Tuesday, January 30, 2018

More news about the 800 pound gorillas (Spotify, Apple, and royalties)

I haven't talked about streaming services since earlier this month, but a new agreement is affecting all streaming services that do business in the U.S.

Royalty rates paid to songwriters in the US from on-demand subscription streaming will rise by 44% over the next five years following a landmark ruling in the market....

The ruling includes a significant increase in the overall percentage of revenue paid to songwriters from 10.5% to 15.1% over the next five years – the largest rate increase in CRB history.

There are other benefits - and drawbacks - for songwriters, as described here.

But what happens to the streaming services? Obviously they don't like the idea of paying more, but one service changed its...um, tune:

Amazon, Google, Pandora, and Spotify all argued against the new rates prior to the ruling. Those companies briefly had an ally in Apple, but Variety reports that it “broke ranks, conceding that the current royalty rate structure was ‘too complex’ and ‘economically unsound’ and advocating for “a single per-play rate that is the same for all services.”

Why was Apple more willing to agree to the reduced revenue? While the $50 billion that Apple is bringing back to the U.S. is a partial explanation, there's a more basic one.

Apple has a deeper toehold on the music industry thanks to iTunes. For all three tech companies, music is a side business that creates synergy with all of the other products they offer.

For Pandora and Spotify, music is the whole game.

So who is the 800 pound gorilla to whom I alluded in the title? Spotify? Apple? The RIAA? I don't know - I just wanted an excuse to post this video.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Echo Helstrom Casey was not tentative, but she was authentic and spontaneous

Back in July 2015 I wrote a post about the Bob Dylan-Johnny Cash duet on "Girl From the North Country." The post contained a lot of adjectives - dominant, distinctive, and cantankerous are a few of them. To understand why these adjectives were used, advance to the 1:51 point of this song.

By Unknown - https://www.flickr.com/photos/joegratz/83460811/, from the 1964 yearbook of St. Lawrence University, CC BY 2.0, Link

The song was actually written (and released) by Dylan several years previously, and some have speculated who the girl from the north country was.

One candidate, Echo Helstrom Casey, passed away last week. She was once a true love of Dylan's.

Born in Duluth in 1942, Casey grew up in a small house in the woods three miles southwest of Hibbing, the youngest of three children of Martha and Matt Helstrom, a mechanic and welder. She met and started dating Dylan, then Robert Zimmerman, in 1957 and the pair attended the Hibbing High School junior prom together before ultimately breaking up in 1958.

In her yearbook, Dylan wrote: “Let me tell you that your beauty is second to none. Love to the most beautiful girl in school.”

But there was something other than her beauty that appealed to the young Zimmerman.

“She was an important figure in his life, there’s no question about that,” said [Toby] Thompson, now a professor at Penn State. “I don’t know what he would have done if he didn’t find someone like himself. She had that spirit, that electricity that was comparable to his. She was wild in a way that he wanted to be wild. She would go off with her girlfriends in the summer and hitchhike all over the place, have adventures. She was kind of an outsider and from the wrong side of the tracks, and (Dylan) was certainly attracted to that. … In Hibbing, she was as bohemian as anybody in Greenwich Village.”

But eventually both Bob and Echo left Hibbing. Echo went south, then west.

She eventually found her way to Minneapolis, where she worked as a booker at National General Pictures. She married briefly and gave birth to her only daughter, Danae, before moving to Los Angeles in the early ’70s.

She alternated between shunning the limelight and embracing it. She had an unlisted number, but allowed a friend to post her picture next to Dylan's at a Hibbing restaurant called Zimmy's.

But it's interesting to note that these two freewheelin' folks ended up in southern California - Dylan in Malibu.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Wixen and Spotify - frenemies for life

So I saw this Reuters story:

Music streaming company Spotify was sued by Wixen Music Publishing Inc last week for allegedly using thousands of songs, including those of Tom Petty, Neil Young and the Doors, without a license and compensation to the music publisher.

Wixen, an exclusive licensee of songs such as “Free Fallin” by Tom Petty, “Light My Fire” by the Doors, (Girl We Got a) Good Thing by Weezer and works of singers such as Stevie Nicks, is seeking damages worth at least $1.6 billion along with injunctive relief.

I wanted to get Wixen's own take on the issues involved, so I went to Wixen's website and searched for information on the Spotify lawsuit. Instead of finding that, I found this:

Yes, it's an embedded Spotify playlist.

So this is all apparently a negotiating tactic by both companies to settle on fair compensation. To be continued...