Tag: Music Industry

Bob Lefsetz, please, oh please change your URL!

Lefsetz Letter Home Page Screenshot
The Lefsetz Letter Home Page

Dear Bob,

I’ve followed your popular, The Lefsetz Letter, for many years. I’d subscribed to your email newsletter after I’d first heard about you through the Pho List, a long running private listserv about copyright, where discussion is heavily weighted toward the music industry. Whether the list members were supportive or not, your posts were certainly a hot topic for some time. Yes, for those younger folks reading this, we’re still communicating using old school email and listserv technologies instead of Secret, Yo, Snap Chat and texting.

Because I’d originally subscribed to receive the your blog by email, it wasn’t until years later I clicked through to the “Archive” page on your website, which is really the homepage of your WordPress blog. Even though your actual homepage is a splash page with two links (above); one for clicking through and registering to receive the blog posts by email and the other to view the posts in blog format.

It’s been this way for many years and my guess is that’s the way you prefer it, despite a very public “noemail” campaign by iBiblio.org Director and UNC Chapel Hill School of Information and Library Science Professor, Paul Jones, who will only respond to those who connect with him through social media and not by email. He deems email to be an archaic format, which has long outlasted its usefulness.

While Professor Jones presents frequently on why email is a relic of the past, it still seems to have a place in this world for you, although less than a quarter of your readers open email related to the music industry. To bolster Jones’ #noemail crusade, I found this research report by Palo Alto-based technology market research firm, Radicati online, which states North America accounts for only 14% of global email accounts. Estimated growth of email accounts is only 7% -– from 3.1 billion in 2011 to 4.1 billion by year-end 2015. Compared to Asia Pacific, which accounts for 49% of all email users and Europe with 22%, we here in the USA are not reading email as much as we once did. While corporate email is growing due to low cost cloud based services, personal email is declining while instant messaging is growing by an estimated 11% from 2011 to year-end 2015.

Despite these numbers and Jones swearing off email, companies like MailChimp, Constant Contact and iContact thrive on the reliance of marketers to send email. But 19% of all email received by corporate email users is spam or “greymail.”

MailChimp publicly post their industry benchmarks, which show average campaign rates by each industry using their service. Email seems continues to have a place in this world, albeit a smaller one. It has certainly taken a back seat to social media. According to the report, social profiles will grow from 2.4 billion accounts in 2011 to 3.9 billion by year-end 2015.

MailChimp’s industry averages for Music and Musicians show a 22.49% open rate with a 3.03% click through rate and a low 1.08% soft bounce rate. A little less than a quarter of all those who receive email coming from the music industry click through to open and read the message. Only a small percentage of those people convert, but it seems they do read these messages given the low bounce rate percentage.

Sure, while Paul Jones may decry email for its quaint antiquity, Yahoo!, Google and Microsoft still support their popular email services and MailChimp, Constant Contact and iContact have created multimillion dollar businesses around email marketing. However, like snail mail and the music industry at large, email has been impacted by new technologies, which means that your stubborn reliance on email as a medium can be equated to the music industries failed resistance to digital downloads.

You are arguably one of the most well read music industry bloggers in the world. Your posts by email reach many certainly reach many of your readers, but are they reaching as many as they could? ts pretty clear by the way you’ve setup your homepage that you prefer readers subscribe to your posts by email. Given the numbers above, have you started to think about when you’re going to expand your digital horizons?

Many (including me) admire you for keeping your Lefsetz Letter blog simple. In it’s plain style, it’s certainly unique. There are no bells and whistles. No images or advertising. It’s just plain text. The only links you post are generally to Spotify and YouTube content. And, you’ve managed to consistently deliver under the 1,700 words Buffer has analyzed as the best length for a blog post. In this day and age when there is a battle for our collective attention to media messages, your long posts aren’t as novel as I thought they might be, but your reliance on email to deliver your messages could very well be.

