Spotify’s Daniel Ek: ‘Live is something we’re excited about’
Spotify co-founder and CEO Daniel Ek has said the leading music streaming service is “excited about” exploring further opportunities in live music, following a series of Spotify-branded live streams and rumours about an expanded role in the concert space.
Speaking during yesterday (28 July)’s Q2 2021 earnings call, Ek addressed recent reports that Spotify, which has more than 150 million subscribers globally, is seeking to establish a greater live events presence through livestreamed and, potentially, physical concerts.
Responding to a question from financial analyst Hamilton Faber about “how easy [it would be] to scale in this space”, Ek said: “Depending on [your point of] view, [we have] been involved in the live space now for many, many years, both having as a feature the ability for artists to post upcoming concerts on their Spotify pages and then subsequently with our own playlist and brands like RapCaviar which been doing some shows with tens of thousands of people in attendance… So we’ve been in this space for quite some time.
Ek added that while he “can’t really comment on [the] sort of product tests that we’re doing” in live music, the live experience “is a meaningful thing for many of our creators and it’s something that we’re excited about,” he said. Referring to its recent ‘virtual concert experiences’ in partnership with livestreaming pioneer Driift, Ek said: “In the past quarter […] we did some digital live concerts and tested that, and saw some really positive results from that, and lots of excitement from our artist partners about Spotify helping out during Covid and providing more meaningful ways for them to monetise their fan base. And I think that’s in line with our strategy.”
“We want to work with as many partners and provide as many opportunities for creators as we can”
At its core, said Ek, Spotify remains an “open” business willing to work with multiple partners, including in the live space. (It has previously partnered with the likes of Live Nation, Ticketmaster, Festicket, AXS, Eventbrite and more.)
“To the extent that live will have an even bigger impact, I think we’re still an open platform,” he explained. “We want to work with as many partners as we can and provide as many opportunities for creators to create; more ways to turn a listener into fans and turn fans into super fans and increase the monetisation for those creators.”
He added: “I think the most important thing really is we’re very, very creator focused. And so live, if you think about music creators, is today the vast majority of all the income that normally flows through to an artist. So, to the extent that Spotify can be helpful in driving live outcomes, that’s going to materially improve the earnings of an artist, and that obviously means that we can be an even more better partner to artists…”
Spotify stock fell 3% yesterday, despite the New York-listed company reporting better-than-expected revenue for the quarter.
Spotify announces ticketed livestream series
Leading music streaming service Spotify has announced a new ‘virtual concert experience’ taking place over five dates in May and June, in the company’s biggest move in the concert livestreaming space to date.
Five pre-recorded shows, produced by Driift (Niall Horan, Kyle Minogue, Glastonbury Presents: Live at Worthy Farm), will stream as live on 27 May, 3 June, 10 June, 17 June and 24 June, with tickets for each live stream priced at US$15 (or local currency equivalent).
In date order, performers are the Black Keys, Rag’n’Bone Man, Bleachers’ Jack Antonoff, Leon Bridges and Girl in Red, who will perform from the Blue Front Café in Mississippi; London’s Roundhouse; a bus travelling from Brooklyn, New York, to Asbury Park, New Jersey; the Gold-Diggers’ Hotel in Los Angeles; and a production studio in Oslo, respectively.
Each concert will last between 40 and 75 minutes, according to Spotify, which already links to external live streams from artist pages in the Spotify app, and formerly lent its name to a number of concerts themed around its most popular playlists.
“I’m excited to collaborate with Spotify on this intimate concert experience that will feature songs from across my catalog, including a few tunes from my new album, Gold-Diggers Sound,” says Leon Bridges.
“This new initiative with Spotify will give fans a great way to connect with their favourite artists”
“I’ve truly missed seeing my fans around the world this year, and we are working hard to bring the concert experience to your home, thanks to Spotify.”
Fans of the five artists will soon start to receive notifications in Spotify to buy tickets for the shows (starting with the Black Keys today, 19 May).
“We have always been a band that loves to play live in venues of all shapes and sizes. The past year has been tough for musicians and fans alike, so we wanted to find a way to share this live performance of songs from our new project, Delta Kream, from a place we love, the Blue Front Café, the oldest active juke joint in America,” say the band in a joint statement.
“We’re excited to be a part of this new initiative with Spotify that will give fans a great way to connect with their favourite artists.”
Spotify joins with NIVA to help US grassroots venues
Spotify has partnered with the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), the newly formed alliance of US grassroots music venues, to help independent music venues across the US that have been shuttered throughout the pandemic.
The streaming giant has donated $500,000 to NIVA’s emergency relief fund for grassroots venues, which are still waiting to find out whether the Save Our Stages act will pass through Congress.
As part of its #2020wrapped campaign, Spotify has also taken over space on the marquees of more than 30 closed music venues to commemorate classic gigs that have taken place on the stages.
The campaigns include Alicia Keys at Riverside Theater in Milwaukee (pictured); Lady Gaga at The Ritz Ybor in Tampa; Childish Gambino at The Aladdin in Portland, The Weeknd at The Orange Peel in Asheville and Jessie Ware at Centre Stage in Atlanta.
“Everyone’s favourite artists started somewhere, and we’re thankful to Spotify for helping us to tell these stories”
“As 2020 draws to a close, the live music industry enters month nine of no shows, no income, no federal support, and ever-mounting debts. Music is what connects us all – as Spotify shows us, it’s what helped our friends, our families and our communities get through this tumultuous year,” says Stephen Sternshein, co-founder and treasurer of NIVA, and managing partner of Heard Presents in Austin.
“Everyone’s favourite artists started somewhere, and we’re immensely thankful to Spotify for helping us to tell these stories. The stories that artists like Bruce Springsteen, Lady Gaga, The Weeknd, The Strokes, and so many more began on the very stages that today are struggling to survive.”
Dan Brill, global group creative director at Spotify says: “In a year that has taken on so many twists and turns, a first reaction might be to look forward and forget the challenging times. However, that would discount all of the amazing work that creators, fans, venues and activists have poured their hearts into this year.
“That’s why, instead of turning our backs on 2020, we wanted to give our appreciation for those who gave us hope — the people who, despite challenging circumstances, found ways to infuse magic into our world and give us hope for a better tomorrow.”
The Save Our Stages Act stimulus package, which is part of the ‘Heroes Act’, includes a US$10 billion grant programme designed to provide financial support for live venue operators, promoters, producers and talent representatives in the US.
Spotify debuts virtual concert listings
Spotify has announced it will start integrating virtual concert listings into its music streaming platform.
In a Spotify for Artists blog post yesterday (15 September), the streaming giant said it has partnered with Songkick and Ticketmaster to introduce virtual event listings for individual artist profiles, as well as its main concerts page.
“With many tours postponed until 2021, the necessity for these virtual events is set to continue, and we want to make it easy for Spotify listeners to learn about virtual events for the artists they love, as well as artists they’re discovering for the very first time,” reads the post. “In light of this, we’ve leveraged our partnership[s] with Songkick – the livestream concert discovery app – and Ticketmaster to make it happen.”
“We want to make it easy for Spotify listeners to learn about virtual events”
The announcement confirms earlier rumours that Spotify was working on a virtual event discovery feature to build on its existing concert listings.
Artists are encouraged to list future livestreams through concert discovery platform Songkick, as they will populate artist pages automatically. “Select” Ticketmaster events will also be automatically listed.
Spotify will also mail users recommendations for virtual concerts, which can be staged on any platform – including Twitch, Instagram Live and YouTube – as long as they are listed through Songkick or Ticketmaster.
Major streaming services to branch into virtual events
Spotify is developing a feature that will alert fans to an artist’s upcoming virtual events, according to a tweet by reverse engineer Jane Manchun Wong.
The streaming service ordinarily lists an artist’s live events on their profile page, but according to Wong (via TechCrunch), it is now transforming that feature into virtual events discovery.
The platform already works with ticketing partners including Ticketmaster, Songkick, Resident Advisor, Eventbrite, AXS and Japan’s eplus, and therefore virtual event listings wouldn’t be difficult to implement.
