Pandora Hits 200 Million Users, 140 Million On Mobile
Pandora announced this week it now has over 200 million registered users for its online radio service. It took the company six years to hit the 100 million mark in July 2011, and less than two years to double that user base, which includes 140 million mobile listeners. According to Pandora's first quarter earnings report, only about 70 million actually use the service on a monthly basis, but that figure still puts the streaming music service well ahead of its primary U.S. competitor, Spotify, which has around 24 million active users - 6 million of which pay for the service. "We started this company to help people discover and enjoy music they love, and to help artists reach and grow their audiences," Pandora's founder Tim Westergren said in a statement. "Only in our wildest dreams did we imagine what it would become. It is now clear that radio is changing, and that's great news for music fans and for the tens of thousands of working artists who now have a home on the air." Interestingly. MSN Money this week wrote that Pandora actually is stronger than many websites and analysts give it credit for, noting that even Apple - in its quest to launch is rumored iRadio service - has a new-found comprehension of Pandora's competitive advantages and what such a service means for the sale of music downloads. [Full story: Mashable MSN Money]
SoundExchange Paid Out $117.5 Million In First Quarter Of 2013
SoundExchange distributed $117.5 million of digital performance royalties in the first three months of this year, a record for the first quarter but down from the $122.5 million and $134.9 million distributed in the third and fourth quarters of 2012, respectively. "Our first quarter numbers show that this digital radio revenue stream is continuing to grow," SoundExchange President Michael Huppe said in a statement released on Tuesday. Because performance distributions don't match exactly the royalties that are accrued in a specific quarter, the amounts distributed may not always show the growth in digital radio from one quarter to the next. However, when viewed over multiple quarters, it's clear that internet and satellite radio both are growing at a healthy rate. The most recent distributions are nearly 34% greater than the $88 million distributed in the third quarter of 2011. Note: Internet radio, satellite radio, and cable radio services pay statutory royalties for the performance of sound recordings, and SoundExchange distributes those royalties to record labels, performing artists, and non-featured musicians. Terrestrial AM/FM radio thus far is exempt. [Full story: Billboard]
Apple's iTunes Holds 63% Of Digital Music Market
Apple's iTunes Store remains the primary source for buying digital downloads, accounting for 63% of the paid music marketplace in the fourth quarter of 2012, while Amazon is a distant second, with 22%. According to NPD Group's "Annual Music Study 2012," which examined data from more than 12,000 consumer surveys, 44 million Americans bought at least one song track or album download last year, and per-buyer spending on music downloads was up 6% year-over-year, due to teens buying more tracks. The study also found that nearly 40% of U.S. consumers still believe it's important to own their music, with 30% believing that listening to entire albums is important. In fact, the belief in the importance of owning music is actually somewhat stronger among consumers that listen to Pandora and other free streaming services. These listeners, NPD found, were more likely to buy downloads of things they'd heard on a radio or on-demand service. Worldwide, digital music revenues total $5.6 billion, and Apple's iTunes accounts for a large portion of that. The service recently sold its 25 billionth song, with 15 billion of those sales coming in the last three years. [Full story: Apple Insider]
Study Suggests Streaming Music Has Already Peaked
Despite continued growth in Pandora, Spotify, and Slacker, streaming music services may be close to hitting their saturation point - at least in the U.K. According to a YouGov survey, on-demand music and movie providers may struggle to get enough users to pay for on-demand content, especially with Apple expected to enter the streaming music market. Specifically, the study found that approximately one-third of the U.K.'s online population used such digital music services as iTunes or Spotify in the last three months, while only 4% of those who have not yet listened to online music said they plan to do so sometime in the next year. If the research is accurate, Spotify and such rivals as Deezer and Rdio may be left to fight over a tiny market of prospective customers. Among online music users, iTunes is the most popular at 47% of users, while Spotify follows at 13%. "There's scope for services to increase their user base, but that will come from attracting users from other services or increasing the money from their current users," YouGov director Shaun Austin told PC Pro. "There are several ways to do that: one is choice, as with the Spotify model. Different payment options are critical too, so those who pay can pay either monthly subscriptions or paying per track." [Full story: PC Pro]
Samsung Says "No" To FM In New Galaxy S4 Smartphone
Despite the efforts of many key executives in the U.S. radio industry, the Samsung Galaxy S4 will not ship with an FM radio tuner because of shifting consumer demands. In a statement issued this week, the company said, "Our studies show a trend shift of interest to digital broadcasting - namely, the focus on listening to music content on social networks or on the channel YouTube. The flagship model of our devices is targeted at customers who use digital content, which use modern formats and channels of information consumption." While the usage of online streaming services for music or news has increased significantly in recent years, many users limit their consumption of these services because of data caps and overage charges on their plans. By contrast, FM radio offers a relatively low-tech and low-bandwidth way to listen on a smartphone, and broadcasters have been pushing for manufacturers to include an FM chip as standard equipment on new devices. Note: The new Galaxy S4 features either a 1.6GHz eight-core Exynos 5 Octa processor or a 1.9GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor (depending on country), 2GB of RAM, and a 5-inch full HD AMOLED display. [Full story: Latinos Post]
Al Bell: A Letter To The President
The horrific and cowardly events that transpired at Monday's Boston Marathon are painfully difficult for all of us to understand, much less accept - even in the context of today's tumultuous world. Despite our religious, political, and cultural differences here on planet Earth, I find it unfathomable that anyone would strive to kill or maim innocent people in order to illustrate their own barbarism and savagery.
I have worked within the music industry for the past 50 years, and have found time and again that poet William Congreve was correct when, in 1697, he wrote: "Music has charms to sooth a savage breast...to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak..." When we were making music in Memphis at Stax Records in the 1960s and '70s it was to make people "feel good," and we need more of that "feel good" music today - now more than ever.
Tuesday night (April 16) PBS televised a music program highlighting President Barack Obama's recognition and celebration of the "feel good" music that came out of Stax Records, America's delta region, and the city of Memphis, Tennessee - music that during some equally tumultuous years in the history of this country "served to sooth the savage breast." The PBS program was recorded April 9 during a special performance at the White House, and this week President Obama received a hand-delivered letter I wrote congratulating him for recognizing the contributions of the artists, writers, and musicians that made this music what it was - and is.
I am sharing that letter with you today and invite you to pass it on, reprint it, share it on Facebook and Twitter, and email it to family and friends to demonstrate that the spirit of music here in America cannot be dampened by the cowards who seek to destroy our way of life.
With sincere and humble regards,
Al Bell Chairman,
Memphis Music Foundation President/CEO, Al Bell Presents
Former Chairman/Owner, Stax Records