I’ve written to you on occasion in response to your posts, but you’ve never replied to me. I’m not in your inner circle and those are the people who seem to get your attention. Since I don’t know if you read my email replies to your posts, yet you sort of force me into your reliance on email (yes, I know there is RSS, but I don’t sub to RSS like others do), I thought I’d write this post instead.

First, I consider myself and others will support that I’m somewhat of a WordPress expert. I have been working with WordPress for 9-years. I just so happened to check my WordPress.org profile, which says I joined in February 2005. Just a short month before your first blog post in March 2005.

Screenshot of Tony Zeoli profile on WordPress.org
My profile on WordPress.org

I founded WordPress Westchester Meetup in 2009 and then WordPress Chapel Hill Meetup in 2010 after moving to Chapel Hill for job at UNC. I’m no longer there, but that’s another story. I have also presented on WordPress topics at WordCamp NYC, Raleigh and Asheville. As you can see, I’m so engaged in WordPress, I build businesses on the platform through my company, Digital Strategy Works and this blog has been on WordPress as long as the Lefsetz Letter. As a WordPress expert, there are three things that irk me about your blog and I hope you address them. They are:

1. Your URL: https://lefsetz.com/wordpress

Lefsetz Letter home page with lefsetz.com/wordpress URL.
Lefsetz Letter home page with lefsetz.com/wordpress URL.

When you set up WordPress, you decided you wanted to front a “splash page” that drove some people to the blog and others to your mailing list signup form. Back then, we didn’t have as many available widgets in our WordPress sidebars. But you could have still put your mailing list registration form in a sidebar back then instead of in a page. It’s one-click to that page after landing on the homepage, but in today’s busy world, one-click is too much. Most sites now either have their mailing list signup just above or below the nav bar or at the top of a right or left sidebar.

You’re also still using PHP List, which is a mailing list software. Most web hosts now frown upon sending out an email list through their web servers because of the CAN SPAM Act. And, there is now a “whitelist” and “blacklist” of which hosts are being let through and which hosts are being targeted for spam. Reliance on PHP List instead of migrating the list to MailChimp or equivalent, who are “white list” providers, may be impacting the delivery of your message to your audience. It may not be, but it’s something to consider if you want to a. ensure your audience receives your emails and b. track open rates and unsubs. In fact, with MailChimp, you can even send out a weekly digest of emails published via RSS. You have it so people can only subscribe on your site to full post when it comes out, but some people enjoy weekly digests and that’s not an option. Additionally, it’s not obvious on your site where you might be able to unsub either.

My suggestion is to make your blog “archive” your home page and adopt a widget for your email subscription form in the right sidebar or in your site header. But, how do you do this?

Well, it seems when you installed WordPress, you uploaded WordPress in your “root” directory at your host, which is generally a folder named: “httpdocs.” Your URL resolves to: “httpdocs/wordpress” instead of just root aka “lefsetz.com/.”

If you were ever so inclined to fix this, you can simply edit your index.php file and change this:

** Loads the WordPress Environment and Template */

require( dirname( __FILE__ ) . '/wp-blog-header.php' );

to this:

** Loads the WordPress Environment and Template */

require( dirname( __FILE__ ) . '/wp-blog-header.php' );

This would then resolve your home page to lefsetz.com instead of lefsetz.com/wordpress. Anyone who types Lefsetz.com will no longer have to click on “Archive,” which is really a pain in the you know what. You say everyday that people “don’t have time,” yet you are a hypocrite by continuing to force people to one-click to your content from your “splash page.” For someone who crucifies artists on doing it right, you’re not doing it right yourself. Does it matter? To people like me, yes – it matters! A lot!

2. Social Sharing

There are NO social sharing icons on your blog. For someone who is so critical of artists who don’t use social media, you do not do it right.

What to do? Simple. Install the WordPress JetPack plugin and activate it. Then, connect it with your WordPress.com account by logging in, in the admin, with your WordPress.com user/pass. Access Dashboard > JetPack > Settings. Scroll down to Sharing. Turn it on by clicking “Activate.” Next, navigate to Dashboard > Settings > Sharing and drag’n’drop your social icons and click the check boxes to make them activate on your posts, pages and media (I have additional boxes for other post types), so that people who read your blog can share your posts in social media far easier than copying and pasting a link.

You’ll also be able to connect up with Google+ for your Google Authorship, so that your Google+ profile appears in Google search results. And, you’ll also be able to cross post into social networks without having to copy and paste links! Pretty awesome, I’d say.

If you activate Publicize, you’ll also be able to sync your blog with your social media accounts and cross post into social media. You can simply activate it in your JetPack Settings as well.

Screenshot of Netmix JetPack Sharing settings
Netmix JetPack Sharing settings

3. No XML Sitemap

You don’t have an XML sitemap, which can help your blog in SEO by connecting it directly to Google and Bing, who can then more accurately spider your blog posts while delivering analytics on keywords and other useful data.

Here’s what I found when I went to https://lefsetz.com/wordpress/sitemap.xml. A 404 Not Found error. Ghastly!

Not Found Error
Not Found Error

How does one create a sitemap? Simple, just download, install and activate All In One SEO Pack, the most popular SEO plugin for WordPress (downloaded over 19M times), from the WordPress.org plugins repo. It comes with a sitemap generator, but it’s core purpose is to allow you optimize the SEO of every post and page.

All In One SEO XML Sitemap Generator screenshot
All In One SEO XML Sitemap Generator
Now, head over to https://google.com/webmastertools and simply Add Site.
Screenshot of Google Webmaster Tools Add Site Page
Google Webmaster Tools Add Site Page

Once you’ve added your site, you’ll need to “Verify” the site (no screenshot provided) by linking it to your Google Analytics account or using All In One SEO site verification fields to enter in the string required for Google to see your site. Once it’s verified, you’ll be connected to Google directly. You’ll have to repeat this at Bing as well. Pinterest is also available.

All In One Sitemap Verification panel
All In One Sitemap Verification panel

An additional benefit of JetPack is activating WP.me, which is also located in the Settings panel. Using this integrated JetPack plugin will shorten your links. Shortlinks are certainly useful for those who don’t want to copy long links in a URL bar. I use a Bit.ly plugin to convert my links to that service, because I’m interested in managing my link sharing analytics with their analytics dashboard.

That’s it. I hope you’ll take this advice. If you need some help, let me know and happy blogging!

Why all DJ mixes on the web will never be legal

Well before SoundCloud, MixCloud, MixCratePodomaticTheFuture.fm, Play.fm and others (I’m sure are out there, but I’m not yet familiar with) inherited their spots as the most popular services where DJs can upload their DJ mixes then share them in social media, or have them pulled up in smart phone apps for on-demand listening over mobile, there were earlier attempts at bringing the DJ mix online. Image of article in Billboard Magazine - Larry Flick - Dance Trax - March 1996

In December of 2015, some 19-years ago, I registered this domain, Netmix.com, and launched the first organized DJ mixshow website in the world. Many of the DJ sets I encoded, uploaded and streamed in Real Audio 1.0, where from the world’s most sought after DJ/Producers at the time, including Armand Van Helden, Paul Oakenfold, Lil Louie Vega, Tony Humphries, Frankie Knuckles, Jody Wisternoff, Frankie Bones, Richard “Humpty” Vission” and the list goes on.

Shortly after I launched Netmix, other services began popping up, including Swedish Egil’s Groove Radio in Santa Monica (which had already been broad, CA; GrooveTech from Seattle; The Womb in Miami; and the folks at Streetsound Magazine in NYC, a subsidiary of  legendary pre-1.0 bubble Pseudo Networks, which released DJ mixes as streamed live video sets. That was well before today’s UGC (user-generated content) services like LiveStream and Ustream were born.

