"Starting about 12-18 months ago, something shifted in music consumption patterns" - music writer Ted Gioia takes notice of a change, underpinned by six recent studies showing an unexpected increase in classical music listening. How did this happen? "Maybe that old orchestral and operatic music now sounds fresh to ears raised on electronic sounds. Maybe the dominance of four-chord compositions has created a hunger for four-movement compositions. Maybe young people view getting dressed up for a night at the opera hall as a kind of cosplay event. Or maybe the pandemic had some impact on music consumption... And it’s true, the pandemic did cause a major increase in the purchase of musical instruments. People got serious about music—so much so that they wanted to play it themselves. Perhaps it changed listening habits too".

"A lot of the discussion on music being under-monetized has focused on streaming rates, Spotify’s pricing, and equity stakes in streaming services. It’s all valid, but it’s one piece of the broader opportunity" - Trapital's Dan Runcie points out in his latest memo, adding that artists "have more opportunities to buy and sell products at every level of the demand curve. An artist can release music on Spotify, promote their tour with AEG Presents, sell tickets on Ticketmaster, perform at Rolling Loud, sell an NFT on OpenSea, sell VIP access on Patreon, and host members-only live streams on Twitch. For most artists, each part of their demand curve is supported by a different company". Runcie sees opportunities in gamified features and collectibles, user-generated content, A.I. as a service, and in-app purchases in digital environments.

A great read in Guardian by singer, musician, and frontwoman Courtney Love about "sexist gatekeeping... purposeful ignorance and hostility" of Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: "If so few women are being inducted into the Rock Hall, then the nominating committee is broken. If so few Black artists, so few women of colour, are being inducted, then the voting process needs to be overhauled. Music is a lifeforce that is constantly evolving – and they can’t keep up... If the Rock Hall is not willing to look at the ways it is replicating the violence of structural racism and sexism that artists face in the music industry, if it cannot properly honour what visionary women artists have created, innovated, revolutionised and contributed to popular music – well, then let it go to hell in a handbag".

Non-futureable tokens?
March 16, 2023

FWB: Should musicians keep believing in NFTs?

"The market for non-fungible tokens (NFTs) may have collapsed over the last year, but independent musicians are still minting. Is this because the... other revenue options for musicians in a post-pandemic, inflationary economy, in which media is free for everyone with a data connection, have dried up?" - composer and strategist Marc Moglen asks in his FWB piece. "NFTs hold great promise — especially for musicians looking to supplement existing or dwindling monetization opportunities, and especially if enterprising companies manage to crack the code of usability, standardization, and bridging the 'one-way chasm'.”

"Can't make a living" doesn't really resonate
March 16, 2023

First Floor: Streaming should pay more, but how?

"No matter how much cost cutting Spotify and the other streaming companies do, there’s likely only one way for them to increase revenue to a point where significantly higher streaming payouts would be possible: raising prices... Artists need consumers to pay more for streaming, but here’s the question that even the harshest streaming critics often refuse to ask: what if they don’t want to?" - music writer Shawn Reynaldo asks the ultimate question in his latest newsletter. "Consumers didn’t create this system, but in 2023, they are accustomed to it, and if their current spending habits are any indication, they don’t seem terribly bothered by how streaming has negatively impacted artists or larger musical landscape."

They only come out at night
March 14, 2023

Is it possible to have rock concerts at noon?!?

Actress Jamie Lee Curtis recently said she would love to go see Coldplay "at 1 p.m." since at their usual gig time she's already tucked in. Billboard wonders if the idea od matinee rock concerts is even possible. "Most of our margin is on drinks. It’s hard to sell drinks at 1 p.m.” - says Peter Shapiro, owner of Relix magazine, as well as the Brooklyn Bowl venues in New York, Las Vegas and Nashville and a number of other clubs. The majority of ticket revenue and service fees go to the band and ticketing agencies, the headliners take home most of the night’s haul, leaving the venue to live off ancillary revenue, most of which comes from the bar. Shapiro says there is another crucial element keeping shows after dark - mystique. “You can see a show in the afternoon, but at the end of the arc of the day it works going to a show in darkness. It’s the arc of the day, the moon… rock n’ roll lives at night. It’s in the DNA of rock n’ roll

Ticket prices for the Taylor Swoift and Bruce Springsteen tours caused an outrage as they went into the four digits. However, as it was investigated by the New York Times, you cas easily get those kind of tickets for $200 or much less. You just have to - be patient "If you want tickets to a big, highly promoted arena show, whether it’s Bruce or Beyoncé, set a budget and register for the sale. If there are tickets you can afford, buy them. If not, log off and bide your time. Decent seats may well be available at better prices when the concert date nears. (Demand is usually highest when tickets first go on sale.) If you register, you’ll generally be notified if more tickets go on sale. Or you can simply set a calendar reminder to check availability as the date approaches."

