20
Nov

More about data vs royalties

Since I blogged about the concept of artist data vs royalties last week the topic has been written about in a few places:

Billboard: Value of Music Streaming is Data, Says Artist

MusicTechPolicy: Should Digital Retailers Own the Artist’s Fan Data

Radio & Internet Newsletter: Artist Says Data About Her Streaming Song Plays Would be as Valuable as Royalty Money

IT World: Data, the Ultimate Music Royalty

and then, I was Slashdotted:

Slashdot: One Musician’s Demand from Pandora: Mandatory Analytics

I probably deserve any flaming for putting forward a vague nascent idea but I do want to respond to the Slashdot commentators, because I think they misunderstood me (not that they will read my blog). It could be interpreted that I’m demanding everyone’s email addresses… but I’m not. I have as many privacy concerns as the next person.

Of course I would *like* your email address. I can tell you I would be ethical about it (those of you on my mailing list know that I only write about once every 2 or 3 months) but you’d have to take my word for it and I know others might not be so scrupulous. 

I would love it for services to allow listeners to opt in and pass on their email address to me (Bandcamp does this nicely I think), but I’m not even asking for that. In the case of a service like Pandora, when someone has taken the time to create a station around my music or given my songs a “thumbs up”… I’d rather know where in the world those particular listeners are than be paid the $0.0011 per play that is currently required by law. That was my point.

To ask for listener stats in lieu of statutory royalties doesn’t seem that extreme but I understand that in some circles it is considered too much for artists to ask for anything other than they be listened to….and even that might be too much. However, I do believe my music is worth something, if only because I’ve been supporting my family with music sales for 6 years. I never take that for granted and I’m lucky and profoundly grateful that convincing listeners to buy my music has not been hard. What has been hard is finding out where those purchasers are.

The majority of my music sales are on iTunes. Until August 2010, when I managed to get a direct label account with them, the only info I received from my distributor was what songs were purchased and in what country. Now that I have a label account, for every iTunes purchase since August 2010 I’ve been able to correlate each transaction with a customer ID# and a postal code (I’ve since heard that CDBaby now offers some version of this). It’s not a total picture of my audience, since I know not everyone purchases music, but it does help me plan tours more efficiently (i.e. so the tours don’t lose money).

Again, my blog was in reference to compulsory licensing, where in exchange for playing my music without a direct agreement with me, certain types of services pay me per-play at a rate determined by law. I’m saying that listener data is more valuable to me than those tiny royalties. What kinds of data? A bunch, but let’s start with the same kind of listener data I get from iTunes: randomized customer IDs attached to postal codes for avid listeners (i.e. ones who choose to listen more than a certain number of times). I’d also like this for on-demand services like Spotify, which is not internet radio, but the financial result for my purposes is roughly the same. 

Here’s what I’m concerned about: as we move into a world where music consumers will supposedly not own any music and will stream it rather than purchase it,  musicians will supposedly be making a living by touring. How can we help them figure out where to perform? Google analytics can only help you when a listener comes to find you on your website, and every service does everything it can to make sure listeners never leave their playground. 

(Dear developers, it seems like there is a big wide-open opportunity at the intersection of streaming and crowdsourced touring?)

Royalties from all these music services (internet radio and on-demand streaming) are never going to amount to much for a non-mainstream artist like me. So rather than get hung up on the payments, lets figure out what would make them work for all of us in the music ecosystem. I was encouraged at the Billboard FutureSound conference last week that in this discussion there might be some agreement between artists, labels, music services and listeners. That was a nice change of pace. 

(P.S. I’m glad we’re talking about this!)

17 Notes

  1. realitymonster reblogged this from zoekeating
  2. allthatresonates reblogged this from zoekeating
  3. youswiminmywater said: as a gigantic fan, it’s in my best interest too that you do well and continue to make music, tour, be inspired, survive, etc. i wish streaming sites were more dedicated to supporting artists too, rather than simply forking over a few pity pennies.
  4. workmadeforhire reblogged this from zoekeating
  5. zoekeating posted this

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I write music. I play the cello and the computer. There are dots over my e.

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