In the early days of the Internet, there were few rules. The Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 1998 had yet to be passed into law. Streaming music online was certainly a Wild West. You could get away with just about anything – as long as you kept things under the radar. In this pre-Napster era, web servers and bandwidth weren’t powerful enough to stream MP3 over HTTP, let alone allow people to download them. If you were in the streaming game, you had to either buy or lease space on a Windows Media, Real Audio or Apple streaming server. Real Audio being the most popular, albeit the more expensive of the three.

Labels were experimenting with music promotion online and Netmix was part of those early online marketing efforts, making some of its revenue by building artist landing pages on Netmix (like shown in the home page image below).  We’d send feedback to each label on unique visits to each single or album. We were responsible for some of the first Internet marketing efforts on behalf of dance/electronic artists for Sony Music, Atlantic Records, Roadrunner Records, Profile Records, Tommy Boy Records and Arista Records, as well as a number of smaller independent dance labels. We’d also started managing DJ producers and commissioning remixes. We signed records to Defected UK and Perfecto UK for artists on the Netmix roster.

Image of Version 3 of Netmix.com Home Page in late '90s
Netmix.com Home Page circa 1999-2000

When the Digital Millenium Copyright Act was finally passed and the later Small Webcasters Settlement Act of 2002 came into play, webcasters like Netmix were required to pay ASCAP and BMI a percentage of income, so they could pay out artist royalties for the public performance of the music in the mix shows. Given the costs at the time of streaming and bandwidth, it became less profitable for a webcaster like Netmix, without the backing of a major company, to survive on mix shows alone. There’s a lot more to it, but for the purposes of this post, that should suffice.

In June of 2000, Netmix because the third (after Streetsound and Groove Radio) to be acquired by a larger concern, yet left to run our Internet broadcast outlets under our brand names. By October of 2000, our parent company folded under the weight of the dotcom 1.0 and couldn’t raise any more money for operations. The company’s staff was laid off and Netmix went out on its own, but struggled to survive when labels were cutting budgets and the economy had tanked.

For the 5-years Netmix was running full-steam, our mixes were primarily broadcast as non-interactive streams. When I relaunched the site as a blog in the 2004, for a short time we paid for live streaming services using Live365.com, because they had figured out a way to allow broadcasters to stream archived shows as live webcasts, while factoring part of the subscription fee and pre and midstream advertising as payments to the performing rights organizations.Live365 was one of the first companies to advance this type of arrangement and others soon followed. This was legal and generally fit the requirements of the DMCA. These are the rules as published here by Live365 today:

DMCA Rules

The following is a partial list of the rules with which Live365’s Internet broadcasters must comply under portions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. ß 114, given the nature of the licenses Live365 has obtained from the owners of the copyrights in sound recordings. Please note these licenses only cover personal broadcasters and do not necessarily cover PRO broadcasters on Live365. We have abbreviated these rules to include only those that likely would be relevant given the manner in which you are able to use the Live365 system. The relevant rules which you must carefully review are as follows:

  • Your program must not be part of an “interactive service.” For your purposes, this means that you cannot perform sound recordings within one hour of a request by a listener or at a time designated by the listener.

  • In any three-hour period, you should not intentionally program more than three songs (and not more than two songs in a row) from the same recording; you should not intentionally program more than four songs (and not more than three songs in a row) from the same recording artist or anthology/box set.

  • Continuous looped programs may not be less than three hours long.

  • Rebroadcasts of programs may be performed at scheduled times as follows: Programs of less than one-hour: no more than three times in a two-week period; Programs longer than one hour: no more than four times in any two-week period.

  • You should not publish advance program guides or use other means to pre-announce when particular sound recordings will be played.

  • You should only broadcast sound recordings that are authorized for performance in the United States.

  • You should pass through (and not disable or remove) identification or technological protection information included in the sound recording (if any).

As you can see, the published rules above are very restrictive and that is for a reason. During the DMCA negotiations, the labels were very concerned about things like playing an entire album by one artist or looping the same shows excessively. They fought to prevent Internet broadcasters from pre-announcing track names, which can only be published in a player during playback and never before. In the world of DJ mixes, one company, Digitally Imported Radio (di.fm) stands out, because the station adheres to the DMCA and broadcasts online non-interactive streams. While it is most likely operates under a compulsory license with ASCAP, BMI and SESAC to pay songwriters their performance royalties, it also has a direct deal with SoundExchange to pay the artists themselves royalties as well.

