Tag Archives: YouTube


On Wednesday February 20th, Billboard added YouTube views to their Hot 100 methodology which radically changed the makeup of the esteemed chart. The most immediate change came at the top, where “Harlem Shake” by Baauer, the viral sensation, debuts at #1. It marks the first time that a relatively unknown artist debuts at #1 with very little radio airplay to aid it. Given the ubiquity of the song last week, with everyone from the Today Show to college swim teams to the Norwegian Army joining in, it feels culturally right to see the song at the top spot. As many writers have noted, this is probably the biggest change to the Hot 100 chart in a very long time.

But why did it take this long to add YouTube (and VEVO) views to the chart? With numerous videos being seen north of 100 million times, YouTube’s influence on pop culture has been clear for a few years. At a minimum, it’s been two years since the game changing Rebecca Black video. Shouldn’t Billboard have been counting YouTube all along?

The likely reason why they haven’t is because YouTube numbers have to be trustworthy if they are going to influence the bellweather singles chart. Simply scraping numbers from YouTube is not valid as it doesn’t account for country discrepancies within a US based chart. But it also doesn’t account for activity from bots, a practice many labels and artists have used to varied success over the last few years.

In advance of the Hot 100 announcement, YouTube stepped up its enforcement of its Terms Of Service forbidding bot views. The most noticeable result was a 2 BILLION view decrease in major label videos 2 months ago, but similar audits of videos at all levels have been ramping up for months now. With a chart influence now on the line, both parties are more incentivized to stay honest. The timing of these events feel like more than coincidence, and certainly suggests a concerted effort to increase YouTube’s credibility for chart eligibility. As such, I would anticipate enforcement to get more strict, with account deletions a likely punishment for bot activity.

Last week’s #1 was “Thrift Shop”, another song that broke out of YouTube. Getting the credit as the “breaking spot” for back to back chart-toppers is crucial to reinforcing and growing YouTube’s brand. Having more credible numbers is certainly good for everyone in the long run. For those who think they can do an end-run around the system, it feels very likely that this one is closing rapidly.


For years, the digital tastemakers cried out about the death of radio. This was one medium that would surely die out as the internet revolution took hold. I used to counter this by asking the room how many of them listened to radio in the last week. Inevitably, in a room full of digital trailblazers, about 90-95% of the hands would still go up. The truth came out: people still listened to radio even after they adopted digital.

But that’s the older crowd. Many people cite personal experience at watching their 14 year olds dive into headphones on portable devices or spend hours on end on YouTube. These people are surely growing up not caring about radio and it will clearly be phased out of their lives. Instead, we’re seeing the opposite. Top 40 radio, the traditional go-to format for teenagers, is having one of their best years ever.

Over the last few weeks, trade publications have been reporting on Top 40 radio getting record ratings all over the country. Z100 in New York, considered the format’s biggest, got its best ratings in nearly 25 years. Top 40 topped the ratings in Washington DC for the first time in 33 years. High numbers for Top 40 are also being posted in Chicago, Dallas, and San Francisco.

What’s intriguing is that these are not a concentration of internet neophytes. They’re actually more digitally savvy than non-radio listeners. In a webinar to be given later today, Alan Burns & Associates will be diving into many of these facts. Among them is an analysis of women who are “Heavy/Deep” Top 40 listeners are 28% more likely to have sent a tweet. Nearly 3/4 of them use Facebook daily.

It’s worth noting that the Burns webinar will focus on a study of women, because it appears that female music fans are the revenue drivers of the modern music business. Surveys have found that men steal more music than women. Meanwhile, only one of the artists in the top 10 selling albums and singles so far this year has a male-skewing audience. Top 40 radio has traditionally had a female-leaning audience. But what’s making it so big right now?

