Sunday, November 4, 2018

Spotify playlist pitching review of Playlist Push

First want to give a quick shoutout to Ari's Take partner AWAL. They have a helpful blog post on when you get included on a Spotify playlist, how to make sure you don't get bumped off of it. Check it out here. 
Also, as a reminder, enrollment for Ari's Take Academy: How To Become a Successful Touring Artist closes Tuesday! Join us. 
I got an email from a long-time reader and very talented artist, Jessica Lá Rel who shared her experience with Playlist Push and had some very understandable concerns. 
But first, I want to update you on Playlist Push since my first report came out a few weeks back. For those of you just getting caught up to speed, I’ve been digging into all things Spotify the past couple years. Specifically, how to get included in playlists. I reviewed SubmitHub, which proved to be somewhat helpful at getting (small) blog coverage, but the playlists on the service were totally fake with no real engagement. I pointed this out in my review and since then, they completely changed the way they accept and rate the playlists you can submit to on the service. Props to SubmitHub for taking it seriously and changing course! 
I also wrote about how my album got removed for using a service I thought was a legit playlist pitching company, but was in fact using bots to increase streams (in addition to getting the song included on some playlists). 
I’ve spoken to many streaming experts ranging from owners of playlist pitching companies to big time distributors with playlist pitching departments to labels to managers to marketing agencies to Spotify employees. The biggest takeaways are that it’s the Wild Wild West out here in the digital streaming world and that what is true today may not be tomorrow. 
This all being said, after extensively looking into Playlist Push (testing two very different songs on the platform), interviewing the founder and a couple managers and artists who have used the service, I determined it was one of the few legitimate services out there to pitch your songs to user generated playlists. 
That being said, it is flawed. But the founder George knows they have work to do and are actively working to improve their service (and are listening to all the critiques and constructive criticism I’m tossing their way). After I posted my review, I became a “curator” on Playlist Push for my Low Volume Funk playlist so I could see it from the OTHER side of the equation. I have since updated the review to reveal my findings. 
To catch you up - as a curator of a 2,550 follower playlist (with about 400/monthly listeners) - it's not really a money-making venture unless you're doing SERIOUS volume. Currently I'm making $2/song. Considering I (or my team) listen to each song in its entirety and then try to write a thoughtful review, it's not really worth the time for me. But I understand other curators probably have more time or only listen to a snippet of the song and write short reviews. And as a curator grows within the platform they could be earning up to $20/song if their playlist is gigantic (500,000 followers or so). But, again, most are probably around the $2-$5/song mark.
The biggest frustration I’ve noticed having been a curator on the platform for just over a week is that most of the songs I’m being sent aren’t remotely close to the songs on my playlist. I selected the genres “Funk” “Soul” and “R&B” and the songs on the playlist all have organic instruments - not created ‘in-the-box.’ Most of the songs submitted to me, however, are hip hop or pop songs that are fully electronic (no real instruments). So, if an artist selects the “Soul,” “R&B” or “Funk” genres, I’ll get sent the song. I really wish there was a better genre selection tool that only sent songs that would actually fit on the playlist. I feel bad that these artists are wasting their money sending the songs to me. Some of the songs are great! They just don’t fit on the playlist. 
At least on SubmitHub, you can personally pick the playlists you’re submitting to. With this, you have to just trust that Playlist Push will send your songs to the appropriate curators. The founder, George, and I had a call today where I expressed this frustration (after passing along the below email from Jessica) and he did mention that they have a totally new genre selection process rolling out very soon. I’ll update the review once that is fully implemented.
Jessica’s email: 
I wanted to reach out to share with you a recent experience I’ve had. I’ve been following you for a long time. Back in the early days of Ari’s Take, to the webinars, the book, the online course, the live full day panel events, etc. I’ve considered you one of the most genuine voices I’ve come across in the industry thus far. I‘m loyal; I preach the gospel of Ari Herstand to other creatives. I buy your various packages and have been a subscriber for over 5 years now. I trust your feedback and insight not just because you do your homework and have lived experience, but also because you have built a brand around trust by providing resources to independent artists all over. You have focused on those that often get neglected or taken advantage of in such a brutal industry.
But recently I had an experience that brought me to a crossroads with that trust. I usually don’t write emails this long, so I apologize in advance for the length.
I had some difficulty using the new Spotify For Artists feature when they first announced their beta product in July. I released 2 eps and a culminating album between May and October. So it was nice to hear your perspective on ways to approach Spotify playlists beyond the beta feature. After reading your review of Playlist Push, I checked them out. The approach made sense to me: genre based outreach and a genre/playlist potential based payout structure. I spoke with customer service throughout the process to determine which kinds of campaigns to set up. I had previously conducted a survey with fans to determine which songs would make for the best Spotify playlist campaigns. So I set up 3 campaigns. 1 for a song on the 2nd EP that would run until the release of the album. And then the last two to run concurrently as soon as the album dropped. 
The first campaign for a song called Home Above Water did not perform well via Playlist Push. At first, I just took it as a sign that the music wasn’t there yet. But then I looked at the reviews of the song and realized that there was a major problem. The song was registered as Soul, but the reviews were coming from folks who curate lists for “depressing hip hop”, EDM, electro pop, Reggae, etc. Everyone kept saying “it doesn’t fit this kind of playlist”, and I’m thinking, “of course! This song is definitely not EDM, hip hop, pop or reggae. Think Eryn Allen Kane, Chance the Rapper’s more inspirational songs/Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment, Grace Weber, etc.
I spoke with customer service about it. They seemed to understand. I requested to cancel the upcoming campaigns and get a refund for the first. Steve then offered to do one more campaign, and if it also doesn’t satisfy me then he would refund me for all three campaigns. He offered a full refund on all three songs. I was hesitant to continue, but he insisted that the next song would have more options because it fit R&B and Soul. So together there would be more targeted playlists to submit to.
Within the first day, the second song Lighthouse landed on a Reggaeton playlist. So I knew I was heading down the same road. I reached out the second day of the campaign but didn’t hear anything for 1.5 weeks. By that time, it had been placed on 5 playlists: Reggaeton, Boy Bands, Hip Hop, a pop playlist, and finally your Low Volume Funk playlist. So at this point of the 5 playlists, the one that comes remotely close to my actual genre is curated by the same person who encouraged me to check out the platform in the first place. I felt debilitated in a number of ways. 
In the end, I argued quite a bit with customer service. They reneged on their refund offer, claimed a full refund from them was not possible and was unfair, and that no one complains about getting on 5 playlists. I tried to explain to them that it’s not about the quantity of playlists or listeners but the quality of listeners. Getting on a reggae playlist does not help me get my music to fans and potential fans where they actually are. If anything, it makes them less prone to engage with my music because they are listening to a reggae playlist with the intent of listening to actual reggae, not cinematic soul. Everything I do is in an effort to reach potential superfans.
I ended up walking away with a partial refund and plenty of condescending remarks from Steve... but more than that I lost a lot of trust. In an industry with little mentorship for independent artists, you were the closest thing to a reliable resource I had, and to find out that the agency you recommended was pretty much a scam (like the others you discuss in the blog) that would take my money and throw my music at any Playlist that bites- and then to find out that you’re getting paid on both ends (for referring them and then for curating), didn’t necessarily help. 

So first off, I want to give Jessica major props for sending me this very heartfelt email. And for being so candid. Not everyone speaks up when they are experiencing frustrations or roadblocks, but the only way to make things better is by approaching them head on. I know it must have been frustrating to spend a good amount of money on a campaign and then be disappointed by it. I've done it time and time and time again. I'm sure you have too. 
I want to hear your successes and your pitfalls. All of them. The good, the bad, the ugly. We’re all in this crazy industry together! And I am a student first. I want to learn so I can teach. Nothing brings me more joy than being able to pass along valuable information that I learn and to see you use it successfully. 
I do want to be perfectly clear about my involvement with Playlist Push (and any company I review). I never accept an affiliate code or advertising partnership until AFTER I write my review so my review is completely unbiased. I never let the companies read my review before it’s posted. And I only accept affiliate codes or ad partnerships with companies I believe in. Some companies I reviewed negatively have attempted to throw money at me to change my review. But I turn them down at every corner because all I have is my reputation and the trust I have built with the community.
No, I cannot be bought off. I will not take money from companies or people I don’t believe in.
After my extensive review of Playlist Push, it seems like a valuable service. I stand by it (today). Will that ever change? Maybe. But like any ad partner I’ve ever had, when I get complaints from readers I take them immediately straight to the top. If they aren’t resolved to our satisfaction immediately, I end our relationship and I write about what happened. However, the good ones out there take their customer complaints very seriously and resolve the issues quickly. 
I understand the responsibility I have being one of the few working artists out there with so much access to people in the industry and I take this responsibility very seriously. I’m always looking out for artists and I answer to no one but you. 
Whatever you’re experiencing, the good, the bad and the inspirational. Lemme hear it! I can’t promise I will be able to get back to you, but I do promise to read it, think and digest. 
Much love,

PS - if you dig funk/soul follow my Low Volume Funk Spotify playlist and hit me with some song suggestions.

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Sony/ATV Music Publishing Songwriting Camps Yield Over 300 Syncs as Program Expands to Miami & Atlanta


Sony/ATV Nashville President/CEO Troy Tomlinson, Sony/ATV songwriter Blake Healy and Brian Monaco President, Global Chief Marketing Officer
Five years after starting its songwriting camps, Sony/ATV Music Publishing’s efforts have resulted in more than 300 sync licenses of original songs created for brands including Adidas, Bose, Comcast, Dunkin’ Donuts, Google, NFL, Miller and Nissan, as well as dozens of movies, TV shows, trailers and video games. 
Now the program is expanding. In February, Sony/ATV will hold its first songwriting camp in Miami, followed by its Atlanta debut next summer. The camp will return to Los Angeles for its annual event, with plans to also revisit Toronto for the first time since 2017 and Nashville, which held its inaugural camp last month.
“The sync writing camps are a great example of how Sony/ATV proactively seeks out new opportunities for its songwriters by going far beyond what a music publisher typically does,” said Sony/ATV President, Global Chief Marketing Officer Brian Monaco in a statement “They give us a unique position in the marketplace and have created hundreds of new sync placements for our writers.”
The camps usually host 20 Sony/ATV songwriters who collaborate in small groups over several days to create new songs and master recordings, sometimes for a specific brand. Sony/ATV’s sync department then pitches the songs to potential licensees.
Songwriters from all levels participate, including at the upper echelon, often tapping into new creative reserves. Ross Copperman, BMI’s 2016 and 2017 country songwriter of the year took part in the Nashville camp and afterward enthused to Monaco in an email, “It was so inspiring and refreshing and I'm so grateful for the new people I've met and go to work with. I would love to do this more often wherever and whenever. I will make it happen. These few days have fed my soul in a big way.”
Among the notable songs are “Get Loud For Me,” written by Mike Sabath and Gizzle and recorded by Gizzle, which has been used in an NFL/Bose commercial and an Adidas campaign, as well as tallied nearly 4 million streams on Spotify. “Do It Like This,” written by Daphne WillisAustin Massirman and Sabath, has appeared in commercials for Comcast and Xfinity, and will be featured in a forthcoming campaign for Royal Caribbean Cruises as well. Other camp tunes have powered commercials for Apple, Orbit Gum and Labatt Blue and trailers for Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie and video games Need For Speed Payback and Outcast: Second Contact.

Sony's Acquisition of EMI Music Publishing Approved By European Commission

Sony's Acquisition of EMI Music Publishing Approved By European Commission

David Bassett/Getty Images
The European commission has approved Sony Corp.'s plan to become the sole owner of EMI Music Publishing through its agreement to acquire the shares of Mubadala Investment Company and its consortium partners.
That deal was given the go-ahead despite a furious effort by European independent labels, publishers and trade groups representing them to stop the deal; or at the very least have the Commission force Sony into selling off some assets; as it did the last time when the original deal was announced.
But "the Commission concluded that the transaction would raise no competition concerns in any of the affected markets and cleared the case unconditionally."
With that ruling, IMPALA, the trade group representing indie record labels and indie music publishers issued a statement strongly disagreeing with the EU.
"This goes against the regulator's own precedents," IMPALA's executive chair Helen Smith said in a statement. "In 2012, it ruled that divestments were required for Sony to become a minority shareholder. Now that Sony is acquiring 100% control of EMI, it is being given unconditional approval. This is inconsistent and simply doesn't stack up. It is a poor advert for European merger control and sends an alarming message to independent businesses in all sectors, not just music."
According to the press release issued by the EU, the deal was approved under the EU merger regulation, with the investigation into the deal found that it "raises no competition concerns, in particular, as it will not increase Sony's market power vis-a-vis online platforms; because it doesn't lead to any increase in market share.

IMPALA predicts European regulators will offer "stiff competition" to a complete takeover by Sony.

Sony has completed its notification filing to the European Commission over its acquisition of EMI Music Publishing.
The regulator now has until 26 October (25 days from the date of submission) to make an initial assessment after which it can either grant approval or begin an in-depth phase two investigation into the proposed merger. If there are competition concerns, Sony can offer remedies thereby extending the phase one deadline by 10 working days.
Sony Corporation signed a deal in May to acquire a 60 percent share in EMI Music Publishing from a consortium led by the Mubadala Investment Company. The past year has also seen Sony complete the acquisition of the just under 10 percent share of EMI owned by the Michael Jackson Estate.
If approved by regulators, the deal would give Sony sole ownership of EMI, valued at $4.75 billion. That has led the Independent Music Companies Association (IMPALA) to lodge concerns with the European Commission (EC) over the transaction, which it claims would “disrupt competition and harm consumers in an already overly concentrated music market.”
When Sony acquired a minority 30 percent stake in EMI in 2012, the EC ruled that the merger would give Sony too much control and required it to make significant divestments, including selling the Rosetta catalog to BMG for around $90 million. It also required them to remain as two separate companies, although to the degree that mandate was fulfilled, EMI only employed a financial team to oversee the assets performance, for the Mubadala Capital and its partners in the 60 percent they owned. All other aspects of the operations between Sony/ATV and EMI were indeed merged.
2012 also saw the European Commission force Universal to sell a large number of assets, including Parlophone Records, when clearing its purchase of EMI. When Warner Music Group bought Parlophone Label Group the following year, Warner agreed to divest over $200 million in recorded music assets to the independent community as part of the conditions of the deal.

Why Sony Bought Bulk of EMI Before It Had To -- And What Competitors Could Win By Objecting To the Deal

AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko
Sony Corp. CEO Kenichiro Yoshida attends at a press conference at the company's headquarters on May 22, 2018 in Tokyo.

Sony Corp. had until the end of August to put together a deal to buy Mubadala's stake in EMI Music Publishing, but it jumped the gun and paid handsomely, this week announcing it would snap up 90 percent of EMI at a price that values the whole publishing unit at $4.75 billion, more than double its price in 2012.
Why would Sony press fast-forward? There are several reasons.
For one, sources say Sony's new CEO Kenichiro Yoshida likes recurring revenue and investing in intellectual property, something that music publishing promises. By acting early, he was able to mark the start of his tenure with a show of decisiveness, rather than waffling while waiting for the sell-mechanism process built into the Sony-led consortium's initial EMI purchase in 2012 to play out. (EMI's non-strategic investors, known as Partners A, were allowed to initiate a sale of their stakes six years after the June 29, 2012 closing date to Partners B, Sony and the Michael Jackson estate, which would have had a two-month exclusive window to buy or pass, potentially sending the shares to auction.) 
"He definitely wanted this deal," so why wait, says one executive familiar with the deal.
Two: the valuation of EMI could have skyrocketed in the months ahead. While the $4.75 billion price, with about $320 million in net publisher's share, or gross profit, means that EMI traded at nearly a 15 times multiple, "a very full price," says one veteran music publishing asset investor, other executives noted that $4.75 billion might look like a steal if Vivendi opts to spin off Universal Music Group in a new stock offering, which would likely dwarf Spotify's $28 billion valuation given its vast catalog of music rights. If and when analysts value UMG, their assessment of its Universal Music Publishing Group may also put other music publishers' valuations into the stratosphere.
Given that the latest Sony/EMI merger would give Sony complete ownership of EMI Music Publishing, IMPALA’s executive chair Helen Smith predicts it is likely to be met by "stiff opposition" by European regulators.
"Sony’s power will be a particular concern in European countries where the EU already concluded in 2012 that Sony would control too much repertoire," said Smith in a statement opposing the deal.  
Of particular concern to IMPALA is the prospect of Sony’s catalog growing from over 2.1 million compositions to around 4.2 million, dramatically increasing its power and influence when negotiating deals with artists, labels and digital services.    
"The only solution is to block the deal now,” argued Smith, saying that drastic measures were needed "to avoid long term harm for consumers as well as other players in the music sector.” 
Sony declined to comment on IMPALA's concerns when reached.
Songwriters, streaming services, independent publishers, collecting societies and record companies would all be negatively impacted if the deal goes ahead, she warned.

The Independent Music Companies Association said it has "lodged concerns" with the European Commission about the transaction, which it describes as "seismic."

As expected, the Independent Music Companies Association (IMPALA) is formally opposing Sony’s play to become the sole owner of EMI Music Publishing, asking the European Commission to block the deal.
IMPALA had already objected to the deal when it was first announced, but now has gone a step further by filing an objection ahead of Sony’s petition for approval. Sources say Sony is still gathering and readying documents for that filing. The deal values EMI at $4.75 billion.
IMPALA said it has "lodged concerns" with the European Commission about the transaction, which it describes as "seismic." It noted that the deal would double the number of songs Sony controls from 2.16 million to 4.21 million and that, combined with EMI, Sony “would be the biggest and most formidable music company in the world.”
Sony has agreed to pay $1.3 billion in cash and assume another $1.36 billion in debt to buy out the 60 percent owned by consortium partners led by Abu Dhabi's Mubadala Investment Co. and the nearly 10 percent owned by the Michael JacksonEstate.
Sony Completes Acquisition of Michael Jackson Estate's Share of EMI Music Publishing

Greg Allen/Retna Ltd./Shutterstock
Michael Jackson performs on the final night of his 1988-1989 Tour at Sports Arena Exposition Park on Jan. 27 1989 in Los Angeles.

In announcing its financial results, the Sony Corp. revealed that it had acquired Michael Jackson’s estate share of EMI Music Publishing, paying it a total of $287.5 million.    
That was apparently the first step in completing its pending acquisition of EMI Music Publishing from a consortium of investors, which still has to be vetted by governmental regulatory agencies before the deal can proceed. Sony is still in the process of filing the paper work for the proposed acquisition, according to sources, so the process of scrutinizing the deals impact on potential anti-trust issues has yet to begin, they say.   
As it is, Sony has agreed to pay $2.3 billion to acquire EMI, as well as assume EMI’s debt of $1.359 billion. With Sony and Jackson’s share valued at $1.091 billion that gives EMI Music Publishing a valuation of $4.75 billion.   
The Jackson estate held a 9.84% interest in EMI; or a 25.1% stake of the piece owned by Sony and the Jackson estate, which means that without putting up any money in the deal, by virtue of its stake in Sony/ATV, the Jackson estate received $287.5 million, not a bad return on a zero dollar investment.     
Prior to this deal and before EMI Music Publishing came up for sale, the Jackson estate had sold its 50 percent share of Sony/ATV in 2016 and received $750 million in cash, which means that the Jackson estate has made over $1 billion since it has unwound its interest in those publishing assets.
While the Jackson estate, advised by Shot Tower Capitol, is overseen by two co-executors -- music industry executive John McClain and lawyer John Branca -- it is the latter, a partner in the law firm of Ziffren Brittenham LLP, who likely gets credit for making the shrewd publishing deals on behalf of the estate.
When Sony completes its acquisition -- if it gets the regulatory approval that is; the buyout of the Jackson estate didn't require it but the buyout of the other 60 percent does -- EMI Music Publishing will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Sony Corp, and will likely be legally merged into Sony/ATV, as it functionally already is.