Streaming Music Series: 1
At BDEM, we’re (mostly) all tech babies. Computers have been in our lives for most, if not all, of our lives and has greatly influenced how we listen to music. I’m just about the age whereby I still had a tape Walkman and recorded the radio to build mixtapes in my childhood, but that experience quickly whizzed through to annoying skipping unreliable portable CD players and then the cheap Ebay MP3 players and the misunderstood P2P platforms that powered them.
P2P was a game-changer for the music industry. This was the point that music not only became free, but became ON DEMAND. Music became a communist’s dream and naturally that’s a capitalist profit-driven businesses nightmare.
The major labels responded in a way that damaged the future of the music industry all round. The shutdown on P2P sharing had a similar result to the war on drugs, so as with the changing of chemicals to mask the type of drug being sold with that, illegal digital music distribution just kept changing to suit the needs of the consumer whilst the labels ended up losing more and more control trying to oppress and deny the listeners.
It wasn’t the loyalty of the listener that changed though and for most it wasn’t even about the fact the music was free. It was about the new easy way that had been widely discovered to access any music they wanted (from chart albums to super-rare bedroom recordings from new up-and-coming artists). Digital changed the way music could be enjoyed and listeners caught onto it quickly, trying to stop them doing that is like forcing people to walk 30 miles when they have a car. It can be pleasurable, but most of the time it’s just not ideal.
What I always found interesting was the way Grime artists used P2P. They used it far more wisely than the majors because they saw it as an assistance to business, not a problem. For the Grime artists it was about getting music into the ownership of as many people as possible and they exploited this with their ‘demo style’ freestyles, battles and chats which helped them elevate their careers into commercial territory by leverage of mass sharing with niche markets.
We get this, we’re part of this latter movement of the music industry and one of our core drives as a business is to find harmony between digital consumers and the artists that they actually truly want to support but don’t know how to with the tools they’re given.
We’re sure that part of the answer lies in digital streaming platforms. The accessibility of stored archives of music in data centres accessible via the cloud seems like the answer, and having that wealth at a single point platform (with self-management abilities) on both your computer and portable device is clearly pretty unbeatable when compared to self-owned MP3 libraries that you have to order, backup, purchase separately and search for from multiple sources.
In our next post we’ll look at the major players in the streaming platform market and assess some strengths and weaknesses of each.
Written by Josh Smith
Streaming Music 2: Soundcloud, Good for Inner Circle and Bad for Business
In early 2010 BDEM started its journey as a net label. We used the tools available to us at the time to build a roster and guide our music to the right listeners. The two primary examples of these tools were a popular niche forum called Dubstep Forum (or DSF for short) and Soundcloud.
I believe that Soundcloud deserves the 2nd part of this series, not just because of its excellent assistance in developing the digital music marketplace, but also as an example of how it failed to adapt to a quickly moving online world and eventually crashed as a preference for music fans.
When Soundcloud was released to the world, it was gold for us that were producing music and had our little communities of music makers (such as the DSF users). We’d build our ‘WIP’s’ (works in progress, for those who didn’t figure it out) and then share the music in a semi-private fashion with other producers for feedback on the sound. Soundcloud, being the clever little platform it is, allowed us to view a waveform on a timeline and place comments exactly where we were referencing in our feedback. Amazing. We’d then correct our music and republish it more publicly for a wider audience. When the music was highly favoured it would be pushed for digital release and us as the uploaders on Soundcloud were able to place links where our listeners could go off and download our music so we’d get paid for them enjoying the work.
So where did this all go wrong? Simply, in the last sentence of my previous paragraph. Our listeners were already able to listen to our music on Soundcloud, it was there and it was convenient, so why would they need to go off to another site, with another sign in, enter bank details and buy it?
That’s taking a very simple idea of on-demand listening and making it difficult for the sake of giving back to the artist. The listener shouldn’t be punished for listening to music without paying, the platform should be questioned and adapted so that listeners already contribute monetarily before enjoying the work; like a live gig, or an art gallery where they choose to charge for entry - or visitors guarantee a purchase.
What happened next? Artists started chopping down their tracks into previews, listeners scattered to listen to music in different places (meaning that steady 100 followers a week the artist was previously getting started to dwindle) and Soundcloud starting spazzing out and changing its platform in desperation to sustain their growth.
