BitTorrent talks Thom Yorke: ‘Major labels have given up on selling music’

September 29, 2014

Stuart Dredge 09/26/14

BitTorrent’s Matt Mason: ‘Thom and Nigel took the time to understand who we were’ Thom Yorke: He ‘took the time to understand who we were’, said BitTorrent chief content officer Matt Mason Photograph: Gary Miller/FilmMagic

Thom Yorke is no stranger to making waves in the digital music world, from the pay-what-you-like release of Radiohead’s In Rainbows in 2007, to his fierce criticism of Spotify in 2013, and now the release of his new solo album Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes through a partnership with BitTorrent.

Matt Mason is the chief content officer at BitTorrent, and the driving force behind the company’s “Bundles” initiative, which gets musicians, filmmakers, authors and other creators to release their work packaged up as torrent files, with fans unlocking the full contents usually by entering their email address.

Kaskade, DJ Shadow, Moby, De La Soul, Pixies and Public Enemy are among the artists who have tried it, but Yorke is the first to use a new “pay-gate” feature. Instead of exchanging an email address for his album, fans pay $6 (£3.68). Mason talked to The Guardian about how the partnership came about.

“We started talking to Thom and Nigel [Godrich - Yorke’s collaborator and producer] about a year ago. I met Nigel on Christmas Eve just gone in London. We didn’t think they were doing anything: they’d just had a year off,” said Mason.

“We met up and talked about BitTorrent: where the internet should be going for artists, where they saw the opportunities and problems today, and one of those conversations got onto the idea of pay-gates in BitTorrent bundles. And Thom wanted to be the first.”

Mason says that he can’t think of a better musician to work with, given Yorke’s history with In Rainbows – a giveaway he says artists have struggled to repeat at a similar scale, at least until U2’s recent iTunes giveway (more on that later).

“This is now what we hope is the world’s first direct-to-fan publishing system that truly has a global audience,” he said, referring to the 170m active users of BitTorrent’s file-sharing software. “It’s the size of Spotify, Hulu and Netflix combined and doubled.”

Initially, Yorke and Godrich thought they had enough new material for a new EP, but when Mason met their managers Brian Message and Chris Hufford at the SXSW conference in March, they sprang a surprise: there’d be a full album

“This album was born out of these conversations we had on how the internet should work for artists: the vision we both share, which is that at present we don’t have a sustainable business model for artists on the internet,” said Mason.

“Major labels have really given up on selling music, it seems. Pushing Spotify to an IPO is what most of the senior executives at the major labels are concerned with, which might be something to do with the fact that they own a piece of Spotify, and will participate in that IPO. But it doesn’t bear any relation to an artist trying to make a living from their work on the internet.”

BitTorrent may be associated – especially by many people in the music industry – with online piracy, through the numerous filesharing services that use the company’s technology. But right now, the company is defining itself in opposition to Spotify and other streaming music services. An intriguing development.

“We’re not interested in streaming for the sake of lining the pockets of a few people at major labels. We’re interested in helping artists make money from their work in the long term. We’re designed to be used by artists without a label, or for labels to use with their entire catalogues,” said Mason.

“We’re a technology company, we’re really good at moving files. We’re not so great at being a label, a film studio or a book publisher. So we’re trying to make something that works for individuals, labels and aggregate publishers. I’m not trying to bash the people at the labels, but it does seem like the senior executives at the majors have said ‘we give up, let’s just make some money on the Spotify IPO, then go home and let the next generation sort it out.”

Since Yorke’s album was unleashed earlier today, I’ve seen two key criticisms voiced in my Twitter feed from people within the music industry. The first is why didn’t Yorke and Godrich work with another service – Bandcamp is the one mentioned most often – which can help them in their aim of “bypassing the self elected gate-keepers”?

“We love Bandcamp. If you want the main difference between us, it’s that we have over 170m users we can put bundles in front of. Over 40m people who use BitTorrent every day will see this. It’s a massive, massive user base,” said Mason.

The second criticism, which has been voiced regularly ever since BitTorrent started work on its bundles initiative, is that when a famous artist releases one, they’re teaching their fans to pirate music, because getting a bundle involves downloading BitTorrent’s software client.

Mason gives the question short shrift. “Should we blame Apple for selling you a laptop? Why not attack the guy who invented streaming or HTTP? People misunderstand BitTorrent and think it’s something just for piracy,” he said.

“If you look at BitTorrent, the stuff you’ll be offered in BitTorrent and uTorrent, our clients… If you’re just using our websites and products, there’s literally no way to get any illegal material. That’s not what they’re designed for.

“They point you to – aggressively I might add – licensed, legal pieces of content. We’ve got over 2m licensed pieces of legal content – music, films, photography, books – in the BitTorrent system. And pay-gates is about helping publishers put more stuff on BitTorrent legally.”

Inevitably, Yorke’s new album is already available on other torrent services as regular MP3 files, without a pay-gate in sight. Mason brought this up before I could, pointing out that the legitimate bundle “has a much larger swarm than any of the illegal versions – that’s huge for the industry”.

But about U2. The band opted to strike a deal with Apple to distribute their new album to every iTunes user, including – via the automatic downloads feature that a number of iOS users have turned on – pushing it to their iPhones and iPads.

Could or should they have talked to BitTorrent? By this point in the interview, Mason is on something of a roll.

“It’s interesting, the whole U2 thing. I’m an iPhone user, and I’m so pissed off that thing’s on my phone. I haven’t had time to delete it yet, but Apple’s removal website is probably the best thing that a technology company released in terms of a music product this year,” he said. “It’s been a pretty miserable time for innovation.”

He continued: “If that’s our best thinking – get the biggest band in the world to push something onto phones that everyone hates… The U2 thing is a way to encourage piracy more than anything we’re doing. Pissing off half a billion people is a really bad idea,” he continued.

“I don’t understand why you’d do that, if you don’t care about the result and the effect it has on other bands and musicians. With Thom and Nigel, every step of the way they kept asking ‘is this feature you’re putting up for us something everybody can use?’ They held our feet to the flames in building a better product for everyone.”

At the time of writing, Yorke’s BitTorrent bundle has been downloaded just over 54,000 times, according to the figure shown on its widget that can be embedded on websites. Over the coming days and weeks, as it’s downloaded and shared on, that will likely climb – Moby’s BitTorrent bundle was downloaded 8.9m times in 2013, as a comparison.

