If you haven’t noticed, the rap business has changed. You probably know this because you and all your friends likely haven’t paid for an artist’s music in a minute. Due to torrenting, streaming, and music sharing (basically the Internet), records just don’t sell like they used to. So, with record purchases more or less going the way of Blockbuster rentals, those who make their living through music have had to find another way to make money. The answer? Touring.More
If you’re unsure about the language and processes of music royalties in the United States, a new informational graphic should help, which you can see below (for higher-res, go here). The Music Business Association, also known as Music Biz and formerly known as NARM, has put together a cheat sheet with the help of ASCAP, Harry Fox, The Recording Academy, SESAC and SoundExchange.
Every recording artist, songwriter, record label and publisher needs to understand how money flows throughout the music business — especially in an era of access models where royalties aren’t derived just from music sales. (That goes for employees of music companies, too. It never hurts to understand the nuts and bolts of your chosen profession.) The graphic makes clear that creators need to register with various organizations to ensure their creative works are protected and the creator will receive the appropriate royalties.
The business side of music can be downright complicated. The government and courts determine some royalties. Other royalties are paid out according to an artist’s recording contract or, in the case of an independent artist, the distributor’s licensing deal with a digital service. And other royalties are established by negotiations between individual buyers and sellers. Some royalties go through a collection society. Other royalties are routed through a record label or distributor. An accurate map of royalty pathways would be a tangled mess.
And a note: When the graphic says there are “two basic rights for music,” it means there are two copyrights related to music. One copyright relates to songwriting and the other copyright relates to recording. In fact, music has six rights: performance (in public places, on radio and television), distribution (physical and digital distribution, synchronization), reproduction (of compositions for CDs, downloads, etc.), display (usually of song lyrics), derivative works (modifications of the original work) and digital transmission (via streaming service, satellite radio and cable radio).
A visit to a friend’s very capable commercial studio the other day got me thinking about some of the musical and audio items that have remained essentially intact since they were introduced. In some cases improvements have been attempted, but the original design is still the best. In other cases there has been continual improvements, but the original idea still hasn’t changed all that much. Here are 9 products in no particular order that the music and pro audio manufacturers got right from the start.
1. The Shure SM57/58 – Nearly 50 years down the road and the SM 58 is still the standard stage mic, and the SM 57 can be found in every recording studio big and small. What’s the difference between them? They both have the same capsule but the 58 has a filter to decrease the proximity effect a little.
2. The Ampeg SVT amplifier – Has there ever been a better bass amp been built? There’s still nothing like that 8×10″ cabinet for being able to dial in almost any bass sound you want, and the monster head will easily rock any venue.
3. The Marshall 1960 cabinet – There’s something about the original birch Marshall 4×12″ cabinet that’s never been beat. It makes any amp, big or small, sound bigger and larger than life.
4. The Fender Strat – Former Rolling Stone guitarist Mick Taylor once expressed to me that he felt the Strat was the world’s most perfectly designed guitar, and he couldn’t have been more right. The shape, the contour, the sound, the vibrato tailpiece – the only thing it isn’t is a Les Paul.
5. The Fender Precision Bass – You might see high-profile bass players play fancy boutique basses on stage, but when it comes to recording there’s always a trusty Precision around. If you want a can’t-miss big full sound, this is still the one for the job.
6. The K&M boom stand – Atlas made the original boom arm accessory in the early 60′s but the tripod Konig & Meyer boom has been the studio standard for more than 50 years. It hasn’t changed much in that time, but it hasn’t needed to.
7. Powered monitors – Once upon a time you struggled to find the right amp to match your speakers. It was a nerve-wracking search very much akin to a surfer finding the perfect wave. Monitors with built-in power amps that are ideally match to the speaker took away all that confusion, while making them cheaper, more compact, and sound better.
