Mobile payment service Cash App launched Cash App Studios, an initiative designed to help independent creatives, including artists, musicians, directors, and designers, fund their projects. Any artist working with Cash App will retain ownership of their work and won’t have to pay back the cash. It all sounds great, but there's a back side of this story, explained by Trapital's Dan Runcie who sees the initiative largely as a marketing play—an extension of Cash App's hip-hop influencer strategy—while taking note of the Tidal/JAY-Z connection, as Matty Karas points out.

Jaimie Branch

South Arts, a nonprofit arts organization based in Atlanta, will award grants ranging from approximately $25,000 to $40,000 to 52 jazz artists, all summed-up $2 million to dozens of musicians like Damon Locks, Jaimie Branch, and Kip Hanrahan. Matty Karas compares this amount to hundreds of millions of dollars being paid out to pop and rock stars for their back catalogs: "Which of these sounds like the more meaningful contribution: the one designed to enrich music's one percenters and Wall Street speculators, or the one designed to support the ongoing, life-affirming work of music's vibrant middle class? Which will result in the creation of better music? Which will do more to sustain that creation, and enrich the rest of us, in the years ahead?".

"There's good cholesterol and bad cholesterol, but there isn't good payola and bad payola. There's just payola" - Music REDEF's Matty Karas argues about Spotify's Discovery Mode, which allows indie artists to chose which songs they want to be played more on the streaming service, in return for a lower royalty rate. "If major labels have a built-in advantage on Spotify playlists, another way to put indie artists on an equal playing field would be to allow them to single out tracks for playlist consideration and *not* charge them for it. Call it Discovery Mode and don't change a thing about it except the price" - Karas points out. Two law professors on Billboard argue it's not really band kind, whereas Future of Music Coalition sees it through the lens of payola.