SoundExchange is an entity created by the government to collect payments from Internet broadcasters for non-interactive Internet broadcasts of music that is then paid to the artists themselves, unlike terrestrial radio, which has not had this requirement, but may be forced to do so in the future as hearings are taking place now with the Senate Judiciary Committee. This may result in a change to the law.

Di.fm stands in stark contrast with all the services listed at the beginning of this article, because all of those services allow for upload of user-generated content and playback as an on-demand stream, which is interactive by nature. What’s the difference? According to the DMCA, an on-demand interactive broadcast requires a mechanical license from the copyright owner. Spotify, Apple’s iTunes Radio and Beats Music services pay tens of millions of dollars in advances to record labels to get rights to play music on-demand – that is, when the listener requests to play it at that moment.

Services like Pandora and 8tracks (disclosure: I am an adviser to 8tracks) do not fall in this category as they are strictly non-interactive and adhere to the terms in the DMCA. However, all the above mentioned services at the beginning of this article have not negotiated similar deals with the labels in regards to on-demand streams. At a New York Technology and Music Meetup a few months back, Nico Perez from MixCloud claimed that their attorney (who he said was also Pandora’s attorney) says they are operating under a specific clause of 17 U.S. Code Section 114 (b), which talks about a derivative work.

(b) The exclusive right of the owner of copyright in a sound recording under clause (1) of section 106 is limited to the right to duplicate the sound recording in the form of phonorecords or copies that directly or indirectly recapture the actual sounds fixed in the recording. The exclusive right of the owner of copyright in a sound recording under clause (2) of section 106 is limited to the right to prepare a derivative work in which the actual sounds fixed in the sound recording are rearranged, remixed, or otherwise altered in sequence or quality. The exclusive rights of the owner of copyright in a sound recording under clauses (1) and (2) of section 106 do not extend to the making or duplication of another sound recording that consists entirely of an independent fixation of other sounds, even though such sounds imitate or simulate those in the copyrighted sound recording. The exclusive rights of the owner of copyright in a sound recording under clauses (1), (2), and (3) of section 106 do not apply to sound recordings included in educational television and radio programs (as defined in section 397 of title 47) distributed or transmitted by or through public broadcasting entities (as defined by section 118 (f)): Provided, That copies or phonorecords of said programs are not commercially distributed by or through public broadcasting entities to the general public.

This clause protects fair use of musical works as a derivative work for a variety of reasons, including political or artistic. This is the same clause cited by mashup producers who know they cannot sell their work, so they give away their mash ups to increase their profile resulting in paid gigs to perform the mashups as artist or DJ in a live performance. As long as they don’t sell or monetize their mash ups, these mash up producers are protected by Section 114 (b) . But, for MixCloud to claim that DJ mixes are akin to mash ups is a stretch of the imagination, because often times, while a segment of a DJ mix may be a new composition rendered when the next song in a playlist is cued and beat matched over the previous song, the following minutes of playback of the new song surely cannot be considered a mashup. There is nothing unique about that excerpt, except for maybe the pitch was adjusted and the song is a little faster or slower than originally intended.

Shortly after that episode, MixCloud changed their terms and conditions and we are now hearing reports from DJs uploading new content that MixCloud is issuing takedowns of mixes they may consider infringing. This follows SoundCloud’s lead, which I previously wrote about here. I am not writing this because I hold any grudges against MixCloud for succeeding where Netmix was, well…not so successful over the long term, despite its pioneering status. I’m proud of that team for building a unique service and getting it to this level. It’s a great service and I even use it to publish my Netmix Global House Sessions Podcast. They’ve done an excellent job, but at the end of the day, what they are doing still does not adhere to the letter of the law.

