Category Archives: Hustlenomics

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the following statement saying “The Songwriter Equity Act represents an important first step toward updating an outdated music licensing system that treats songwriters differently than other copyright owners and prevents us from earning a fair market royalty rate when our music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.

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


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.

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

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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UPDATE: Jay Z’s Bid To Buy Aspiro’s WiMP & Tidal Music Services Is Not Dead Yet

image from[UPDATED] Jay Z’s bid to buy a pair of Scandinavian based streaming music services for $56 million has hit a snag  as 10% of shareholders demand a better deal.

Jay ZAs we reported a week ago, a group of 120 Aspiro shareholders have banned together to challenge Jay Z’s $56 million bid to buy streaming music services WiMP and Tidal. “A consistent view of all registered shareholders is that they believe that the bid is bad and not sufficiently value the company’s potential,” the shareholders said in a statement.

Because the group represents 10% of all shareholders, Jay Z must now reframe his bid and purchase just 90% of the company, improve his bid to all shareholders, or withdraw the offer entirely.

“The bidder has not reacted, either by withdrawing the bid, raising the offer or lowering” the percentage sought, the Swedish Shareholders’ Association said in a statement.


Jay Z’s bid to buy Aspiro is still very much alive according to Fredrik Bjørland, the chairman of the Aspiro’s independent board committee, who said in this statement released via TNW.

“As you probably know, the independent board committee has made a thorough evaluation of the bid from Project Panther, assisted by an external fairness opinion by ABG Sundal Collier and following a structured process. We still believe the offer is attractive for both the company and its shareholders, and recommend the offer based on this.

We further note that Aktiespararna’s recommendation to not accept the offer is primarily based on an argument that more than 10% will reject the offer and a potentially raised bid by Project Panther. This is a bit surprising, as to my experience, we have neither a confirmation that more than 10% will reject the offer (as we are still within the acceptance period until March 11th) nor that Project Panther is willing to raise its bid or engage in direct negotiations with the minority shareholders.

In my opinion, the recommendation to not accept the offer involves high risk, as it is well known that Aspiro is currently unprofitable and in need of capital within 12 months, and the current majority shareholder has indicated it is not willing to support this capital need. We thus believe accepting a 60% bid premium is a far better risk/reward recommendation.”

Organizing A Reddit AMA For Your Band – Ditto Music Shares Why And How

UrlDitto Music’s social media team have worked on projects for brands like Starbucks and musicians like American Aquarium and Louisa Wendorff, who recently hit number 1 on Billboard Heatseekers.

Guest Post by Marilee Chang

With a Music Subreddit of over six million subscribers, Reddit’s “Ask Me Anything” interviews are a great way of interacting with fans, getting exposure and gaining new fans. They are essentially Q&A sessions where anyone can literally ask anything, and where the band hosting the AMA can engage with a wide audience as well as use that platform to make announcements, share links to their music and dish out interesting information about themselves. 

There are a few things to know about how the AMAs work: 

One a day: Reddit has a few AMA guidelines, and some of the subreddits, like the Music one, have their own as well. There can only be one AMA on the Music subreddit everyday, to make sure that each one gets the right amount of exposure and doesn’t take away from another one. The Reddit staff are very accommodating – you can reach out to them directly at to let them know that your AMA is taking place and to get any extra pointers!

Sufficient time: Each AMA needs to last a minimum of one hour. This ensures the band has time to answer as many questions as possible – feel free to stay on longer though if you have the time!

Variety: Make sure you are answering a wide variety of questions, not just the ones about your upcoming tour. People have the freedom of asking you literally anything – and the more questions you answer, the more people will take an interest in your band. 

Authenticity: Bands need to host the AMA themselves. This means there can be no posting on behalf of someone, so no asking your agent/social media savvy sister to do it for you. And please don’t use pre-written answers for interviews that you’ve been a part of previously; the whole point of hosting an AMA is to answer questions in real time, and make yourselves genuinely available to fans. 

Details: Try to keep your answers detailed and interesting. This makes it far more entertaining for redditors taking part in your AMA and it gives that extra human touch that fans will be looking for.  AMAtweet

We helped American Aquarium to prepare for their Reddit AMA, which attracted over 200 comments in just one hour. They were voted Hardest Working Band in 2014, and hosting that AMA helped them reach out to a whole new audience. We can organise AMA sessions for our PR clients, creating graphics, establishing a connection for them with Reddit, and making sure the information gets out there as much as possible. Just take a look at that tweet following the announcement of American Aquarium doing their AMA – as we said before, AMAs are a GREAT way of getting exposure.