First is the repetition. This audience wants to be entertained by music. I’ve heard numerous complaints from women that they dislike music thru subscription services because it’s too much work to hear their favorites over and over. I can point out they can thru playlists and radio-like functionality. But that doesn’t diminish what they feel, and most people don’t have access to someone like me to point these things out. The truth is the overwhelming variety of musical choices is desired more by males than females. On average, women have 25% less music in their collection than males. At the same time, they remember 28% more lyrics by heart than men. Internet radio is generally proud of the fact that they have more variety and don’t repeat songs every hour. The numbers seem to show that this may be a liability to a strong segment of listeners.

Then there is the data. The beauty of the internet is that the world can see what songs are truly becoming hits before they are actual hits. So the tastemakers can anoint specific songs to a top visibility. Then those songs can be heavily promoted to radio. Where that audience falls in love with the song via repetition and consumes more of that song online, generating a brief continuous loop of self-fulfilling hitdom. Think Gotye and Carly Rae Jepsen, both of whom started on independent record labels, blew up online, and then went on to multi-week #1 song runs.

Finally, there’s the tastemaker influence. While the internet crows about its need/ability to be the music tastemaker, most people don’t want to work for that. They want it at a push of a button. They also want it obviously and they want it crowd sourced. My music recommendations that only I post get 1/5 of the activity that I get from recommendations that everyone else also puts forth. The internet also thrives on a 24/7 need for “new”, while radio steadily hums along with a constant drumbeat. And it turns out that people want that drumbeat because it seldom sticks without it. And they do want music to stick.

So rather than obliterate antennas and making tuning of a decimal-delineated number obsolete, we are actually seeing the two entities working symbiotically. Radio needs the internet to surface the hits. The internet needs radio to establish hits that bring traffic. Maybe it turns out that what we needed all along wasn’t a war between two mediums, but a solid peace treaty to work together.


In Futurehit.DNA, I discuss various strategies on how long an artist should make a song to perform well in today’s digital world. As YouTube has grown, the importance of having your video perform there has also increased. So, in a YouTube environment, what is the ideal length for your video? We can now thank Billy Chasen for some strong insight to that question.

Billy, the founder of turntable.fm, decided to find “the perfect YouTube video length”. He wrote a bit of code to pull the duration of the top 950 videos on YouTube. The answers should not be surprising to my long-time readers. Many of the popular videos are about 4 minutes in length.

The interesting thing is that the four minute length seems to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. The most popular videos are at 4 minutes because they are music videos. And the most popular songs in general are about 4 minutes in length to still conform to radio needs. So it’s hard to tell if the average viewer finds 4 minutes as the ideal length, or if the music rules and relative popularity on YouTube are responsible.

Perhaps the more interesting bit of information is what Billy calls a “less defined wall” at about 2 minutes. When he takes out music videos, he finds that many popular videos are around that 2 minute mark. His suggestion is to make music videos 4 minutes long, and non-music videos about 2 1/2 minutes long.

But that 2 minute wall actually has a lot more to it. I’ve often seen and discussed the two minute point being a factor when it comes to music as well. Outside of a song’s intro, the time I’ve found people are most likely going to stop listening to a song is about the 2 minute mark. More specifically, it’s usually right after the second chorus, which often occurs at about that spot. This is why songwriters often stress the need for a compelling bridge at this point. If you fail to re-engage the listener here, they may not stay listening to the whole song. I also refer to this as the “mix tape mentality” whereby kids are accustomed to hearing about 2 minutes on a DJ mix before it goes into a new song.

My suggestion based on this data is to pay close attention to both points of the song and the video. The YouTube data is strongly suggesting the audience fatigue at this moment, so make sure you do things in your song and video at that point to re-engage the audience. Also be very cautious about songs going longer than 4 minutes. I still advocate for longer songs, but be cautious on how much longer. And if your song is 3:20, don’t worry too much about alienating if you extend it to 3:50 (unless it’s clearly a boring extension).

It’s great to see new data reinforce the ideas I’ve been looking at for several years. Pay attention to these metrics and you’ll certainly increase your odds of succeeding in the new music paradigm.

Special thanks to Shamal Ranasinghe for bringing Billy’s post to my attention.