Remember, MixCloud is fully interactive. In the mobile app, you can start a mix show on demand and skip through the full mix. This requires a mechanical license for each song in the DJ mix. There is no blanket compulsory license that covers this and until there is one, MixCloud is skirting the requirements of the DMCA. And, this is the very reason I don’t get into this business, because the DJ mix simply cannot be controlled by the DMCA, but if you start a music service based on the DJ mix, you’re surely going to run into this issue – time and time again. It’s not worth it. That document doesn’t take into consideration the value of a DJ mix to the artists and labels how use them as promotional vehicles. Until the DMCA is updated or some new compulsory license for an interactive performance comes into play, then all mixes that are interactive are simply not legal. Podcasts are another story and those have to be licensed as well.

That bring us to our last issue with TheFuture.fm, a service that claims it pays all artists royalties for songs played in DJ mixes. First, it’s impossible to accurately pay artists anything without exact meta data. How TheFuture.fm can be absolutely sure that every DJ mix uploaded has the exact per track meta data is beyond me, because that is simply not possible – unless, of course, a human being opens every MP3 used by the DJ in the mix and checks the ID3 tag to ensure the meta data is accurate.

Second, even if TheFuture.fm pays artists royalties through a compulsory license, that’s still circumventing the mechanical license needed for every song that is included in an on-demand, interactive stream. I checked some of the mixes today and yes, they are on-demand and interactive – I can skip through the mix. As I said before, there is no compulsory license for on-demand interactive streaming and it would cost tens of millions of dollars to pay to the entire recorded music industry to allow for this. Even then, what is played is sometimes not known and if it is known, then the meta data may not be accurate anyway.

The funny thing about many of these services is that they start over in London and for a reason that I can’t yet figure out, they are allowed to thrive, even though some of the same rules apply there. They attempt to cross the pond and break into America, where they are absolutely 100% aware of the DMCA restrictions, yet somehow they raise money and try to circumvent the rules (ala Uber or AirBnB), only to have to capitulate as SoundCloud has done and MixCloud is now starting to do.

One of the other services I mentioned, Play.fm, happily operates in Austria and has cast no aspersions on entering the U.S. market in the same way. When I first met the Play.fm team at a Winter Music Conferece in the mid-2000s, I learned they get funding from the Austrian government, so they wouldn’t be able to get seed funding from investors in the U.S. anyway, because they’re not set up like more traditional start-ups who are self-funded or investor funded. I also believe Austria is not as restrictive regarding streaming rights and licensing (but I could be wrong.)

At the end of the day, I want to see these service thrive and survive. I love DJ culture. It’s in my blood. I’ve been involved in the scene for over 30-years. Plus, I want to be in the game and I want my DJ mixes on these services. However, there is a reason that Netmix is a blog today and not a DJ mix service (although I do host my mixes as podcasts that remain unlicensed). Those reasons are clear – the DJ mix should be an on demand format. For that to happen, DJs need a compulsory license for the mechanical, which does not exist. Until that exists, we are all operating in the grey area and not one of us can bring a DJ oriented music service to market that is innovative and allows interactive, on-demand performances, until the rules change.

That means, until that happens, I’m sitting it out. I’m not going to waste investors time and money running up against the music industry, which will sue me out of existence or have artists and labels issuing takedowns and ruining the service’s reputation while frustrating users. Should artists and labels fight back? Yes. As long as these are the rules, they have every right to issue takedowns and make life hell for all the DJs out there. Now that DJs are getting paid big money in Vegas or these huge festivals to spin, some artists are saying they want a piece of that pie too. But, those artists have to remember that the festivals and clubs are licensed by the PROs, so they are still getting paid when their music is played. A few things that would go a long way toward helping artists get the money they deserve would be technology that accurately tracked the public performance of DJ sets in live environments and the adoption of ISRC by DJs attached to their mixes. But, those are articles for another day!

Dance Music Industry Promotion Exec, David Henney Has Died at 50

Dance music has lost one of its more revered industry promotion executives.

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