It’s Monday but I want to talk about Friday, Rebecca Black’s teen pop song and video that has had tens of millions of views. The video, as you probably heard, was produced by a place called Arc Music Factory, where Rebecca’s mother paid a couple thousand dollars for her daughter to record it. On youtube the video took off virally and suddenly everyone was talking about it.
There were a lot of snarky comments about how bad it was, particularly in the professional programming trades. It’s definitely a song that can rub you the wrong way – limited lyrics repeated over and over, annoying pop tune. But like it or not, it was the kind of thing that grabbed people’s attention, particularly kids online. They were all talking about it. My daughter, who’s 16, and her friends hated it, but they were watching it, quoting it, making fun of it on each other’s facebook pages.
By March 25th, Black’s song had more than 43 million views and had generated 37,000 digital download song sales, but had been played only 12 times on the radio. Billboard magazine said of the song’s lack of play :” While morning drive talents are discussing (and, thus, adding to) the song’s buzz, it garnered just 12 plays in its entirety in the March 16-22 tracking week among the more than 1,200 stations monitored by BDS for Hot 100 Airplay.”
Unfortunately, radio is so entrenched in their own methods of adding whatever songs the record labels tell them to add that they didn’t play the song that in a week captured the musical buzz of the country. You can call it what you want, say it was a bad song, say it wasn’t worthy of airplay, the bottom line is that the week it came out, that song WAS what everyone was listening to – but not on the radio.
Message: if you want to hear what everyone is listening to, don’t turn to radio.
This is all about radio’s inability to create, capture or capitalize on compelling online content. Figuring out why that’s so difficult and changing the way things are done to overcome those challenges is critical…
Nielsen Entertainment recently expanded its coverage of music streaming measurement, adding several key streaming platforms to its streaming panel. Newly added services include Vevo, Slacker, MOG, Thumbplay, Akoo, and Cricket. Data from these services, and from the existing reporting panel consisting of AOL, Napster, Rhapsody, Verizon Wireless and Yahoo! will appear in Nielsen’s BDS reports.
Nielsen Entertainment produces reports on lots of activity related to the music industry – Nielsen BDS monitors music played on radio stations in the US, Canada, Europe and Mexico. Nielsen SoundScan reports on physical and digital song sales. They provide lots of insight into things like what songs people listen to and buy, which it sells to radio programmers, record companies, etc. Sources like Billboard produce their reports from this data.
During the first six weeks of 2011, Nielsen tracked more than 1.1 billion music streams through online music streaming services. More than 165 million streams per week are captured and nearly 26 million weekly song downloads are tracked. That is a lot of streaming music activity.
According to their press release, Nielsen is the only company able to provide weekly trending information on streaming activity, as well as a more granular understanding of from where consumers stream music. Nielsen also provides insights on the type of streams; on-demand streams, those songs/videos that consumers choose to listen to, versus programmed streams, or when songs are not chosen by the consumer.
As music streaming activity and digital downloads increase while physical song sales sink, streaming’s importance is growing as an important measure of who is listening to what. I expect we’ll see the list of streaming music platforms in their panel to continue to grow.
Digital music sales grew globally by 6 percent last year to $4.6Billion. That number accounts for 29% of record company revenues around the globe. According to a new report by IFPI, consumer choice for accessing music via digital channels continued to grow in 2010. It’s recently released Digital Music Study makes a very clear case that digital music piracy has stifled and eroded the music industry.
Case studies included in the presentation cite examples such as in France, where government regulation, awareness campaigns, and even subsidized legal downloads have made headway in lowering the amount of piracy and stemmed the loss of revenues, and in Spain where a once flourishing and highly creative music scene has gone the other way, with nearly half the residents using illegal download sites to obtain music and fewer and fewer new artists are emerging.
The study calls for government action in the form of ISP regulation, consumer awareness campaigns and content protection. It’s an interesting read – certainly worthwhile for anyone hoping to do business in the online music marketplace. You can access the summary and download the study here.
Amazon is growing its share of the digital music download market but not at the expense of ITunes. According to NPD Group research data, ITunes has 66% of that market and Amazon has 13%. Growth may be coming instead from album sales, which dropped by 12% for 2010, according to WSJ.com. CD sales dropped by 20%, but digital album sales grew 13%.
A few artists have decided to forego selling individual songs on ITunes and insist on album sales instead. Billboard says this formula just might be working out for Kid Rock. He’s not selling his new album “Born Free” or the songs on it on ITunes. Billboard thinks he may have sold more, by a lot, by sticking to his guns, generating an estimated $3.3 million more by only selling his album in its entirety.
AC/DC and Garth Brooks are two other artists/groups that have refused to play the single song download sales game with iTunes, opting instead to only sell albums. No word on how it is working out for them.
