Music videos are so 80s/90s, right? They belong with the era when MTV screened wall-to-wall vids instead of 'reality' TV? Try telling that to the millions who bought Gangnam Style; were they really simply loving the music? 1.6bn (and still climbing) have viewed the video on YT, not to mention the many re-makes (school eg, eg2), viral ads + celeb link-ups (even political protest in Seoul) - and it doesn't matter how legit it is, this nightmare for daydream Beliebers is making a lot of money, even from the parodies + dislikes. All this for a simple dance track that wouldn't have sounded out of place in 1990 ... but had a fun vid. This meme itself was soon displaced by the Harlem Shake. Music vids even cause diseases it seems!
This blog explores every aspect of this most postmodern of media formats, including other print-based promo tools used by the industry, its fast-changing nature, + how fans/audiences create/interact. Posts are primarily written with Media students/educators in mind. Please acknowledge the blog author if using any resources from this blog - Mr Dave Burrowes

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

INDUSTRY ISSUES SUMMARY Digital streams past physical

IN THIS POST: extensive lists of points you might cover to demonstrate your grasp of the music industry. There are lists on digital disruption; the changing audience/producer relationship; the morphing album format; changes with music video ... A LOT of points are covered.
Use this post with DISTRIBUTION overview (especially for Eval Q3) 

Some thoughts and a list of various issues/examples linked to the impact of digitisation (and convergence - the two should always be linked) on the music industry, the album format and the music video, with some points on marketing (which the video is of course part of) too. I've blogged on everything mentioned below. Don't quote me in coursework - find the source/s I've used or do your own search for other quotable media articles.

To reflect industry knowledge you have to tackle the disruption brought about digitisation:

  • the industry claims digital piracy, online file-sharing, has seen their revenues collapse
  • it is clear that typical album sales are a fraction of what they were a decade ago: few will now get certified platinum for sales; million-sellers now a relative rarity and even major artists might see sales in 10s of 1000s
  • consumption of music if anything has possible risen as convergence (and piracy) makes music more music available through more platforms/devices than ever, the smartphone for example effectively replacing huge record/CD collections for many via Spotify and the likes
  • YouTube and Spotify streaming figures are huge, but ...
  • record labels argue they don't get nearly enough payment per stream (post; post), while...
  • artists are upset that labels aren't passing on a fair share of digital revenues and ...
  • Indies have a poorer deal than the majors
  • many artists have ceased releasing new music seeing it as unlikely they will recoup production/distribution costs, never mind make a profit
  • others give away new music (e.g. Miley Cyrus, Prince)
  • Radiohead have tried out pay-what-you-want
  • Metallica are a good example of giving website paid-up members exclusive music and access to film of gigs
  • artists like Prince and Motorhead have given away albums as magazine or newspaper cover-mounts
  • U2 notoriously distributed millions of copies of a new album via Apple, upsetting many who didn't want it!
  • as Elberse details in her book, Lady Gaga made lucrative deals with Starbucks and others to expand her album distribution into new areas
  • bundling, exclusives and discounts via non-music industry outlets (or the range of competing streaming services) has become common
  • as well as all the tie-ins, artists have turned to film and advert licensing, merchandise and of course touring revenue
  • meet-and-greets and VIP tickets are common too
  • ... stickers!
  • Rihanna often crops up (eg1, eg2) with this topic, as does Kanye - look for tags
  • perhaps disruption is over-emphasised: the dominant conglomerates remain dominant, and its their grip on marketing spend thats key according to some!

Digitisation has of course revolutionised the relationship between artists/producers and the audience (as various web 2.0 theorists have outlined...):
  • there are now multiple forms of audience interaction (tag link), controlling and reshaping videos, no longer a straightforward linear text
  • publishing and distribution is now available without traditional record labels through the likes of SoundCloud, BandCamp and YouTube
  • these enable branding and linking to other social media
  • fan interaction is of course a feature, and artists such as Lady Gaga have carefully fostered this 'relationship' - her engagement with (exploitation of?) her 'Little Monsters', with their own exclusive website/app (which I signed up to and blogged on) leans heavily on UGC, including fan art and fan fiction
  • a One Direction fan, Anna Todd, racked up over a billion reads of her fan fiction, leading to a book deal and now her own app (read more
  • as noted again later, UGC has widened the music video, with lyric video and unboxing two notably common and popular fan formats, as well as cutting favourite film footage to a track
  • many artists do exploit their Twitter etc followings, monetising through paid-for tweets (oh, just eating a snickers...)
  • their tweeting and followers can be highly valuable:
There's a reason Lady Gaga became the person with the most Twitter followers -- 20.7 million and counting -- aside from her talent. "She really engages them and re-tweets stuff they say as if she was one of them," says John Bonini, content marketing manager of Impact Branding & Design. Gaga has made a career in being an outsider, which many of her fans relate to, he says. She has more followers than Justin Bieber's 18.4 million, Shakira's 14.8 million and Katy Perry's 16 million. Bonini says the publicity and direct access Twitter gives Gaga to her fans is worth around one-third of the $90 million that Forbes says she earned during the last financial year. Twitter creates a bond and loyalty with her fans who otherwise may be tempted to download her music illegally. Of course, it doesn't hurt that tweets from @ladygaga automatically appear on her Facebook page, which has over 49 million "likes." (SOURCE)

