Spotify launches in the Middle East, North Africa

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Spotify launches in the Middle East, North AfricaSpotify

Spotify continues its worldwide takeover, furthering its reach by launching services in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

As of November 13, users can access Spotify in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestinian Territories and Egypt. Countries including Libya, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen are not part of the new services. Spotify launched in Israel earlier this year.

The music streaming service been available unofficially in the Middle East for years via accounts registered to other regions. This, however, makes it official.

“Spotify is launching in MENA with a full Arabic service, dozens of locally curated playlists for every mood and moment, and access to a full catalog of millions of songs, for both our free and premium users,” global head of markets Cecilia Qvist said in a statement.

The service will cost about half of the $9.99 users in the United States pay: 19.99 United Arab Emirates dirhams in the UAE, SAR 19.99 Saudi riyals in Saudi Arabia, 49.99 Egyptian pounds in Egypt, and $4.99 in the rest of the MENA region.

H/T: Billboard

SoundCloud’s updated artist contract is seriously troubling for music creators

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SoundCloud’s updated artist contract is seriously troubling for music creatorsSoundcloud Artist Agreement Raw Deal

It’s been a rocky couple of years for SoundCloud to say the least. The platform is an undisputed facet of dance music’s rise and directly helped bring exposure and breaks to artists too numerous to name. Despite this, there were whispers the streaming giant was on the ropes last year, before they thankfully put them to rest. With Spotify quickly rising to the forefront of the streaming economy, the onus has been on SoundCloud to reinvigorate its status as a service built for music creators. Despite a flurry of shiny new updates like Instagram stories integration, the fine print in the platform’s recent artist contract reveals some deeply troubling pitfalls for unsuspecting musicians.

The two largest black marks in the usual mountain of legalese can be boiled down to two wince-worthy truths. First, although SoundCloud touts its revenue split as the strongest in streaming, they can change pretty much anything they want in terms of when, how, and how much artists get paid at their discretion – which leads worryingly into the second bombshell. Regardless of the non-exclusive nature of the artist agreement, artists taking part effectively sign away any ability to ever take legal action against the Soundcloud. The combination essentially grants SoundCloud the freedom to change anything and everything they want about the contract in the future on the fly, even if it’s an exceedingly raw deal for artists, and guarantee zero repercussions. The situation is a troubling one for the wide array of creators who continue to find their footing in the SoundCloud ecosystem.

H/T: The Verge

New study shows music is an integral part of our lives

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New study shows music is an integral part of our livesEric Ward 250010 Unsplash

According to a new consumer report, music listeners devour nearly 18 hours of music per week on average — about half of a full-time job.

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) is the non-profit institution that represents the recording industry worldwide. They recently released their annual music consumption report, noting the 17.8 hours a week consumers listen to music mostly happens in the car. This makes sense when thinking about daily routine commutes back and forth without audio, which sounds like torture.

The report also showed 86 percent of the listeners tested use an on-demand streaming service such as Spotify, Apple Music, or YouTube. Fifty-seven percent of users who pay for these streaming services are between the ages of 16 and 24 years old, suggesting it’s mostly young drivers listening to Spotify, Apple, or YouTube on their commute to school or work.

IFPI CEO Frances Moor says the report “tells the story of how recorded music is woven into the lives of fans around the world. As it becomes increasingly accessible, it continues to be embraced across formats, genres and technologies.”

H/T: DJ Mag

Photo credit: Eric Ward/Unsplash

China’s largest streaming service, Tencent, goes public on NYSE

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China’s largest streaming service, Tencent, goes public on NYSETencent Media2

Tencent Music Entertainment has officially gone public in the United States. China’s leading music-streaming company operates three of China’s largest digital services: QQ Music, Kuwo and KuGou. They also have their hands on a karaoke app, WeSing. In total, the company has amassed more than 800 million monthly active users.

Total revenue of the company in 2017 was reportedly $1.66 billion, and 2018 plans to see even bigger returns. The IPO values the company around $30 billion, according to expert analysts, which is comparable to Spotify‘s $29.5 billion evaluation when the Swedish streaming giant went public earlier this year. Spotify is now currently valued at $32 billion.

There’s a noticeable difference between the two competing, yet complementary, streaming companies. While Spotify, who owns nine percent of Tencent from a share swap earlier in 2018, has been losing money year after year because of their cheap product and large royalty payouts, Tencent has been largely profitable for the last two years. A reasoning for this is Tencent Holdings diverse portfolio of other digital businesses such as a gaming platform, social network and the popular messaging app, WeChat. Spotify simply focuses on music streaming.

