Musicians unhappy with the size of their payments from streaming music services have meant an ongoing public relations nightmare for Spotify, Pandora and their competitors. Attempts to plead for patience, explain the complex math and blame the record labels have all fallen on deaf ears. So the music streamers have each hatched a plan to win over artists without increasing payouts. They're promising to help them...
Much has been made over what streaming music services pay rightsholders, and how much of that actually makes it into the hands of the musicians who created it. While pending lawsuits, federal rate negotiations and increased revenue from subscribers are likely to mean incremental income increases for creators, it seems doubtful that big paychecks for most artists will be in the mail anytime soon.
Fair or not, unhappy artists have meant an ongoing public relations problem for Spotify, Pandora and other music streamers. The solution? Make them love you by sharing some of the billions of bits of fan data you collect anyway.
More than three years ago, Pandora founder Tim Westergren promised tools to help musicians find their fans; and in October 2014 the company finally launched AMP. Derived from tens of billions of hours of personalized listening, Pandora says that AMP will help artists, most of whom never receive traditional broadcast radio play, make decisions about touring, single selection, set lists, audience targeting and more.
Earlier this week, Westergren shared that Pandora was testing an audio messaging that allows artists record short clips to announce tours, launch albums and provide context for songs. Like AMP, this tool will be free. “It’s the beginning of a much longer roadmap,” Westergren promised.
Spotify has taken a somewhat different approach so far, but the goal of adding value for artists is the same. Spotify allows select third party services like Next Big Sound (analytics) Songkick and BandsInTown (concert dates) and BandPage (VIP experiences) to connect via APIs, rather than building their own tools.
Through the efforts of Spotify artist-in-residence DH Wallach and others, Spotify has also created extensive "how to" guides for musicians and marketers at SpotifyArtists.com; and a Verified Artist Profile that offers musicians some control over how they are presented on the platform.
There are hints that Spotify will be expanding their charm the artists offensive in the coming months. A Spotify/PledgeMusic integration is currently being tested; and a number of music tech startups have spoken off the record about plans with the music streamer.
The first hint that more data sharing might actually come true came last month when Apple acquired UK music analytics firm Musicmetric and it's parent company Semetric. Musicmetric pulls data from social, the web and music services to provide analytics and forecasting. Apple could just use their tech for internal decision making. But it seems more likely that there will be also be some data shared with artists and labels.
As smaller players, Rhapsody, Deezer and the other music services have usually been spared direct fire from the critics. But that has not stopped them from universally woring hard to portray themselves as artists friendly. As Pandora, Spotify and iTunes step up their artist services, you can expect these other players to follow suit.
Is Data A Substitute For Cash?
Though it may not ring true to a musician struggling to pay the rent, the underlying argument being made by Spotify, Pandora and others is that the real money in music in 2014 is elsewhere - in touring, merchandise, licensing, etc. They say their data can help artists find it.
As with most things in the new music industry, the jury is still out on whether or not it will work. But I'll bet even the most jaded musicians will gladly peak at their stats from time to time.