We’re now still in a limbo where the music platforms are missing the great functionality of ‘WIP’ sharing and comments within a paid environment. Kanye West took an ever-maverick shot at this reality when he controversially released unfinished music and kept changing the goalposts on the status of the release.
In the following parts of the series we will look at how the music industry has continued to grow in the digital domain. We’ll run through the options available and outline pros and cons. Then we’ll finish the series up by discussing what we believe will be the way forward for the industry so that it satisfied both the producers and consumers.
Written by Josh Smith
Streaming Music 3: Spotify The Conqueror
Along came Spotify… Honestly, along it came and what a relief. This one stuck – and I think it will for a long time now.
It works. Almost… (It still has its drawbacks in the fact it still supports the old industry (and the ‘cartel’), but that’s for another post.)
So why do I say that Spotify works? - Firstly, artists get paid.
There are OF COURSE on-going arguments about per play returns being so minimal that it’s daylight robbery compared with MP3 purchases - but we’re in the age of Insta-culture now, and MP3 is losing relevance. Things happen on demand, things happen ‘in the cloud’ and things happen with viral response. MP3 has no place in the short-term future.
Even with such a small return per stream, a quick look at The Spotify Charts is enough to inspire you to believe in the future of streaming. 4,000,000 plays DAILY at $0.006 is no laughing matter. Earning $24,000 a day (even with the amount which is stripped away in administrative fees) is no laughing matter. That makes you a millionaire every 41 days. So every year you earn $8,000,000 from a single track, in theory.
But yes, that 4,000,000 mark is artists like Drake and they are massively manufactured, globally marketed and highly advertised on the Spotify platform itself.
But I don’t believe the outlook is bleak for independent artists either. To earn a wage of $500 a day, you only need plays from 0.084% of the market. 500 / 0.006 = 84,000 plays. With 100,000,000 users (40M paid) there’s an increasing chance that high plays are possible.
Although this is the bulk of what we’ll be covering in the artist management areas of BDEM content, let’s briefly run over Spotify strategies that will assist with achieving reaching 0.084% of the potential market:
- Big-data intelligence – ‘Discover Weekly’: Spotify’s algorithms will naturally assist an artist’s growing presence by sharing music with listeners who frequently listen to music like yours.
- User Playlists – including those of popular and high-profile users: The more playlists you’re on, the more you get played. Whether that’s through people following those of high-profile users, or if it’s as simple as a listener who likes you so has added your music to a playlist which will have your song cycling again and again. This is a power of streaming music payments. They may be low, but they’re everlasting.
- Market preference – Spotify has 10M users for a reason, because it’s fast becoming the music consumption platform of choice for listeners. To not utilise Spotify properly is making it more difficult for your audience to reach your music.
Spotify is our place, for now. If you’re interested in learning more about how we help artists with their Spotify presence and growth strategies be sure to email us at email@example.com to request a non-obligatory chat with one of our artist development team.
Written by Josh Smith
Streaming Music 4: Tidal & Streaming Flaws
When Kanye first released Pablo on Tidal and told people it’d be exclusive there (for a while at least), I jumped at the chance of the free trial.
At first, I really liked Tidal. It was simple, it worked, the mobile app was faster than Spotify (at the time) and it was releasing music from my favourite artists that weren’t landing elsewhere.
The innovative business strategies bought forward by Tidal also pushed my buttons. It has unearthed a new issue for the industry in the face of platform exclusivity. Up until Tidal, mainstream artists were going as far as refusing to release music on select streaming platforms (i.e. Swift on Spotify in favour of Apple, or Adele refusing to stream) to strategically block out competition to their high-profile deals with their partners; but they were still keeping with the traditional model philosophy of ‘release as many places as possible to reach a wider market’.
This was new, an abundance mentality implying that artists are in control and fans should buy into their platform in order to enjoy the art and entertainment they provide. Scarcity sells.
A small ripple happened here in the media surrounding the platform. A theory that this splitting of platforms (and the respective separate subscription costs associated with them) would cause a relapse of pirating, because consumers would be expected to pay for multiple platforms to get music from different artists. Although that scenario is bad for artist, listener and business alike, it's also very exciting because it's shown another problem that needs solving, moving closer to an equilibrium in the digital industry that finally works for all involved.