QQ Music has multiple entertainment experience offering including listening subscriptions, concert tickets and exclusive song downloads. Online music services accounted for only 29.6 percent of TME’s revenues in the first half of 2018. Other social entertainment services such as in-car audio, event ticketing, online karaoke and sales of headphones and karaoke microphones, made up the other 70.4 percent. These numbers will be closely watched by investors interested in the music space.

H/T: Rolling Stone

Spotify now allows independent artists to publish music directly to the platform, effectively bypassing distributors

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Spotify now allows independent artists to publish music directly to the platform, effectively bypassing distributorsSpotify Testing Skippable Ads

Originally tested among a small sample size of independent artists, Spotify For Artists will now assume full functionality on September 20. New Spotify For Artists accounts will enable select independent artists who maintain their own copyrights and are not required to meet label or distribution agreements to directly upload their releases to the digital streaming platform. The feature allows the artists to immediately make new music available via the platform, or to alternatively schedule songs to go live at a predetermined time, but the central and, for Spotify, unprecedented liberty that the accounts extend to indie artists is the freedom to bypass music distributors, placing the musicians in control.

Spotify plans to extend a limited number of invitations to the Spotify For Artists accounts to a “few hundred U.S.-based independent artists.” Those interested in acquiring one of the accounts can sign up for a mailing list that will announce ensuing invites to come in the time that follows Spotify’s official launch of the new function. “We’ve focused on making the tool easy, flexible, and transparent,” Spotify For Artists’ Kene Anoliefo said. “There will be no limit or constraint on how often [artists] can upload. We think that can open up a really interesting creative space for artists to begin sharing their music to their fans on Spotify.” Artists who independently upload to Spotify will receive royalty payments through Stripe, and can expect to receive 50 percent of Spotify’s net revenue, as well as 100 percent of royalties on their own music.

Spotify For Artists effectively alters the process by which independent artists in charge of their own copyrights disseminate music and earn compensation. Spotify For Artists account represent a seamless all-in-one method by which to distribute music, track streams, in-app followers, royalties, and incoming payments from Spotify.

H/T: Billboard 

Apple to finalize acquisition of Shazam after EU closes investigation

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Apple to finalize acquisition of Shazam after EU closes investigationShazam App Apple Acquisition Dancing Astro

After almost one full year of buyer’s anticipation, Apple will now move to finalize its $400 million dollar acquisition of music-identification application, Shazam. A European Union-enacted investigation originally stalled Apple’s ability to complete the transaction, after a group of European countries including Austria, France, and Spain expressed concern that the tech goliath could endanger fellow competitors in the streaming service market if Apple were to use Shazam as a vehicle for the presentation of new features that would function in tandem with their rapidly growing streaming platform. “After thoroughly analyzing Shazam’s user and music data, we found that their acquisition by Apple would not reduce competition in the digital music streaming market,” European Commission leader Margrethe Vestager said.

Vestager also affirmed that Apple’s “access to Shazam’s data would not materially increase [their] ability to target music enthusiasts and any conduct aimed at making customers switch would only have a negligible impact,” signifying that Apple’s newfound ownership of Shazam would not constitute a staggering advantage of any sort for Apple. Apple Music boasts a current 50 million subscribers, while Shazam reportedly represents more than 120 million monthly users. Apple Music’s association with Shazam will, however, represent growth for the tech monolith as it obtains Shazam’s sizable user base’s data, and with it, Shazam’s illustrious audio recognition technology patents.

H/T: Rolling Stone

Spotify is now testing unlimited ad skips for free-tier users

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Spotify is now testing unlimited ad skips for free-tier usersSpotify Testing Skippable Ads

Spotify continues to tinker with its free-tier user experience by testing a new feature they’re calling “active media.” Non-premium members will be able to skip unlimited ads. The new feature would be rolled out with the aim of providing a more relevant experience for both users as advertisers. Users would effectively choose which ads appeal to them most, while advertisers would not be charged for any ads users choose to skip, ensuring their audience on the platform is more open to their message.

Although the streaming giant is currently limiting the feature’s test run to Australia, it appears likely that more users could gain this ability in the near future. A spokesperson for the company confirmed they “will consider expanding to additional markets in the future,” and remain “committed to our freemium model and will continue innovating our products to ensure the best experience on both our free and premium tiers.”

