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Hi there -

It certainly feels timely that just as streaming growth is reported to be slowing down, Universal's chairman Lucian Grainge has stepped forth and confirmed what he has indicated in the past, namely that 100,000 tracks a day being added to DSPs is creating a long tail of sub-par music (in his view) and which is working against the better interests of Universal and its artists.

In fact, Grainge goes one step further, suggesting that the entire streaming model is in need of a new payout structure - news that certainly won't help Spotify's uninterrupted downward spiral of a share price.

So does he have a point? I suspect there's not enough space to really dive into that here, but some might argue Grainge is now turning on a system Universal had a massive hand in supporting and creating.ย 

Grainge speaks of "innovative, artist-centric" models. Bandcamp, if you ask most artists using it, is precisely that, in its ability to empower them, driving direct connections with fans, as well as means to get vinyl pressed and even present live streams, all of which then delivers funds back to those artists promptly. And yet, last time I checked, Universal has no deal in place with Bandcamp and its artists are entirely absent from the platform.

So, when he speaks of artist-centric models that will be a win for artists, fans and labels alike, one cannot help but take the cynical view that what he really means is this being a win for Universal first, and everyone else second.

After all, who is Lucian Grainge to say which artists are "worthy" and which are not? To some, marginal artists who doubtless sit in the long tail on DSPs that he takes such issue with might well a favourite band to you or me.

Again, I do actually feel that having rising artists and DIY ones etc on separate platforms might not be such a bad thing. If people want the premium Taylor Swift streams, let them pay for it. Equally if they want to stream Wordsound's mighty Spectre (a marginal artist of some 25 years standing), let them do so via Bandcamp where the artist might actually see some meaningful income.

If the issue is that the streaming model does not work, I am in agreement. I think a lot of people are now. However from there I suspect we're at opposing ends. Grainge wishes to see Taylor Swift and other UMG artists earn more. I would just like to see rising artists stand a higher chance of making a living.

So yes, a new model is needed. However letting Universal guide that is risky. On a certain level I applaud the company's intention to innovate in this space, but equally I think the peril there is that anything innovated by Universal will be guaranteed to benefit Universal first and everyone else second. Maybe the other majors will get some parity, but the indies? That's a whole other matter.

Approach with caution.

Have a great evening,


๐ŸŽถ written whilst listening to Gescom's "Mag (Ae Remix)", a cyclical breakbeat gem of a track from Autechre's alter-ego. It came to mind after Asher here at MU shared this gem of a mix from Autechre compiling some of the tracks they made around the time Warp dropped the first Artificial Intelligence album. Wonderful stuff - check it out.

Stories from the Music Industry:
Sir Lucian Grainge: Music needs a new streaming payout model
"[To] correct [the streaming payout] imbalance, we need an updated model, he writes. Not one that pits artists of one genre against artists of another or major label artists against indie or DIY artists. We need a model that supports all artists DIY, indie and major. An innovative, artist-centric model that values all subscribers and rewards the music they love. A model that will be a win for artists, fans, and labels alike, and, at the same time, also enhances the value proposition of the platforms themselves, accelerating subscriber growth, and better monetizing fandom."

๐Ÿ‘†๐ŸปHot take: whilst I remain of the view that separating DIY and rising artists out onto other platforms may be a good thing, this memo slightly reeks of Grainge being angry at the long-term status quo turning against Universal and its profits.ย 
MIDiAs data shows that consumers are going to cut down on going out and on real live events before cancelling subscriptions, and because they will be going out less, they will need more to keep them occupied at home. So, streaming subscriptions (music, video, and games) may prove to be the affordable luxuries that keep consumers entertained throughout the coming year. Holding onto subscribers should, therefore, be an achievable goal adding large numbers of new subscribers, though, may be a step too far, particularly in markets most impacted by the economic headwinds. Emerging markets might be a different story.

๐Ÿ‘†๐ŸปHot take: personally I read this as positive. Yes, streaming is slowing, but as long as it doesn't recede and we see waves of cancellations, I would hope revenues to rightsholders might remain healthy.ย 
Its been nearly two decades since the music industry had to figure out how to battle widespread music copyright infringement by consumers. For the labels, that battle preceded a lucrative streaming era where 99.99% of their music is legally monetized for them by licensed digital partners. Yet what happens when one or some of the millions of independent artists operating today uploads a track that infringes valuable copyrights and music rightsholders are left relying on those same licensed digital partners to clean up the mess? On the evidence of Trefuegos 90mh, its a more chaotic process than labels would hope for.

