|FRIDAY 21 JUNE 2019||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The music industry has a long, proud history of developing, implementing and honing innovative, imaginative and occasionally ingenious ways of, erm, well, scamming the system, so it looks like the pop tunes you're peddling are a fuck load more popular than they really are. But no more, people! Because now there's a code of conduct to stamp out "stream manipulation"... [READ MORE]|
New code of conduct sets out to target the streaming stat scammers
With the shift to streaming, of course, entirely new innovative, imaginative and occasionally ingenious ways of scamming the system were developed, implemented and honed. Which led to much chatter about certain specific ruses used to manipulate the number of streams being recorded for any one track. Ruses that usually involve employing people or machines to log into multiple accounts on the streaming platforms and give certain recordings lots of extra plays.
In many ways those ruses are just the digital era equivalent of buying your own CDs on an industrial level to boost chart position, bunging cash or goodies to radio programmers to ensure extra airplay, or having a room full of people phoning music telly channels to request your own music. So, basically new scams for a new era continuing a long tradition of scamming the system.
Although, there is an important difference with the cleverer streaming platform stat manipulation schemes. The old fashion scams were usually a cost centre, so a marketing expense to make an artist seem more popular in the hope it might help sell more records. However, the streaming scams can actually be revenue generating in their own right, because of the way the digital platforms share out their income with the industry.
Streaming monies are ultimately allocated each month based on total consumption share. So if 10% of all tracks streamed came from your catalogue, 10% of all revenues are allocated to your label, and then the streaming service shares that allocation with you according to your revenue share agreement. A label would see more than 50% of that cash.
As a result, if a scammer sets up a load of premium accounts and then sets those accounts just playing music that they themselves control - or which their clients control - then the money generated by the scammer's consumption share could be significantly higher than what they laid out in subscription fees.
Because the scam can have direct financial benefits - as well as marketing kickbacks - it means you get scammers doing all this just to make a profit rather than as a dubious service to the music industry. Which is to say, they create a load of rubbish music themselves, pump it into the streaming services, set the machines listening, and wait for their share of the digital pie to come in each month. Make that rubbish music mainly 60 second tracks and your total consumption share and resulting pay-out will be even higher.
Scamming the system like this is against the terms and conditions of the streaming platforms, so the digital firms can cancel the accounts of the scammers. But to do that, they've got to spot them and they've got to care. They insist that they do, but some argue that the streaming companies should do much more in this domain, and that the music industry should be demanding tougher action all round.
Though for the music business to be making those demands, artists and labels within the industry can't really be employing their own sneaky scams on the side. And the streaming sector then needs to take those demands seriously and also ensure that they themselves aren't involved in any stat manipulation (hey Tidal? - allegedly, allegedly, allegedly).
Hence the new code of conduct published this week and signed by a bunch of record labels, music publishers, industry trade bodies and streaming services. The signatories state that stream manipulation can economically harm artists and music companies, whose own streaming income will likely drop if a slice of the digital pie is going to the scammers. Plus, they note, such manipulation can fuck up the listening experience of streaming service subscribers and the quality of data coming back to artists and their business partners.
To that end, the signatories say that they officially condemn stream manipulation. The music companies add that they will inform their staff and suppliers that they have a zero-tolerance policy regarding such activity and will seek to add monitoring for such scams to their ongoing anti-piracy endeavours. Meanwhile, the streaming firms say they will implement "a set of balanced, commercially reasonable measures and controls enabling the prevention and/or reduction of stream manipulation".
Of course, you could debate as to exactly where you draw the line between legitimate marketing activity to boost streams and dodgy scamming activity to, well, boost streams. The code of conduct leaves some room for manoeuvre regarding where those lines might be drawn, keen to ensure that, by signing up to the code, labels aren't forced to abandon marketing tactics that they actually consider to be legit. But it does also have a go at defining certain tactics that labels should never try to define as legitimate.
Among the organisations backing the code of conduct is the International Confederation Of Music Publishers, whose chief John Phelan provides further context as to why it has been created. "Manipulating streamed music causes economic harm to streaming services, right holders and musicians alike", he said yesterday. "Any such manipulation distorts data and affects royalty streams for those who invest in, create and distribute music".
He went on: "This code is a signal from across the industry of our determination to tackle it where it arises. The motivation is ever greater translation and fairness. The code contains measures to be taken by everyone in the industry to detect and mitigate against this problem. It's great to see such collaboration from across publishing, labels and service providers".
Also backing the move is pan-European indie labels trade group IMPALA, whose Executive Director Helen Smith added: "Streaming manipulation is costing the independents a fortune. Last year we commented on the situation with Tidal and that was just one example. It's vital we all work together to ensure a fair and sustainable online world".
Of course, one thing that would hinder the scammers - certainly in terms of the payback they get in streaming royalties - would be to shift to a user-centric royalty distribution system. That's where, rather than total revenues being shared out based on service-wide consumption, each individual subscription payment would be split between the artists and songwriters whose music that specific subscriber streamed.
It would mean that scammers using premium accounts on the streaming services could only ever earn back the subs they had themselves paid, minus the digital firm's cut. There are various pros and cons to the user-centric approach, and that is one of the definite pros. It wouldn't stop all the scamming of course, but it would greatly hinder one particularly lucrative scam.
However, it doesn't seem like a user-centric system is going to be adopted anytime soon. In the meantime, it will be interesting to see if the code of conduct makes any difference.
PledgeMusic still hoping for a buyer, still planning to go into administration
The latest update is the first from the collapsing crowdfunding platform for a month and was delivered in a short statement to Hypebot. "PledgeMusic is still pursuing a sale (which if it happens is likely to be via an administration) but has contingency plans for other insolvency processes if that is not achievable", it said.
It was confirmed early last month that Pledge was heading into administration after negotiations with a possible buyer fell through. However, since then none of the necessary paperwork to begin the winding up of the business have been filed.
There has also been little formal communication in the intervening weeks, save for one update on the PledgeMusic website stating that "the company continues to work with outside counsel on the most appropriate next steps".
At that time, it also provided artists on the platform with links via which they could download their fan data. What most of those artists want, however, is the money that they are owed from their crowdfunding and pre-order campaigns.
PledgeMusic had been struggling to pay that money to artists for months before operations were suspended at the beginning of the year. For some artists, this has left them unable to deliver the music promised to fans, or it has significantly limited how they can deliver it.
Those artists are now left in limbo, not knowing if they will ever see the money that they are owed. Their only hope was if a new owner might take on those liabilities, which would be one way to begin to rebuild goodwill towards the company.
However, if the whole thing does fall into administration, it seems likely that artists will be added to the bottom of a long list of creditors and may never receive any of the cash handed over to PledgeMusic by their fans.
Thom Yorke releasing new solo album next week
As some sort of explanation of the record, he offers this: "Definition of anima: an individual's true inner self that in the analytic psychology of C G Jung reflects archetypal ideals of conduct. Also: an inner feminine part of the male personality".
Here's something we do know, it will contain songs. Nine of them. Ten if you buy the vinyl. One of them will be called 'I Am A Very Rude Person', which I hope I will enjoy listening to as much as I am enjoying the title on its own.
That vinyl release I mentioned won't be available until 19 Jul. But didn't I already say the album would be out next week? Yes, it will be available digitally from 27 Jun. I wish you'd trust me more.
Also out on 27 Jun will be a Paul Thomas Anderson directed Thom Yorke 'one-reeler' on Netflix. You might call a 'one-reeler' a short film. You might also call it a music video. Or maybe an extended music video. Or perhaps you wouldn't even put that much thought into it. Anyway, it's a thing and it'll be on Netflix.
There will be live shows too. Lots of them between July and October. None in the UK though, so I'm not going to tell you any more about them.
You can pre-order the album in various forms, including in a big old box, via a dedicated 'Anima' website here.
Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert to return to solo careers
"The story's almost over", the duo say in a statement. "The music begins to swell as the camera drifts to a final, poignant shot. Soon the screen will turn black; soon the credits will roll. Much like the brief encounters and doomed dalliances of our songs, we have decided it's time to part ways. The heart can only hold so much".
'Cut To Black will be released on seven-inch on 16 Aug. Listen to it here now. Tour dates are as follows:
15 Aug: Newcastle, Cluny 2
The Hold Steady announce new album, Thrashing Thru Passion
"'Denver Haircut' is a story about a guy who has a chance meet up that takes him to a few different locations before leaving him alone and cashless in a strange hotel room", says frontman Craig Finn. "Steve Selvidge [guitarist] brought in the music to this song and everyone felt it immediately, it was really fun to play. The story unfolded quickly too. When recording, we remarked that it sounded like it could kick off an album, and so here we are".
Talking up the band's new music, he adds: "I've been saying for a few years now - since [keyboardist] Franz [Nicolay] came back [in 2016] - that this six piece line-up of The Hold Steady is the best band we've ever been. The new songs recorded by this version of the band are super exciting to us. It's been a very fun and creative period for The Hold Steady".