Mason said BitTorrent is already planning its next partnerships with artists. “There’s a group of people in the music industry really thinking about the collective future of the business, and how we can all work together,” he said.

“It shouldn’t be about ‘how can I make the most money right now?’ and screw the fans. That’s what I didn’t like about the U2 thing: it felt like that, which isn’t productive. Thom and Nigel took the time to understand who we were, and once they did, they made sure we worked our arses off to build a brilliant product.”

Why Led Zeppelin, Billy Joel and Dylan Now Readily Sell Their Songs to Brands

September 26, 2014

Easy money, new audience appeal to classic rockers

By Andrew McMains 9/22/14

When Led Zeppelin licensed “Rock and Roll” to Cadillac for its “Break Through” spot in 2002, it was a huge coup for the carmaker, as the band had never let a marketer use one of its songs before. Fast-forward to 2014 and the group has licensed two songs—to Activision and Dior Homme—in just 12 months.

Similarly, other classic rockers with boomer appeal, including Billy Joel and Bob Dylan, are now liberally licensing songs to marketers after decades of holding out, and there’s even talk of Prince following suit. And while such longtime holdouts remain picky about the brands they deal with, clearly any philosophical barrier around “selling out” has been shattered.

The simple reason is that there’s big money to be made as traditional sources of revenue have dried up. In short, music sales are down, MTV has abandoned videos and radio is dominated by a handful of mega-pop stars. So, particularly for nontouring bands like Zeppelin, advertising has become a welcome cash cow. “Advertising has become the new MTV in a lot of ways for artists, bands to get their music out there and actually get paid for it,” explained Paul Greco, JWT’s director of music and radio.

Depending on the popularity of a song and how long it’s used, the payday ranges from tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to more than $1 million for the most coveted songs from the biggest names, including The Beatles (whose “Revolution” cost Nike $500,000 way back in 1987), per agency music directors.

For big acts like Zeppelin, “it has got to be a big money deal. Otherwise they don’t do it,” said Josh Rabinowitz, director of music at Grey.

Beyond cash grabbing, licensing deals introduce old music to younger generations, thereby expanding a band’s audience for music and ticket sales. “Obviously, they’re making money, but it’s also putting [songs] back out there for a new audience,” said Melissa Chester, an executive music producer at BBDO. “It’s next-gen, and they don’t want to be out of it.”

Finally, there’s transactional appeal, as ad placements can cross-promote the launch of a tour or rerelease of classic albums, as Zeppelin is doing now. tt-rock-music-01-2014

85 Percent of Music Sales in Japan are CDs

September 21, 2014

Hugh McIntyre 9/21/14
It’s a well known fact that CD sales have been going down, and fast, for some time now. Ever since people got the internet in their homes and learned what it could do, the downfall of the physical disc has been on it’s way, whether it be by piracy or iTunes. However, it appears that in an increasingly digital business, there is one place in the world where the physical still reigns supreme.

Japan, the world’s second largest music market, is completely obsessed with CDs. In fact, of all music sales in the country, 85% are CDs, whereas in other countries, digital is the leader, or in progressive spots where streaming has now taken over, such as Sweden. If that wasn’t enough of a surprise, digital sales in the country have actually been receding for years now, which is the opposite for much of the world (though not for the US, where digital sales dropped for the first time ever this past year). In fact, while online sales reached $1 billion in 2009, just four years later they raked in only $400 million—a massive fall in such a short time frame.

While it’s odd seeing almost anyone buying a compact disc these days, it is particularly strange that Japan would be leading the world in CD sales, as they are typically an early adopter when it comes to new technology. The country is often years ahead of other markets when it comes to new phones, computers, and the like.

The New York Times reports that there are perhaps two main reasons why this phenomenon is happening: a “protectionist business climate” in the music industry and a cultural love of collecting things.

The Japanese public seems to be wary of digital sales when it comes to music, and it’s hard to say completely why. It may stem from a lack of options in the sphere, which are being held back by big businesses. Not only is rights management very confusing in the country, making licensing deals difficult, but companies also aren’t too worried about venturing into the digital space at the moment. Spotify and Rdio, two of the biggest streaming options in the world, don’t have a presence in the country yet.

In countries like the US, the move to selling music digitally happened out of necessity. That’s where people had gone to find their music for free, and it was seen as the only hope for an industry bleeding profits. In Japan however, while CD sales are declining, they aren’t going down anywhere near as fast as they did elsewhere, and they still bring in big bucks.

On top of that, the Japanese have a true love of collecting things, and this can help spur sales. Many stores and artists run promotions that encourage fans to buy more than one copy of an album, such as including tickets or special artwork. Deluxe editions and greatest hits do especially well in Japan, compared to the US where they usually only convince a few die hards to spend the extra money.

Tower Records, one of many mighty CD store chains that disappeared as digital grew, is still alive and well in Japan, with all locations bringing in a combined $500 million in sales a year. In fact, when the brand filed for bankruptcy and went out of business in the US in 2006, there were 89 locations. In Japan, there are still 85 in business, and no end in sight.

CDs may be on their way out, but they aren’t dead yet. The discs still account for 41% of recorded music sales around the world, which total around $15 billion. Like vinyl, there may always be a subset of the market that wants what only CDs can offer: a plastic case, a disc, and a booklet to go with their music.

Who buys music in 2014?

September 21, 2014


CD-Loving Japan Resists Move to Online Music

September 17, 2014


TOKYO — Around the world, the music business has shifted toward downloads and streaming. But in Japan, the compact disc is still king.

On a drizzly Sunday afternoon recently, Tower Records’ nine-level flagship store here was packed with customers like Kimiaki Koinuma. A 23-year-old engineer in a Dee Dee Ramone T-shirt, Mr. Koinuma said that, unlike most men his age around the world, he spends little time with digital services and prefers his music on disc.

“I buy around three CDs a month,” he said, showing off a haul of six new albums, including the Rolling Stones’ classic “Exile on Main St.” and an assortment of the latest Japanese pop hits.

Japan may be one of the world’s perennial early adopters of new technologies, but its continuing attachment to the CD puts it sharply at odds with the rest of the global music industry. While CD sales are falling worldwide, including in Japan, they still account for about 85 percent of sales here, compared with as little as 20 percent in some countries, like Sweden, where online streaming is dominant.

Kimiaki Koinuma, an engineer, with CDs he bought at Tower Records in Tokyo. “I buy around three CDs a month,” he said. Credit Hiroyuki Ito for The New York Times
“Japan is utterly, totally unique,” said Lucian Grainge, the chairman of the Universal Music Group, the world’s largest music conglomerate.