8. The Digital Audio Workstation – For a long time the only thing that engineer’s knew was tape, and as a result became quite used to its limitations, even during the transition from analog to digital. Having a remote sitting right next to the console was just part of the natural studio environment. Today most DAWs offer way more advantages to tape and we’re all much better off for it. The modern DAW is what’s made the home recording studio possible, and even the least expensive app has 100 times more power than what The Beatles had available to them (although talent is another story).
9. The Dean Jensen Direct Box Design – It’s hard to believe there was a time before direct boxes, but after some industrious techs began to custom-build them in the 70′s, transformer designer Dean Jensen provided a free design using one of his transformers that’s been copied over and over ever since. If it’s a passive direct box that you’re buying, Dean Jensen is its father.
Wiz and Nicki’s true colors shine through on this pop friendly collaboration set to appear on Blacc Hollywood. On the Nicki’s verse, she says that she can’t wait to unveil the cover to her album, The Pinkprint. Hopefully it follows this blueprint.Wiz’s Blacc Hollywood drops next Tuesday.
A new generation has spoken and access (streaming any music in the world from ‘the cloud’) will win out over ownership (collecting a finite number of songs as CDs or files), just as personal radio (interactive Internet radio streaming) is replacing AM/FM. This is no longer debated by the informed, but accepted as a matter of time. Yet how often must we read that leading streaming services like Pandora and Spotify are still losing money despite tens of millions of users and hundreds of millions of dollars invested?
Journalists worldwide extrapolate from this semi-truth that it is impossible for legal streaming to make money, when the fact is that Pandora and Spotify consciously prioritize growing market share over profitability. That’s not speculation. I know streaming — and I’ve negotiated directly with all major music labels, so I’m privy to the secret numbers that reporters can only guess at.
Fact one: Industry leader Pandora could be profitable tomorrow if it increased its frequency of commercials, even by an amount that would still leave it dramatically less cluttered than its FM radio counterparts. But Pandora knows that increasing ads will reduce usage, since internet-savvy music consumers are less tolerant of interruptions than the FM radio’s baby-boomer audience.
Fact two: Spotify was profitable years ago in the only mature streaming market in the world. If the company chose today to stop pursuing international expansion, Spotify would break even overall tomorrow. If they then chose to cease loss-leading with their free on-demand service (designed to fuel the growth of their core subscription sales), Spotify would be profitable in all of its markets immediately.
Pandora and Spotify already have the scale necessary to make money, but in both cases their fear of growth stagnation outweighs their current need for cash.
So, now that you know the truth about the current music industry’s single biggest (and sometimes self-sustained) myth, what’s in the cards for music this century?
Playlist services (like Spotify) will never overtake personal radio (like Pandora), because the majority of people are not interested in picking every song by hand. But on-demand streaming will continue to replace the $5 billion U.S. physical and digital sales with all-you-can-eat playlist subscriptions. On-demand will not be profitable as an ad-supported platform and subscriptions will continue to cost about $10 per month. Apple will release iBeats and make it available cross-platform early on, eventually replacing downloads completely. Pandora survived iTunes Radio because creating a good personalizable endless music stream is complicated. Spotify will not be so fortunate. On-demand is essentially a search motor coupled to a music library and Apple can do that as well as anybody. With several hundred million music lovers’ credit cards on file, Apple will offer one month for free and eclipse Spotify’s user base by month two.
Pandora will weather that storm too, but be challenged by a new generation of Personal Radio services that will be quicker to innovate. Pandora’s complex Music Genome project is difficult to modify and integral to their current lead. The new Internet Radio services will handle news, talk, and sports as well as music, and they will reach profitability without having to approach AM/FM ad loads. Terrestrial radio will fight desperately before yielding the last of her $45 billion in worldwide annual ad revenues to the far superior Personalized Radio streaming services.
Musicians will rejoice when they realize that streaming radio shares the massive ad revenues with them that terrestrial radio never did in the U.S. Then well-fed artists will create great new songs for innovative streaming services to distribute to happy consumers who whole-heartedly support a born-again music industry, one more glorious and lucrative than ever before. And the skies will part, the sun will shine again, there will be music everywhere, and… well… the future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades!