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Songwriter Equity Act Makes It’s Way Back To Congress

Songwriterequityact_sitebanner2The Songwriter Equity Act returned to Congress yesterday afternoon. While an identical bill proposed last year was unsuccessful, there is an increased level of optimism surrounding it’s reappearance. 

Presented with bipartisan support, the Songwriter Equity Act would update Sections 114 and 115 of the Copyright Act, giving the special royalty rate-setting board the ability to factor in fair market value of a song when determining appropriate royalty rates. The amendment would be music to songwriters’ ears as they’ve fought to maintain sustainable careers in the face of rising streaming service popularity. 

Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, a supporter of the bill, told The Tennessean “Italy has its art, Egypt has its pyramids, Napa Valley has its wines and Nashville has its songwriters. Songwriters are the lifeblood of Music City, and their paychecks ought to be based on the fair market value of their songs –- so that when they write a hit heard around the world, you can see it in their billfolds. My hope is that in this new Congress we will pass this legislation to help give our nation’s songwriters the fair pay they have earned.”

Royalty-PayoutThe groans coming from the radio broadcasting sector are audible. The Songwriter Equity Act will offer songwriters a fairer shake within the industry, but a sizable portion of that fairer payout will likely come from radio broadcasters and online radio companies who suggest higher royalty payouts could cripple their businesses – a side of the fence songwriters have been sitting on for quite some time. 

The Songwriter Equity Act heads back to Congress with the support of the National Music Publishers Association, BMI, SESAC, Nashville Songwriters Association and ASCAP

ASCAP president Paul Williams released the following statement saying “The Songwriter Equity Act represents an important first step toward updating an outdated music licensing system that treats songwriters differently than other copyright owners and prevents us from earning a fair market royalty rate when our music is streamed or downloaded online. We are grateful to Senators Hatch, Whitehouse, Alexander and Corker and Representatives Collins and Jeffries for their efforts to attract bipartisan support for these simple and reasonable changes. They are vital to ensuring that next generation American songwriters are able to make a living creating the music we all love. We look forward to working with policymakers to reform the broader regulatory framework, including ASCAP’s outdated consent decree with the DOJ, so that music licensing better reflects the way people listen to music today.”

Read the proposed legislation here.

Iron Maiden Singer Was in ‘Considerable Pain’ After Cancer Treatment

Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson suffered “considerable pain and discomfort” from the chemotherapy and radiology to treat a small tumor on the back of his tongue, but the singer remains optimistic for a full recovery, according to a note from the band’s manager Rod Smallwood.

As Smallwood points out, radiology is cumulative, collecting in the body where it stays for about three weeks after treatment ends. Dickinson finished his seven-week course in mid-February, and while the pain and discomfort are still there, they will continue to alleviate over the next few months.

Once the swelling and pain have disappeared, Dickinson will be able to take an MRI scan, which will officially determine whether the cancer is gone. “However, prognosis continues to be extremely good and everyone is optimistic for a full recovery,” Smallwood wrote. “Following the scan, we will officially update you on this website at the appropriate time, probably in late May.”

While it will take a few more months after that for Dickinson to be fit enough to play with Iron Maiden, Smallwood said the band remains completely supportive and will base their future plans on his progress.

Smallwood also passed along Dickinson’s thanks and appreciation for the “tremendous support and kind wishes. He has been extremely touched and encouraged by the genuine and affectionate response from our global family of Maiden fans.”

Prior to his diagnosis, Dickinson — when he wasn’t touring with Iron Maiden — was indulging his passion for flying and daredevilry. Last year, the rocker flew a 100-year-old plane during a reenactment of a World War I dogfight and invested a reported $450,000 in the “world’s longest aircraft,” the Hybrid Air Vehicle, which he hopes to one day fly around the world.

Does Music Subscriber Growth Cripple Profitability?

PilesofdollarscashdollarWith streaming services pushing the paid subscription model, profit for those company’s should be growing – but not only are the streaming music giants not making money, they’re losing it. Who is to blame?

Guest Post by Jon Maples

I recently wrote about how Rhapsody is facing issues as it expands to a worldwide audience and partners with cellphone carriers in Europe, Latin America and the United States. Part of my analysis centered on shrinking margins from signing up new customers on services and how difficult it becomes to manage the business when you don’t control the customer base. I also pointed out how relying on other companies to do your marketing erodes your brand, leading to a limited retail funnel.