The MBW breaks down the numbers Spotify shared in their Loud & Clear report about how much it pays in royalties, and to whom. The number of artists generating $50,000 or more a year stood at 17,800 in 2022, up by 1,300 from the prior year. However, in 2021, that same category grew year-on-year by 3,100, more than double its rate of increase in 2022. The $50k is the amount "generated" by artists, their royalties will inevitably be reduced once they’ve paid their distributor/publishing admin company/publisher/record company a fee, commission, recoupment charge, etc. Still, it's a monthly paycheck allowing the musician a decent living from cre

Happy being older
March 13, 2023

"Nostalgia is a trampoline"

"Our nostalgia remains intimate, personal and fragile, it’s 'a sentiment of loss and displacement, a romance with one’s own fantasy'" - Washington Post's Chris Richards recently wrote a beautiful text about reunited post-hardcore bands at the Numero Twenty music festival. "Instead of a tomb, nostalgia became a trampoline — something you could jump onto with both feet, rebounding into an open future... The festival’s other big memory-smudge was out in the crowd where young attendees were outnumbered by their elders, but maybe only 3 to 1 — a division that felt most acute when the youngest ears in the house pressed toward the stage for Codeine, a band best known for making its tremendous slowness feel stark and colossal... There’s a prevailing idea that the most stylish members of today’s youth are obsessed with retrieving the lost ’90s, but let’s not forget that they’ve grown up in an over-connected century in which boredom no longer seems to exist. My guess is that the Codeine kids at Numero Twenty didn’t come to commune with the past so much as slow down the present".

"Music is one of the most valuable forms of self-expression out there" - Trapital's Dan Runcie insists in his latest memo. He also shares his thoughts on what the music industry can learn from gaming and monetize its popularity:

  • Do-it-yourself music sampling - make it easier for fans to remix their own versions of songs, separate the stems, upload their versions to the streaming or short-form video platform of their choice, and ensure that the original artists get paid for the underlying work

  • A.I. as a service - I can see software like ChatGPT packaged up as a $10.99 monthly subscription service for songwriters and musicians. Users pay a monthly fee to access their royalty-free music for commercial use

  • In-app purchases in digital environments - 23% of Gen Z gamers (and 16% of all gamers) wish they could purchase music they hear in a game or be able to add it to a playlist

Sign o' the times
March 06, 2023

Mixmag: Has dance music got harder and faster?

Dance music has got so hard and fast recently, Mixmag believes and tries to find clues as to whether it has really happened and - if so - why. “My whole take on the faster, harder side of things is that people turned 18 over the pandemic. They’d heard about techno, but they’d never experienced a club [and] they were listening to stuff in the house, coming from maybe hard dance, or hardcore or ravey happy hardcore stuff. Then they burst into a club and want to hear things at 100 miles per hour because they haven’t heard anything different" - Glasgow DJs and producer Quail shares his thoughts. Techno artist Sunil Sharpe thinks part of the reason is also down to a loss of clubs: “In ways the traditional nightclub environment used to regulate tempo but as the amount of clubs has thinned out over the last decade, it feels like the scene has moved more towards locations that capture the original spirit of rave culture when tempos were faster."

Sampling the law
March 06, 2023

Dan Charnas: It’s time to legalize sampling

"Hip-hop turns 50 this year. Institutions that once ignored the genre are getting in on the celebration... But the way hip-hop makes music remains completely unprotected by law. Over the past four decades, even as hip-hop’s method of sonic collage became a basic mode of music making across genres, the legal conception of what music is, and what constitutes authorship, remains rooted in our pre-digital past. As we move into the second half of the hip-hop century, it’s high time to change that" - music writer Dan Charnas insists in Slate's piece about sampling. "The landscape is far too precarious for creators, and so we need two things: a clearer, broader conception of fair use and, for everything else, an expanded compulsory license law, which would ideally clear up that gray area, creating rules for engagement that avoid legal wrangling, ensuring owners’ rights and income without stifling new creativity."

Functional music is defined as something “not designed for conscious listening”, often encountered on popular playlists designed to promote sleep, studying or relaxation. It is estimated that it was earning around 120 billion streams annually (Taylor Swift’s entire catalog did around 8 billion streams through all of 2022), worth over $630 million annually for recording rights holder. Not everybody is happy with it - Universal Music Group chairman Lucian Grainge wrote to staff recently that “great music” is under threat from “a flood” of “lower-quality functional content that in some cases can barely pass for ‘music.’"