Meanwhile, Amazon continues to try to put a dent in ITunes share of market by offering deep discounts of albums, something that may actually endear them to artists and labels by placing emphasis on album rather than song sales. They are known to absorb the price difference between the sale price and wholesale price, so it doesn’t harm actual revenues and it helps unit sales. It’s a strategy that worked for Kid Rock…
The Pew Internet and American Life Project reports that 2/3 of Internet users have paid for digital content. Thanks to pervasive broadband penetration in the US users can quickly and easily download software, movies, television shows, music, e-books, and news articles.
The survey asked more than 750 adults whether they had ever paid to access or download a list of 15 types of digital content, ranging from digital music to ebooks, movies, photos, games, apps, adult content and more. 33% of Internet users said they had paid for digital music online – which presumably includes downloads as well as access to premium streamed content. Digital music topped the list of items consumers were most likely to pay for.
It’s a study that validates the premium subscription revenue model and has great and positive implications for media companies that are struggling to recover revenues lost to dwindling circulation or audience for their traditional media. Beginning this month the New York Times will lock down unlimited access to its website under subscription, limiting online access to its content to online or newspaper subscribers.
Streaming music services have struggled to develop successful business models as well, with some services such as Pandora and Slacker exploring both ad supported and premium no-ad subscription platforms. Others such as Rhapsody and MOG deliver on-demand streaming songs for a monthly subscription. This seems to be a model favored by the record labels, who have refused to license on-demand service Spotify in the US for their ad-supported on-demand service. Pandora, Slacker and other webcasting services, which do not deliver on-demand songs, have a compulsory license (and associated royalties) for such.
70 million Americans have listened to or watched a downloaded podcast, according to a recently updated report by Edison Research: The Current State of Podcasting. That’s 23% of the population, a number that’s increased just one percent from a year ago.
Awareness of podcasting is sitting steady at 45%, up just slightly from last year’s 43%. That’s not the kind of growth that inspires hope that the medium will spread like wildfire. Podcast listening and/or viewing just hasn’t gone mobile – 71% of people who listen to podcasts do so on their desktop and that number has actually increased from last year, according to the study.
So while cell phone usage has soared, podcasting usage has gotten stuck on the desktop, which is one possible explanation for the stagnant growth of the audience. Smartphone streaming has made downloading audio files for listening on mobile phones unnecessary.
It looks like streaming is taking a bite out of podcasting at this point. Online radio’s audience is 70 million monthly (Arbitron/Edison’s Infinite Dial Study).
Podcast consumers tend to be early adopters and social networkers, according to the study. They tend to respond to sponsor ads – 71% said they had visited a website because of an ad they had seen or heard in a podcast.
With wifi and 3G, and soon 4G access more readily available to consumers who want to stream and listen on demand, it’s looking more and more like podcasting is an interim audio technology that has limited long term audience growth because it’s replaceable by audio streaming.
Sony has announced that they will launch an online cloud based music service called Music Unlimited before the end of the year. The service will stream music to Sony’s TVs, Blu-ray players, and connected mobile devices, which will also be able to cache and store songs for offline listening as well.
Cloud based music services that store music online and stream it on demand are the next coming for the digital music industry. Google is reportedly planning to release its own version before the end of the year, Apple purchased Lala with a similar intent, and several other services are already available.
Sony’s version, Music Unlimited, will include common playlist building features along with Sony’s SenseMe technology which can detect personal music preferences and suggest music based on those criteria. Music Unlimited is based on the Qriocity platform, Sony’s cloud based streaming delivery platform.
Streaming is a very good thing for the music industry. So says a new study conducted on behalf of streaming services company Aspiro Music. Streaming music reduces illegal filesharing activity and increases overall listening to music.
The survey, conducted in Norway in June, shows that one of three Norwegians have now streamed music. A good 60% say they feel more up to date on music, 68% listen to more music and 72% say they often find music they didn’t know about prior to using a streaming service. Streaming increases both the total consumption of music, as well as broadening the range of music people listen to.
“We believe that efficient and payment-based streaming services will lead to better economy for artists, record labels and rights holders long term, and that it will turn around recent years descending revenue trend”, commented CEO of Aspiro Music Per Einar Dybvik.
Aspiro Music produces branded and white label streaming music services based on payment or subscription models to a variety of companies, including T-mobile.
Digital song sales for the first half of the year were off very slightly (.2%) from the same period last year, indicating that the price increase from 99 cents to $1.29 on iTunes did have some negative impact on the number of tracks sold.
Meanwhile, full album sales were down as well – 11% to 154 million from 172.9 million units in the corresponding period last year. But digital album sales actually rose nearly 13% during the same period, offset by the continued decline of physical cd album sales which were down 18%. Last year album sales dropped 8.5% but digital album sales rose by 16%.
Lady Antebellum had the best selling album for the first half of the year.
So what does all of this mean? It appears that the negative impact from the 30% price increase on iTunes was minimal. It also looks like record labels and artists may have found a formula for increasing album sales – some combination of pricing, marketing and artistry that is convincing more and more people to purchase albums rather than single songs.