Disclosure: I worked for Rhapsody for nine years before leaving in September 2013.

Rhapsody’s 2014 results were recently released in a RealNetworks’ regulatory filingand there are two conclusions that are easy to draw from the report. (Note: RealNetworks owns 43 percent of Rhapsody and includes the company’s financials in its own 10K SEC filing.)

  1. The growth strategy is working. Outside of the reported two million worldwide customers Rhapsody recently trumpeted, the company also increased revenues by 23 percent in 2014 over the previous year. Rhapsody’s revenues are at $173 million a year, which are rumored to be much larger than those of Deezer, the France-based music service.
  2. The growth is coming at a cost to Rhapsody. The company lost $21.3 million in 2014, up from 14.6 million in 2013. And it’s just not overall losses that are mounting. Rhapsody losses are continuing even when factoring in subscriber growth. Based on its 2014 losses and its reported subscribers, Rhapsody lost $8.53 per subscriber last year. That’s up from $8.44 in 2013, although both numbers are down from 2012, when the company lost $10.19 per subscriber.

Growth and Losses

Rhapsody’s losses are a drop in the bucket when compared to Spotify. In 2013 the company reported operating losses of $128 million. While the company didn’t report subscribers, it has been suggested the company had around nine million paying subscribers at the end of 2013, leading to a $14 loss per sub in that year.

Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 12.38.58 PMIt should be pointed out that Spotify’s paying subs are supporting all the free users who generate very small amounts of money for the company through adverting sales. Spotify says that its average active user (a combination of paid and free) generates $41 per year in 2013, while Rhapsody generated $93 per sub for the same year.

To grow, Rhapsody not only saw losses per sub drift slightly upwards, it also had to eat into its margin. In 2014 revenue per sub sunk to $69. And Rhapsody’s growth isn’t coming anywhere near Spotify. In fact, the Stockholm based streaming giant’s growth is outpacing every company in the industry by a wide margin. It now has over 15 million paying subs and 60 million worldwide users. Spotify picked up six million paying subs to Rhapsody’s one million in 2014.

So what does all this mean? A few conclusions.

  1. Brand Matters: In the excellent MusicREDEF newsletter, my friend Matty Karas recently mused, why when people talk about streaming music, they only refer to Spotify. There are scores of companies with offerings, many of them in business for a long time. But Spotify has broken through and is on-demand streaming’s only household name. Its brand has fueled incredible subscriber and free user growth for the company.
  2. The Model Matters: What makes this so intriguing is the three distinct approaches these companies have taken for on-demand streaming.Rhapsody traditionally focused on all paid customers, utilizing their own retail channel, before pivoting to distribution partners for growth. It has achieved modest growth, but at a significant operational cost.Deezer only operated in territories with carrier partners. The results? Deezer had significant subscriber growth, but the revenues are below Rhapsody. So to the outside world, Deezer looks like a much bigger deal than within the industry. Deezer also is facing competition for carrier deals. In a shift of its model, Deezer launched a high-bitrate service in the US for $20 a month, although the company has not been strongly marketing the product. Despite the massive amount of money raised and worldwide operations, could Deezer be the first huge causality in on-demand streaming?Spotify built its own customer funnel by giving away expensive free music and has found a way to significantly grow free users, paying customers and revenues. The costs have been astronomical, but Spotify is dominating streaming music, dwarfing all its direct competitors and–maybe even more importantly–reaching mass consumer appeal.
  3. Distribution Eats Margin: My last piece on Rhapsody suggested the company’s margins face significant downward pressure because of its cellphone distribution scheme. And now we see the numbers showing that erosion. Rhapsody will have to hope that a) it can sustain or even amplify its growth rate through partners and b) retain its own higher margin customer funnel. If not, Rhapsody’s revenue per sub will continue downward.
  4. The Economics Are The Economics: Regardless of approach or business model, on-demand streaming music is an expensive business to launch and operate. There’s no way around losing millions of dollars just to be one of few who survive. All left standing will require a huge war chest, access to raise even more money and the intestinal fortitude spend a fortune in content, distribution and marketing costs.
  5. More Pain Coming: Apple and YouTube are expected to roll out on-demand music services in 2015. The pressure to grow–and raise more money to pay for the growth–will increase on every company in the market. As the old adage goes: let the beatings continue until the morale improves.

