Straight Talk: Breaking Down January 2019’s Spotify Playlist

This month’s playlist is about energy.

2018 was a tough year for me; I’ve been eager for 2019 to come around. I’m hoping to start the year with some new energy. And apparently that was no secret. I heard from some people that this playlist immediately sounded different.

It’s about balance.

Energy with calmness. Light with dark. Male with female. Lost with found. Remembering with forgetting. Equality with inequality. Love with hate. New with old. Hope with fear. Strong with delicate. You can listen for the metaphorical meanings and make your own interpretations. But this was also about the most literal forms of balance. Hip hop, Baroque guitar. New finds, old favorites. New Justin Vernon, old Justin Vernon. (Really though, Justin Vernon appears 5 times.)

It’s about a prayer.

Because I heard somebody say that the best prayer sounds like ‘Godspeed’ by Frank Ocean. And the world today gives a lot to pray for. Many of those emotions can be heard in these songs. This prayer’s for you. For me. For all of us.

Here’s to 2019.

Note: if the playlist displayed is no longer of the current month, find the appropriate month at the link below.

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5 Startups Changing The Music Industry

startups Changing the music Industry

Startups these days seem to be all the rage. Take a visit out to San Francisco and you probably wont be able to walk a full block without running into a funky new workspace devoted to a startup. New York also has the startup fever, as new businesses are popping up left and right, based on ideas believable and trustworthy enough to earn funding from big whig venture capitalists somewhere in the world. It seems this generation isn’t satisfied with status quo; we like to take it one step further and understand that we are capable of turning our dreams into reality. Sunset in the Rearview is my personal venture that I’ve spent almost three years working on building, but the fact is, Sunset wouldn’t be where it is if it weren’t for the help of certain music startups that have helped fuel the blog’s success. Continue reading for the full list and descriptions of each startup and its pros and cons. Continue reading “5 Startups Changing The Music Industry” »

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Spotify: Failing in the US and amongst indie labels?

Spotify Failing in US?

After my initial article about how Spotify will affect the music industry, I feel it’s time to follow up after giving the Swedish start-up a chance to settle in the United States. There have been articles popping up on the Internet claiming that Spotify isn’t going to be successful in the United States, and that already, Spotify is struggling to convert their services into revenue. Journalists and critics are claiming that American listeners are too accustomed to free music at this point, deeming Spotify and its subscription-based revenue plan a failure from the get-go.

Slooooowwwww doooooowwwwwnnnnn, critics. In my opinion, what people are failing to recognize is that Spotify is still allowing its US users unlimited streaming. That means no cap on how much music you can listen to for free. This is a brilliant approach on their end because it allows U.S. users to experience all that Spotify can be, but at some point they will retract some of the free rights and people will be left itching to pay for service to regain access to what they once had. I’m sure there will be some stingy people unwilling to pay, but frankly, it will be their loss when they get a pop up telling them they’ve reached their maximum streams for the month.

Others are complaining about Spotify’s inability to create any substantial revenue for artists. In response to an angry call-out from a record label who claimed that Spotify wasn’t able to pay the labels and artists, Spotify said the following:

Spotify was launched out of a desire to develop a better, more convenient and legal alternative to music piracy. Spotify now monetises an audience the large majority of whom were downloading illegally (and therefore not making any money for the industry) before Spotify was available.

Spotify is now generating serious revenues for rights holders; since our launch just three years ago, we have paid over $100 million to labels and publishers, who, in turn, pass this on to the artists, composers and authors they represent. Indeed, a top Swedish music executive was recently quoted as saying that Spotify is currently the biggest single revenue source for the music industry in Scandinavia.

Spotify is now also the second single largest source of digital music revenue for labels in Europe (IFPI, Apr 2011). Billboard reported in April that Spotify territories saw an average digital growth rate of 43% last year. By contrast, neighbouring countries (without Spotify) saw only 9.3% digital growth.

$100 million is surely a lot more than artists are seeing when people are illegally downloading their music from sites like Mediafire, Hulkshare, and the like. People are not buying physical copies anymore (with the exception of vinyl, which may just be a trend.) They’re either illegally downloading, buying digitally, or they’re simply streaming. That leaves artists and labels with the ability to make money via online sales and through live performances and merchandise sales. With online sales in jeopardy due to the high rate of illegal downloads, artists need to give Spotify’s mission to pay per stream a chance. This is a huge opportunity for artists, but they need to be patient. Something tells me that when U.S. users with free accounts are limited to the normal streaming limit that comes with a free account, Spotify will see a significant jump in their revenues and their payout to artists may increase. As their revenues increase, their advertising prices will likely increase, bringing more money and possibilities to both the company and the labels/artists.

Just a few days ago, an artist wrote an article about receiving their Spotify royalties, claiming to be “A-mazed: the rates were between 0.88 and 0.73 cents per play.” They continued, “We’re actually approaching a sustainable per-play rate here: at a median rate of 0.8 cents per play, or so, the sale-to-stream income ratio is around 1:88 – 88 streams of a track from a single user would generate income comparable to a single sale of that track.” At first glance, that may sound like an unreachable goal, but when you stop to think about how many users are on Spotify and the scalability included with sharing playlists among friends, songs can quickly become “hot” streams. Just like that…a song gets high streaming rates, and the artist finds money in their pocket. Just by sitting idly and letting their music do its thing, as it used to go in the record stores.