Then I heard that Daft Punk and Deadmau5 were shareholders. WOW, this was clearly going to be a platform that will elevate electronic music, right? Nah. By the time my 3-month trial had ended I had heard nothing about their involvement and I was so bored of mumbling new-age made-up-word urban music about titillation that I couldn’t wait to get back to Spotify and ‘just press play’.
As far as I'm concerned, streaming is the answer. There is no longer a need to own music digitally now that technology has allowed for high levels of internet connectivity and large data storage in the public cloud (although I still think it's always going to be a necessity to have a tangible copy of your favourites). With BDEM, our current solution to the low Spotify returns problem is on ensuring that all traffic is pushed through the single funnel rather than allowing the music to be listened to in multiple places (such as platforms that don't pay at all). This has the intention of ensuring that plays aren't missed so that revenue is built and slowly encourages the industry to move further towards streaming from a paying platform rather than illegally downloading or streaming on sites that don’t pay anything. Let's remember that theft is still more of an issue than Spotify paying little. As consumers get used to paying £10 a month for unlimited music rather than nothing at all, the pay-out to artists will increase - and if Spotify don't raise that return, then a competitor will!
Written by Josh Smith
Streaming Music 5: Take Apple Music Down
When my free Tidal trial ran out, I thought “I’ve done my ‘due diligence’ and checked this new kiddy on the block with an unbiased mind, and it’s proved not to be as good as what I was using. It’s time to return home to what was working, Spotify”. Then, I got offered a trial with Apple Music.
As far as I’m concerned, Apple Music was an absolute mess. Honestly, what is the point of this being on the market? It’s trying to do everything that’s already on offer but is doing it a lot worse at the same price.
I didn’t feel this way initially. When I first got Apple Music I had a nostalgic feeling, like when I first got my iPod Nano way back when I was at uni. I was chuffed because commercially and aesthetically, Apple make really appealing products that make you feel proud being sucked into the materialistic culture.
But I quickly felt differently about this product and instead felt that it was, by far, the most awful that Apple had ever released.
I first used Apple Music on my Android phone. Spotify had been a bit laggy in its previous patch that I was using prior to Tidal, so Apple Music felt quite rapid on first use. I began searching around for new music to listen to and building my playlists up as if Apple Music was set to be my new musical home. The user interface wasn’t quite as slick as Spotify’s and I found navigating around it a bit off-putting. A few tracks that I wanted I’d had on Spotify playlists were missing, “no biggy” I thought.
A bit of time went on with Apple Music usage and when I felt like listening to music I added it to a playlist associating with the vibe of the track. After a while I felt like I was hearing a lot of the same tracks. That’s when I realised that Apple Music was missing the function that Spotify has alerting me that I was trying to add a duplicate to my playlist. Apple was happy to let me crack on and do that as if it was a good thing to have more than one instance of a track in a playlist – honestly, when is that ever viable?
In the evenings, I jumped on my Mac and cracked on with the BDEM v2 strategies. I chucked music on to pull me through. Although I’m more of a playlist guy now, I still do love an album sometimes and throw one on. I was always a great collector of CD’s and when I switched to Spotify I naturally saved all of the albums I loved onto ‘My Music’. It was so simple and so easy to navigate to when I wanted to find it. Apple Music on the other hand. What is all that jumbled shit?! Can’t you just show me my albums where they’re supposed to be, why do I have to keep changing things from list to tile view? Why do I have to switch between iTunes purchases and streaming music? Oh cool, music I upload onto iTunes goes into the cloud and I can listen to it roaming. Nope, that doesn’t work either. For fuck sake, where is that album that I starred? Why has the star disappeared? What is this buggy shite?
Then there was finding new music to listen to. How much I missed ‘Discover Weekly’ and ‘Recommended for you’. Then there was the one thing that the media was indicating was supposed to make it good and a contender, Beats Radio… Didn’t even work – kept cutting out. Absolute shambles.
My simple conclusion is that I believe that companies should not enter into a market and immediately claim themselves a leader off the backs of a completely different product (being a leader in downloadable music doesn’t instantly make you a contender in streaming). Sometimes you’re just too late to the party and you’re never going to be the life of it because the partiers hadn’t had time to warm to you, and you hadn’t had time to choose the right music to play for your audience.
Personally, I feel that with Spotify’s big data analytics and AI, Apple Music will never be able to catch them. Hang up the gloves, it’s not your fight.
Written by Josh Smith
Steaming Music 6: YouTube
YouTube is for videos. Music (without supporting music videos) has found itself on YouTube by people either using it wrong or illegally.
I have a feeling that the phenomenon of uploading music to YouTube happened around the same time that MySpace went down and there was a weird void between artists (and pseudo-curators who want to share other people’s music, but in a non-creative way) being able to upload music online for people to listen to pre-release.
YouTube is a huge opportunity for exposure for artists, there’s no denying it. It’s a place that very few internet users don’t travel to at least once a day and it’s almost built to play music, except that it’s supposed to play videos.
Do I have biased gripes with YouTube? I guess I do. I don’t like the way that in order to get this previously mentioned exposure it has to come through a channel that exists to curate, upload and share music under their glory and their subscription model. Yes, a number of the listens an artist gets from a music-sharing channel will convert to a visit from an intrigued listener, or if you’re really lucky maybe even an MP3 purchase but that doesn’t compare to the alternative, which is micro-payments for every play made.
I guess that my real issue with YouTube only surfaces when I compare it with Spotify. I think Spotify is great as a growing social platform. If we look at how the ‘music sharing channels’ would operate on Spotify, it looks a lot better for artists.
The artist, or their label, have submitted their music to the distributor (Spotify), which means that they can reclaim money on every play that’s made. Now imagine that the music channels that exist on YouTube, with all their followers who trial all of their uploads to see if it’s good music, were on Spotify instead. Artists would be getting (Albeit tiny, but accumulating) payments for people enjoying their music. Then, listeners could simply add that music to their own playlists and the amount of plays they give to an artist would just grow and grow.
Things get deeper when we then think about Spotify’s recommendation algorithms. Consider if one of those tracks managed to get 5,000,000 plays as a result of it becoming popular on an uploaders playlist – Spotify, unlike music sharing channels, have the resources to share that track to a more extended audience who will appreciate it (based on their listening history). – More exposure, more plays, more fans, more money, [more problems – maybe? Doubt it…]
Although it’s convenient to some listeners who have gotten used to using YouTube as their choice of music provider, it’s not built for it. Think about those times music videos have been taken down and you’ve lost it from your library? Not cool right. YouTube may continue to try and invest into making YouTube a better platform for music, but it’s never going to keep up with the services that are music-centric and it’s never going to be able to give back to artists like the alternatives do either.
If you value the art you’re consuming, consider how you might be helping or harming the artist who’s provided it for you. All art is unique and even though there’s an abundance of it available, one piece may change your life through subtle ways. Think of an artwork that has changed your life in some way, or that you associate with a big experience in your life, then imagine it gone because “oh well, if I can’t have that song there’s always another one to listen to”. Art doesn’t work like that, art will change your destiny in little ways you don’t even know.
Written by Josh Smith
Streaming Music 7: Bandcamp
Bandcamp is a likeable brand. They seem like nice people and they were likely the best option for artists through the transition from physical to digital medium. Artists could set their own prices in order to have control over the perceived value of their product, royalties to artists were the highest offered for MP3 sales with a distribution partner without selling to listeners directly, they quickly became respected as a company who put artists first and the links to sales pages integrated nicely with Soundcloud.
The problem with Bandcamp? They represent the problem with the music industry.
They represent the transitional period between physical music mediums and true digital accessible music (i.e. streaming).
In May 2016, Bandcamp took the liberty to post an article boasting about their business growth and insulting the streaming industry movement, indirectly implying that their model is a better solution.
The article starts by throwing around its metrics, a 35% growth over a year. But just what exactly do they mean by growth? Profit? - A good effort, and at least they’re not exploiting the tax loopholes associated with some of the big players in the streaming industry (as hinted to in their ‘now-quaint revenues-exceed-expenses sense’ comment).
In reality, all their metrics only indicates a good brand and marketing presence rather than a new industry model. People buy from Bandcamp because artists have been sold the idea that Bandcamp is a solution that gives more back to artists, then artists sell that idea onto consumers.
Their ‘subscription-based music streaming is an unproven business model’ argument is only as relevant as Bandcamp being an ‘uncontested artist-centric support plea model’. In this respect, streaming music can be looked at like electric cars. It’s something that everybody knows is required for a better world, it’s something that actually performs better than its classic competition and it’s something growing rapidly but not yet the leading option. Also, like electric cars, what holds it back is those making capital from the old ways.
Eventually consumers move along and they find easier ways to consume music as indicated by the pirating crisis that gave birth to all of these new industry solutions. What’s clear is that streaming music is the easiest way to both store and play music on demand. The only things stopping people having unlimited access to any music they like are internet connectivity, subscription costs and release legalities – all things which are increasingly being assessed and improved for listeners.
Bandcamp do focus all of their energy on being the best solution for artists. Their metrics reflect that they provide a service that consumers respond to, but what it doesn’t do is offer the buyers a better solution – something that will work better for them on the long term.
Streaming offers for consumers (at minimum):
- An on-demand option of music.
- Simple to use platforms.
- Personalised recommendations based on user data analysis.
- Marketing and music exposure through listening automation and automated playlist curation.
Bandcamp as a platform relies on artists and small labels to make their own marketing efforts. Whilst I’m sure a lot of them are capable of this, I personally would far rather see these artists and labels putting the time it takes to accomplish strategizing and running good marketing & sales campaigns, into making music instead.
The fact is, we’re talking about a future. This digital music age is more than just a choice for consumers between whether they want to buy CD or MP3, this movement is completely aligned with technological advances across the board as we move deeper into a highly connected digital reality. We’re talking about self-driving cars with Spotify built in, so a potential for taxis that you can control what music you want to listen to on your journey.
We’re talking about a further decrease of wiring and an increase in space-saving in an ever-overpopulated world. It’s not just the way consumers are choosing to listen to music, it’s why they are. These are the factors that matter.
The truth is, I think that Bandcamp feels threatened by the growth of the streaming model. That both makes me sad to see a company that means well falling into irrelevance and pleased to see the industry as a whole moving towards a new solution that suits both the consumer and the artist.
Bandcamp lives in a world where they want to let consumers continue in the status quo, regardless of the fact that it will become increasing difficult to do so. BDEM lives in a world where we embrace the future and want to see us move towards a technologically-advanced world that assists us on our day-to-day, makes things that should be easy, even easier, and gives us that feeling of freedom to be creative.
Written by Josh Smith
B-DEM Records has it's focus on signing electronic music with a timeless feel.
We are believers in the future of streaming. We sign talent and music that brings innovation, class & high musicality, and share it with the world.
A one-stop solution for artists, a brand platform that covers all of their business requirements whilst they focus on what they do best, making the music.
We release music that can still be loved in years to come.
In order to achieve this, we set out to sign talent and music that brings innovation, class & high musicality, and then share it with the world. We follow a strict vetting process to ensure that our music is released in the highest quality industry-standard commercial formats. We have an extremely effective and innovative promotion team that ensure music is delivered to the ears of the right people.
Our emotional scope ranges from soul & emotion through ecstasy & euphoria, to bump & groove; conveyed through electronic music genres. Our signature sounds thus far have been variants of Garage, House, Dubstep, Trip Hop, Hip Hop and Grime, but we are frequently looking to expand this list and move into more varieties of exciting areas of electronic music.
We are believers in the future of streaming.
BDEM is centred on basing our marketing efforts around our Spotify releases at every stage of promotion. Cutting out other listening platforms encourages not only pay per listen (increasing revenue), but also encourages tracks to reach more listeners through popular playlists and charts. In the downloading world, listening stops when marketing efforts do. In streaming, an interactive and evolving world, music is always available and alive to be unearthed and resurfaced.
We act as a one-stop solution for artists, a brand platform that covers all of their business requirements whilst they focus on what they do best, making the music. We will also always make sure that our consumers are able to obtain high quality music in the easiest manner possible with a minimum expenditure. We’re a solution, not just a label in terms of releasing music.
BDEM was founded in 2010. As a lover of music and business, the founder had a vision to create a label that exceeded the expectations of the many ‘net labels’ in existence and create a company established enough to challenge that of the leading Indies and eventually sit up with the majors. - A strongly engrained philosophy of our label is that business is not something to be feared, it is something to help artists prosper and allow them the freedom to do what they love. We don’t believe in limiting our potential.