More Growing Problems

Geekwire Filing Reveals $21M Loss for Rhapsody, Despite Jump in Revenue and Subscribers

NY Times As Music Streaming Grows, Spotify Reports Rising Revenue and a Loss

Bloomberg Spotify Hits 10 Million Paid Users. Now Can It Make Money? The Roaring Mouse: Rhapsody Faces Its Future


Zac Brown Band Announce New Album ‘Jekyll + Hyde’ and 2015 Tour Dates

Zac Brown Band have always prided themselves on diversity, so it’s quite fitting that their new album is titled Jekyll + Hyde. Due April 28th, the new LP marks the group’s first via a new partnership with Southern Ground, John Varvatos Records and Big Machine Label Group. Clothing designer-turned-music exec Varvatos has one word for the new set of tunes: “insane.” And Brown just hints to expect the unexpected.

“Our boundaries have dissolved and we’re going to still do things that are somewhat familiar that people like, but we’re also going to stretch out and take chances beyond what we’ve done before. Some people are going to be really surprised,” the singer told Rolling Stone Country back in November.

A big surprise they’re leaking today is Jekyll + Hyde ‘s 16-song track list. (See below.) Soundgarden and Audioslave lead singer Chris Cornell is featured on a song called “Heavy Is the Head,” and pop singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles duets on “Mango Tree.” Digital pre-orders will include immediate downloads of the Cornell collab, plus the Jason Isbell-penned “Dress Blues” and the band’s current, feel-good single, “Homegrown.” (Listen to “Homegrown” here.)

While “Homegrown” is certainly a country radio friendly tune, the album is expected to have major crossover potential. Big Machine President Scott Borchetta plans to have his team market the music on a larger, international scale. “This music will play in a lot of places,” he tells Rolling Stone Country. “[Zac Brown Band] have always been a great live band, as well as a country radio staple from day one. Now, after spending some time with Zac, I’m blown away by his creativity and vision. I think ZBB are entering their most successful and prolific chapter.” 

On the same week as Jekyll + Hyde‘s release, Zac Brown Band will kick off their North American stadium tour, with the first show at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on May 1st. Other venues on the schedule include Boston’s Fenway Park and Chicago’s Wrigley Field, among other massive sports venues. (See a full list of cities and dates on the tour here.) Fan club members will be able to buy tickets for select shows starting March 10th, with general public sales starting March 13th.

The band will test out a few of Jekyll + Hyde‘s tunes live from New York this weekend, as they make their Saturday Night Live debut.

Zac Brown Band, Jekyll + Hyde Track List:

“Beautiful Drug”

“Loving You Easy”



“Mango Tree” (featuring Sara Bareilles)

“Heavy Is the Head” (featuring Chris Cornell)



“Tomorrow Never Comes”

“One Day”

“Dress Blues”

“Young and Wild”


“I’ll Be Your Man (Song for a Daughter)”


“Tomorrow Never Comes” (Acoustic Version)

Merchbar Launches Hot Merch Charts To Track Top Merchandise Globally

Directory_merchbarMerchbar, the platform that hit the market last September to provide fans with merchandise offerings individually curated to their unique personal taste has launched the Merchbar Hot Merch Chart.

Offering over 100,000 individual pieces of merchandise from over 5,000 artists, Merchbar has become a destination for fans seeking the latest, greatest in merch from their favorite bands. The Merchbar Hot Merch Chart will conduct a cross-platform analysis of sales data to highlight the artists selling the most merchandise in each of the 5 distinct genres, revealing the most popular items each Tuesday. 

“The Merchbar Hot Merch Chart is valuable because we’ve started from scratch to create merch rankings that aren’t just relevant, reliable and comprehensive for artists and the industry but interesting and fun for fans. Creating a ranking of merchandise is a unique problem because you have to balance several factors that don’t come in to play in album sales, radio listens or streams,” Edward Aten, Merchbar’s Founder & CEO, said in a statement. “Our charts balance item prices, sales volumes and number of items for sale across a variety of networks to create something comprehensive and indicative of the overall merchandise market.”


