1984 Came and Went: Streaming as a New Form of Censorship

A week and a half ago, Progarchy’s brilliant editor-in-chief wrote an editorial about music streaming services. I agree wholeheartedly with his reservations regarding streaming music. Brad attributed his luddite ways to being 50. Well, I’m 24 and I think streaming music is hogwash, so age has nothing to do with it.

For one, I like having a physical CD to look at. I like the artwork, and being able to read the lyrics is important to me. In comparing my own reviews with other writers out there on the internet or in magazines, I’ve noticed I focus on lyrics more than most, so that just goes to show the importance I place on reading the lyrics.

Continue reading “1984 Came and Went: Streaming as a New Form of Censorship”

Streaming Music (Editorial)

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Prog art at its finest–Jim Trainer’s Winchester Diver for Big Big Train.

A great DJ is just a step below a great producer and sound engineer.

From time to time, I’ve considered joining a streaming service permanently.  I’ve toyed around with Spotify, Pandora, and iTUNES.

I just can’t understand the attraction.

There was a time in my life, I really loved radio.  From the years between late grade school and the end of high school (class of 1986), I listened faithfully to Wichita’s KICT-95.  The station introduced me–rather gloriously–to album rock radio, back when radio actually played entire sides of albums.  I got to know the DJs, the music, and their various programs.  I knew when to expect a full album side, and when to expect the latest news in the rock world.  I knew when T-95 broadcast concerts, and I knew when the radio station sponsored bands to play live in Wichita.  It was a golden age of rock.  I was always far more taken with prog than I was with acid or hard rock, but T-95 presented all as a rather cohesive whole, thanks to the quality of the DJs.

But, streaming?  I just don’t get it.  It’s bland.  It’s tapioca.  There’s no personality, no matter how great the music is.

Continue reading “Streaming Music (Editorial)”

Neal Morse Considers Streaming Service

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Now, first of all, I’m not against streaming. I think it’s wonderful! I love to sit in my recliner and choose whatever songs or whatever albums I want to listen to from my chair and be able to adjust the volume without having to get up. I’ve recently gotten into vinyl again, but, man, every 20 minutes you have to actually get up and WALK ACROSS THE ROOM to change the record! Unthinkable! This is much too difficult. So, I love streaming as well as anyone. It’s tremendously convenient and sounds good as well.
   Of course, streaming is great for the listener but doesn’t compensate the artists much, if at all.
   Just for an example, here’s a screen shot of a recent royalty statement I received.
Notice the $0.0004. I can’t even figure out how to SAY how small of an amount that is. Is that one fourth of one thousandth of a penny? Who decides these things? Crazy. Anyway…As an artist who is not Metallica or Taylor Swift this doesn’t really make any sense…or to quote a song, it makes…”zero sense”. Or “zero cents,” haha.
   So, like everyone in the entertainment business, I have been wondering, what do we do now? How do we survive? How can we pay the tremendous costs of making quality albums and live? Mega-skilled artists such as Steve Hackett and Rich Mouser don’t come cheap. And they shouldn’t.
  Answer: create my own streaming service. My objective is simple: to provide a great streaming experience that is complete, super high quality and easy to use on multiple formats. Not to compete with the big streaming services, but to give fans of my music a similar experience, anywhere in the world.
My current plan is to build my own thing, then use Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon etc. as a kind of advertising tool and put a smattering of material there so people can become aware and hopefully sign up for the streaming service. Or get the actual albums. Whatever they prefer.
    What we want to give people is the supreme experience of being able to listen to any of the music from my catalog, including classic Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic and the Neal Morse Band, anytime from anywhere and not have to get out of their recliner. This is the great goal of modern life!
I NEED YOUR HELP:
I’m taking a poll! Please let me know if you would be interested in subscribing to the proposed music app at a cost of, let’s say, $5.99 a month. (Of course, there will be a special discount for Inner Circle members. No obligation of course!)

Death of the Album

If the future is streaming, what place is there in the future for the self-contained unit known as “the album”?

Jason Notte provides the sobering statistics:

Juniper Research finds that digital music industry will see worldwide revenue grow from $12.3 billion this year to $13.9 billion in 2019. Juniper’s research indicates that even that growth hinges on the streaming music sector bringing in more cash as sales of digital downloads, ringtones and ringback tones continue to plummet. …

That growth comes as any album that isn’t released on vinyl dies a horrible death. Nielsen Soundscan equates 2,000 streams to one album, but even with that in the equation, album sales are down 3.3% through June. Take streaming out of the mix and you’re looking at a 14.3% drop from the same time last year. The nearly 20% drop in compact disc sales over the last year is almost expected as CDs continue their post-’90s free fall, but the 11.6% drop in digital album sales and 13% drop in digital track sales is far more troubling.

Digital download sales fell for the first time last year and aren’t coming back. People aren’t loading up their smartphones with songs anymore and aren’t carrying iPods anymore.

That’s not great news for the music industry, which uses digital track sales as a crutch to limp toward respectable numbers. When you factor in “Track Equivalent Albums” — a stat that equates 10 of an artist’s tracks with one album — Katy Perry, Pharrell Williams, Lorde and Beyonce all had albums sell 1 million copies and go platinum this year. Take those individual tracks away and reduce album sales to strictly physical and digital albums in their entirety, and suddenly Beyonce, Lorde, Coldplay and Eric Church are the only artists to go gold and break 500,000 sales this year. The only album to go platinum by that measure? The soundtrack to Disney’s Frozen, with 2.7 million copies sold in the first six months of 2014.

According to Nielsen, album sales of any kind plummeted from 755 million copies in 1999 to just 290 million last year. Compact disc sales have fallen steadily from 730 million in 2000 to just 165 million last year. This year, the Frozen soundtrack was the only digital album to sell 1 million copies — or even more than 350,000.

Meanwhile, even as digital track sales fall, singles sales remain strong. Pharrell’s Happy sold 5.6 million copies in just six months. Katy Perry and Juicy J’s Dark Horse broke 4 million, but even artists a bit further down the chart are more representative of what anyone’s actually listening to. DJ Snake, Iggy Azalea, Bastille and Aloe Blacc are absent from the first-half album charts, but all sold more than 2 million copies of their singles Turn Down For WhatFancyPompeii and Man.

Move it over to on-demand streaming, and those 2 million to 5 million sales turn into 40 million to 65 million audio streams and 70 million to 120 million video streams. Psy’s Gangnam Style still managed 69 million video streams this year after making more than $1 million off of streaming royalties alone last year. Google CEO Larry Page watched Psy’s viral hit rake in $2 per 1,000 pageviews and called it “a glimpse of the future.” By that measure, the 122 million views Perry’sDark Horse received through June adds up to $244,000 alone. It isn’t seven figures, but it’s a whole lot of cash for one song doing six months of work.

He concludes:

As the music industry continues to gravitate away from an ownership model and toward its streaming future, it’ll take any gains it can get. A robust streaming ecosystem is great for everyone involved, but if cannibalization limits both artist and label options, the same losses plaguing physical album sales and digital album and track sales now could kneecap streaming in the not-so-distant future.

Note that, oddly enough, the Frozen album is available on vinyl, as some people still insist that it is the only way to buy music.

Stream of Consciousness

Rocco Pendola announces that iTunes is dead:

Digital downloads are dead. As reported by Billboard, digital music sales decreased — for the first time ever — by 5.7% in 2013. …

Apple wins no matter what happens. The record industry cannot hang its hat on the still-breathing iTunes Store. That’s a ticket to certain death. Put another way, iTunes will not be the sole long-term survivor, as digital sales go the way of the compact disc. That’s why Timothy D. Cook hedged his bets with streaming service iTunes Radio.