๐Ÿ‘†๐ŸปHot take: a fine point is being raised here. Are we facing increased issues with policing content across DSPs? This example would suggest so.
Labels who were hesitant to embrace the CD at the start almost feel ashamed about its persistence now. That bit in between (the glory days of the CD when it was a money-generating machine on an unprecedented level) is strategically skipped over now. Yes, we just have to come to terms with its decline. But the CD, if it is to die, deserves a more stately send off than it is currently getting.

๐Ÿ‘†๐ŸปHot take: I'm going to politely disagree with Eamonn here. As vinyl continues to get stupidly expensive, I'd argue CDs might yet have their moment. We all wrote off vinyl 10+ years ago, and look where we are now.
Through musics unique power to inspire and unite especially given UMGs unparalleled roster of artists and labels UMUSIC Hotels will both highlight these cities rich music heritages and provide new opportunities for artists to reach fans in immersive, innovative and authentic ways, Bruce Resnikoff, President and CEO of Universal Music Enterprises, said at the time. Unlike traditional hotels, UMUSIC Hotels offer fans, guests and artists with immersive music experiences, incorporate elements of the local music scene, says UMG.

๐Ÿ‘†๐ŸปHot take: fair play to Universal. This is the kind of broader thinking I'd argue all music companies need to embrace more, and a hotel on this scale is the kind of thing only a major could pull off.ย 
This is a major step toward Revelators vision of onboarding more labels, artists, and fans onto Web3, to bring these promising digital assets to the mainstream of music fans. Right now, too much arcane technical knowledge is required to get music fans and music companies really excited about what should be a thrilling new medium, added Guez.

๐Ÿ‘†๐ŸปHot take: a smart move here, though I'm curious to know the actual details behind the headline. Potentially a great supportive move to those exploring Web3 though.ย 
Stories from the Broader World of Tech:
Instagram is removing the Shop tab, moving Reels from the center spot in design overhaul next month
The company says, starting in February, it will return the Compose button (the plus sign +) to the front and center of the navigation bar at the bottom of the app and it will remove the Shop tab entirely. As a result, the Reels button will now move over to the right of Compose, losing its prime spot.

๐Ÿ‘†๐ŸปHot take: arguably a concession of sorts from Meta that more recent moves have not worked and that people are not welcoming attempts to ape TikTok.ย 
YouTube has announced that creators can start making ad revenue on Shorts starting February 1st, following a promise from September that the monetization option was on its way. The change is coming as part of a broader update to YouTubes Partner Program, which will require everyone whos currently part of it to sign new agreement terms, whether or not theyre looking to make money from Shorts

๐Ÿ‘†๐ŸปHot take: the latest in the tit-for-tat feature war for video views of all types between YouTube and TikTok.ย 
In a press release, Wyze confirmed it was seeing a 25% higher conversion rate on Buy with Prime and noted it has added the option to all items in its catalog. Meanwhile, skincare brand Trophy Skin said the option to check out using Buy with Prime had resulted in a conversion rate increase of over 30%. An electrolyte drink mix brand, Hydralyte, meanwhile reported a 14% increase in conversion.

๐Ÿ‘†๐ŸปHot take: a very logical move here from Amazon. People hate friction when purchasing, so that reassuring one-click purchase kind of approach will doubtless have massive appeal.ย 
In a filing submitted to the European Commissions competition division (spotted earlier by Politico), Germanys Deutsche Telekom, Frances Orange, Spains Telefnica and the UKs Vodafone set out the proposed concentration to create a jointly controlled and equally owned joint venture to offer a privacy-led, digital identification solution to support the digital marketing and advertising activities of brands and publishers, as they describe the proposed first party data ad-targeting infrastructure.

๐Ÿ‘†๐ŸปHot take: could the major mobile telcos be able to launch a mobile ad product directly competing with the likes of Meta and Google? An exciting prospect if so.ย 
Other Reads I've Enjoyed Lately:
The Hottest Gen Z Gadget Is a 20-Year-Old Digital Camera - The New York Times
Young people are opting for point-and-shoots and blurry photos.

๐Ÿ‘†๐ŸปHot take: nostalgia is always inevitable, so it's no shock to learn that old digital cameras are having a comeback. More notable is the reasoning behind it and that desire to get away from phone screens. That's telling.ย 

A new AI-assisted chatbot that can generate eerily fluent prose is only the latest in a long series of useful tech accessories

๐Ÿ‘†๐ŸปHot take: I completely agree with this. AI should be viewed as a tool to further elevate how we work, not an inherent threat to millions of jobs. Yes it will bring change, but not catastrophe if we manage it properly.ย 

Meet the Americans who are exploring new frontiers in hallucinogenic research through a nascent technology known as extended-state DMT.

๐Ÿ‘†๐ŸปHot take: oddly interesting though - for me anyway - also mildly terrifying with the talk of extended hallucinogenic states.ย 

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