear they had sent the notices before the songs were streamed.  I regret now that we didn’t pursue a RICO case against these folks when we were pursuing the copyright infringement cases against the streaming services.  (See the screenshots below.) 

Here’s what the DOJ says about mail fraud. 

940. 18 U.S.C. SECTION 1341—ELEMENTS OF MAIL FRAUD 

“There are two elements in mail fraud: (1) having devised or intending to devise a scheme to defraud (or to perform specified fraudulent acts), and (2) use of the mail for the purpose of executing, or attempting to execute, the scheme (or specified fraudulent acts).” Schmuck v. United States, 489 U.S. 705, 721 n. 10 (1989); see also Pereira v. United States, 347 U.S. 1, 8 (1954) (“The elements of the offense of mail fraud under . . . § 1341 are (1) a scheme to defraud, and (2) the mailing of a letter, etc., for the purpose of executing the scheme.”); Laura A. Eilers & Harvey B. Silikovitz, Mail and Wire Fraud, 31 Am. Crim. L. Rev. 703, 704 (1994) (cases cited). 

Oh and one more thing. HFA was the company that was supposed to pay these streaming royalties back out to the songwriters.  They didn’t do that either.  Where is that money? Shouldn’t the Copyright Office look into this? 

This is a travesty. The members of the MLC  and those that purport to represent songwriters (I’m looking at you NSAI, SONA) have some serious explaining to do to songwriters.  This company was one of the main reasons songwriters didn’t get their mechanicals for 7 going on 8 years. What the fuck were you guys thinking?

CD Baby, Tunecore, DistroKid Add Rapid Apple Music For Artists Verification  

CD Baby, Tunecore, DistroKid Add Rapid Apple Music For Artists Verification 

Top 3 DIY music distributors CD Baby, Tunecore and DistroKid have all added rapid Apple Music For Artists verification, unlocking the platform's expanded analytics for their artists. 

To be eligible, artists must use the same email address and password that they use for their distribution account when signing up for Apple Music For Artists. 

Here's how CD Baby describes what Apple Music For Artists offers: 

When you claim your Apple Music for Artists profile you’ll be able to: 

  • Express your visual brand on the platform 
  • View the real-time results of your music promotion 
  • Ensure that your music catalog is accurately represented 

With Apple Music for Artists you can view: 

  • Plays from on-demand streaming 
  • Average Daily Listeners 
  • Song Purchases on iTunes 
  • Radio plays on Apple Music 
  • Shazams (yes, Shazams!) 
  • Insights and milestones for your music worldwide (for instance, “You passed 10,000 all-time plays in Canada”) 
  • Plays from Playlists 
  • Most Played Songs 
  • Popular Countries (with heat maps) 
  • Demographic and geographic information about your listeners (by song, album, playlist, etc.) 
  • And more

APPLE MUSIC FOR ARTISTS LAUNCHES, RIVALLING SPOTIFY’S ANALYTICS TOOLS 

APPLE MUSIC FOR ARTISTS LAUNCHES, RIVALLING SPOTIFY’S ANALYTICS TOOLS

Artists and their managers have long appreciated the royalties they receive from Apple Music – which, on a per-play basis, are reportedly close to double what they get from Spotify. 

Yet Spotify has always won far more praise when it comes to another valuable asset for musicians: data. 

Spotify launched its Spotify For Artists app in 2017 (an evolution of the ‘Fan Insights’ tool it introduced two years earlier) to provide artists and their teams with information pertaining to their popularity on the service. 

Now, Apple is stepping up to the plate.

Guest post by: BY TIM INGHAM of Music Business Worldwide

Today (August 8), Apple Music For Artists (AMFA) is emerging out of Beta and is being made available for every artist on Apple Music. Like Spotify for Artists, the service is available as both a desktop interface and a standalone mobile app (in AMFA’s case, currently only on iOS). 

MBW understands that in the limited industry meetings Apple has had during AMFA’s Beta, it has been confidently telling artists that its app is “the best available” in the market. 

We’ve taken a look at the platform, both on desktop and via the iOS app. As you’d expect, it allows artists to monitor the volume of their streaming plays on Apple Music and album/song sales on iTunes, all within a data set that updates daily. 

Artists can also drill down into how specific songs and/or albums are performing (and how their fans are growing) in specific markets around the world – down to a city-level in over 100 countries. Apple believes this will help artists to plan tours, tailor setlists for fans in each city, and uncover hitherto unknown pockets of popularity around the world.

Artists can also monitor how many plays of a particular song in a given period have been generated by playlists, as opposed to ‘organic’ plays from fans – and what position their track has been placed within these lists. And they can also see how many of their streams are the result of algorithmic radio (i.e. ‘lean-back’) versus active plays. 

This won’t shock you, but it’s a big differentiator: Apple is putting Shazam data front and center within its AMFA app, allowing artists to examine where their music has been most Shazam’d in particular locations and in particular time periods. (Apple fully acquired Shazam for a reported $400m in September last year.) 

