This week saw three major developments in the digital music marketplace. First is the acquisition of music data and recommendation company the Echo Nest by streaming music giant Spotify. Second is the purchase of artist-focused commerce platform Topspin by new streaming entrant Beats Music. Last but not least is the announcement of a big cash influx for Audiam, a service collecting artist and rightsholder money on YouTube. Let’s take a look at what each of these announcements might mean for musicians and composers.
Spotify appears to be doubling down on data with its acquisition of the Echo Nest. Music Industry Blog gets into the details about why Spotify would want to beef up its data and recommendation capabilities. (Spoiler: it may have do with arrival of competitor Beats Music, which includes human curation—in addition to algorithmic recommendation—in its special sauce.) A huge question facing music-tech geeks is whether the Echo Nest will retain its relatively open application programming interface (API) now that it’s owned by a company for whom proprietary data is a key to growth. On the other hand, the acquisition may be more about Spotify utilizing the data expertise of the Echo Nest to make better sense of the information it already collects. It’s likely that this move will impact consumers and developers first, artists second. But since the tech world is now so closely intertwined with the creative sector, any and all outcomes will be watched closely.
Many artists—including some of us at FMC—are familiar with Topspin, a service that offers customizable point-of-commerce technologies for musicians (and labels). Founded by current Beats Music CEO Ian Rogers, Topspin has faced some difficulties in growing its userbase, but it still gets plenty of love from artists who use it to sell music, merch, concert tickets and pretty much anything else online. (There are open source alternatives like CASH Music that are also kicking ass on the tools-for-artists front.) An interesting aspect about Beats buying Topspin is that e-commerce is among the things we’ve said could improve the value proposition for artists on streaming services. One thing we do wonder, however, is what’s to become of the relatively new partnership between Spotify and Topspin to help musicians sell tickets and merch at no additional cost. Reports suggest no immediate change. Still, in a highly competitive marketplace for streaming, differentiation between services is key—why would Beats allow Spotify to use the same platform in its Spotify for Artists program? It’s early days for the integration of e-commerce and streaming on-demand music, and we’ll be monitoring devlopments.
Audiam is a company established in 2013 to collect and distribute royalties to artists, labels and music publishers for certain uses on YouTube. The company is the brainchild of former TuneCore founder Jeff Price, who has a great deal of experience with digital distribution and rightsholder compensation. Audiam is part database, part royalty engine, helping artists and rightsholders monetize user-uploaded videos that include their music. On March 4, Audiam announced that it had received 2 million dollars in funding from artists and industry figures Jason Mraz, Jimmy Buffet, Brad Gurewitz (Epitaph Records/Bad Religion) and promoter/manager Bill Silva, among others. Audiam has grown quickly and now includes a catalog of 10,000 songs, including works written or performed by Dolly Parton, Pink Floyd, Daft Punk, NWA, Magnetic Fields, Elvis Presley, Tori Amos, Superchunk, Herbie Hancock, Pretty Lights, Puscifer, Kayne West, 50 Cent, Aimee Mann, Grizzly Bear, Paul McCartney and more. Given that YouTube has become the world’s biggest platform for music, it makes sense that new services would arise to help collect and distribute money for specific uses. We’ll be keeping our eyes on where this all goes.