In the first few years of BDEM we created a great little following within the Future Garage scene. But it was clear that more needed to be done to meet the ambitions of the founder to expand to become something very special and a power to be reckoned with.
The initial label years saw an increase in revenue, but it was evident that there was something wrong between signing the music from our artists and delivering it to the consumers. We found that a lot of our issues with increasing business growth were due to the industry-expected release procedure, which was clearly out of date.
In 2014 we decided to freeze operations to take time to strategise a more cohesive plan to ensure that the label was to be growing, profiting and promoting to a level that makes genuine impact on the industry and not just a niche scene, this lead to the process of implementing new operations and went on to become BDEM v2.
BDEM is no longer the sole proprietorship that it was for the first few years, we now have a team of people working for the company, moving it out of startup phase and into becoming something great. We can already feel the tides of momentum pulling us forward. The more support we receive as a label, the more we can give back to our artists.
- Josh Smith – Managing Director, Founder
Josh started as an electronic music producer in high school and continued his academic studies up until graduation of his BA Hons Music Production degree at the University of Brighton in 2011. For around 9 ½ years he produced under his first alias 'Whyrez' (which transitioned through two different spellings), this introduced him to the industry at a professional level. In his time within this role he had multiple BBC Radio plays and various releases on labels such as L2S Recordings, which was the most influential and successful UK Garage label of the period. He also had music with Olivia Louise featured in a Universal Pictures movie directed by Noel Clarke called 'Legacy'.
Although he followed in the path of his inspiration to become a music producer, in learning and studying the methods of making money through music he began to discover that music was not his only love and he also had a keen taste for business itself.
In 2010 he founded B-DEM Records with the purpose of creating a forward-thinking record label releasing electronic music with a timeless feel. The edge in the marketplace was to have an up-to-date model that reflected the technology and methods of consumption by listeners and provided above-average services for their artists from quality control to marketing strategy. BDEM was created with the vision of being a complete solution for artists to make music to a commercial standard and release it for consumption of the relevant market.
- Dave Brock – A&R Manager
Dave has spent the last 6 years cutting his teeth in the electronic music scene and is now an established Producer, DJ and Event Promoter.
Dave, formerly producing under the Alias ‘Lojt’, has released music on Basslight Records, L2S Recordings and BDEM. Within this role he developed his networking skills by liaising with other artists in the scene and pushing music to blogs such as Girl8bit, OnlyVibes and a slew of other channels and webzines.
As a DJ, curating music is one of Dave’s strongest points, relentlessly networking and constantly searching for fresh new artists and pushing them through his Sub.FM show. Out in the club field, he has rubbed shoulders with the likes of Todd Edwards, El-B, Altern-8 and has become renowned for high energy sets and vast music knowledge.
Dave has joined BDEM management as Chief A&R Manager with the intention of planting the label not only at the forefront of the Electronic Music scene, but also into the history books.
Outside of music, Dave enjoys long walks on Runcorn beach and drinking craft beers.
- Tudor Watson – Web Development Consultant
Tudor & Sally of Tangent Web Design have been key members of the BDEM team since it’s founding. They have assisted the Managing Director not only with the development of the website, brand image and our online presence, they have also been pivotal in mentoring and directing the MD in general business advice and also art, tech and music-related advances.
- Lewis Yates – Visual Artist Consultant
Lewis has also been a key member of the BDEM team since founding. He is solely responsible for the coherent image and style across our release artwork. Lewis is the man who turns crazy ideas and concepts only translatable through imagery into a tangible existence.
- Lewis Brown - Brand & Aesthetics Consultant
- Mark Dobson – Mastering Engineer
Mark is the newly appointed mastering engineer for the label. Mark & Josh met at university where they both studied the same course. Mark has been chosen to be the designated engineer for the label due to his crystal clear audible sensibility and ability to make tracks sound how they’re supposed to. As an artist he is both a highly talented ‘organic’ musician and master of electronic manipulation, it is this dual understanding that gives him a sonic edge in the mastering realm.
As a producer, Mark works under the alias Ambassadeurs, of which he is highly successful releasing albums with highly reputable labels and seems to be touring the world constantly! Mark also runs his own record label called ‘Lost Tribe’.
- Christopher Garcia - Commercial Manager