As I said, the critics need to slow down and give Spotify a chance to breathe and grow on this side of the pond. It’s already changing the way that listeners view music ownership, allowing artists an alternative to the continually dwindling revenue resources, and in my mind, is well on its way to saving the music industry. Just wait.

And to end it with some tunes, here is a song I’m digging today.

MP3: “King of the Road” – Roger Miller

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Straight Talk Sunday: How Spotify Will Affect The Music Industry

How Spotify Will Affect The Music Industry

I’ve been asked by several people recently to share my thoughts on how Spotify will change the music industry. This right here is straight talk. My opinion on the state of the music industry and what Swedish-based technology platform Spotify will do for you, me, the artists, and the industry as a whole.

When Spotify was brought to the United States on July 14th, people suddenly realized that the times they were a-changin’.

Spotify is a Swedish-based music streaming service that allows users to stream entire songs (compared to the short clip that iTunes allows) from a range of major and independent record labels including Sony, EMI, Warner, and Universal. For free. Yes, you read that correctly. For free, you can listen to entire albums (with just a few advertisements thrown in there to break up your seamless experience). For a small fee, you can have an ad-free experience and have added features that include higher bitrate streams and offline access to music. If you purchase a Premium account, you can access Spotify and all of your playlists on your cell phone.

Spotify’s collection currently holds about 15 million tracks, but that number is said to be growing by around 10,000 tracks per day. And this is legal, because the labels have agreed to give Spotify rights to their artists’ music. Some labels and artists have not agreed to be added to Spotify yet, but something tells me that as soon as they see the number of Spotify users and really let that sink in, they’ll quickly be begging to be added to the database.

So you get free music. That’s cool. But what’s the catch? Where’s the stickiness? Ah, yes. In the playlists. Using Spotify, users can set up playlists that they can then share with other Spotify users. Want to see if your friend Joe has any public playlists? Simple! Connect to your Facebook account and you’ll then have a right rail that shows your Facebook friends who are using Spotify. By clicking on Joe’s name, you can then see his playlists that he’s published. Heck, you can even make a playlist WITH Joe that both of you can edit. And once you’re done, simply drag your playlist link into an email, an instant message, a tweet – whatever you want! People can then click on that link and the playlist will automatically be downloaded into their Spotify.

This all seems too good to be true, right? Well, in part, it is. This whole unlimited access to streaming music for free is going to be, well…limited. In short time, U.S. users will get a more realistic taste of Spotify, as those with free accounts will soon be limited to 20 hours per month of free streaming. Brilliant marketing plan by Spotify, if you ask me. Give users a taste of what they can do (for the most part) with a Premium account, make them think this is the best thing ever, and as soon as they’re about to explode confetti out of their ears from excitement, introduce a cap, or make them pay to avoid the cap.

So how does this affect the music industry? Well, right off the bat it would seem as though the labels have reached their doomsday, no? That’s what I would guess, since people have access to full streams of songs without having to pay a penny. However, Spotify has created a concept that nobody seemed to understand until this point. They are trying to change the focus and success of the music industry from ownership of music to streaming of music. Yes, that’s right. Streaming music will be the revenue driver.

In October 2010, Wired reported that Spotify was making more money for labels in Sweden than any other retailer, on or offline. How? Spotify’s financial set up seems to give a minimum to artists based on stream count, which might actually be more profitable for artists than the current system, since so many people are illegally downloading music off the internet and from torrents. If Spotify is playing fair and actually paying these artists on stream count (there have been complaints that smaller, independent artists haven’t been receiving the same treatment that major labels are), artists will (finally!) once again be paid for having their music heard, which hasn’t seemed to be the case for several years.

That’s a major change. For years, the music industry in the U.S. has depended on people buying albums and going to concerts. In 2010, nearly 80% of the labels’ $2 billion in digital revenue in the U.S. came from sales of records and singles. Translation? Sales on iTunes. Sweden, on the other hand, and where Spotify originated, saw in 2010 that album and track sales only accounted for 20% of the $38 million in digital revenue. Sixty percent of that revenue came from…yep, you guessed it…streaming.

Personally, I haven’t yet fallen totally in love with Spotify. I’m still unversed on how to control my privacy, which is a big barrier between my heart and Spotify. There are some playlists that I just don’t want to share with people. I’m still unsure how to privatize some of my playlists, but I’m sure that is something I’ll figure out pretty quickly. Another barrier: I am an iTunes addict. Yes, I am a slave to Steve Jobs’s money-sucking system. I suppose I’m being an old fart who clings to familiarity, but it’s true – I’m familiar with iTunes and I love it’s layout, it’s look and feel, and its simple user-interface. Seeing something new and different is a bit shocking. But as with most things, I’m sure I’ll suck it up and get used to it and soon be drooling over Spotify, just like everybody else seems to be.

What I have been leaning on Spotify for so far is streaming brand new albums. It’s been great to be able to listen to an album in full before purchasing it. As a music blogger, I’m expected to listen to new albums as they come out. That typically means that (so long as I haven’t been given a free copy by the artist or the label) I have to purchase tons of new albums every Tuesday. Somewhere in there, I think people forgot that I’m young and poor. Everybody except Spotify founder Daniel Ek, who has introduced the concept of paying $9.99 a month for unlimited access to streaming just about anything I want. That right there, Mr. Ek, is brilliant. You keep doing your thing, and I’m sure, in due time, I’ll be ooh-ing and ahh-ing and wanting to kiss your feet just as much as everybody else in the world seems to be right now.


MP3: “The Times They Are A-Changin'” – Bob Dylan

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