“Not only do we already have the largest catalogue of new and official merchandise anywhere in the world by far, we are continually adding more artists to the platform including Jerry GarciaAustin MahoneAnthraxDolly PartonJourney and others in just the last 30 days. It’s hard to say we are at the beginning when we already have such broad and unique partnerships, but there are several announcements on the horizon we think fans will be very excited about.” Aten said.
You can view the Merchbar Hot Merch Chart here or read about it’s background, structure and systems here.


5 Common Gig Booking Mistakes You Can Easily Avoid

Guitar-1We’re all busy, right? You’d think inadequately written inquiries would be a rarity but, unfortunately, they’re sent on a regular basis. Avoid making simple gig booking mistakes with these 5 pointers. 

Guest Post by Jhoni Jackson on Sonicbids Blog

There are standards for written inquiries that bands and artists email to venue talent buyers, and they serve to streamline the process. Including all the right information up front cuts down the organizational back-and-forth which, in some cases, can go for days or weeks and reach upwards of 50 replies. 

It’s been almost a year now since a few friends and I opened Club 77 in San Juan, PR. We book a lot of our own shows and also work with bands and promoters looking to handle it all themselves. The latter, naturally, is where we get those what-the-heck requests. I consider them time bandits because the process of discerning what they’re actually trying to book unnecessarily robs hours from us both.

I can’t speak for all venue owners or booking agents, but below you’ll find my top five eye-twitch-inducing booking inquiry mistakes. Bands, artists, promoters, and anyone looking to reserve a date at any venue: please avoid these easily avoidable (and very annoying) mistakes!

1. The ambiguous email

This is the one I’m most perplexed by. “Do you have any dates next month I want to book my band.” Yes, it’s often a run-on sentence. And no, these people don’t say when, who they are, what the lineup might be, or anything else. No information, no questions – pretty much nothing.

As I’ve written before, the bare necessities of a booking inquiry are:

  • Information about your band: Music is a minimum, but sending an EPK is even better.
  • Event details: Who else will play? How much do you hope to charge?
  • Suggested dates: Have a few in mind in case the one you want is already reserved.

2. Arguing about price

MegaphoneIf you’re looking to charge $10 at the door and the venue owner says that’s too much, please heed his or her advice. Make your case, by all means, but don’t forget that the owners or designated booking agents know the venue better than anyone. And don’t get snippy about it.

3. Promoting without confirming the date

Avert wasting time and money on promo you can’t use by first being absolutely, 100 percent sure that your date is reserved. Sometimes scheduling gets stalled – maybe the venue owner is busy, and your inquiry’s now buried in the second page of his or her inbox. Take the time to double-check that your show’s been approved before creating a Facebook event, designing flyers, or beginning any other aspect of promotion.

4. Failing to follow through

If a venue owner or booking agent has to follow up about the flyers or lineup details you promised to send weeks ago, they’re not going to be happy. Keep a band calendar – the easily shareable one Google offers is pretty perfect – and stay on task with booking from start to finish.

5. The Facebook message

This doesn’t apply to every venue, but we discourage interested parties from sending Facebook messages to the Club 77 page. They’re hard to keep up with, as we’re also receiving other questions there about who’s performing, age requirements, and what time the kitchen closes. Our email account is for booking and business, and our “about” section on Facebook plainly directs inquiries there. Still, we get Facebook messages about booking every single day. Ooph

Get more expert advice on booking gigs:

Want to email your electronic press kit in a professional, seamless package to any industry contact? With the click of a button, you can now follow up with your contacts, manage your own tour or press outreach, and gauge interest in your EPK through Sonicbids. Learn more.


Jhoni Jackson is an Atlanta-bred music journalist currently based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she juggles owning a venue called Club 77, freelance writing and, of course, going to the beach as often as possible.

Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe Is Now a Ballet Composer

It’s not often that the lead singer of a heavy metal band that Rolling Stone described as “too brutal for thrash” would provide the score for a ballet, but Lamb of God frontman Randy Blythe is defying expectations by contributing music to a friend’s dance project. Blythe and Matthew Frain, a member of the Richmond Ballet in Richmond, Virginia, have teamed up for Inventory, a short piece scheduled to debut at the city’s dance festival on March 22nd.