Once again, the issue of stealing music and its moral/financial/ethical arguments are dredged up. And once again, most people miss the overall point, causing the collective issue to dig a deeper ditch while those who’ve moved past it (i.e.: major labels) are busy raking in the dough in the new music business.

Yeah, you heard me. It’s 2012, and now the neophytes are actually many indie artists (not all) while the smarter ones tend to be concentrated at major labels, thereby strengthening their power.

What started this was a post on NPR’s website by an intern named Emily White who admitted to buying very little music in her life but owning a lot via various levels of legality. This led to an impassioned response by Camper Van Beethoven/Cracker frontman David Lowery, who eloquently argued for the ethical and moral obligations Emily should have towards these artists and how stealing music has dramatically impacted their financial lives. This post has sprung up impassioned responses by, among others, Bob Lefsetz and a manager who is also, coincidentally, named Emily White. People have dug in their heels and have spilled many hours defending and vilifying both sides.

Yet lost in this discussion is one important element. Facts. Because if you’re going to argue that stealing has impacted your business, you should actually prove that…y’know…a lot of people have actually stolen your music.

Google, as the worldwide leader in search results, is a strong indicator of actual file trade demand. In fact, industry watchdog Moses Avalon argued such this week at New Music Seminar. Yet, when I went to look on Google Insights to see the level of demand for free music by David Lowery’s group Camper Van Beethoven, the message I get is, “Not enough search volume to show graphs.” This basically means, from what I can gather, that less than 50 people per month in the entire world are even showing intent to steal his music. Statisticians basically refer to this as essentially zero. Technically, the same search terms for his band Cracker show some potential thievery intent at work. However, if you actually searched these terms, you’d find most people were actually looking for a program to crack site passwords, and if they were looking for music they were more likely intending to steal the music of Uncle Kracker, who might actually have a legit beef on music stealers.

None of this is to say that I’m naive to think nobody is stealing music. Far from it. I just don’t think they’re stealing the music of the majority of artists bitching about thievery’s impact on their business. The statistics don’t bear it out. At my panel at New Music Seminar, Musicmetric CEO Greg Mead pointed out that file trading is actually decreasing in recent months. This echoes what fellow panelist Russ Crupnick reported in NPD Group’s “Annual Music Study” back in March when they reported that P2P site activity decreased from 19% of the internet population in 2006 to 13% last year.

Respected blogger Cory Doctorow also noted last month that a summary of over 20 different papers on file trading shows very little impact on sales from file trading. Drew Wilson, the author of the summary, got his results from such “fringe” groups as The Wharton School, The Journal of Law And Economics, and The Journal of Business Ethics. The most interesting line in the summary to me is this one:

Judging by the evidence we’ve collected, the evidence does not point in the direction that file-sharing, in and of itself, displace sales, but rather, other factors would also play a role in displacement of sales.

The primary “other factor” is the fact that there are too many artists competing for shrinking dollars, largely due to the shift from albums to singles. Despite the economic number that David Lowery quoted of the number of professional musicians falling by 25%, if you took “album releases” as an indicator, it seems like the number of pros has increased. In a decade, we’ve gone from about 30,000 albums being released to over 77,000 last year. And that’s just albums going thru legit channels. The problem, as noted by Chris Muratore of Nielsen on the previously noted New Music Seminar panel, is that 94% of those releases sold less than 1,000 units. Indicators that I have examined showed those low sales aren’t because of people stealing them. They come from too many releases causing most people to not even realize they are out. For example, 80s rocker Lita Ford has a new album that came out yesterday. As of this writing, it’s the 91st most popular new release on Rdio. How many of you have the patience or time to sift thru the other 90 releases to get to #91? Let alone decide to even put in the effort to steal it? Whether you were going to listen to it or not, I’d be willing to bet that almost everyone reading this found out that Lita Ford had new music from this paragraph. Stealing it is even further down their priority list.