the album itself is both under threat and morphing
  • the postmodern form of mash-up (often unofficial releases) is well-established
  • Spotify users and iTunes purchasers don't tend to go for a whole album, just select tracks
  • my generation and my parents generation grew up with the album as the norm, but this generation is going back to the 50s/early 60s in a sense, with singles as the norm for purchase and consumption
  • piracy was a big issue pre-digitisation by the way: TDK D90s were common currency (a blank cassette tape - analogue tech! - on which you could record an album on each of two 45 minute sides). CD albums got longer largely to try and deter 'home taping'! (they also had higher capacity than vinyl, whose quality downgrades (like zoomed in video) if longer audio is squeezed in
  • the digipak arose partly as a means of exploiting nostalgia (Retromania...) for the gatefold vinyl albums, with their meticulous cover art and lyric sheets/booklets (also cheaper to produce and distribute (lighter!) plus more could be held on retailers shelves) ...
  • but also was often used as a limited edition package with a 2nd CD or bonus DVD
  • retailer exclusives are common for digipaks with the likes of and Amazon (HMV too in the days of yore), and collectible multiple album covers another device often used
  • vinyl itself has made a huge resurgence, now with a new vinyl chart and sold even in Tescos supermarkets!
  • HD vinyl is coming!
  • vinyl is often sold with a code for downloading or streaming digital versions of the music too - I bought a Pixies album which came with codes for both FLAC and MP3 downloads of the same music
  • some artists quickly seized the opportunities of new digital formats, Peter Gabriel releasing a CD-ROM album (last century!) and ...
  • Bjork an early pioneer of the album as app (Lady Gaga is another to have done this)
  • it is not uncommon for albums to be distributed partly (Kanye West) or exclusively Prince again) through concert tickets
  • Kanye West's marketing (detailed in Elberse's book) is a great example of this too, with his tie-in with Bing and fans gradually unlocking pages of an art book through reporting offline sightings
  • 'Yeezus' has also made waves by making The Life of Pablo (a Tidal exclusive at first) an evolving album, giving streamers the edge over physical format purchasers
  • it has also become the first chart-topping album with more digital streams counting to its position than physical sales:
According to Nielsen, the album shifted 94,000 equivalent album units (each unit equals 1,500 streams from an album) in the week ending 7 April. Of that total only 28,000 were physical albums. These traditional sales were from album and ticket offers for West’s show at Madison Square Garden and its live stream in theatres and cinemas. What’s even more unusual about the release of The Life of Pablo is that none of its tracks were available for individual purchase; the album’s success is owed solely to streams and traditional album sales. (SOURCE)

I've blogged extensively, with sources, on all of the above. Browse the blog archive and/or the tags - I've recently retro-tagged all posts on this blog. You shouldn't use my blog for quotes in coursework, but can use the sources I do (or search to find other media coverage). The article "Streaming revenues bring big boost to global music industry" has precise figures on how YouTube and Spotify pay per stream, and on the huge news that 2015 saw music industry revenue climb for the 1st time in 20 years (since 1995) AND digital formats bring in more revenue than physical formats for the first time:
The issue of the small income musicians get from streaming services such as Spotify – between $0.006 and $0.0084 each time someone listens to a song – is a source of contention for artists, including Taylor Swift, who refused to allow streaming of her songs.The IFPI estimates that Spotify paid record companies £13 per user in 2014.The problem is exacerbated by free websites such as YouTube, which paid an estimated 70p per user to music rights holders in 2015.

the music video itself has been impacted by digitisation:

  • postmodern elements have been common for years, but perhaps enhanced by the wider cultural impact of digitisation beyond music? (Weezer e.g.)
  • going viral or having multiple UGC video uploads can raise huge revenues as Gingham Style demonstrated
  • exclusives/premieres are used to gain publicity (from TV shows or even standalone screenings on the likes of C4 [UK TV] to e-zines)
  • Madonna is a master of linking with new, cutting edge platforms (e.g. Meerkat)
  • video teasers are now common
  • vlogging diary footage, a tactic also used by the film industry to gain publicity during pre-/production stages (before release), is increasingly common
  • such content leads to articles by the likes of Blabbermouth, Loudwire and many more e-zines
  • artists and labels own YouTube channels, with their own subscription base, also distribute these videos, with revenue raised and some passed on by those companies (as noted, argument rages over whether they get paid enough from the streaming companies), through advertising or subscription fees
  • clips of a new video will often be intercut with interview footage on e-zine sites
  • UGC is now well-established, and artists mostly embrace rather than try to force take down (legal term for issuing a copyright infringement notice and demand to remove content) such videos
  • featuring the audience in a video is common (e.g.)
  • indeed, artists now commonly release lyric videos, a common form of UGC
  • Metallica recently took on another UGC form, the unboxing video, singer James Hetfield (his arms anyway!) filmed silently unpacking a new Metallica boxset (I featured unboxing videos in my digipak vodcast too - an idea for a creative component of your Evaluation, and/or as faked fan material for the website) 
  • the Anthrax example combines a lot of points
  • Universal has cut a deal to place customised ads within music videos accessed online
  • U2's One is not unique in having multiple official videos
  • album remasters are common, but videos are now getting the remaster treatment too (D Mode e.g.)
  • video mash-ups too - D Mode again...
  • there are now multiple forms of audience interaction (tag link), controlling and reshaping videos, no longer a straightforward linear text


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