Hidden in the hoopla surrounding Pandora's direct deals last week, and the resulting launch of the Pandora Plus interactive streaming service, was the major blow they dealt to SoundExchange; and the confusion that they are causing indie artists who are wondering how they will be getting paid in the future.
Last month we learned that artists like Drake, Kayne West and Frank Ocean were releasing albums with 18 tracks or more to game the Billboard charts by taking advantage of rules that calculate album sales equivalents from digital streams. Now comes word of a new and yet very familiar way to manipulate all of the charts.
Frank Ocean has just shaken up the music industry, probably forever. His dual exclusive releases via Apple on Friday and Saturday ignited a long overdue debate about exclusive streaming releases; and hidden in the details are lessons that should be sending shockwaves through the executive suites at Universal, Sony and WMG.
[UPDATED] In late 2014, as part of a move to include digital consumption in its chart calculations, Billboard began counting 1,500 streams or 10 paid downloads of a song as the equivalent of one album sold. Recently, a growing number of top artists have released mega-albums that use this calculation to influence their position on the charts.
As music consumption shifts to streaming, artists and labels are experimenting with how to use the new medium to release music in different ways. Kayne West remixed and added trax in the first days of his recent Tidal digital release. Drake, DJ Kahled and others each have their own strategies. Now, David Grey has partnered with Spotify to release a "Best Of" album that changes based on fan interest.
UMG has taken a major stake in indie Petrol Records. Now that, thanks to streaming, the major music groups have found their footing, they're again consolidating their dominate position with investments and acquisitions. No longer are the targets tangential businesses like merch, concerts or tech startups; but rather independent record labels and publishers.
Even Adele can't save the legacy music industry... Old music is outselling new music for the first time ever, according to Nielsen. Some of its has to do with millennials preferring to consume music via streaming or not to pay for it at all. But how bright is the future of any industry that generates more revenue from old products instead of new ones?
With major labels returning to profitability and again delivering monster hits, alongside the demise of several direct-to-fan startups, some have begun to question if D.I.Y. really is a path to success. I see examples to the contrary everywhere, and one that stands out because of his extraordinary drive and hustle is emcee Kosha Dillz.