Spotify Rolls Out U.S. Audiobook Service with 300,000 Titles

Spotify is expanding beyond music and podcasts by adding audiobooks. The company is starting out with just over 300,000 titles, available for purchase in the U.S. “This is just the beginning,” says Spotify, promising a geographic expansion. In June, the audio streamer completed its purchase of global audiobooks distributor Findaway, announced last year. The acquisition was designed to make it a major player on entry, competing with Amazon’s Audible, the nation’s biggest audiobook service. Unlike Audible, Spotify is individually pricing audiobook titles and offering them à la carte, not by subscription. Continue reading Spotify Rolls Out U.S. Audiobook Service with 300,000 Titles

YouTube CBO Robert Kyncl Exiting, Mary Ellen Coe Steps Up

After a 12-year run that saw YouTube emerge as the dominant U.S. social video platform, chief business officer Robert Kyncl announced he is stepping aside. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki announced that Google president of global customer solutions Mary Ellen Coe will assume the role of CBO, effective October 3, with Kyncl continuing as part of YouTube’s executive team until early 2023 during the transition. Known as YouTube’s Hollywood connection, Kyncl was ultimately unable to transition YouTube into the long-form streaming platform Google once envisioned, but he oversaw its rise to short-form video powerhouse. Continue reading YouTube CBO Robert Kyncl Exiting, Mary Ellen Coe Steps Up

House Rep Plans to Update Streaming Revenue for Musicians

Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) is working on new legislation to help musicians boost their share of the revenue pouring into streaming services, which currently sits at fractions of a cent per stream. Tlaib is working with the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers (UMAW) on a new royalty program that would increase the royalty rate per-stream model. Tlaib and her team are actively collaborating to draft the resolution. The Recording Industry Association of America says that streaming accounts for 83 percent of all recorded music income.  Continue reading House Rep Plans to Update Streaming Revenue for Musicians

Warner Music Adopts SoundCloud’s Fan-Powered Royalties

Warner Music Group has become the first major music label to adopt SoundCloud’s fan-powered royalties payout model. Launched last year, the model is designed around what the music streaming service calls “the fan economy,” enabling artists to engage directly with fans for more control and increased monetization opportunities. The audio distribution platform allows every artist to be paid “based on fan listening behavior on SoundCloud,” with subscription and advertising revenue “distributed among the artists [the fans] listen to, rather than being pooled under the traditional pro-rata model the music industry has been using for over a decade,” explains SoundCloud. Continue reading Warner Music Adopts SoundCloud’s Fan-Powered Royalties

Lewis Black Hits Pandora with $10 Million Copyright Lawsuit

Comedian Lewis Black has slapped subscription-based streaming service Pandora with a $10.2 million copyright infringement lawsuit. Black becomes the latest humorist to take legal action against an audio streamer for unauthorized use of their work. Earlier this year, comedians Nick Di Paolo and Andrew Dice Clay — and the estates of Robin Williams and George Carlin — sued Pandora, which is owned by SiriusXM. Black is represented by the rights organization Spoken Giants, which is not a party to the suit, while the others are on the Word Collections roster. Continue reading Lewis Black Hits Pandora with $10 Million Copyright Lawsuit

CES: The ABCs of NFTs & Blockchain with Industry Pioneers

CES held its first-ever panel discussion on NFTs – non-fungible tokens for the uninitiated – with two experts who have grown up with the nascent industry sector. United Talent Agency head of digital assets Lesley Silverman noted that her company established the new division in March 2021. Her guest was Art Blocks founder and CEO Erick Calderon, who first got involved with NFTs in 2017 by following a thread on Reddit. Both had advice for newbies: Don’t let the jargon intimidate you and store your seed phrase in a cold storage device. Continue reading CES: The ABCs of NFTs & Blockchain with Industry Pioneers

Tidal Launches New Music Tiers, Model to Pay Artists Directly

Tidal unveiled an upgrade to its paid music plan and introduced two new plans — a cost-free tier (a first for the platform) and Tidal HiFi Plus. The standard $9.99-per-month subscription, now called Tidal HiFi, provides users with lossless and high-resolution audio and customized listening insights through features such as Tidal Connect and My Activity. With the new $19.99-per-month Tidal HiFi Plus, users get immersive formats including Dolby Atmos and Sony 360 Reality Audio as well as exclusive access to Tidal’s Master Quality Authenticated recordings. Tidal also launched an innovative direct-to-artist payments program with plans to introduce fan-centered royalties next year. Continue reading Tidal Launches New Music Tiers, Model to Pay Artists Directly