And now that you know Lita Ford has a new record, what are you going to do about it? If you have a remote interest in her music at all, you’re most likely going to listen to it on a perfectly legal source such as YouTube, Spotify, Rdio, Mog, Rhapsody or Slacker. Why? Because I bet you caught yourself subconsciously saying that it would be quicker and easier to stream it and see what it’s about there than finding a site to steal it from, let alone having the downloads clutter your hard drive. Guess what? This is what most people do now. Having a download on a hard drive…single or album, purchased or stolen…this is the 2012 equivalent of “buying a CD with one good song on it”. People are smart and will legally stream something before any sort of ownership decision solely because they don’t want their hard drive cluttered with music they don’t like. And guessing by the demographic of my readership, I would also guess most people just want to check out what Lita is up to and have no intention of any sort of ownership. The music would have to be mind-blowing to shift the decision from “let’s see what she’s up to” to “I need to own this”.

So while all these independent artists argue thievery, do you know who’s winning? Major labels. This week, of the top 100 tracks on Spotify, only 6% are on independent labels. Major labels have figured out that the game is about exposure and awareness, two things that they are actually quite good at. It’s not about royalty rates, thievery, or even quality of music. It’s all about how I get people to know I exist. Major labels aren’t ignoring file traders, but they have moved past how much of their day they concern themselves with it. Instead, they focus on putting energy behind making music that the public wants and marketing the shit out of it so it rises above everyone else. While you’ve spent the last few years claiming the major labels are “dinosaurs” who are going to be “out of business”, they’ve actually become stronger behemoths who are more progressive than you realize.

As for the quality of their music, that’s a subjective opinion. And it’s no more subjective than the independent artists who have figured out how to make a big business out of the new music business. Artists like Tyler Ward, Kina Grannis and Alex Day, amongst others, are making six figures a year in the new paradigm. They struggle to get respect from traditional media because they’re not considered cool, credible musicians. Yet they run rings around the businesses these so-called cool bands deliver. Why? Maybe it’s simply because they deliver the kind of music more people want nowadays. As far as I can tell, they spend not a minute worrying about the money they don’t make and instead spend time making more money from the sources that do pay.

I agree ethically with David Lowery’s assessment. A person who spends extra to protect migrant workers in a third world country but takes money out of musicians’ mouths is a hypocrite. Emily White should stop complaining about wishing for a Spotify-like service and actually…y’know…subscribe to Spotify. But for actually succeeding in 2012, it’s the wrong argument. The biggest problem that David Lowery has to face is exemplified by Zach, the 24 year old New Media indie label guy at the end of Bob Lefsetz’ response post to Lowery’s “screed”. When told by a co-worker that David is the founder of Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker, he replies, “Not sure what either of those are…”


Distribution is king in any industry. Musicians seldom pay attention to how their music gets distributed, and that holds back many a career. We can talk about DIY methods and how you can now sell music yourself and how great those profit margins are. The truth, though, is people like to go to the stores they like to go to. If you’re there, they will consume. If you’re not, they will move on. If you’re halfway in, it could be even more damaging.

I’m reminded of how important this is not from a mistake an indie artist made, but actually one made by a major label. This week, Rhino Records tried something new that seems very intriguing. They created Single Notes, which are short, quick e-books on music subjects. As an avid reader on all things music, I was ready to jump in. To get things started, they offered a free book on a musician during CBGB’s heyday who didn’t quite make it. A forthcoming book on Duran Duran written by my former co-worker Lyndsey Parker was also one I would avidly read. So I fired up my Kindle app and was ready to download.
Except for one problem…when I clicked to buy my free book, it told me my Kindle wasn’t registered. Funny, it was registered last week. While the book is technically available on the Kindle, it turns out it’s only available for the Kindle Fire and their Android App. The other books in the series suffer from the same shortcoming. While I have the iBooks app and can just as easily get it there, I don’t use that app. So what do I do? I abandon the idea of getting this book, I retain a negative connotation to the whole series, and I’m telling you about this shortcoming.