That uniqueness has the rest of the music business worried. Despite its robust CD market, sales in Japan — the world’s second-largest music market, after the United States — have been sliding for a decade, and last year they dropped 17 percent, dragging worldwide results down 3.9 percent.

Digital sales — rising in every other top market — are quickly eroding in Japan, going from almost $1 billion in 2009 to just $400 million last year, according to the Recording Industry Association of Japan.

Turning Japan around has become a priority for the global music business, which has struggled to regain its footing after losing about half its value since 2000, when digital technology began to disrupt the album-based business model.

But accomplishing change has been difficult, according to analysts and music executives in Japan and the West, in part because of a protectionist business climate in Japan that still views the digital business with suspicion.

Streaming music services like Spotify and Rdio, widely seen as the industry’s best new hope for new revenue, have stalled in efforts to enter Japan. Spotify, the biggest such player, has been stuck for two years in licensing negotiations with music companies in Japan, where homegrown pop idols by far outsell Western acts.

Ken Parks, Spotify’s chief content officer, said he was optimistic about his company’s prospects, and noted that the negotiating process was slow wherever it went. Spotify, which has more than 10 million customers in 57 markets around the world, negotiated with labels for almost two years before it arrived in the United States in 2011, for example.

“When the decision makers finally feel that the heat is intense enough that they have to do something different, they will,” Mr. Parks said. “I think we are approaching that moment in Japan.”
Others have doubts, pointing to the Japanese market’s devotion to the CD, which remains a primary source of revenue for record labels in the country, and an indispensable promotional tool.

Peculiarities of Japan’s business climate have shaped its attachment to the CD, but cultural factors may also be at play, like Japanese consumers’ love for collectible goods. Greatest hits albums, for example, do particularly well in Japan, perhaps because of the elaborate, artist-focused packaging. The hugely popular girl group AKB48 pioneered the sale of CDs containing tickets that can be redeemed for access to live events — a strategy credited with propping up CD sales, because it can lead the biggest fans to buy multiple copies of an album.

Tower Records closed its 89 American outlets in 2006, but the Japanese branch of the chain — controlled by NTT DoCoMo, Japan’s largest phone carrier — still has 85 outlets, doing $500 million in business a year.

At Tower’s flagship store, in the heart of the skyscraper-lined shopping district of Shibuya, a group of preteen girls called Kokepiyo performed for fans and autographed CDs one afternoon last month, while their mother-managers watched protectively. Outside, an 18-year-old student who gave her name as Yuria had come to Tower to see her favorite band, the Lotus. She carried a bag full of merchandise she had bought at the store, and said that she frequently buys multiple collectible copies of CDs.

“Each store has its own freebies to give away to sell more CDs,” Yuria said. “So it all depends on how good they are.”

In the United States, digital sales have long since overtaken physical ones. But CDs still account for 41 percent of the $15 billion recorded music market worldwide, and, in addition to Japan, some big markets like Germany remain reliant on CD sales. That attachment worries some analysts, who contend that if those countries do not embrace online music, an inevitable decline in CD sales will further damage the industry.

“If Japan sneezes and Germany catches a cold, that’s it — we’re done,” said Alice Enders, a media analyst with Enders Analysis in London.

A distinctive business ecosystem in Japan has kept CD sales lucrative for music companies. Pricing restrictions on retailers keep the cost of most new CDs at more than $20. In the mid-2000s, a nascent download service, Recochoku, was tethered to Japan’s expansive cellphone market, but that system collapsed once the country moved on to smartphones like the iPhone.

Part of the problem, executives say, is the complex array of companies that control rights to the most popular music in Japan, which have been very slow to license new services.

Sony’s Music Unlimited, for example, is the largest available streaming service in Japan, but it lacks the most popular hits there. (Sony declines to say how many subscribers it has to Music Unlimited, in Japan or elsewhere.) Apple’s iTunes store arrived in Japan in 2005, but only in 2012 did it begin to sell the Japanese music titles of its hardware rival Sony.

Executives in Japan and the West blame an overly cautious Japanese music industry for not adapting, and serious worries remain about Japan’s ability to recover from its losses last year.

“A substantial amount of senior management is worried about what happens on their watch, but not necessarily worried about what happens after that,” Shigeo Maruyama, the former president of Sony Music Entertainment Japan, said in an interview.

This year, things in Japan are looking slightly better. In 2013, there were no million-selling albums, but this year there have been two: a Japanese version of Disney’s “Frozen” soundtrack and the latest release by AKB48. Yet in the first half of the year sales were still down an additional 3 percent compared with a year earlier.

“The Japanese record companies’ hope is to maintain the current size of the physical market, and to try to make the digital market grow again by licensing new digital services,” said Yoichiro Hata a director of the Recording Industry Association of Japan.

For the rest of the struggling global recording industry, that growth cannot come soon enough.

“It’s inevitable that this market comes back to growth,” said Mr. Grainge, of Universal. “What I’m not going to predict is when.”

15 Innovative Album Releases That Shook the Music Industry

September 15, 2014

From Radiohead’s payment scheme to Beyoncé’s midnight surprise, the most unusual drops in recent history
By Daniel Kreps Rolling Stone 9/09/14

Album releases can be a monotonous pattern of press releases, cookie-cutter Q&As and by-the-books song premieres. Or they can be industry-stunning moments that show an artist’s creative powers go beyond the music studio. As the biz has changed in the digital era, so has the art of album promotion, and doing something unique and retweetable is often more powerful than a page-one interview. Here’s a look back at 15 of the most innovative, game-changing releases ever — from midnight sales to surprise freebies to alternate-reality games.

GnR (1991)
Four years. That’s how long Guns N’ Roses made fans wait for the follow-up to Appetite for Destruction. When GN’R finally finished their new LP, it was revealed that they had two albums worth of material. But instead of releasing Use Your Illusion as a standard double-disc set, Axl Rose and Co. opted to split up the albums as Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II. As the release date drew near, fans couldn’t wait one minute longer to buy it, lining up outside music shops starting on Monday, September 16th, 1991 in order to get a copy, even though the album was due out Tuesday — making the Use Your Illusions one of the earliest and most high-profile midnight releases. As the Los Angeles Times wrote in 1991, over 1,000 record stores nationwide stayed open until midnight so they could get a jump on the September 17th release date. Geffen estimated that nearly 500,000 copies of the albums were sold by Tuesday morning.

U2 (2004)
In 2004, Apple wasn’t the music industry force it is today. The iPod and iTunes were still in its infancy, and MP3s still weren’t quite as popular as CDs. In an effort to tip the scales toward the digital side, Apple teamed with the biggest rock band on the planet, U2. With Bono and Co. ready to release 2004’s How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, they teamed with the tech giant for a commercial that made memorable use of the single “Vertigo.” Next, Apple crafted limited edition iPods that came stocked with the entire U2 discography, which included unreleased songs, laser-engraved autographs and, of course, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. A decade later, Apple and U2 reteamed again for the surprise release of Songs of Innocence.

Nine Inch Nails (2007)

While the lead-up to a new album’s release is often just a parade of press releases and song premieres, Trent Reznor turned promotion into an immersive, addictive alternate reality game. It all started with a portable USB flash drive in a Lisbon, Spain concert venue’s bathroom. Nine Inch Nails performed at the venue that night, and the USB ended up containing a new NIN song as well as a clue that would unlock a massive Internet-based universe that revolved around the band’s upcoming new album Year Zero. Reznor and game creators 42 Entertainment crafted a dystopian online world and riveting storyline that helped spread the word of Year Zero’s arrival in an innovative way no press release could ever match. The alternate reality game was such a hit, HBO even considered turning it into a TV drama, though those plans have since stalled.

Radiohead (2007)

Radiohead fans waited four years for the band to follow up their 2003 disc Hail to the Thief, but a post on the band’s Dead Air Space site changed all that in an instant. “Hello everyone. Well, the new album is finished, and it’s coming out in 10 days,” guitarist Jonny Greenwood wrote. “We’ve called it In Rainbows.” Finally free from their longtime record deal with Parlophone and Capitol, Radiohead would forever change the music industry by offering up their new album to fans with a “pay what you want” option. While there was extra incentive for hardcore fans to shell out cash, if the casual fan wanted to pay nothing, it was theirs as a free digital download. The experiment worked: The band is on record as saying they made more money from In Rainbows than any of their other albums. Plus, when the album arrived on compact disc in January 2008, it still topped the Billboard 200.

The White Stripes (2008)

As a member of the White Stripes, Jack White had gone to great lengths to keep his new albums from leaking before release date. When the Stripes sent out promos of Elephant to critics, it was in vinyl form only, making digitizing the albums almost impossible. With his side project the Raconteurs, White concocted another plan: Announce second album Consolers of the Lonely only a week before it would hit shelves, which would handcuff critics and illegal downloaders. Unfortunately for White, Rolling Stone uncovered his scheme when listings for Consolers of the Lonely started popping up unexplained in music stores’ inventory listings. When the band begrudgingly announced the album a few days earlier than planned, iTunes accidentally made the album available before street date, totally crushing White’s intentions in the process.

Nine Inch Nails (2008)

The In Rainbows pay-what-you-want scheme changed the way established, veteran artists could economically navigate in the music industry, and Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor, fresh off his Interscope contract, was eager to “pull a Radiohead” and test the waters. Just over a year after Year Zero, Reznor self-released Ghosts I-IV, a collection of instrumental recordings. While a portion of the four-part, 36-song album was made available for free, Reznor toyed with different pricing plans to reflect different physical formats or better digital file quality. Like In Rainbows, the self-release was a massive success for Reznor, so much so that he gave away NIN’s album The Slip four months later as a free download to thank fans. “This one’s on me,” Reznor wrote.

Smashing Pumpkins (2009)

Billy Corgan is well known for being prolific, but here’s one instance where he grasped beyond his reach. When Smashing Pumpkins announced their 44-song Teargarden by Kaleidyscope, it sounded impossibly ambitious. Corgan and his revolving door of Pumpkins would record a song and then promptly offer it as a free download or – for the diehards – a limited edition EP. The project held Corgan’s attention for 10 songs that spanned from December 2009 to May 2011 before he dropped it entirely. The following year, the Pumpkins released Oceanea, and the 13 tracks on that “album within an album” were added to the Teargarden lot… but two years later, the project remains stalled at 23 songs. Corgan has said the next two Pumpkins albums will complete the half-decade-old project, but don’t hold your breath.

Prince (2010)

Prince has always had difficulty with record labels, going as far as changing his iconic name to “The Artist” and that “Love Symbol” after falling out with Warner Bros. in the mid-Nineties. He also expressed his undying disdain for the Internet by hiring the Web Sheriff and warring with his own fan site. Operating without a record label, Prince schemed a unique way to deliver his 2010 album 20Ten, and we use the word “deliver” literally: Prince included his LP within copies of select European newspapers and magazines, like the United Kingdom’s Daily Mirror and the German Rolling Stone. In all, 2.5 million copies of 20Ten were distributed, and while the album was free of charge, it did give all the newspapers a temporary boost in circulation while also eschewing the Internet’s mercantile system. To this day, 20Ten still hasn’t been released officially stateside.

Kanye West (2010)

Kanye West recorded so much music for his 2010 epic My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy that he could have easily made the overstuffed album a mega-sized double-disc affair. However, the rapper instead opted to take those extra cuts and distribute them as a free downloads on every Friday leading up to Twisted Fantasy’s release. The weekly handout was dubbed GOOD Friday as a nod to West’s record label, and it featured some standout all-star tracks like “Chain Heavy” with Q-Tip and Consequence, “The Joy” with Jay Z and Pete Rock and “See Me Now” with Beyoncé. That’s right, Bey was relegated to a free download, that’s how much good material Kanye accumulated. In the end, all the GOOD Fridays tracks made for the perfect compliment to West’s masterpiece.

Death Grips (2012)

This is not how you impress your new record label. From the beginning, Death Grips signing with Epic Records seemed like an imperfect pairing. While the release of 2012’s The Money Tree went relatively smoothly, the abrasive and elusive duo promptly canceled a tour to promote the album in order to record their next one. The band always planned on releasing both LPs in 2012, but when Epic wanted to delay the second LP until 2013, Death Grips responded by dropping No Love Deep Web — and its ultra-explicit album cover — as a free download on October 1st. “The label will be hearing the album for the first time with you,” Death Grips tweeted at the time. After a very public war of words with Epic that featured legal briefings and leaked e-mails, the record label dropped Death Grips from its roster in November 2012.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor (2012)

Imagine going to your favorite band’s concert and then going home with an awesome album of theirs that you never knew existed. That’s the experience Godspeed You! Black Emperor fans had in Boston. It had been 10 years since the Montreal post-rock collective had released an album, but when they performed at the Orpheum Theatre on October 1st, 2012, attendees found something surprising at the merch table: A brand new LP titled Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!. And just like that, the decade-long wait for new Godspeed You! was over. Word quickly spread about the new album’s arrival, and two weeks later, Constellation Records was distributing it to the masses. Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! ended up winning the 2013 Polaris Music Prize as the Canadian album of the year.

Boards of Canada (2013)

Record Store Day is like Christmas for music fans, and in 2013 Boards of Canada delivered the best present. At only a few of the hundreds of shops participating in the event, hidden among all the other exclusive releases, were a 12-inch cardboard sleeve that simply had the words “Boards of Canada” and part of a code. When all the 12-inch vinyls were uncovered and the entire code was deciphered, it revealed that the mysterious electronic music duo would be releasing Tomorrow’s Harvest, their first full-length album in eight years, in June 2013. And those rare Record Store Day 12-inches that Boards of Canada secretly distributed? You can buy one of the six on eBay now for only $5,700.

Jay Z (2013)

Ever the entrepreneur, Jay Z devised a clever partnership to deliver his new album to (some) fans. First, there was the way Jigga revealed that his new LP Magna Carta Holy Grail was arriving: A minute-long commercial that co-starred producers Rick Rubin and Pharrell Williams that was shown during a key moment in the NBA Finals. As part of the deal, 1 million digital copies of MCHG were distributed for free to Samsung Galaxy users via a special app on July 4th, three days before the album’s wide release. While the free downloads didn’t count toward the Billboard 200, for one long July 4th weekend, everyone was crowding around someone with a Samsung.

Beyonce (2013)

This was the most shocking, industry-shaking album release since In Rainbows. On December 13th, 2013, Beyoncé’s long-awaited new album, titled simply Beyoncé, appeared in the iTunes Music Store. No press release, no big announcement, no promotional tweets. It just appeared, and it left an aftershock that could be registered on the Richter Scale. Fans knew that Bey had an LP in the works, but it was rumored to arrive in 2014, not 12 days before Christmas. Not only did Beyoncé drop an hour’s worth of new material, it was accompanied by a “visual album” that featured cinema-quality videos for each of Beyoncé’s songs. “The whole project is a celebration of the Beyoncé Philosophy, which basically boils down to the fact that Beyoncé can do anything the hell she wants to,” Rolling Stone’s Rob Sheffield wrote in his review.

Wu-Tang Clan (2014)

Thanks to Kanye West and Jay Z, hip-hop has shifted its gaze toward art galleries, and the Wu-Tang Clan are taking that to the extreme. In March 2014, Clan mastermind RZA revealed that the long-running collective had recorded a new 31-song album titled The Wu – Once Upon a Time in the Shaolin. Only one copy of the double LP would be produced, transforming the album into a singular work of art. As RZA revealed, he envisioned having The Wu tour the world’s art galleries as a special installation, allowing fans to hear the album in a museum setting before auctioning the lone copy off to the highest bidder. “Mass production and content saturation have devalued both our experience of music and our ability to establish its value,” Wu-Tang Clan said in a statement. “Industrial production and digital reproduction have failed. The intrinsic value of music has been reduced to zero. Contemporary art is worth millions by virtue of its exclusivity. This album is a piece of contemporary art.”

The Music Industry Is About To Change, And Apple And U2 Are Just The Beginning

September 14, 2014

Philip Inghelbrecht 09/12/14

Of all industry roller coasters, the music industry must be the wildest.
The last 30 years reshaped the business in a way we never could have imagined. Music as a product changed dramatically (e.g. from LPs to MP3s) and the ups and downs in worldwide sales would make the most hardened theme park visitor queasy. Nonetheless, we have yet to experience the biggest switchback on this rollercoaster ride.

The clues for what’s around the next turn lie in a sister industry — movies.
Let’s start by taking a look at the music industry. According to the IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry) revenue peaked at $38bn worldwide in 1999, collapsed down to $16 billion (2011), edged up somewhat the year after, only to fall back down again to $15 billion last year (2013). The transition from analogue to digital played an important role in all of this: it made music piracy easy for the casual music fan. Piracy is real and doesn’t need further explanation. The industry, however, makes it the scapegoat, conveniently forgetting some other (often self-inflicted) wounds.

For starters, the $38 billion peak was artificial, and not a reflection of “steady or ongoing” music purchases. In the run-up to 1999, a lot of people replaced their LPs with CDs, often buying the same album twice. What goes up (higher) must come down (faster/further). Secondly, packaging changed.

We used to buy albums, or a bundle of songs. That means that the casual fan typically ended up paying 3x to 4x more to get the few songs they really wanted. Today, we can buy tracks piecemeal, spending minimal dollars. And thirdly, record labels (still) get it wrong on pricing. Recording executives have the tendency to target diehard fans with steep prices; they misjudge the pricing elasticity of music (as David Pakman explained in a recent blog post).

It’s not inconceivable that Spotify would land 5x more paying subscribers if the price-point were $3/mo (currently set at $10/mo). A lower price point beats the inconvenience of piracy, makes it more appealing to casual fans, and potentially opens up developing countries.

I’m probably missing a few causes — and some that I mentioned could be argued. That’s not the point here. The fact is that the music industry has been suffering for 15 years, and remains fragile as it is today.

Meanwhile, the movie market blossomed from $80bn to $88bn in 2013 (source: PWC). The industry is projecting this figure to reach $100bn in the next few years to come, with growth across countries worldwide. What’s going on? Movies have gone (mostly) digital, too. And piracy is no less of an option through services like XBMC (Xbox Media Center), Popcorn Time and the plethora of Torrent services.

The key difference lies in what’s called “windowing”, i.e. the creation of exclusivities (for the exact same movie or TV show) around format, time, geography, etc., with each sold to the highest paying customer.

For example, when a movie is first released, it’s typically only available in theaters. Avid movie buffs will pay $10-$15, just to see it once. After that it becomes available on DVD (again $10, this time to own and view multiple times), then Video-On-Demand (think $4 to view over 48-hours), then pay-TV (e.g. HBO at $10/mo, with limited scheduling) and streaming (e.g. Neftlix at $8/mo, easy scheduling), eventually ending up for free (e.g. TNT, assuming you forget about the ads). I skipped and rounded a few release windows here, but it gives you the gist.

The same piece of content is sold over and over again, each time maximizing the end-user’s willingness to pay. Windows of exclusivity can last for decades and be cut across anything that allows for differentiation: format, geography, quality, etc.

Movie and TV content owners are masters at this game. In many ways, it’s a superior form of packaging and pricing, the very two things the music industry fumbled on.

But this is about to change, because on-demand music subscription services (such as Spotify, Rdio, Rhapsody, etc.) will unlock the opportunity for windowing in music.

Today, when a music track or album is released, it’s pretty much available anywhere, at the same time. There have been the occasional exceptions — for the longest time, Kid Rock would not sell on iTunes; instead he (smartly) sold bundled CDs only. In general, however, record labels fail to charge a little (or a lot) more for the artists that fans really care about.

Windowing is where they will start taking a page out of the movie/TV book. Windowing in music has become easy through the inherent streaming nature of subscription services. This means that on-demand services can buy (temporary) exclusive access to a certain artists, tracks or albums.

For example, Beyonce’s next album might be available on Spotify exclusively for the first month (Spotify would pay millions of dollars for this exclusivity). The same first-month exclusivity right can be further sliced and diced by market (for instance, Spotify in the US, Rdio in Europe and Google Play everywhere else), by format (if Deezer has the worldwide exclusive on uncompressed tracks), and so on. As content gets “older,” it becomes more widely available, possibly at a lower cost or completely free.

Continuing with the same example, after the first month, Beyonce’s album could be streamed pretty much anywhere for paying subscribers (only); free on-demand users, however, may have to wait another year or so before they get to stream it, too.

In a world where music is distributed through release windows, casual music fans will find all the music they want in a single on-demand service. They are happy to wait until the music becomes available. Avid music fans, however, may find themselves paying for two (or more) on-demand providers.

For example, while Beyonce might be available on Spotify, Jay-Z could only available on Beats. They have no choice but to pay for Spotify and Beats in order to get immediate access to both.

Ironically enough, windowing in music also plays in the hands of the subscription services, especially as it comes to acquiring customers. For one, they can’t compete on price because labels won’t let them (if you ever want to read a hysterical, albeit exaggerated, story on this, then read this blog post by Michael Robertson). Second, competing around (unique) technical features is pretty short-lived; they are either insufficiently differentiating to the consumer and/or get copied in your competitor’s next release.

Exclusive access to music, however, is the most compelling consumer argument to onboarding a new subscriber. Beats (or Apple) is rumored to have paid a whopping $100 million to be the exclusive first-month distributor of U2’s new Songs of Innocence. It’s Apple’s marketing cost for drumming up more Beats subscribers (or stealing them away from Spotify). Jimmy Iovine, a top recording executive who recently joined the Apple ranks, taught them well.

So windowing seems to be the answer to many. Paying for multiple streaming services at the same time is no more absurd than people paying for both Netflix and HBO (and a few VODs every month, on top of that). It re-establishes something that the Silicon Valley has always found hard to acknowledge: content is king.

That’s great news for the recording industry, potentially good news for the streaming services (i.e. multiple can survive and thrive at the same time), but questionable for the avid music fan. Their number one hobby is possibly getting a whole lot more expensive. However, since people are willing to part from $100+ to attend a concert, it’s probably the least of all issues.

The user experience, however, is more problematic. I simply can’t see myself switching around multiple apps and services to access my entire catalogue or music library. In the same way that Sonos let’s me “mix” multiple music services in a unified playlist, I expect new companies to address this particular issue. is one of those seemingly on the right track.

The only unknown in this for me are the artists themselves. Under the system of windowing, it’s most likely that only the bigger bands will get to partake, and even then, it’s not clear if record labels will share the surplus dollars. Let’s hope for the people who create all these beautiful sounds it’s less gloom and more bloom or boom.

‘You become an arse overnight’: the pitfalls of having a hit novelty single

September 13, 2014

We love them (for about five minutes). Then we hate them (for ever). But what do the people who made such classics as Kung Fu Fighting and the Crazy Frog think of them now?

Peter Robinson 9/11/14

In 1974, a 32-year-old Jamaican singer called Carl Douglas was hoping to release a single called I Wanna Give You My Everything. One afternoon, his label’s head of A&R announced that the single could come out as soon as it had a B-side, and asked his colleagues to sift through Douglas’s recordings for suitable candidates. He went to lunch, came back an hour later and was greeted by a defiantly absurd disco banger by the name of Kung Fu Fighting.

That executive’s response, Douglas explains today from his Hamburg home, was this: “JESUS CHRIST! This is a monster. We need a B-side for THIS. He’s going into the FUTURE!”

Carl laughs at the memory. That’s only fair: Kung Fu Fighting was released 40 years ago this month, sold 11m copies, won a Grammy, and hit No 1 on both sides of the Atlantic. Last year, the song topped the charts in China for the first time, and is one of the 50 best-selling singles of all time. It’s also the quintessential novelty single.

In 2014 novelty records continue to seduce record buyers around the world. Forty years (and one week) after Kung Fu Fighting topped the UK charts, Meghan Trainor’s quirky, doo-wop-inspired rotundity anthem All About That Bass will be released in the UK having already hit No 1 in 28 countries. Like Kung Fu Fighting and a surprising number of novelty records it is exquisitely written and produced. But just like Kung Fu Fighting and era-spanning hits from Yakety Yak and Yes! We Have No Bananas to One Pound Fish and Can We Fix It? it is, at its heart, a novelty track.

Rarely championed by media gatekeepers, novelty hits prompt a visceral, unmediated type of connection with record buyers – one that’s arguably stronger than you will find in pop’s better regarded sub-genres. But they have morphed over the decades. In pop’s early days, when audiences would come to know songs such as David Seville’s 50s hit The Witch Doctor, Napoleon XIV’s 1966 hit, They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa! (whose B-side was simply the A-side played backwards) primarily through radio broadcasts, novelty hits were frequently song-driven efforts.

By the 80s novelty hits such as seemed to come with a far greater reliance on presentation and personality – a novelty single came part and parcel with a career in light entertainment. In 2014, a track like All About That Bass has blown up – like Gangnam Style – through YouTube, where its brilliantly charismatic video is the embellishment on the song’s eccentric sonic styling.

It is a curious and perhaps heartening fact that very few novelty hits are totally worthless on a musical level. “Novelty records usually tread the knife-edge of taste,” admits producer Nick Coler, who worked on the Timelords single in 1988, and later propelled the Tweenies into the top 5. “So they’re normally considered crap, but all the biggest novelty records are generally well recorded.”

It’s certainly easy to reassess the Simpsons’ Do the Bartman when you know Michael Jackson wrote it. Equally, does William Orbit’s role in Loadsamoney (Doin’ Up the House) qualify that song for honorary Balearic classic status? More recently, does the presence of Stargate – the team behind hits for Beyoncé, Rihanna and countless others – on Ylvis’ The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?) make that song seem any less inane? Either way, Coler suggests that novelty records must tick one further box. “They normally have someone behind them who’s taking the piss,” he says, “but in a pleasant manner.”

All pop transports the listener to the point in time when they listened to it, but novelty records – obsessed as they often are with zeitgeist – can prove particularly potent portals to specific moments. The Cuban Boys’ 1999 hit Cognoscenti vs Intelligentsia was based on the hugely popular “hamster dance” song that itself proved an early viral sensation as dialup connections gave more and more families internet access, and says as much about that era as the Chainsmokers’ recent viral hit #Selfie does about 2014.

“I had this idea of a concept album chronologically sampling music from the 20th century,” remembers Cuban Boys founder John Matthews. “It would end, I decided, with the millennial No 1 – an ultra-banal, ultra-repetitive, internet-flavoured hit.” The album never materialised but Matthews did create that internet-flavoured hit – based on the hamster dance song – and found an unlikely champion in John Peel. The Cuban Boys signed to EMI, and the single made the top five.

A couple of years later Matthews teamed up with jocular rapper Daz Sampson, who’d already charted with his own version of Kung Fu Fighting, to form Rikki & Daz. They roped in Glen Campbell – “I think the extent of our UK credibility may have been slightly exaggerated to his people,” Matthews laughs – for a version of Rhinestone Cowboy. Later, they reinvented themselves as the papier mache-bonced Barndance Boys. “We hyped that Barndance Boys single to No 1 on [TV music channel] The Box by phoning up a million times,” Matthews admits. “When thousands of copies were ordered in the shops it inevitably turned out nobody wanted them, and we may have helped bankrupt Woolworths. Maybe we were dancing in the last flames of the old-school novelty hit back then, but we were still desperately trying to keep that career fire burning.”

Technology, with its endless distractions and resulting drop in shared experience, has not been kind to the brand of novelty record many cherish, or at least fail to forget. “You need the focus of a nation for a gimmicky song,” Matthews explains. “As people are so rarely looking in the same direction now I think the ability of a mass audience to recognise and enjoy novelty music has been lost.”

In the modern age, with most releases strategised to within an inch of their lives, it is cheering that novelty hits can still happen almost by accident. In 2012 Sam & the Womp, the sort of fringy act you might find pootling away in the outer reaches of the Glastonbury site, had a surprise No 1 with an absurd drum’n’bass-inspired song called Bom Bom. Radio 1, apparently on something of a whim, awarded it heavy rotation. Sam & the Womp signed to Warner Brothers Records.

“In our mind Bom Bom really wasn’t a novelty song,” admits the band’s Sam Ritchie (in pleasing Seven Degrees Of Kung Fu Fighting Separation, he’s best friends with the godson of one of Kung Fu Fighting’s co-writers). “Our original instrumental worked well, but the slightly noveltyish lyrics did bring it to life. Only in hindsight am I now seeing that it had real novelty value.”

When it came to the second single, lightning refused to strike twice. “We thought there’d be a play on Fearne Cotton’s show,” Sam remembers. “It didn’t happen, and that was it.”

Instant, widespread recognition is important in a novelty hit, but it doesn’t always pan out well. Today, Alida Swart works in the operations department at a London telecoms company, but between 1996 and 1998 she and three friends were in a girlband called Vanilla. At an early stage in Vanilla’s career their manager explained that he had bought the rights to a piece of music, which producers would then write a song over. The piece of music was Mah Nà Mah Nà, a song closely associated with the Muppets; Vanilla’s resulting 1997 single, No Way No Way, was named the 26th worst song ever by Channel 4, but was inescapable at the time.

Swart laughs off the longstanding rumour that Vanilla signed to EMI as the result of someone losing a bet, but accepts that Vanilla were launched with what was unmistakably a novelty single. “When we first heard it we just laughed,” she remembers. “Then we looked at each other. Two of us wanted to be doing R&B. But we thought: ‘We might as well do it.’” Girl Power was at its peak; they reasoned that Wannabe had itself been gimmicky. No Way No Way got to No 14 but Vanilla’s second single only managed No 36 and the band were dropped. Nonetheless, Alida looks back fondly. “People still tell me today that they remember this song,” she laughs. “It’s been nominated as the worst song of the 90s quite a few times, but at least it’s remembered.”

Decent careers have been built on less. In 1997 Steps were signed for just one single – the line-dancing cash-in atrocity 5, 6, 7, 8 – but when it sold 300,000 copies they were given another single and the rest is history, or Tragedy: they eventually sold 20m records. A few years earlier, Right Said Fred got their foot in the door in a similar way.

“If you heard the original demo of I’m Too Sexy you’d have a hernia,” declares Right Said Fred’s former label boss, Guy Holmes. “It was a rock song. I said to them, I think you need to make this danceable. The entire music business thought it was a novelty single. We went on to become two-hit wonders, then three-hit wonders. The album cost £40,000 to make. That first album sold 5m copies, along with 7m singles.”

Holmes admits that while Right Said Fred used a novelty single as a trojan horse for a more conventional band launch, one of his later signings was less artistically driven. Years later, stranded in Thailand after the 2004 tsunami and, watching television in the only part of his hotel that hadn’t been destroyed, Holmes could not ignore one particular TV ad. It featuring a rather distinctive frog. “Every five minutes there was a fucking advert for this ‘ring-ding-ding-ding-ding’ ringtone,” he recalls. “I thought: ‘That would make a great record.’” The cash from Crazy Frog’s records meant Holmes’s label, Gut Records, could develop other artists, including a young Jessie J.

“My bank manager loved me,” Holmes laughs. “The downside is that you’re instantly an arsehole. Credible artists won’t sign to you. I’d worked with U2 in 1982, but as soon as I did I’m Too Sexy I was an arsehole, overnight. The music business should remember it’s about entertaining people. There’s room for everything, and novelty records are just moments of fun. Gangnam Style is an example that you can blow up on YouTube if you’ve got a massively entertaining video.”

Novelty records may have evolved over the years but many of the principles that made Benny Hill’s Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West) a No 1 in the 1970s would still work today, despite changing consumption habits. The cooler corners of the internet are currently tying themselves in knots over QT’s Hey QT, a deranged electronic pop record fronted by a girl purportedly selling a made-up energy drink. The fact that it’s signed to XL Recordings sweetens the pill slightly; either way, Hey QT is arguably the first hipster novelty single.

Whether a novelty single is cool or not the trick to making one, John Matthews says, is not to fear failure – or criticism. “People hating something is a much better indication that you’ve hit gold than indifference,” he says. He recently wrote and recorded a single called Meat Paste (Get It Down Your Face) with CBBC puppet Hacker T Dog, which he hopes the BBC will release for Christmas. It is, he says, “exactly the sort of old-school novelty gimmick record we need nowadays”, though the ultimate decision lies in the hands of the public.

U2, Apple and the Deal Behind Getting ‘Songs of Innocence’ Free of Charge

September 11, 2014

John Jurgensen 9/09/14

A decade after releasing “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb,” U2 was front and center in a presentation that could have been called “how to hype a new tech product.”

Along with Apple’s announcement of its latest-model iPhones and its new smartwatch, the company also revealed that it is giving away as many as 500 million copies of the veteran rock band’s 13th album, “Songs of Innocence,” via the iTunes Store.

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook repeatedly described the album giveaway as “the biggest release in the history of music”—probably an accurate description, given that no album may have ever been as widely distributed. The band has a long history with the tech giant: U2 cut a deal with Apple that led to a custom iPod model for the band, which came pre-loaded with “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.”

“Songs of Innocence” appears automatically on a user’s “purchased” page in the iTunes store, requiring customers to simply click on it to download. As part of its deal with Apple, the band will also benefit from the kind of massive promotional blitz that few if any record companies today could afford.

The promotion highlights the way recorded music is often more valuable these days as a promotional tool than as a stand-alone product. The U2 album, which is exclusive to iTunes, iTunes Radio and Apple’s Beats streaming music service for five weeks, will help jumpstart a concert tour likely to begin in 2015. And the secrecy surrounding the announcement–a hallmark of Apple’s, of course–shows how important the element of surprise has become for music acts trying to galvanize public attention.

Though the album is free for listeners, the band and its label, Universal Music Group, didn’t just give their product away.

“We’re not going in for the free music around here,” Bono joked on stage. Apple didn’t pay a traditional wholesale price for each of the 500 million albums. Instead the company paid Universal and U2 an undisclosed lump sum for the exclusive window to distribute the album. Universal plans to piggyback on the big push for “Songs of Innocence” to promote the band’s 12 older albums, a critical factor for a veteran rock band. The band’s recent albums have shown a steady decline in sales even steeper than the overall industry trend. “No Line on the Horizon,” from 2009, has sold 1.1 million copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan. That’s down from 3.3 million copies for “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb,” and 4.4 million copies for “All That You Can’t Leave Behind,” released in 2000.

As part of the deal forged by the band, manager Guy Oseary (hired by U2 last year to replace longtime manager Paul McGuinness) and Universal, Apple also made plans to use the first single from the album, “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone),” as a central element of a global, 30-day television advertising campaign for its new iPhones and Apple Watch. The campaign is believed to be worth around $100 million, according to a person familiar with the talks.

On Oct. 14, the 11-song “Songs of Innocence” will be released (including a deluxe version with four additional tracks) through other physical and online retailers. The album was recorded in Dublin, London, New York and Los Angeles, and produced by Danger Mouse and other producers.

Billboard magazine said Tuesday afternoon the album wouldn’t qualify for inclusion in its sales charts until it goes on sale in October. It’s unclear whether it will be eligible for instant multi-platinum status with the Recording Industry Association of America. Because of the secrecy surrounding the deal, U2 did not consult with the RIAA in advance. The Recording Academy said the album will not be eligible for the coming 57th Grammy Awards, because its commercial release date in October comes after the end of this year’s eligibility period. Instead, “Songs of Innocence” will be eligible for the 58th Grammy Awards, to be handed out in 2016.

After Apple unveiled its iPhone 6 and Apple Watch Tuesday, U2 took the stage to perform “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone),” a bracing, fuzzed-out rocker. Some awkward banter with Cook followed. Bono joked about the band’s halting progress on a follow-up to 2009‘s “No Line On the Horizon,” saying that the band had made several albums since then—“we just haven’t released them.” Then he joined hands with Cook and counted down to the release of the new album. –Ethan Smith contributed to this article.

Radio Remains King of the Road Despite Rise of Digital Music

September 6, 2014

PHIL IZZO 9/04/14

People increasingly get their music through services like Pandora or iTunes, but that old codger — the radio — still rules the road.

More than half of Americans listen to AM/FM radio nearly every time they get in the car, while 86% listen to it at least some of the time, according to a poll conducted earlier this year by Edison Research and charted by Statista.

That compares with just 13% who say that most of the time they listen to some form of digital music, such as through an iPhone or MP3 player. More people — 15% — still listen to CDs when they’re driving. Digital-music use is higher when you look at people who say that they “ever” listen to it, but radio and CDs still outpace all forms of digital music.

Radio also remains the most common way for people to keep up with new music. Some 75% say they listen to the radio to stay up to date, while 66% get new music from friends and family. YouTube and Pandora come in third and fourth with 59% and 48%, respectively.

Younger people, though, are more likely to use digital sources. YouTube takes the top spot among 12-24 year olds, with 83% using the site to keep up with new music. Friends/Family and Pandora are tied for the second spot with 71%. Even among young people, 65% still use radio to stay up to date.

Radio’s dominance in the car probably has a lot to do with its ubiquity and cost. The average age of a vehicle in the U.S. is 11.4 years, the oldest ever. That means most cars on the road were built when digital music was in its infancy. The iPhone was only launched seven years ago, and the first Android phone came out less than six years ago. The standard radio in 2003 may have come with a CD player, but it probably didn’t have an auxiliary jack for an MP3 player.

Consumers tastes in car stereos and what they can expect as standard are surely changing. As more cars are built with stereos that are made to connect with smartphones, digital music and Internet radio should start to be more popular on the road


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