The feature isn’t yet available in the public-facing version of the Spotify app.
Elsewhere, Jay-Z’s streaming service Tidal has spent US$7 million on tokens issued by the company behind Sensorium Galaxy, a new VR “social metaspace” in which users can attend alternative-world concerts, nightclubs and festivals through a VR headset.
Through the purchase, Tidal has acquired access to broadcast their content within Sensorium Galaxy, which is due to launch publicly in early 2021.
Sensorium says that its “Social VR technology” is poised to “provide unprecedented ways for artists”
Lior Tibon, COO of Tidal, says: “Our relationship with Sensorium provides Tidal with the opportunity to gain exclusive rights for its stellar artist roster to have their shows and music broadcast exclusively within Sensorium’s themed virtual entertainment worlds.
“The Sensorium Galaxy is a next-generation platform for entertainment consumption which will elevate the connection fans have with their favourite artists, and bring artists’ vision to life in a new and exciting way.”
Sensorium says that its “social VR technology” is poised to “provide unprecedented ways for artists, performance venues, game publishers, and virtual influencers to entertain and engage fans globally across interactive environments”.
Alongside Jay-Z, Tidal’s artist co-owners include Lil Wayne, Rihanna, Calvin Harris, Daft Punk and Coldplay’s Chris Martin.
Earlier this week, it was announced earlier this week that streaming service Napster will be acquired by live music virtual reality platform MelodyVR.
The US$70 million acquisition will eventually combine Napster’s library of over 90 million audio tracks and Melody VR’s catalogue of virtual live music shows, to create a platform where users can stream music and experience immersive live performances.
Streaming scams target live music fans
A host of new streaming scams have cropped up in the past few months, with fraudsters setting up phoney Facebook pages and listing non-existent live streams in a bid to access personal information.
Streaming – be it of live performances, recorded music, films or television shows – has been an important part of accessing entertainment during lockdown, as music venues and cinemas remain shuttered and festivals are cancelled.
Criminals have capitalised on the increased time spent online, as well as the novelty of the accessing content in this way for many, and the uncertainty that has come with the Covid-19 crisis in general, to successfully target consumers across all sectors of society.
Live music fans are also being targeted, with some scammers directing traffic away from legitimate live streams to their own page, in a bid to pocket “donations” or “tips” given to performers, and others posting false listings of livestreamed gigs and festivals to get hold of personal information.
Two such pages, one posing as Universal Music Group (@GroupMusicUniversal) and the other going under the name of Live Concert Music, list upcoming live streams for Rolling Loud Portugal, Michael Kiwanuka and Jill Scott, Cage the Elephant, Montreux Jazz Festival, Nickelback, Robbie Williams, Brad Paisley and Dave Matthews Band, among others.
Almost all streams are listed as happening on the same day, with links landing on pages for sites called Eventflix and Stream Concert. A section below the supposed streams show comments from “fans” – almost identical for each one – discussing the lack of lag, commending the quality of the stream and recommending the service to others.
“There is more opportunity for criminals to try and trick people into parting with their money at a time when they are anxious and uncertain about the future”
Viewers are encouraged to register for free in order to view the content, leading to a page asking for contact details and other information.
Another kind of streaming scam has seen hackers hijack YouTube channels to impersonate Elon Musk’s SpaceX channel, generating around $150,000 in Bitcoins.
The creation of unofficial event pages on Facebook is not a new phenomenon in the live events world. In 2018, IQ reported on a trend which saw phoney pages set up to drive fans to secondary ticketing sites, rather than official sellers. Email scams have also targeted fans, agents, promoters, festival organisers, artists and others for years.
The increase in streaming scams responds directly to the current climate, as more and more turn to online services – many for the first time – to experience live events.
“As more people stay indoors and work from computers and laptops at home, there is more opportunity for criminals to try and trick people into parting with their money at a time when they are anxious and uncertain about the future,” City of London police commander Karen Baxter, national co-ordinator of economic crime warned consumers at the end of March, just weeks into the coronavirus lockdown.