Spotify’s support of both subscription models isn’t shared by all. Billboard announced in May that it would begin weighing streams via paid subscriptions more heavily than streams via free, ad-supported accounts. Paid subscriptions require 1,250 streams to equal one album unit on the Billboard 200, while free-tier streams must total 3,750.

H/T: Pitchfork

Apple Music surpasses Spotify subscriber numbers in North America

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Apple Music surpasses Spotify subscriber numbers in North AmericaJess Watters 500955 Unsplash

Apple announced Q3 financial results on July 31, showing $53.3 billion in revenue. This presents a 17 percent year-over-year increase, marking the tech company’s best June quarter ever. CEO Tim Cook commented, “Our Q3 results were driven by continued strong sales of iPhone, Services and Wearables, and we are very excited about the products and services in our pipeline.”

“Our strong business performance drove revenue growth in each of our geographic segments, net income of $11.5 billion, and operating cash flow of $14.5 billion,” says Apple CFO Luca Maestri. “We returned almost $25 billion to investors through our capital return program during the quarter, including $20 billion in share repurchases.” iPhone sales increased 1 percent YOY bringing in $41.3 billion, whereas wearables and other products brought in $3.7 billion, a 37 percent increase YOY.

Apple Music received a nod, adding the streaming service has more than 50 million current subscribers and free trial users; Apple Music revenues grew more than 50 percent during the quarter. Cook mentioned this made Apple Music the market leader in North America (by a fraction) as both Spotify and Apple report around 20 million users in the region. The CEO also mentioned Apple is leading the global streaming leader in Japan.

Outside of China, there are less than 200 million people streaming around the world, so music streaming is still a growing market. Cook added, “But really the key thing in music is not the competition between the companies that are providing music, the real challenge is to grow the market. It does seem to me there’s an extraordinary opportunity in that business to grow the market well and I think if we put our emphasis there, which we’re doing, that we’ll be a beneficiary of that — as other people will as well.”

A major difference between Apple Music and Spotify is Apple does not have a free service beyond its three-month trial period.

H/T: Billboard

Photo credit: Jess Watters/Unsplash

Spotify now boasts 83 million subscribers, reports second quarter loss

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Spotify now boasts 83 million subscribers, reports second quarter lossGettyimages 474099442

At the end of 2018’s second fiscal quarter, Swedish streaming giant Spotify has shared new reports on the company’s performance since their debut on the New York Stock Exchange earlier this year. Boasting 83 million premium subscribers and 180 million monthly active users, Spotify will be looking to hold onto and expand their share of the market, though Apple Music has been providing some stiff competition in the US market this year.

Though the impressive 83 million paid subscribers is an increase of ten percent since last quarter and, at $1.49 billion, revenue is at an all time high, the company posted a loss of $461 million, over twice as much as their loss at this time last year. To Spotify’s credit, they claim that over $30 million of that loss came from the price of going public back in April. Even with these losses, Spotify’s stock price is steadily rising, likely thanks to the vast amounts of revenue, investment, and cash flow at the company’s fingertips. With online streaming platforms are consistently securing more listeners and paid subscribers, the DSP arms race remains a fascinating industry to watch unfold.

H/T: Billboard

The Music Modernization Act takes another step towards fair compensation for music curators

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The Music Modernization Act takes another step towards fair compensation for music curatorsJomar 271602 Unsplash

The Music Modernization Act (MMA) has passed unanimously in the Senate Judiciary Committee, taking music creators a step closer to appropriate licensing and royalty rules for the streaming era. It now has to pass a full Senate vote before hitting the president’s desk.

The music copyright overhaul essentially partners Apple Music, Spotify, and publishers under a single licensing agency, streamlining the license management process. Songwriters and accredited artists will be paid out for songs recorded before 1972, while new rights will be granted to music producers and mixers. Older musicians who missed the streaming boom and studio engineers look to benefit here in the form of royalty checks coming their way if passed.

One of the most important facets of the bill is an overall standardization of payment rates between distribution services and rights-holders. It’s about time music law addressed the streaming industry because the current system is still set up for physical music copies.

Although the MMA has received criticism for its lack of consideration towards medium-sized business, most in the industry are in favor, seeing this as a long-awaited, financial organization of the current music landscape. D.I.Y. musicians, and musicians who own their own rights might still have trouble policing ineffective or inefficient licensing practices. More established artists, publishers, studio producers, and labels labels will benefit, giving them more time to focus on creating music and less time worrying about licensing and royalty structures. It’s a step in the right direction on this long trek towards fair compensation for music creators.

H/T: Rolling Stone

Photo Credit: Jomar/Unsplash