But it’s not just me. As of this writing, on the free book’s Amazon page, the book’s reviewers give it 1 1/2 stars in only 24 hours. It was coming from 88% of the reviews giving the book 1 star. The thing was…none of those one star reviews were from people who read the book. They were people frustrated that they couldn’t get the book on their particular Kindle. As one reviewer put it, “This is the rare double bank shot in annoying your customers. Rhino and Amazon deserve all the negative comments.”

Plausible explanations don’t matter. This series now has a deep hole to dig out of, even if they rectify the problem immediately. And the problem is simply that they are not distributing the content in the format that the consumer desires it in.

At least we have to give them credit for having it in the Kindle platform, albeit in a restricted form. Musicians and labels are routinely withholding their music from various platforms. All that means is that you have exponentially decreased the odds your music would be discovered, and you have completely eliminated your chance of collecting royalties from that service. I’ve started a new weekly blog/playlist of the top new singles released that week. I found that people want to hear all the new tracks, but want to listen in the background instead of actively spending time clicking play on each one.

But here’s the problem. I use Rdio as my guide to find the new singles. When I go to recreate the playlist on Spotify or on YouTube, only 75% of the titles are available. That means, 25% of the artists who could’ve had some exposure get none.

So when you consider your distribution service, look to who has the most outlets, not who’s the cheapest. When you’re uploading a track to YouTube, think of all the other services you should also upload it to and take the time to do it. When you’re taking music off of Spotify because you don’t like the royalty, consider that unless you’re Adele, you need the distribution more than you need the money.

Distribution is a pain, but it’s a necessary mountain to conquer if you want to hack your hit. If you can take the time and make sure you’ve got your music in every corner you can put it in, your chances of getting your song to success will increase dramatically.


Can you define a musician? Then, presuming you can, can you define a successful one? Many technologists bemoan the “old” music business because they didn’t “get” new technologies. Yet those same people largely don’t “get” that those we define as a successful musician has also changed.

What fired me up about this was last week’s blog post on The Trichordist entitled, “If the Internet is working for Musicians, Why aren’t more Musicians Working Professionally?” They trotted out well-used established facts such as:

* Only 228 out of 105,000 albums sold over 10,000 units in 2008 (or 2%)
* The number of albums released went down 22% from 2009 to 2010
* 99.9% of Tunecore artists make under minimum wage

I agree with these facts. However, they presume a successful musician is predicated on albums and selling said albums. If I follow on that logic, then I’d also like to declare the internet is dying because dial up access has decreased significantly in recent years. Naturally, the internet is not dying. The reality just scares many because not only is music thriving, but it’s largely thriving in the world of the uncool, unhip, and whose talent is not found in a traditional “critical” sense.

First, let’s set a benchmark for success of recorded music. If we’re to say that 10,000 albums is the bar of success, then one can say that someone needs to gross around $100,000 in sales (10,000 units x $10 album price). So, are there more than 228 artists grossing over $100,000 in recorded music revenue? Plenty. Who are they?

Several artists are foregoing releasing albums when their singles are selling so well. Even bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers have announced releasing only singles. When they release 18 songs as singles instead of on one album, that’s just one more sign of the album’s decline. But that’s not the decline of the music business. And the Chili Peppers are not alone.

Whole labels are set up around the new music business. Kontor in Europe has over 1 BILLION YouTube streams from dance singles. That’s a lot of revenue before digital or physical sales. They do release some full length albums and compilations. But the bulk of the business is in singles that aren’t counted in that top level album roundup. It’s not just the dance community, and it’s not just Europe.

I’ve previously written about unsigned artist Alex Day getting UK chart hits. Some people in comments criticized that he built a following thru non-music entertaining videos. So then we should discount Disney stars who were actors before they sang a note? Should Jana Kramer’s foray into Country Music not count because she had previously been on a TV show? Let’s not double standard someone just because they’re on YouTube. They made music. It made money. Get over it.

Have you gotten annoyed with all these singers racking up millions of views doing covers on YouTube? Well, you’ve just written off a whole class of musicians. Many of them are making six figures a year. Some solely off of YouTube revenues. Should we not count these folks as artists? Then we should erase the many Pat Boone covers from the charts of the fifties. Or all the covers on the Beatles’ first few albums. Performing covers should not disqualify you from being counted in the music business.