“It is important that we continue to raise awareness of fraud and protect ourselves, and the vulnerable people in our communities, the best we can.”
A further warning was issued by the National Trading Standards in the UK today, as the easing of lockdown measures is expected to bring on a surge of scam telephone calls in particular.
Members of the public are encouraged to protect themselves against scams by joining Friends Against Scams, a free online initiative that provides training to help people take a stand against scams.
This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.
Music business steps up after Black Out Tuesday
After the events of Black Out Tuesday, which saw music companies worldwide down tools on 2 June in solidarity with anti-racism protestors, a number of firms have announced details of follow-up initiatives intended to deliver lasting change in both their companies and across the wider music business.
As previously reported, both Live Nation, which donated to the Equal Justice Initiative, and Warner Music Group, which established a US$100 million fund to donate to charitable causes, are backing up their words with concrete actions – but they’re far from alone, with other live and recorded music businesses similarly making good on Tuesday’s promises.
London-based booking agency ATC Live, whose roster includes Nick Cave, PJ Harvey, Johnny Marr and Metronomy, on Wednesday published a list of eight changes it is making to ensure its agents “do better as a team” in future.
They include committing to improving diversity among its staff and artist roster; matching donations made towards charitable causes by employees; and encouraging artists to use their public platforms as a means of promoting “positive change”.
— ATC Live (@ATCLive) June 3, 2020
Universal Music Group
Recorded music giant UMG, which also owns a number of festivals through its U-Live division, has announced plans for a ‘taskforce for meaningful change’ that will increase the company’s “efforts in areas such as inclusion and social justice”.
In a letter to employees, the group’s co-chairs, UMG chief counsel Jeff Harleston and Motown Records president Ethiopia Habtemariam, explain that the $25m ‘change fund’ will focus on six main areas: ‘aid/charitable giving’; ‘global’ (initiatives to increase equality and inclusion across UMG worldwide); ‘internal/institutional change’; ‘legislative/public policy’ (ie lobbying for political change); ‘partners’ (working with); and ‘programming/curation’ celebrating the achievements of black creators.
“We know our community, colleagues, artists and partners are suffering. We feel it and we’re living it, but we’re also energized [sic] to fight for change,” say Harleston and Habtemariam. “We’re asking for you to lock arms with us – we want to hear your voice. Now is the time to be heard!”
Creative Artists Agency has made a new appointment to its company board, in a move it says – along with its participation in Black Out Tuesday and the return this year of its Amplify leadership summit, which “inspires and connects multicultural leaders” – underscores its “commitment to diversity and inclusion”.
Lisa Joseph Metelus, CAA Sports’ head of basketball marketing and servicing, is the latest addition to the agency’s new leadership structure, the CAA Board, which was established earlier this year.
“It is critical that our board better reflects the real world,” says CAA president Richard Lovett. “Lisa is a force. Beyond being a proven leader in one of the most successful divisions of CAA Sports, she is among the most accomplished and respected executives in the industry. She has a powerful voice, both smart and visionary, and we look forward to further amplifying her insights and perspective across the agency.”
“It is critical that our board better reflects the real world”
In addition to its symbolic actions on Black Out Tuesday, music streaming service Spotify says it is matching all financial donations made by its employees to organisations “focused on the fight against racism, injustice, inequity, and [for] driving meaningful change.”
This 19 June (or Juneteenth, the holiday marking the end of slavery in the US), direct-to-fan music and merch platform Bandcamp will donate 100% of its cut of sales to civil rights organisation the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
The company will also provide a further $30,000 annually to organisations campaigning for racial justice and creating opportunities for people of colour.
“The current moment is part of a long-standing, widespread and entrenched system of structural oppression of people of color [sic], and real progress requires a sustained and sincere commitment to political, social, and economic racial justice and change,” reads a blog post announcing the measures. “We’ll continue to promote diversity and opportunity through our mission to support artists, the products we build to empower them, […] how we operate as a team, and who and how we hire.”