Out of the pandemic and the shutdown, Trapital's Dan Runcie looks back at the ideas and trends that have started back at the height of the isolation age. He believes that some are destined to never achieve substantial success, such as Clubhouse, Bored Ape Yacht Club, artists immersed in digital environments, Community... A few might have a future - DEI initiatives that lead to real change, Verzuz, NFTs, while some are certain to stay - music rights sales and acquisitions, TikTok and short-form video, high prices for live entertainment...

Lucian Grainge

Music streaming has been the driving force behind the recorded music industry’s return to growth after roughly 15 years of declines. According to IFPI, the global recorded music streaming revenue has increased from ~$0 in 2004 to ~$17 billion in 2021, which is equivalent to the size of the entire global recorded music market in 2008. Universal's CEO Sir Lucian Grainge sent a New Year memo saying the economic model needs to evolve. Jimmy Stone explains why Grainge believes it's time for a change.

"Many of us got to witness a second breakthrough moment for hip-hop during the recent 65th Grammy Awards. Questlove of the Roots along with LL Cool J put their heads together and curated an incredible tribute to acknowledge hip-hop’s upcoming 50th birthday... It was an incredible tribute that was preceded by Kendrick Lamar winning Hip-Hop Album of the Year and the grand finale being an 8-minute song that featured DJ Khalid, Jay-Z and Rick Ross" - journalist and professor Dave “Davey D” Cook is looking back at 50 years of hip-hop in the Pollstar. "The hip-hop takeover of the Grammys was a reminder that hip-hop is deeply woven in the fabric of modern-day music and it is perched to reach even greater heights".

Mixmag has started the Cost of Living series exploring how the current economic crisis is impacting dance music. "Surging electricity bills, spiraling travel costs, increases in the price of goods and services and a dramatic change in crowd habits have hit an industry still reeling from lockdown to near-breaking point" - Mixmag underlines the environment clubs and promoters are having to deal with. Interesting phenomena is occurring with festivals: "A number of club-focused promoters appear to have turned their attention to putting on festival-like 'day parties' since the end of lockdown... As disposable incomes become tighter than ever, the 'day festival' gives attendees the chance to attend a festival — but without having to add on extra costs such as transport and accommodation, and the chance to pre-drink and pop off home without the Monday morning dread knowing they have to pull a shift in a few hours, or inadvertently spend hundreds at the bar".


"Reggaeton artists dominated the Spanish top 50 songs chart in 2021, edging out every English-language performer except for the Weeknd and Lil Nas X. The genre’s continuous rise in Spain has raised urgent questions about cultural ownership, colonialism, and race as a result of centuries-old social hierarchies between Europe and Latin America" - Pitchfork looks into the sensitive issue. "There is concern about Spanish artists profiting off the music of Afro-diasporic cultures once colonized by Spain, sometimes even eclipsing the visibility of those who founded the movement... Meanwhile, other industry executives and cultural commentators hail reggaeton’s takeover in Spain as a sign of globalization’s advantages."

Crime and punishment
February 22, 2023

Russia's music scene losing the war to state repression

"Since the war with Ukraine, dissenting Russian bands have been canceled en masse, including many of the scene's original founders. Bands who faced censorship, harassment and intimidation during the Soviet days are now experiencing the same thing some 40 years later" - Bandsplaning looks beyond the Russia-Ukraine frontline and into the ever-shrinking freedom of expression the Russian musicians are facing. Since the start of the war a year ago, according to one promoter, around 30% of Russian domestic performers left the country or stopped performing.

A very well written text in LARB by Chicago musician Eli Winter about touring as an independent musician - "The thought of going on tour and sustaining this work produces an undercurrent of excitement that moves beyond the reach of words. Sometimes I wonder if I’m wrong to feel this way, wrong to carry on. Sure — touring has changed my life, deepened its meaning, made me a kinder person who is more open and assertive, strengthened my resolve. It’s taken me to parts of the country and world I’d otherwise not be able to visit, and it’s given me experiences I would otherwise never have had and communities of friends around the world."

Stream me to the end of dance
February 22, 2023

5 Mag on how the majority of dance music today isn't really danceable

"Streaming music has cultivated a new breed of creators who seem to be totally in the dark about what a DJ does in the first place. As a result we have what’s almost a new format of music that broadly fits into the parameters of club music, but will almost certainly never be played in a club — or by any DJ at all" - 5 Mag looks into the issue of dance music today being made for the purpose of being streamed, rather than danced to. "A fairly large number of people who declare themselves making deep house and techno are doing so in ignorance of DJ culture, with music that is almost hostile to DJing".