Apple Music Pays 1 Cent per Stream but Metric Is Misleading

Apple Music informed musicians that it pays one penny per stream, which is roughly double the rate paid by Spotify, the world’s largest music streaming service. Spotify pays about one-third to one-half penny per stream, which is potentially offset by its 155 million subscribers (out of 345 total active users) versus Apple Music’s 60+ million. The Union of Musicians and Allied Workers (UMAW) responded to Apple’s announcement by saying that all music streamers should pay one penny per stream “at a minimum.” Continue reading Apple Music Pays 1 Cent per Stream but Metric Is Misleading

China Signals Tighter Big Tech Regulation with Alibaba Fine

The Chinese State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) fined e-commerce giant Alibaba $2.8 billion for antitrust violations, a rebuke to its founder, high-profile tycoon Jack Ma. Investigation into whether Alibaba prevented sellers from offering their goods on other e-commerce platforms began in December. The official Communist Party newspaper called monopolies “the great enemy of the market economy” and said regulation was “a kind of love and care.” In 2015, China fined Qualcomm $975 million, also for antitrust violations. Continue reading China Signals Tighter Big Tech Regulation with Alibaba Fine

Streaming Now Makes Up 83 Percent of Total Music Revenue

In its year-end report, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) stated that, in the U.S., recorded music revenues grew 9.2 percent to $12.2 billion at estimated retail value, the fifth consecutive year of growth. Paid subscription services, ad-supported on-demand platforms and digital radio added $10.1 billion in revenue, a 13.4 percent jump. Paid subscriptions to on-demand services such as Apple Music and Spotify represented the majority of recorded music revenue, growing 14.6 percent to $7 billion in 2020. Continue reading Streaming Now Makes Up 83 Percent of Total Music Revenue

Spotify to Introduce Hi-Fi Option, Paid Podcast Subscriptions

Spotify will debut a Hi-Fi option later this year, the company announced during its recent “Stream On” presentation. Chief executive and co-founder Daniel Ek also revealed that the company paid $5 billion in royalties during 2020, and chief content officer Dawn Ostroff added that, over the last four years, 800+ recording artists have made more than $1 million a year in recording and publishing, up over 82 percent. About 7,500 artists made more than $100,000 a year, up 79 percent. Spotify also announced that it will launch paid podcast subscriptions. Continue reading Spotify to Introduce Hi-Fi Option, Paid Podcast Subscriptions

Indie Musicians Find Success with Digital Platforms and Apps

The COVID-19 pandemic has closed concert venues and halted touring for musicians but now some are achieving success via Spotify, YouTube, TikTok and apps such as DistroKid, SubmitHub and ForTunes.io. Previously, musicians depended on the big music companies — Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group — to promote and market their work. Now, according to distributor AWAL, hundreds of independent musicians are making $100,000+ from streaming, and Jayda G and RAC even got Grammy nominations. Continue reading Indie Musicians Find Success with Digital Platforms and Apps

Spotify Tests Service That Helps Artists Promote Their Music

Spotify is testing a new service that gives artists more power over how their music is discovered on its platform. First, it will allow artists and labels to identify the music that matters most to them, and Spotify will add a “signal” to help the music be found by its personalization algorithms. Spotify has created a model in which artists, labels and rights holders will be paid a “promotional recording royalty rate” for streams that it provides, although the service does not require an upfront budget for artists and labels. Continue reading Spotify Tests Service That Helps Artists Promote Their Music

Amazon Rebrands Twitch Prime in Shift to Gaming Strategy

Amazon debuted Prime Gaming this week, a rebranding of its first foray into the video game industry, Twitch Prime, which offers exclusive game content and free subscriptions to Twitch, the live-streaming site. There, users could enjoy free games from small studios, discounts for bigger titles like “Grand Theft Auto” and in-game gear. Prime Gaming will include those features and offer more titles and exclusive content, accessible without a Twitch account. Meanwhile, a group of artists has demanded that Amazon pay to license music streaming on Twitch. Continue reading Amazon Rebrands Twitch Prime in Shift to Gaming Strategy

Epic Games Intros Unreal Engine 5 with Dynamic Rendering

Epic Games showcased Unreal Engine 5, with its heightened ability to generate realistic graphics in real time on next-generation game platforms from PlayStation 5 to smartphones. Epic Games chief executive Tim Sweeney stated that Unreal Engine 5, which will roll out in 2021, will offer “a real generational leap in new features … [and] will be a straightforward upgrade for anyone working with Unreal Engine 4.” Epic Games also worked closely with Sony so its games can “take full advantage” of the new engine. Continue reading Epic Games Intros Unreal Engine 5 with Dynamic Rendering