Google’s YouTube says it has made a $1 million donation to the Center for Policing Equity, a think tank that works with police forces across the US to address discriminatory behaviour.
“We stand in solidarity against racism and injustice and are pledging $1m in support of efforts to stop it,” says the company.
Tipping point: No shows, but donation options grow
‘Tipping’ artists, by making one-off, typically small payments during virtual events, is gaining popularity internationally, benefiting musicians who have been hit by the global stoppage in concert touring.
Virtual tipping has its origins in China, where the concept of donating to musicians, video producers, writers and podcasters has been the norm since at least 2013. Among the services that allow the tipping of creators are messaging app WeChat (for writers), podcasting platform Ximalaya FM and music streaming services QQ Music, KuGou and Kuwo. All are owned by, or have significant investment from, tech giant Tencent (which also recently acquired a 10% stake in Universal Music Group).
According to news site Ozy, the popularity of tipping on the three streaming services specifically is “credited by industry analysts for helping Tencent Music record a post-tax profit of [US]$263 million in the first half of 2018.” According to contemporary filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, 9.5 million Tencent Music users – equivalent to 40% of its total paying user base – paid for tips in the form of virtual gifts and other ‘social entertainment experiences’.
Comparatively, the Ozy article adds, “Spotify reported net losses of $461.4 million in the second quarter of 2018, and Pandora lost $92 million the same quarter.”
Now, however, Spotify is hoping to develop its own virtual tipping culture, last week announcing the introduction of ‘Artist Fundraising Pick’, which allows listeners to donate via artists’ profiles using PayPal, GoFundMe or Cash App.
“This is an incredibly difficult time for many Spotify users and people around the world,” says the Stockholm-based company, “and there are many worthy causes to support at this time. With this feature, we simply hope to enable those who have the interest and means to support artists in this time of great need, and to create another opportunity for our Covid-19 music relief partners to find the financial support they need to continue working in music and lift our industry.”
Tipping is credited with helping Tencent Music record profits of $263m in H1 2018
As well as predominantly non-music services such as Twitch, which enables viewers to tip (‘cheer’) its video streamers, several music-focused platforms are aiming to help artists get paid while touring is off limits.
Encore Musicians – a UK-based marketplace that connects event planners with artists and bands – has introduced ‘Music Messages’ for its locked-down customers, enabling them to send personalised musical messages to their loved ones. The company’s co-founder, James McAuley, tells TechCrunch that recipients of the videos (which cost from £15 to commission, with £2.50 going to the UK’s National Health Service) have the option to add a tip, with many contributing up to £50 per video.
“The reactions from both the senders and recipients have been extremely heartwarming, and musicians are having fun with it,” McAuley explains. “This is also reflected in the success of the tipping mechanism, with people sometimes tipping more than the original video amount.”
Elsewhere, SoundCloud is building on its existing tipping capabilities – a partnership with Twitch, announced in March, allows creators to monetise livestreamed concerts – by allowing artists to add ‘support links’ to their profile pages, with links to either financial exchanges (PayPal, Cash App, Venmo, etc.) or online stores/fundraising pages such as Kickstarter, Bandcamp or GoFundMe.
The company says it will retain support links, or a version of the feature, “until more impactful solutions present themselves, or it is no longer necessary for our most impacted creators.
“We’re all in this together and it’s important to everyone that creative projects continue unabated. So, use this to fund your projects, offset bills or get whatever you need to stay on your feet.”
Speaking to IQ earlier this month, British singer-songwriter Emma McGann explained that her audience on YouNow – another live video streaming platform – is large enough that when her upcoming US tour was torpedoed by the coronavirus outbreak, she sold enough $20 YouNow ‘Virtual Tour Passes’ to cover losses stemming from the cancellation.
“On YouNow, fans can tip their favourite performers throughout a broadcast”
McGann is one of a handful of artists whose fanbases are primarily on YouNow, which has long had a culture of fans tipping creators. A recent Daily Dot article explains: “In addition to being able to purchase stickers and private messages with in-app currency and status, fans can use money to purchase ‘bars’ in packs, and tip their favorite [sic] performers throughout a broadcast, earning shout-outs in turn. YouNow stars who’ve made a name for themselves can join its partner program[me], which entitles them to a cut of the proceeds from the sale of this digital currency that gets spent on their broadcasts.”
