Where We Are Now: Tech and the Continual Music Stream, Part 1

I just attended an all-day conference presented by NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music on the present and near future of music streaming—from the technology to the business and, of course, the art behind it all.

Together with the thoughtful and sharply funny closing remarks by faculty professor Mike Errico (more in a later post), there were eight sessions in all. Here, I am excerpting my notes as bulleted points of interest in separate posts. Hopefully, they will resonate with you and provide additional insight on the topics covered.

Note that I have done my best to accurately represent my experiences, interpretations and impressions. These are my words and transcribed notes and are not the verbatim ideas of the presenters unless quoted directly within the text. Therefore, the conference’s participants should not be held accountable for any misstatements of fact or intention that may occur on these pages.

Stream-Tech Music Conference

Session: “Pros and cons of the current streaming status quo”

Presenter: Patrick Charnley (Senior Legal Advisor, IFPI), Karim Fanous (Head of Research and Insight, Music Ally)

• Overall, these sessions accounted for the impressive and progressive development and adoption of music streaming services in Scandinavia, particularly Norway.

• Astoundingly, 94% of total digital sales of music in Scandinavia are subscription streams; comparatively there are only about 13% in the U.S. (figures for 2013). Within the analysis, one must also account for global cultural differences and conditioning as other tech-savvy nations, such as South Korea, also factor heavily in streaming consumption.

• Off to the races: Of all digital revenue sources for music in 2013, iTunes downloads accounted for $200 million versus $28 million from subscription streams.

• In the first half of 2014, the U.S. is now the top accelerating contributor to global streaming growth in US Dollars. While U.S. downloads decreased 11% (in one year), streaming increased over 29% in the same period. So the future may arrive sooner than imagined.

• Note that all figures here apply to IFPI, which represents record labels (for the recordings and any contracted musician payments) and not songwriters or publishers.

• Patrick and Karim stated that “subscriptions offset the downloads lost,” at least in Scandinavian countries.

• Assertion: freely available music devalued the market. And the shift to paid subscriptions together with anti-piracy crackdowns may reverse this. Does this mean digital piracy appears to be a vestige of file downloads, and pilfered CDs before that, and not as applicable in the future of streaming music(?)

• I wondered What are the psychological differences that compel people of a certain age or generation to possess (own) the physical manifestation—LP, cassette, CD or digital file—of the music to which typically younger generations are essentially oblivious or indifferent?

• YouTube—with about one billion users and maybe 80 million using it for music—has paid out about $500 million a year in rights compensations, or at best only about 50 to 60 cents per listener annually for what amounts to an all-you-can-eat music buffet.

Tidal (which is debuting in the UK and America; more later) focuses on curation more than Spotify.

More in the next posting.



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