Apple Music is the latest and greatest to enter a crowded space: the streaming music market. Like the other big new competitor, Tidal, Apple Music is only going to offer paid subscriptions, instead of ad-sponsored free music.
But why? Why is any company even bothering to enter this space?
There is no streaming music market. Period. Really, there’s no proof that people are wiling to pay for digital music at all.
A few weeks ago, a journalist met the President. The journalist was a blogger who took photographs and talked to people. He’s also the author of The New York Times bestseller, “Humans of New York.” His name is Brandon Stanton and, in late January, he managed to help raise over a million dollars for Mott Hall Bridges Academy in Brownsville, Brooklyn, a school in one of New York City’s most impoverished neighborhoods… and helped the students and principal meet the President of the United States.
He told the story on a blog. He told the story through Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. And, above all, he told the story through photographs of people talking about life.
Stanton is making a living taking photos and reporting on things. He’s not associated with any media publication. He took the tools technology has made available and used them to make a huge impact.
Stanton’s success isn’t just inspirational, it’s a powerful indictment of the cynicism permeating the art world when it comes to social media, art, and the digital world.
Recently, I found my way to a blog post about giving compelling business presentations and something struck me – the best time to market your band isn’t when you’re sitting behind a keyboard and rattling away on a website or tweeting YouTube clips at people.
It’s when you’re on stage.
And it’s not just the music. Anyone who has been to local shows knows that a good part of the audience is only half-listening to the music. Your job is to convince them that it’s worth paying attention… and the way to do that is to start moving.
It’s been an uphill battle for indie musicians to make a living. Forever. Dwindling CD sales haven’t helped much, either, along with the pittances paid by streaming radio stations like Pandora and Spotify.
Well, as rumored, YouTube is planning a premium subscription music service now. And, as expected, indie artists are apparently getting way worse deals than the major labels. If they don’t sign onto the new service as it rolls out, they risk being dropped from YouTube “in a matter of days.”
That would be fine if YouTube wasn’t aggressively persuading (ahem, forcing) indies to join the music service.
From The Guardian:
[Trade organization] WIN claims that the company [YouTube] has signed lucrative licensing deals with major labels Universal, Warner and Sony, while demanding that independent labels sign up to inferior terms or face having their videos blocked from YouTube’s free service.
Seem a little harsh? Maybe, you might be thinking, the videos would just be blocked from YouTube’s new music service, not the whole site. According to WIN – and clarified by The Guardian:
“If labels don’t sign up for YouTube’s new paid music service at the (non-negotiable) terms, their entire catalogues will be blocked on YouTube – all of YouTube, not just the new premium bit.”
That means the rug has essentially been ripped out from underneath musicians’ feet. All of the music videos, albums, and songs independent artists have uploaded to YouTube, the things that have gotten thousands upon thousands of views for YouTube… might disappear. If you don’t sign something.
So how did we get here? And is there any escape?
The promise of going viral has never sounded so sweet. From Rebecca Black’s “Friday” to the newly viral and morbidly interesting “Brick in Yo Face” by Stitches, marketing your band online seems like it has magical powers.
One day, you make a YouTube video. The next… well… you’re famous. Right?
Or maybe you’ll find the answer in Facebook and Twitter and ReverbNation, instead. If you spend enough money online and have a good website, won’t that make sure your band gets heard?
If you’ve tried all of this stuff, or you’ve thought about trying it, you might already know the answer. In the scramble to market their music online, bands are forgetting one vital thing:
We might already be entering the era of music business 3.0.
That’s at least what the CEO of music technology start-up Gideen told me in my recent interview with him.
I like the term. It acknowledges that streaming and downloadable songs (music business 2.0) existed before this new wave of music tech start-ups.
And also acknowledges that streaming and downloads are, slowly but surely, failing musicians.
To be a musician has always been a very poor career move, but you could at least count on album sales to stay (kinda) afloat. That option’s gone, because most people aren’t willing to spend money on music. Digital downloads are dropping. Streaming pays tiny shards of pennies to artists.
So what kind of technology can actually help bands make music, distribute music and get paid? I went to a Boston Music Tech Meetup last week to find out.
It’s harder than ever -literally, ever – for bands to sell CDs at shows. People just don’t buy them anymore. CD sales are at an all-time low.
In December 2000, 785.14 albums were sold.
In 2013, that number dropped to 289.41 million. This past January, sales reached another record weekly low.
My laptop doesn’t even have a place to put CDs. Itunes has been offering a digital alternative for years. Streaming radio stations like Spotify & Pandora have made the process of music-to-ears even smoother… and free-er.
Iphones and iPads don’t play CDs.
But bands keep trying to sell them shows, because it’s still one of the most straightforward ways to make money from music. But trying to sell a CD at a show full of music lovers with smartphones is like trying to sell a DVD to someone with Netflix. Or iTunes. Or Amazon. Or Google Play.
Trust me, they’ve moved onto something else.
Online marketing for music has been one of the most hyped up things in the past few years. It seems simple, right? You release a song online. Promote it through some savvy Facebook marketing or YouTube videos.
Then, suddenly, you’re Viral.
As most bands know, the reality is different. You can drop $50 “boosting” a Facebook post for $0 in return. YouTube channels become haunted houses of cobwebs and shakily filmed videos of you playing in an empty bar. And streaming stations have destroyed a mid-market brand of listener and both Spotify and Pandora pay musicians terribly.
In the pursuit of precious exposure, musicians are leaving revenue far, far behind.
I haven’t yet come across a reliable way for bands to make (decent) money online… but I think I might have found one on the horizon. Gideen is a start-up, an online music platform that taps the best of every world to create what CEO Heiko Schmidt calls “a 3.0 music business model,” which casts aside the $1 song completely.
Fueled by fans, musicians, advertisers, artists of all stripes and a lot of songs, Gideen is hoping to revolutionize traditional licensing and revenue models in the music industry. Right now, the company is hosting an IndieGoGo campaign to fund it all.
Here’s what Schmidt had to say about Gideen, music marketing and the music industry in general:
Last week, the FCC struck down something called “net neutrality.” You might have seen headlines and decided it was boring. Maybe, for a little while, you were curious about the ruling’s meaning.
No one really knows how things are going to work in a post net-neutrality world. But there are a lot of alarm bells ringing. Let’s break it down and then talk about what this could mean for bloggers, writers and musicians.
I recently stumbled across a really interesting documentary – “Unsound.” No, it’s not out yet. In fact, maybe it never will be. Right now, it’s in the funding stages on IndieGoGO and I beseech everyone to go help make it become a reality. Writers, artists, musicians – anyone who does creative stuff needs to donate to the campaign.
It’s not really a donation, anyway, since you get the movie out of the deal.
Unsound is about the increasingly harmful effects of “Free” on the economy – from journalism to music. That’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while, too. Mostly, I want to know why the creative economy is in such peril. So, today, let’s focus on music.
Here’s what’s happening to the industry, and why musicians everywhere are struggling: