July Music Industry News For Indies
July has seen plenty of interesting developments impacting the music industry from Spotify u-turns to Facebook marketing changes to the launch of an exciting new streaming platform. Here’s the lowdown on five important industry news stories from the past month that you should be aware of.
1. Spotify Is No Longer Pursuing Becoming A Music Distributor
When Spotify decided to launch a music distribution service for a few hundred independent US artists in Beta last September it certainly caused a stir, especially given that it was offering direct upload to the platform for free. Spotify then made an even bigger splash just a month later when it acquired a minority stake in DistroKid, which paved the way to allow participating artists to distribute their music to all streaming platforms, again for free. The latter development is yet to materialize and it appears now that it never will as unsurprisingly, at the beginning of July Spotify finally decided that this initiative was very costly with little upside. Subsequently, Spotify announced that they were closing down its Upload Beta Program for independent artists at the end of July and are no longer pursuing becoming a music distributor.
Why This Matters
Spotify will have certainly learned a lot of lessons from this experiment, with “stay in your lane” being the main message as far as rival distributors are concerned. What is most significant about this announcement however is not regarding Spotify being a distributor. More importantly, this means that the streaming platform can get back to focusing on providing features and support that all independent artists can benefit from. Following the announcement, Spotify said it will be focusing their attention and resources on developing more features for Spotify for Artists and their playlists submission tool. They have promised that these new features should roll out in the coming months, which should help increase your chances of getting a coveted Spotify Editorial Playlist placement. More than 36,000 artists have been playlisted for the very first time after using this submission tool since it launched a year ago.
2. Facebook Will Be Shrinking Mobile Ad Space In August
From Monday, August 19 Facebook will be rolling out changes to its mobile News Feed affecting regular posts, videos and advert layouts. The social media platform will be changing the aspect ratio of the News Feed to 4:5, which is shorter than the current 2:3 aspect ratio. According to Facebook, the new ad layout will only allow for three lines of text before seeing a prompt to display more of the text as opposed to the current seven lines which can be read before seeing this prompt.
Why This Matters
There are some positive and some negative elements with this change but it will certainly impact the adverts you create to promote your page, music, and services. Starting with the negatives, you will lose a significant amount of advertising space including four lines of text and you will have to optimize your videos for the new size, otherwise, potentially important portions of it will be automatically masked. On a more positive note, only having three visible lines of text will encourage you to write tighter, more engaging ad copy, which is crucial in social media marketing where less is certainly more. Having less text that is skimmable also draws more attention to the important content, that being your striking images and videos. This change in aspect ratio should draw the attention of your audience to your content quicker than with the current design. That is definitely Facebook’s aim with this feature as it attempts to appease brands who are frustrated by the declining direct-ROI from the platform.
3. New Free Social Music Discovery App “LÜM” Launches In The US
LÜM (Live Undiscovered Music) is an exciting new streaming platform that champions independent artists. The company raised $1.2 million in seed financing and launched its IOS app in the US on July 1st. LÜM's goal is to decrease the disparity between mainstream and undiscovered music by combining the best elements from streaming and social media. Not only is this app free to download but it also offers unlimited free uploading and sharing.
Why This Matters
What separates this streaming app from the rest is that it is exclusively for emerging music, meaning that you won’t be drowned out by the corporate noise and you will be able to reach out directly to your fans on the platform. Artists and producers are already using the platform to release singles early as exclusive pre-releases to get audience feedback. Given that the platform offers unlimited free uploading it has also proven to be a great space to drop demos and beats to measure the potential success of a track. This app is certainly a great platform to jump on now while it is relatively new with fewer artists on the platform to compete against for attention. Early adopters are certainly seeing the benefits, especially given that all users can enjoy unlimited ad-free streaming.
4. YouTube Has Added A New Requirement For Manual Content ID Claims
To aid content creators on YouTube, copyright owners will now be required to provide timestamps to indicate exactly where their content appears in videos that they can manually claim. The platform will also be evaluating the accuracy of these timestamps and any copyright owners who repeatedly fail to provide accurate data will have their access to manual claiming revoked.
Why This Matters
YouTube’s Content ID copyright-protection system has been the subject of a lot of criticism from creators on the platform, particularly when the information they receive from the copyright owners about the strike is often vague and even incorrect. These new requirements should help ease the frustration for those of you who are content creators on the platform. A big plus is that YouTube will also be improving its video editing tools in the Creator Studio to make it easier to remove copyright claimed content. These features will include the ability to mute all sound when a claimed song plays, cut out the offending segment of the video entirely or replace the song with something from YouTube’s own audio library.
5. Spotify & Apple Music Stepping Up Their Support For Independent Artists?
It would appear that streaming giants Spotify and Apple Music are trying to ruffle a few feathers of the major record labels following some significant and unusual activity with their flagship playlists. Labels compete for their artists to be placed at the top of these playlists like chasing the top spot on Billboard, therefore on July 19, they will have been shocked to see relatively unknown independent UK artist Aaron Smith at the top of both Spotify’s New Music Friday UK and Apple Music’s Best Of The Week. What makes this even more unusual is that the featured track, the piano-led ballad “Unspoken”, is actually unsigned Smith’s debut single. He was also placed 26th on Spotify's Global New Music Friday playlist.
Why This Matters
Following this move the question on everyone’s lips is what does this mean moving forward, are Spotify and Apple Music trying to claim to be the ones who gave the UK’s potential next international star his big break? It’s definitely a very unusual move to give a relatively unknown artist such a big platform and exposure. Whether this was a one-off experiment or a message to the labels to expect more of this in the future it certainly gives more hope to independent artists moving forward that you can score big playlist placements no matter who you are without being signed. Attempts to boost Smith’s profile have certainly worked, with the UK singer-songwriter having just under 420,000 monthly listeners on Spotify at the time of writing. New Music Friday placements have also garnered over 130,000 streams for “Unspoken” on the platform.