What, just because you make funny music, you shouldn’t count? There was a time when a comedian named Vaughan Meader had the best selling album of the year. The Chipmunks Sing The Beatles won a Grammy (which is comedy AND covers). “Weird Al” Yankovic has routinely had best selling albums. Just because you’re not serious doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be TAKEN seriously. And many of these parody artists are selling lots of singles AND earning lots of YouTube revenue.

Awww…those precocious young kids who can rap Nicki Minaj and end up on Ellen. How cute. How novelty. Also, how rich. Not “buy a mansion” rich. But certainly “gross $100k” rich. Just because they’re not of legal age yet doesn’t mean we shouldn’t count them. They sing. They make money. They count.

Dirty secret of the business. They used to sell a shit-ton of kids music. And they counted in overall yearly roundups. But with that business drying up, they no longer count. Where has it gone? YouTube. I should know because I played endless videos for my daughter when she was a toddler. Have you watched Gummibar? That’s making a lot of money. Someone has even turned public domain kids songs into a business with Super Simple Songs. If we used to count them years ago, we should still count them now.

By the way, this is before we even talk about musicians who are making great strides outside the system WITH great music like Amanda Palmer and Zoe Keating. In my opinion, saying there’s a decline in musicians is cultural elitism. It’s still alive and well, just not in the form a true “passionate music fan” would like to see it in. The music business is alive and well in many splinter forms that don’t involve radio or labels. But they also don’t involve what a traditional music career might be. I’m OK with this. Are you?

FYI…here’s a list of 40 artists who are clearly doing very well in music just from YouTube revenue who don’t have a record company behind them. They’re not traditional, but that shouldn’t take away their success. I know there are many more, but these are ones that are at the top of the pyramid.

Alex Day
Alex Goot
Austin Mahone
Bart Baker
Christina Grimmie
Connie Talbot
Dave Days
David Choi
David MeShow
DJ Earworm
Emmanuel & Phillip Hudson
The Gregory Brothers
Julia Nunes
Julian Smith
Keenan Cahill
The Key Of Awesome
Kina Grannis
Kurt Hugo Schneider
Lindsey Stirling
Maddi Jane
Matty B
Megan Nicole
Mia Rose
Mike Tompkins
Mystery Guitar Man
Nice Peter
Nick Pitera
The Piano Guys
Rebecca Black
Singing Trio
Sophia Grace
Sungha Jung
Super Simple Songs
Tay Zonday
Tyler Ward
Vasquez Sounds


How many e-mails do you get from musicians? How many of them do you actually read? How many do you respond to? While many digital music experts constantly talk about the importance of the valid e-mail list to a musician, they seldom discuss what should be IN those e-mails. Given the messages I’ve gotten in the last few weeks, it’s clear that very few artists know.

In an admittedly unscientific approach, but fun nevertheless, I examined the 63 emails I got from artists in the last two weeks and found some very common ground. Some things artists do well, but there are five mistakes that clearly stand out that no artist should do.

By far, tour dates are the #1 thing musicians put in their emails, with nearly 60% doing so. Yet of that, over 2/3 of the e-mails did not list a tour date in my city or a city nearby. Egregious offenders are those who think I might attend a date over in Europe. Getting geo-targeted email addresses is easier than ever. If you don’t want to ask your database directly, you can use Rapleaf to get this information at a penny a person. If you think that’s too expensive, then imagine the lost revenue when they unsubscribe as they feel spammed by tour dates that make no sense. Bottom line: an email targeted with a tour date to the city the person lives in is exponentially more effective.

I get it. You’ve worked hard to make your EP or album. You’re proud to announce it’s “finally here”. You and every other band. During the last 2 weeks, 43% of the artist emails I received were about their release. Out of those, only one artist offered their EP for free. Everyone else inundated me with buy links. Get people as engaged as possible. Most people already are trained to buy at iTunes and Amazon, so unless you got sale pricing, focus on engagement rather than purchase. The album release is special to you, but probably not to the reader on the other end. Make it special.

