Networking, metadata, branding and streaming revenue were among some of the buzzwords at Music Biz 2017. They’ve been important topics I’ve discussed with several colleagues, friends and clients over the last few years. So, I wasn't surprised that they were subjects for panels this year at the conference, which was held in the heart of the Music City, Nashville, TN. The music business event brought in about 2,000 attendees over four days for meetings, panels, networking and fun. I learned a bit too much for it to fit in one blog post, so here are just five takeaways.
1. Spotify Cares
One of my favorite panels during Music Biz was led by a team from Spotify. It was clear by the end of the presentation that Spotify is way ahead of its competitors when it comes to looking out for the music creator. They reported that they paid out $5 billion in revenue to record labels, publishers and collecting societies for music rights. One way Spotify catapults independent artists are through playlists. They're strictly curated by a group of people, not computers, that predict how a song will perform. After monitoring songs for a period of time, they decide if songs should be pushed up the playlist or pushed out.
The next big venture for Spotify includes partnering with songwriters. So it is paramount that artists create verified accounts. This gives artists absolute control of their Spotify profile and access to data and insight needed to plan tours, win deals and forecast album success. Artists have a front row seat to see how their music performs.
Followers = Streams.
Spotify even sponsors a 3-day experience between writers, artists and producers called a Songshop. By building relationships with songwriters, they‘ll get to hear stories behind the songs and use them in marketing efforts to highlight their achievements as a creative partner. For all of the independent artists and songwriters I meet, I completely recommend getting hooked up into Spotify’s artist portal...quickly.
2. Meta(Data) Matters
What is Metadata? In music terms, it’s the information embedded in an audio file that is used to identify the content. Some of these metadata tags self-populate (like creation date), but others must be entered manually. This includes: the title of the song; artist / band; album that the song is on; genre, year of release, etc.
There was an entire day of metadata panels. That lets you know how important it is.
In a presentation led by Apple executives for Apple Music and iTunes, it was a subject of concern. There are 1 million songs submitted to Apple Music every month. That’s a LOT of content to go through and metadata helps the process go a little faster. But record labels and other music production companies are turning content in with incorrect or missing metadata and Apple fills in the gaps, which has raised some issues with creators and users. Lyric metadata has also given music streaming services added value. Apple Music reports that songs with lyrics attached get played longer and are more likely to be downloaded.
Another point discussed in almost every panel over the four days was data analytics. Everyone is looks at these numbers. Artists, radio, managers, label execs, tour managers and anyone else trying to plan or forecast an artist’s success in the music industry. Many panelists praised Spotify’s insight reports but most, if not all, digital distribution platforms have some form of analytic database. Using these numbers helps pinpoint where an artist should tour or target their marketing strategies.
3. SoundExchange Is Rising In Popularity
We’ve previously discussed that most artists are strongly encouraged to sign up with BMI, ASCAP or SESAC. But with an increase in streaming radio platforms like Pandora, SiriusXM and iHeartRadio, SoundExchange has become an artist’s best bet in seeing some significant revenue. They help collect and distribute digital performance royalties with the lowest admin rate I’ve seen. For every dollar, $.50 goes to the rights owner and the other $.50 goes to admin ($.45 goes to the artist and $.05 goes to the session singers/BGVs (AFTRA.)) This is the first time I’ve seen session singers even mentioned in rate distributions. The most common rates for music distribution have been 80/20. 80 - goes to the record label and 20 goes to the artist or 80 goes to the songwriter and 20 goes to the publisher. SoundExchange’s rates have given some artists hope that the tide may be turning for songwriters.
4. Who Is Making Money Off Of Your Music?
I think I’m involved in this debate once or twice a month. It’s not a secret that there is a lot of frustration amongst music creators when it comes to digital music consumption these days. We’ve all heard statements like “Streaming is killing artists,” or “Music should be free.” Crazy! Needless to say, there were no concrete answers to this question. While the digital platform is now the majority, music sales saw a small rise in 2016. People are still buying music, but not how they used to; even though vinyl is making a small comeback.
As to who is getting the bulk of the revenue? I know it’s not the songwriters. Yes, they are hurt most by streaming music services, so there needs to more negotiation on the flows of income. Companies like Apple, Spotify, Pandora are distributing billions of money and all of the music rights organizations are collecting it. But there needs to be some revised regulations on the kinds of deals record labels are making with artists and songwriters in order to see some real change.
5. Business Cards Are Still Relevant
A friend of mine recently asked Facebook if business cards were still relevant. Well, I’ve already gained three new clients in this week since the conference because of those cards I passed out. So I’m very lucky, and thankful, I still had some cards in stock because it definitely helped out with my networking efforts. In between panel discussions, there several designated meeting areas to make networking easier. You could schedule one in advance or just strike up conversation with whoever came and sat next to you. There were even a few panel discussions about networking for music business students and industry newcomers. I’d suggest having a nice design with your up-to-date contact information as the cards represent you once you’ve walked away.
The Music Biz conference packs a LOT of information and insight into four short days. You get to meet a lot of the leaders in music industry from managers, distributors and other music business professionals. It’s definitely worth the investment and I encourage any aspiring artist or industry insider to make the trip to Music Biz 2018.