Alexander Tucker announces new album, Guild Of The Asbestos Weaver
Out on 23 Aug, the new LP draws on various influences outside of music - not least in its title, which is lifted from Ray Bradbury's book 'Fahrenheit 451'.
Tucker explains: "With this album I wanted to join together separate key influences that have affected my work, from science fiction and cosmic horror comics, film and literature to minimalist, drone and dream music composition. My aim was to weave these elements into repetitious cycles that guide the listener into worlds both uncanny and familiar".
If you fancy seeing the new songs performed live, Tucker will play The Quietus Social at The Social in London on 26 Sep. For now, here's a far too brief trailer for the album.
LABELS & PUBLISHERS
Octo Octa and Eris Drew have announced the launch of new record label T4T LUV NRG. The first release is a mixtape by Drew, titled 'Raving Disco Breaks Vol 1'.
Stormzy has released new single 'Crown'. "Where words fail, music speaks", he says. "I've been struggling to find words to describe how much this song means to me... struggling to explain exactly why I felt the need to say what I've said on the record... and [i] can't quite summarise the journey of emotions the song takes me on when I listen back to it".
Trina has released a track from her new album featuring Nicki Minaj, called 'Baps', a tribute to soft bread rolls. Almost certainly.
Shawn Mandes and Camila Cabello have released new single, 'Siñorita'.
Angel Olsen features on 'True Blue', the latest single from Mark Ronson's new album, 'Late Night Feelings', which is out today. "I wasn't sure what it would be like to work with Mark, considering we are both from different production worlds", she says. "But it was such a fun, organic experience for me. Seriously".
Stefflon Don has released new track 'Phone Down', featuring Lil Baby.
Migos have released new single 'Stripper Bowl'. It's named after a party they held over the Super Bowl weekend earlier this year, where they claimed they spent $3 million on strippers. I'm sure you've all been waiting for their take on this.
Lil Nas X has released new single 'Panini'. Among its listed writers is Kurt Cobain, due to the track's similarity to Nirvana's 'In Bloom' - although the rapper insists the melody came to him in a dream.
Fever Ray will release a live album on 2 Aug recorded at Troxy in London last year.
Black Midi have released new single 'Ducter'. Their debut album, 'Schlagenheim', is out today.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Jonas Brothers launch 'vinyl subscription club'
I mean, they're calling it a subscription offer, but really they're just asking fans to pay up front for their entire discography on vinyl. They're justifying calling it a subscription by sending it all out in four batches. But that counts, right? Sure it does.
None of the band's music has been available on vinyl before - aside from most recent record 'Happiness Begins', which isn't included in the 'subscription' - so I'm sure this is all super exciting for their fans.
Come on, let's not be all, 'oh, I very much doubt they're audiophiles or have any inkling what vinyl is'. Maybe Jonas Brothers fans love vinyl. Whatever, most people who buy vinyl don't ever actually listen to it. Yes, even people who like whatever boring indie band you're into. And probably even you.
The whole discography on vinyl for the first time though! Woo! Where can I buy my favourites? I'll tell you where, from the Jonas Vinyl Club. You want your favourite JBros album on vinyl? No problem, you just have to buy everything else too. Prices start at a barely even noticeable $399.
For that price, you get eight albums, ten singles and some other stuff, including a Jonas Brothers slipmat for the turntable that you may or may not own. As well as all but their first and most recent studio albums - plus Joe and Nick's debut solo albums - the package includes various live recordings too, some of which have not been previously released.
Oh, and also, and this is possibly the jewel in the crown, you get 'V', the 2013 album they never released in full on account of their splitting up.
But hey, what if you want more? What if that's just not enough? Well, the Jonas Brothers have plans for your money. For $599, you can get deluxe club membership, which gets you five more records and a big metal box to put them all in.
The extras include the debut album they generally try to hide from the world, ie 'It's About Time', songs from their 'Jonas LA' TV series, and a few more live bits and pieces and other records in different colours from the cheaper 'subscription'. And the best thing about it is that it's a club! Joining makes you part of a community! And relieves you of a significant amount of all that money that's weighing you down! Win-win!
For those who sign up, the first 25% of what you've bought will be sent out on 1 Aug. The rest will be split into three more shipments over an unspecified amount of time. Because this is a subscription, right? Not just a boring bulk purchase of more music than you could ever want or need from one artist. Yes! The Jonas Brothers are back! And they really saw their fans coming!
Anyway, you can join the club here. Or you can send the same amount of money to me and I will promise to send you some shit I found in a cupboard every now and then.