Chances are your phone has the ability to record video. Chances are you have a YouTube channel. Why don’t you use it more often? Less than 25% of the emails had links to video content, music or otherwise. It’s far cheaper and easier to create than an album release, yet was linked to half as often. It doesn’t have to be a song. Have it be commentary, behind the scenes, or answering fan mail. Anything, but just engage your fans. If you feel you don’t have enough content, force yourself to make some content. And if video is just too much for you, link to a blog post. Which reminds me…

Why do so many music biz people know Bob Lefsetz? Because he emails everyone his blog entries. Only 20% of musicians linked to their blog entries. If you wrote one and didn’t include it in your email, you wrongfully presumed your fan saw it. They probably didn’t. If you didn’t write one, then get off your ass. I sell more books from my blog entries. And I rarely mention buying the books in those entries. What do you think will happen to your music sales if you engage this way?

If I combine every email that mentioned a fan contest, a Kickstarter campaign, a Stageit webcast, and the like, it still came out to less than 25% of the emails I received. Conversely (and oversimplifying), this means 3/4 of the emails I got were all narcissistic emails extolling the artists’ greatness. Make it about the people reading it. Engage them and give them something of value. Only one artist actually answered fan questions in their email. They stood out. Believe it or not, while “fan engagement” is now officially a buzz term, most musicians still have yet to catch that buzz.


For several months, I’ve heard a lot of complaints on how little Spotify pays indie artists. So I was kind of surprised that very few picked up the story that Spotify is actually, well, starting to pay indies more.

Evolver.FM said that a confidential report from Merlin (the indie label trade organization rights agency) is showing strong revenue growth from Spotify. The reason is an increase in subscribers and usage overall. One would also suggest that the Facebook integration is starting to show up in royalty statements in recent months as well.

As an indie label owner, I get the pain of small micro payments. But I also get the concept of patience. We all dream that our song will be released, spread like wildfire, and generate huge instant digital revenues. Lately, Bob Lefsetz has been promoting the idea that great music finds its audience no matter what, further reinforcing a false notion that great things are instant successes.

But let’s take a look at one of the biggest songs of 2012: Fun’s “We Are Young”. This is the Google search trending for the song over the last year. The song was released in September 2011. This critically acclaimed song produced…barely a ripple. In fact, it didn’t do much until the spike in December which was the result of appearing on the show Glee. Then it dropped off, though maintained a higher popularity than before the show. But it wasn’t until the use in a Super Bowl ad that everything kicked into high gear and the upward ascent began. This popular hit did not go viral out of the gate. It took traditional TV placements for people to see it.

The success occurred because everyone was patient. In fact, the band’s manager Dalton Sim said as much in a Billboard cover story in March.

From my perspective, the success comes from the hard work the band, Nettwerk Records and Fueled by Ramen have put into the band for the last three-plus years to develop a real fan base.

So when it comes to services like Spotify, it appears that patience just might pay off as well. At one point, YouTube didn’t pay anyone. Now they are a top revenue driver for many artists. Financial success at any level is not an overnight story for artists or companies for that matter. However, working towards those greater successes can yield bright futures for all.

UPDATE: As Jim Mahoney of A2IM pointed out, Merlin is not a trade organization, but a rights agency.


This week, the UK-based AIM (Association of Independent Music) announced that their members receive over 94% of their digital revenue from 3 outlets: iTunes, Amazon and Spotify. The story, first reported in Music Week and then in Digital Music News and MusicAlly, highlights that 51 other companies are splitting the remaining 5.6%. AIM CEO Alison Wenham is not looking at this positively as she tells Music Week, “There are now a series of monopolies and it is jolly hard for anyone else to get a slice of the market.”

Read More…


A week ago, I certainly didn’t intend to write (or obsess) so much about Rebecca Black and her viral internet meme “Friday”. However, there is so so much to learn from this track. In one week, this song basically upended the music business conversation. What are the results of this?

Read More…