About TK

THE Music Biz Outsider grew up with tape recorders and recording. He was about 3-1/2 years old for his first recorded performance (singing "Mary Had a Little Lamb") and 14 when he engineered his first musical multi-track recording of someone else's performance, but didn't begin actually playing music until he was about 20, safely too old to get sucked into the music biz dreams of superstardom that not-always-briefly ensnared his pals. That -- and watching other people's dreams tarnished, smashed, shredded or otherwise destroyed for four decades -- has given him a stark -- and thoroughly jaundiced -- view of the music business. So, he learned to play a little guitar, wrote a bunch of songs, got swept up in the punk/new music thing starting in '75, was in some bands and, when he formed a band he really liked with a few pals, he started taking recording classes at a local community college with a respected commercial music program -- anything for free studio time. Pretty soon, he was caught up in a rekindled love of tape machines and gear, this time in commercial studios, where he found himself freelancing by the early 80s, after a motorcycle wreck ended his lifelong dream of being a warehouse manager. (Yeah, we're kidding.) Even after he took a job -- a day job -- with a small electronics manufacturer, he continued moonlighting in the mostly low end studios frequented by punk rockers and other outsiders, working on demos, singles, indie records, even TV and radio spots. But he tired of the grind, and when he started his own database consulting company, he began building up his home recording rig into a project studio which eventually had 16 tracks of digital and a bewildering jumble of MIDI boxes and keyboards, lots of cheap and some not so cheap analog gear, all nestled in a small room off a hallway in his house. For much of the 90s he worked on other people's demos, on radio feature production, and, when he wasn't too burned out, his own songs. Seemed like a dream going in. But after less than a decade, he found himself taking down his shingle for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that the day job paid better -- but also because he had tired of the unrealistic expectations and distorted priorities that seem to drive a certain sector of the music service provision industry. Today, he's content recording and producing just one music biz client: himself. And he's recaptured the love of playing and making music he was often afraid he was on the verge of losing.

The Beatles have landed — in the stream-o-sphere!

I’d posted in the social stream about the Beatles Christmas Eve entry into the world of subscription streaming — all their studio albums and a number of special editions are now available on most of the major subscription stream platforms — and one of my stream-skeptic pals had asked (somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I suspect) if I thought it would help or hurt stream subscription uptake.

I’d glanced at that thread as I was getting out of bed (yes, I’m one of those sods who now picks up the tablet and scans the news before getting out of bed — you never can tell when it’s just gonna be a better idea to pull the covers up and bury your head under the pillow) but somehow reinterpreted it in memory as Do you think it will help or hinder sales?

And, so, I had all these thoughts about that queued up in my head.

I was going to write something like:

Will it help revenue is probably the real question.

Streams, of course, are treated as sales as far as artist mechanical royalties to artist/label rights holders but songwriting royalties from streams are (currently) apportioned on a variation of the radio broadcast songwriter/publisher royalty formula.

(Radio performances in the United States, unlike many other nations, do not generate any royalties at all for artist/labels, since radio play has been traditionally seen as form of marketing — a view reinforced, of course, by the record industries long history of paying — legally and illegally — for radio play.)

Let me tell you my own Beatles collection story. I have, I think, all the American releases and a couple of Brit releases, on vinyl with the exception of Help! (CD)

But… I only bought one new — the first I bought, Sgt. Peppers (I was coming back to listening to rock and roll after a long hiatus from grades 7-10 when I disdained ‘teeny bopper music’ — friends had finally begun convincing me I’d like the changes that blues rock and the psychedelic revolution had brought — and they were right).

Every other Beatles record in my collection was bought used or given to me used by someone.

And, in the US, that means the artists, labels, songwriters, and publisher received exactly nothing for any of those used purchasesor any of those thousands of plays so derived. (Other nations do mandate royalties on used records and books, but in the US the right-of-resale is largely unassailable.)

The fundamental question, of course, is whether the artist will receive more from an outright sale or from ongoing stream revenue. In my experience with streaming, I have played some tracks thousands of times. (I only have a count of individual track plays for the last 2 years I’ve been on Google Play Music.)

But in just those two years, I’ve racked up enough plays of one album that the pay out to the rights holders (based on GPM’s payouts on my own material) to put about $40 — and counting — in the artist/label rights holders’ pockets — for one, 13 song, mid-60s album. That’s not the ROYALTIES on $40 — that’s FORTY DOLLARS stream revenue for one album — that cost about $3 retail when it was first out. And, as long as people keep playing it, it’s going to keep making money for the rights holders. (Now, sadly, there’s little chance that the original artists still have a stake, because, well, that’s how it goes in the music biz. But the principle of ongoing revenue remains.)

And, while that album is a longtime fave, it’s not the only album I return to fairly frequently. I’ve become quite addicted to the Anonymous 4 (pre-Renaissance vocal music performed by [gasp] women) as well as the kora and chamber string concoctions of exoticist Jacques Burtin. Many tracks by Anonymous 4 have racked up over a dollar’s worth of plays (per track!) from me. That’s not RETAIL price — that’s straight revenue — and it’s ongoing!

So… in answer to that question you didn’t ask — if one’s music has legs, if people keep listening, then streaming can work out very well for an artist who keeps control of his library.

And, I’m thinking, the Beatles music has strong, ongoing appeal.

That said, it had to weigh on their strategists that while Beatles tracks were well represented in the iTunes Top 100 (10 tracks), the very highest rank reached by any of those ten tracks was only #40. I suspect they may have worried that at some point further holding back of their work was going to significantly impact their ongoing uptake by young listeners.

Apple re-drops Beats Music as remodeled Apple Music. Better luck this time, Apple…

When Beats bought MOG in 2012, that beloved-but-undersubscribed music service had 500 thousand subscribers. Six months after Apple bought Beats, touting their stream service as ‘the future of music’ — at the end of 2014 — Beats was down to just 303 thousand subscribers.

We’d like to think Apple’s remake will reverse fortunes like it reversed the dorky gamer-black Beats UI for a ‘gleaming’ white v-bezel — but for some reason known only to those on iOlympus, Apple put the very same people responsible for Beats Music’s dismal product and worse sales in charge of the iTunes/Apple Music reincarnation.

Interesting times.


Wired‘s breathless coverage (they do love them their Apple) gets the main points — and has a certain, not unamusing announcing-sliced-bread sort of vibe…

WIRED: Everything You Need to Know About Apple Music

Beats Music has revolutionized the music industry… oh wait…

I was a subscriber to the old MOG stream service when Beats bought them, starved them for support (supposedly down to 3 support people for an estimated 300K subscribers toward the end) and then scuttled them and brought out their own, mega-hyped Beats Music. Which I thought was UTTERLY AWFUL. [Been a stream subscriber for about a decade; did not just fall off virtual turnip truck.]

When Apple bought Beats, I figured the purchase had to be about the bassy, glow in the dark wildly overpriced ‘fashion’ headphones. But Apple’s top brass kept GOING ON about how Beats Music was the future and would lead Apple into the futureDr Dre, Jimmy Iovine, Trent Reznor [Remember him? No, seriously, do you?] were going to lead the way for Apple.


So, it’s almost a year and a half after Beats Music blasted onto the scene, ready to revolutionize the stream industry and take away Spotify’s 15 million paid subscribers

How’s the revolution going?

Beats Music has… [wait for it] …

300,000 subscribers…

No. Seriously. Same as MOG had when Beats bought them and put them in the ground. The current Beats subscriber count is according to USA Today’s coverage of Apple’s WorldWide Developer Conference