THE LONG TAIL WAGS: A fascinating phenomenon is taking place in the market right now, as the sales/streams balance continues to shift. Witness Desiigner’s “Panda” (G.O.O.D Music/Def Jam) which is dropping on both the Top 40 airplay chart (#30-35 after peaking at #20) and the Rhythm airplay chart (#13-18 after peaking at #2), both dated 7/10, but was the #5 most-streamed track in the U.S. for the week ending 7/7, with 9m+. The tally would jump to 24.3m if video streams were counted, which would put it at #1 in combined streams, 5.1m more than the combined total for the #1 most-streamed audio-only track, Drake’s “One Dance” (YMCMB/Republic). In other words, “Panda,” which is “over” in the old-school parlance, is far from over in the brave new world. “Panda” isn’t an isolated incident by any means: The seven most-streamed songs on the weekly chart at right—from “One Dance” to #7, Calvin Harris’ “This Is What You Came For” (Columbia)—all dropped in sales from the previous week, even taking into account the July 4th weekend, and none of them is near the end of its currency. In another intriguing wrinkle, Future’s “Low Life” (Epic), the #19 most-streamed track, which would be #10 with the video component added, has yet to get any significant Top 40 spins.
While sales and airplay hits typically experience discernible movement from week to week, streaming hits can remain relatively stable for months. Given the enduring power of streaming hits, is radio making a mistake by not considering this factor? Further, with music being consumed in these bite-sized pieces, track by track and stream by stream, what relevance does the album configuration have to the mainstream marketplace moving forward? It clearly matters less than ever before, so much so that some ranking label execs now believe the traditional album cycle is obsolete, with a handful of notable exceptions—Adele chief among them, obviously.
When an industry turns away from its declining primary product and pins its hopes on the potential of a fundamentally different way of supplying the market, a period of uncertainty inevitably ensues, accompanied by the struggle to comprehend this new way of doing business, not only for consumers but also for the business, which has to learn a new way of thinking. On top of all that, no one can predict what will happen next when things are fundamentally changing in a heartbeat. That’s where we find ourselves at this moment, as what we presumed would be an evolution is beginning to increasingly resemble a revolution.
LEMONADE’S STAND: Amid all this morphing, Beyoncé’s Lemonade (Columbia) stands as an anomaly. Streaming—or the stream-equivalent albums component (SEA)—accounts for 12% of the album’s 1.7m+ in YTD SPS. The reason Lemonade’s streaming percentage is so low is obvious: It can only be streamed on Tidal, while Drake’s Views (on which streams account for 37% of SPS) and Rihanna’s ANTI (41%) are now available to stream on all the services. In effect, giving Tidal a streaming exclusive is not unlike keeping an album off stream-ing platforms altogether, as Taylor Swift and Adele did for ex-tended periods while they sold boatloads. Lemonade sells on (at the premium price point of $17.99 for tracks and video); Grammy buzz on the set (see Paul Grein’s preliminary forecast on page 18) will undoubtedly keep interest high. Will Beyoncé decide at some point to give the album to Spotify and Apple Music?
Meanwhile, DJ Khaled, whose Drake collab “For Free” (Epic) is the #11 most-streamed track but is also losing ground in sales (#21-26), finds himself in an odd situation. He’s a Roc Nation management client, which you’d figure would cause him to align with Tidal, since both are primarily owned by Jay Z, but Khaled instead cut a windowing deal with Apple Music. Given Tidal’s severely limited market penetration, Khaled’s decision seems prudent, to say the least.
Some takeaways from the adjacent chart breaking down the sales vs. streaming percentages on seven selected acts, including three with no current album in the market—and arguably no need for one at this point. Chance the Rapper obviously has no sales or TEA for his streaming-only album, which went wide following a two-week Apple Music exclusive, but it’s worth noting that as an unsigned artist he gets the entire 70% cut of net streaming revenue. Would Drake’s sales be far greater if his streaming activity were significantly lower? What is the ideal combination of sales and streams for maximum dollars? Finally, streaming measures the amount of spins a track is getting from the consumers; if we were able to calculate how many times a purchased track was getting played by the purchasers, the comparisons ratios would likely change dramatically. The new appetite has no immediate financial risk since subscribers to premium streaming services have already bought their all-you-can-eat tickets.
Will the pricing on the Google Play/YouTube Red overlapping subscription services finally make them meaningful, and are we entering a period of accelerated streaming growth due to price slashing by Spotify—which offers trial deals all the time on its premium tier, including a recent $.99 promo — as the Google colossus makes its move? How much price slashing can Spotify withstand as it struggles for eventual profitability? Like Apple Music, YouTube Red and Google Play offer free trials, but for one month, not three, before reverting to the industry-standard $10 monthly rate.
U.K. H1: The six-month and Q2 marketshare results for the U.K. show a tightening of the gap between David Joseph’s UMG and Jason Iley’s Sony, and this despite any contribution from Adele’s 25, which goes exclusively to XL in Britain. (That will change on the superstar’s subsequent releases, thanks to her recent three-album worldwide deal with Sony). David Bowie, Beyoncé and Little Mix were Sony’s top sellers during H1, as the Brits refer to the six-month period. Max Lousada’s Warner Music is also on the upswing, with Top 10 album sellers from Coldplay, Best of Bowie and Jess Glynne.
CHATTER: Columbia’s secret weapon in securing the services of Harry Styles was promotion head Lee Leipsner, who formed a close business and personal relationship with the artist during the One Direction projects. Major acts love their promo guys.
Todd Boehly’s Eldridge Industries appears to be close to taking bids on Dick Clark Productions, which has an estimated valuation north of $800m. Between them, DCP CEO Allen Shapiro and Chairman Peter Guber are believed to have a 5-10% stake in the company. Shapiro was none too pleased to have to shell out $40m for the rights to the Billboard Music Awards.
Dissatisfaction with BMI and ASCAP has reached a new all-time high following the recent stunning DOJ Consent Decree decision, as publishers and writers have even more reason to be unhappy with the big two PROs.
NAMES IN THE RUMOR MILL: Dennis Kooker, Jay Frank, Trent Reznor, Steve Savoca, Ted Cockle, Cameron Strang and Mark Shimmel.
SONY PARTS WAYS WITH DR. LUKE
Kemosabe CEO out on the heels of legal battle with Kesha. (4/26a)
TOP 20: IT'S FIVE MORE, INNIT?
Kendrick continues. (4/26a)
CHART BATTLE BREWING?
Stapleton vs. Logic: it's on. (4/26a)
Beyonce the benefactor. (4/26a)
411 ON THE 6-1-5
Shania's got a new album. (4/26a)