“Most livestreaming platforms have a criteria you have to hit before your channel is eligible to be monetised,” explained McGann, who is a YouNow partner, “but the community you build should be your first concern over the monetisation aspect. Interaction and community [are] the most important part of your livestreams. Monetising that content will be difficult if you’re not consistent.”
On tipping specifically, she added: “Calls to action during your streams can help to push traffic to your music, your merch store or wherever your viewers can support you…”
One company, though, that isn’t joining the tipping revolution is Google, which has reportedly nixed plans in the US that would have seen it facilitate donations to popular websites, including those of artists and musicians. The tipping tool, linked to Google Pay, would allow a one-time donation of between 25¢ and $5 via a floating button at the bottom of the screen. (On Google-owned YouTube, fans already can tip creators using the ‘super chat’ feature.)
Google trialled the functionality with artist Miranda Sings, as well as the New York Times, Tech Crunch and the Points Guy, a travel advice site.
Musicians lobby Spotify as Bandcamp shows support
Artists are asking Spotify to triple the amount it pays out per stream, as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to put the brakes on live events.
An online petition initiated by US musician Evan Greer demands that Spotify triple its royalty rates permanently “to put urgently needed cash into artists’ pockets”. The campaign also calls on the streaming giant to make a $500,000 donation to the Sweet Relief Covid-19 fund, which is dedicated to providing financial support to musicians.
The pressure on Spotify comes as online music marketplace and discovery platform Bandcamp waives its revenue share on sales for 24 hours until midnight (PT) on 21 March, dedicating 100% of proceeds from music and merch to artists. The site, which has generated $10.3 million for artists in the past 30 days, typically takes a cut of between 15% and 10% on all sales.
“Many artists have found merch and digital sales to be a last remaining financial lifeline”
“With the Covid-19 pandemic decimating live music and shuttering record shops, many artists have found merch and digital sales to be a last remaining financial lifeline as they confront a very real threat to their livelihoods,” reads a statement on Bandcamp’s website.
“It’s more important than ever for fans to support musicians by purchasing from them directly.”
Artists are using the platform to see exclusive merchandise from cancelled tours and make surprise releases, whereas labels are dedicating revenue from sales on the site to food banks, public health charities and musician relief funds.
Spotify makes latest move in live with RA deal
Streaming giant Spotify has strengthened its links with the live music scene, partnering with Resident Advisor, an event discovery platform for electronic music.
In a week that saw Deezer launch a live events series based on popular playlists and Apple Music announce Brit Award-winner Dave as the first act for its Agenda playlist live series, the Spotify-Resident Advisor deal further highlights streaming’s desire to capitalise on live.
The partnership directly connects Spotify users to shows by artists they listen to via localised event listings promoted within the application.
Although Spotify already notifies users of concerts based on their listening habits, pushing them to ticketing platforms such as AXS, Eventbrite, and Ticketmaster, as well as discovery platforms Bandsintown, Songkick and Facebook, the Resident Advisor deal looks to provide more support to local venues and independent promoters, who more typically list on the platform.
“The vitality of local scenes is essential for the sustainability and creativity of the global electronic music community”
“The vitality of local scenes is essential for the sustainability and creativity of the global electronic music community,” comments Resident Advisor co-founder Nick Sabine.
“Our collaboration with Spotify is a brilliant evolution of the work we have been doing for almost two decades to support the work of the independent artists, venues and promoters which act as the pillars of those scenes.”
Founded in 2001, online music magazine and event discovery platform Resident Advisor provides event listings and sells tickets to events across the dance music ecosystem in over 50 countries.
Spotify’s other live music ventures includes partnering with festival booking portal Festicket and staging its own playlist-based shows, most notably the hip hop-focused Who We Be show, which featured acts such as Dizzee Rascal, Giggs, Cardi B, J Hus and Stefflon Don, and RapCaviar Live concerts.