"When Beyonce and Adidas teamed up on Ivy Park in 2019, it seemed like the sky was the limit. Beyonce wanted a partner that offered creative control. Adidas wanted to replicate Yeezy’s massive success... But the recent Wall Street Journal report of a 50% sales decline and a $200 million drop in Adidas’ sales projections brought a series of challenges to light" - Trapital's Dan Runcie points out in his latest memo. "There were uninspired drops, less enthused customers, and creative tension... It’s very difficult to push a celebrity-influenced direct-to-consumer product in the social media era without that celebrity promoting the brand in an accessible way... It’s a reminder that even the most powerful celebrities still need product-market fit and alignment with business partners to succeed. “the next Yeezy” never happened."

"The labels are in a constant tug of war with digital streaming providers, who would rather their users listen to tracks that are cheaper to license, or podcasts with zero marginal costs. Artists feel like they can’t break through. Everyone feels squeezed" - Trapital's Dan Runcie points out in his latest memo as he's thinking about the music industry’s business model. "Music is always the first tech medium to be disrupted, but its companies are often the last to adapt to the changes. It could be time to flip that narrative, and it’s better late than never... Any significant change starts with the record labels" - Runcie believes, and offers a few ideas.

"Why does it take at least five songwriters to write a chart-topper today when it used to take one or two? Are musicians just less talented?... If it’s not talent, then what is it? In my opinion, it comes down to three factors: money, the computer, and the changing definition of what songwriting is" - musician Chris Dalla Riva goes into the issue on Tedium.

"Tracks in dance music have not only gotten shorter, but significantly so - average track lengths appear to have dropped by at least a minute or two during the past decade, and that drop seems to have accelerated during the latter half of the 2010s" - First Floor points out. The reasons? "Streaming services provide not only seemingly infinite content, but also remove virtually all costs for engaging with that content. There’s literally zero consequence for quickly pressing the skip button and moving on to something else. For consumers, the benefits of this system are obvious, but it’s also given rise to a listening public with little patience and an urgent need to be entertained as quickly as possible, lest they move on to the next thing... At this point, the idea of laying back and 'getting lost in the music' seems almost quaint; most listeners, especially young ones, simply want their favorite songs to hurry up and deliver a dopamine hit as quickly as possible".

Planting seeds
February 10, 2023

Ted Gioia gives State of the Culture address

"What we really need is a robust indie environment—in which many arts and culture business flourish and present their diverse offerings. Let a thousand flowers blossom... That’s where the future is happening right now. By alt culture, I’m referring to things like podcasts, Bandcamp albums, YouTube channels, Substacks, and various other emerging platforms. Some of these aren’t just growing, they are growing exponentially" - music writer Ted Gioia points out in his State of the Culture address. There's also a place for major record labels or movie studios or non-profits in this new environment - "If they start helping out in our project to build an audience and infrastructure for bold creative work, we have a golden age of artistry and culture ahead of us." Let's go!

"In the age of social media and algorithms, success is more specialized. There are 'festival artists,' and then there are “tour artists.' There are 'streaming artists,' and there are 'album sales artists.' Similarly, there are 'actors,' and there are 'podcasters.' It has always been hard to succeed at all of them, and that’s especially true in a world with more specialists" - Trapital's Dan Runcie shares in his latest memo, underlining that "with social media, platforms, and algorithms, celebrity power has shifted to specialization".

Who, what, when, where, why?????
February 03, 2023

Mixmag: Why do the Grammys get dance music so wrong?

"Any effort to demystify the Grammys voting process tends to raise more questions than it does answers. The Grammys’ definition of excellence in Dance/Electronic music is as it applies to voting members of the Academy, who are not necessarily experts in dance music. Their choices more often than not reflect tracks and albums that have sold well and/or gone viral on TikTok" - Mixmag tries to find out who actually decides the nominations and the winners in the Dance/Electronic field at the Grammys, and what determines a track or album’s eligibility.

“I give people confidence. They give me money.”
February 02, 2023

Ted Gioia: ChatGPT - the slickest con artist of all time

Music writer Ted Gioia doesn't like ChatGPT, he doesn't like it one bit: "ChatGPT is hotter than Wordle and Taylor Swift combined... People love it. People have confidence in it. They want to use it for everything—legal work, medical advice, term papers, or even writing Substack columns... But that’s exactly what the confidence artist always does. Which is:

  • You give people what they ask for.
  • You don’t worry whether it’s true or not—because ethical scruples aren’t part of your job description.
  • If you get caught in a lie, you serve up another lie.
  • You always act sure of yourself—because your confidence is what seals the deal".

The low barriers to entry for podcasting made it harder for exclusive premium podcasts to stand out over free alternatives that are ad-supported and widely distributed" - Dan Runcie argues in his latest memo about why the exclusive audio strategies have struggled in the past. However, all is not lost - "as local language music continues to rise in the streaming era, we may see more wins from digital streaming providers that aren’t based in the western world. In podcasting, paid products have found value in the right circles. Ben Thompson’s Stratechery has evolved into a paid podcast network, which was tied to his subscription-based media business".

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