In addition, artists can see a basic count of the average number of daily listeners to their music, broken down by country, city or song, while there is a dedicated section breaking out their video plays on Apple Music. 

Plus, Apple has updated its data to cover music industry standard release weeks to enable artists to better monitor week-to-week success. 

And in a feature which reminded us of the much-vaunted artist app from AWAL, acts are automatically alerted when there are meaningful changes to their data, for example: (i) The first week plays of a new release versus their previous week-one plays; (ii) Milestones like ‘1 Million Plays’; (iii) Sudden spikes in streams anywhere around the world; (iv) When they are added to a major Apple Music playlist. 

Unlike some third-party distribution/services companies, Apple does not provide insights on how an act’s streams translate into royalty payouts.

Un-Freaking-Believable! Spotify: We ‘Overpaid’ Songwriters And Their Publishers In 2018, And We Would Like Our Money Back 

Un-Freaking-Believable! Spotify: We ‘Overpaid’ Songwriters And Their Publishers In 2018, And We Would Like Our Money Back

Courtesy of Music Business Worldwide

If you hadn’t noticed, tensions between the music publishing community and Spotify have taken a turn for the sour in recent months. 

This all began in March when Spotify, alongside other music streaming operators like SiriusXM/Pandora, Google and Amazon, lodged an appeal against mandated pay rises for songwriters and publishers in the US.

The headline news about that pay rise, decided by the US Copyright Royalty Board, was that mechanical streaming payouts from the likes of Spotify would rise by 44% or more between 2018 and 2022. 

It turns out, however, that there was some additional and under-reported complexity to the CRB decision concerning Spotify’s student discount offers and its family plan bundles – which allow up to six family members to stream Premium Spotify for a single price of just $14.99 a month. 

“ACCORDING TO THE NEW CRB REGULATIONS, WE OVERPAID MOST PUBLISHERS IN 2018… RATHER THAN COLLECT THE 2018 OVERPAYMENT IMMEDIATELY, WE HAVE OFFERED TO EXTEND THE RECOUPMENT PERIOD THROUGH THE END OF 2019.” 

SPOTIFY SPOKESPERSON

Because of this additional complexity, Spotify has now calculated that, retrospectively, according to the CRB decision, many music publishers actually owe it money for 2018, due to an overpayment based on the prior rates. And guess what? It wants that money back. 

Spotify told the publishers the news this week and, as you can imagine, these companies – already up in arms over Spotify’s CRB appeal – are fuming about it. 

One senior figure in the music publishing industry told MBW: “Spotify is clawing back millions of dollars from publishers in the US based on the new CRB rates that favor the DSPs, while appealing the [wider CRB decision]. This puts some music publishers in a negative position. It’s unbelievable.” 

Spotify isn’t expecting the publishers to hand over the money that it’s owed right away; instead, this negative balance will be treated as an advance by the company, which will be recouped from its 2019 royalty payouts to publishers (and, by association, their songwriters).

“I FIND IT SO HYPOCRITICAL FOR A DIGITAL SERVICE THAT IS APPEALING THE CRB DECISION TO THEN TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE PARTS OF THAT DECISION THAT BENEFIT IT. I GUESS WE SHOULDN’T BE SURPRISED.” 

DAVID ISRAELITE, NMPA

A spokesperson for Spotify told MBW today (June 21): “According to the new CRB regulations, we overpaid most publishers in 2018. While the appeal of the CRB decision is pending, the rates set by the CRB are current law, and we will abide by them –  not only for 2018, but also for future years in which the amount paid to publishers is set to increase significantly. 

“Rather than collect the 2018 overpayment immediately, we have offered to extend the recoupment period through the end of 2019 in order to minimize the impact of the adjustment on publishing companies.” 

David Israelite, the CEO of the National Music Publishers Association who has consistently and publicly decried Spotify’s CRB appeal, told MBW in response to Spotify’s request for reimbursement from the publishers: “I find it so hypocritical for a digital service that is appealing the CRB decision to then take advantage of the parts of that decision that benefit it. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised.” 

The CRB rules that the annual streaming royalty rate in the States between 2018 and 2022 will be determined by the highest outcome across one of three different models: (i) a percentage of a streaming company’s total revenue; (ii) a percentage of what that streaming service pays to record labels each year; and (iii)  a flat fee per subscriber in the US. 

Within the new CRB-approved regulations for streaming payouts, it says: “A Family Plan shall be treated as 1.5 subscribers per month, prorated in the case of a Family Plan Subscription in effect for only part of a calendar month. A Student Plan shall be treated as 0.50 subscribers per month, prorated in the case of a Student Plan End User who subscribed for only part of a calendar month.” 

The NMPA announced last week that the US music publishing industry generated a record $3.33bn in 2018, up 11.8% year-on-year, and up 55% when compared to 2014.