“[Frain] asked me if he could use some [preexisting music] and I said, ‘Sure, but why don’t we just conceptualize a piece from the ground up, together,’” Blythe told Richmond magazine (via The Guardian). “Artistically, I don’t live in some heavy metal cave — most of my favorite frontmen all work in various disciplines — Nick Cave, Henry Rollins, David Yow; these are men whose musical work I admire and respect. These guys have made some of the most original and caustic tunes in the history of music, but they also have produced some really beautiful art and literature. Those are the types of artistic role models I look to for inspiration — they stay busy and work hard.”

As evidenced by Inventory‘s trailer, Blythe – here credited as D. Randall Blythe – relies on drones and sparse piano notes to create an ambience that recalls Lamb of God’s sense of dread without ratcheting up the volume. Blythe admitted to Richmond that he is a fan of ballet – he recently attended a staging of The Nutcracker with his wife and parents – and that he had to learn the terms of the art form while collaborating on the score.

“Once the ballet starts, our work is done, and our ‘baby’ is out of our hands into the world to live on its own. As an artist, it’s quite amazing to witness,” Blythe said, later adding, “I guess some fans of my band or metal music in general might be surprised, because they only know me as a two-dimensional cartoon-character-like screaming frontman of a metal band.”

Amanda Palmer’s Patreon Supporters Pledge $20,000 “Per Thing” In Less Than 48 Hours

Grateful Dead Members, More Booked for Jerry Garcia Tribute Show

Before the Grateful Dead reunite for their three-night farewell stand in Chicago this July, its four surviving members — Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Bob Weir and Phil Lesh — and a number of special guests will pay tribute to Jerry Garcia at a special gig at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland on May 14th.

Dubbed “Dear Jerry: Celebrating The Music of Jerry Garcia,” the show will feature performances from Lesh’s outfit Communion, Kreutzmann’s Billy and the Kids, Bruce Hornsby, Eric Church, Buddy Miller, David Grisman, Greensky Bluegrass, Moe., Los Lobos, O.A.R., Railroad Earth, Widespread Panic, the Disco Biscuits, Yonder Mountain String Band, Trampled By Turtles, Jimmy Cliff, Jorma Kaukonen, Stu Allen, Grahame Lesh, Ross James, Alex Koford and Jason Crosby. Additional performers will be announced in the coming weeks.

Famed musician Don Was will serve as the show’s music director and lead the official backing band. The “Dear Jerry” concert will also be filmed, with plans to release a movie digitally and through traditional outlets in the future.

“Jerry gave his heart, soul, and music to his band mates, fellow musicians, and to millions of fans around the world,” Keith Wortman, the show’s creator and executive producer, said in a statement. “Whether playing in the Grateful Dead, his acoustic and bluegrass bands or his beloved Jerry Garcia Band, his songs made us happy just to be alive.”

Tickets go on sale Friday, March 13th at noon ET via Ticketfly. Tickets can also be purchased in person at the Merriweather Post Pavilion box office or at the 9:30 Club box office in Washington D.C.

A few months after “Dear Jerry,” the Dead will celebrate their 50th anniversary by playing their final three shows together at Chicago’s Soldier Field from July 3rd to 5th. For these “Fare Thee Well” shows, Lesh, Weir, Kreutzmann and Hart will be joined by Hornsby on piano, Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti. 

Musicians: Show Them Better Than You Tell Them

ThIn the digital age, it can be very easy to fall into the world of promotion through social media only. But have we lost our roots and forgot to deal with people in the real world?

We live in a world where everything is shared in real time. For musicians trying to get their name out there, most people today would say to start their promotion across social media networks. While this is a great (and necessary) start, have we forgotten to also do the basics of promotion? Have we neglected the small practices that are tried and true to get exposure even in the age where we are all so wired? Paina B seems to think so, and shares in this article a few ways to get back to the basics in promoting your music.

While social media a great tool, there is nothing better than having a special and personal connection with your fans. This means doing many live events and appearances. Find places where your fans frequent and make a surprise appearance. Play for a few talent showcases to get exposure to a new set of fans. Do not forget that there is a real world where people are just as eager to hear new bands and become their newest fans. To check out Paina’s article, check it out on

“You can’t rely solely on social media to be successful at building your brand, although it is necessary in the process. You want to get in front of an audience as much as possible. Show that not only can you deliver on an mp3; you can deliver a grand performance. Allow the listeners to introduce their followers to
your music by tweeting, posting pics/videos of your performance.”

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