Spotify’s Hulu bundle has sadly ended, unless you’re a student

TV and music lovers will be sad to know that Spotify and Hulu’s incredible bundle is over, but it’s alright if you’re a student.

Last year Spotify launched a dual bundle offering their music streaming service alongside Hulu’s video streaming service at an incredible discounted price. One of the best bundles in modern entertainment is unfortunately gone except for a select group.

Both services could be subscribed to at just $12.99 for all Americans until March when Spotify dropped the bundle even lower to $9.99 a month. Now the deal is only available for students at the incredible price of $4.99 for Spotify Premium, Hulu’s ad-supported service and SHOWTIME.

According to Music Ally’s findings anyone who has already signed up to the deal and activates their Hulu account by July will have access to the service for at least two years and “possibly more”. The deal will remain for existing bundle subscribers only as long as they are still subscribed to Spotify.

Sofar Sounds reveal plans for $25 million funding, good news for artists

Sofar Sounds have garnered criticism before over whether they treat the artists they recruit fairly, but with new funding those concerns should be quashed.

Yesterday we reported on Sofar Sounds new $25 million in funding that they announced this week. It’s an amazing new investment in an unique live music business that has spread around the world providing a gig experience that stands on its own.

But with so much money going into the business it felt necessary to also look at how much money the artists see in Sofar Sounds gigs. The value of a musicians work often comes into question when it shouldn’t. With Sofar sometimes paying musicians nothing for their first gigs, instead paying them in “exposure”. When artists are paid it’s always $100 for the gig.

Sofar Sounds have now discussed how they plan to use the $25 million they’ve gained in funding and it’s good news for artists. Sofar’s founder and former CEO, Rafe Offer told Billboard that they plan to make sure “that as we grow, we grow with grace, and that the events as they are today feel the same as they did when we started it.”

Sofar have taken on board the criticism from artists in recent years, some arguing that they don’t pay enough considering the scope and scale of Sofar’s business now. They are looking at new ways in which they can increase what they pay artists by diverging their efforts beyond their traditional; mystery venue, surprise 3-act gigs.

Sofar Sounds’ current CEO, Jim Lucchese says: “I am absolutely not happy that it’s the only way we make artists money right now. The purpose of this financing is to build out additional services where we can make artists more money. How can we make it easier for you to convert those [attendees] to fans? How can we help you better monetize them?”

They don’t want to simply continue the same model and give more money to the artists. Looking at a recent sponsored gig in collaboration with 21st Century Fox to promote Bohemian Rhapsody, Lucchese suggests they’d like to do more. The payment to artists for a sponsored gig bumps up massively to $1500 on average.

They also want to build upon the value outside of money alone. At the moment the majority of artist’s compensation for doing a Sofar session is considered to be the exposure from the unique audiences and the professional videos they record to upload to their massive online following.

The issue is that with their increased popularity in recent years the exposure becomes saturated amongst the many other artists they are working with on a regular basis. They hope to enhance the platform that they are able to put artists on to prioritise building a fan-base as well as straight up payment.

Lucchese adds: “I want being a Sofar artist to unlock other services for you. We’re starting around building that digital front door for artists and making the touring side of things more efficient and easier.”

Whilst they’re definitely acknowledging artists concerns, they seem to be prioritising the value of their exposure rather than increasing monetary value for artists. Offer adds to Lucchese’s statements: “With helping more artists and helping them become sustainable, there’s a lot to still be done.”

Sofar Sounds raise $25m, but will artists see any of that?

Sofar Sounds are bringing unique, intimate gigs to people’s living rooms and other mysterious locations – but are they for the artists, the audience, or themselves?

Sofar Sounds aren’t just a live sessions producer, nor are they quite a gig promoter – they stand in a league of their own. They launched just under 10 years ago with a passion for live music and a disdain for the rest of the live music experience – loud crowds, busy venues, sweaty smells, exorbitant drink prices.

Sofar Sound’s New York branch city director, Stephanie Mitchell, spoke on how the founders responded to their position on gigs almost 10 years ago in London. “They decided to have a house concert with a few friends, and they asked for a few simple things from the audience – to be engaged and not talk during the performance. That kind of attentive room left an impression, so they continued doing more,” she said to Forbes.

Since the very first intimate concert that inspired an entire platform and business Sofar Sounds is now active in 430 cities around the world. They’ve hosted over 20,000 mysterious shows where audience members don’t know where they’re going or even the acts that they’ll be seeing that night.

Audiences of between 45 to 150 people get picked out of a lottery type system after applying on their website. All 3 acts that they see will be a total surprise and each act will be given equal footing – whether playing first or last there are no headliners and no support acts.

They’ve created a unique live music experience that changes the formula for watching concerts that has become so standard. It’s no doubt a great thing, but are the artists benefitting from these gigs? and what about the people who are hosting them in their living rooms, cafes, basements, etc?

Sofar Sounds announced this week that they have raised $25 million in a new round of funding. With a whopping new investment behind them they will be able to expand with hopes of becoming the worlds favourite in alternative concerts. It’s a lot of money on top of what they make from each gig; audience members pay between $15-30 for concerts.

There are questions over how much Sofar are paying the artists that are getting involved in these gigs. It can be a great opportunity for up-and-comers but when the company behind the scenes are making so much you’d expect the artists to be fairly compensated in return. After all the concept is nothing without the music.

In the past they have paid artists nothing, citing the high quality recording of the gig as the artists payment – videos that Sofar Sounds upload to their own channel’s portfolio. Sure, it can make for great exposure but it’s a classic case of artists being expected to work for free.

When artists are paid it can be as little as $100 for the gig. When Sofar Sounds are making can make $1,500+ a gig, the artists chunk is comparably nothing. If there are lots of members in the band they can end up with pittance for playing a gig arranged by one of the most popular, new concert-makers in world.

But for a solo artist who doesn’t need to travel far $100 can be totally reasonable, particularly as each set is normally only 3-4 tracks per artist. Once artists have played 1 Sofar Session they are also inducted into a sort-of ‘inner circle’ where it’s much easier to get more gigs with Sofar, so they can be a valuable resource if it makes sense for the musician.

In regards to the ‘payment via exposure’ issue, it’s a tough debate. Sofar have nearly 900,000 subscribers on YouTube and a major online presence that they will promote the artists playing Sofar gigs to. There is serious potential for new fans and social media followers here but with their proliferation and popularity it’s easy to get lost amongst a sea of other videos and posts on their pages and channels these days.

What about the people who are offering up their homes and businesses to provide a unique and mysterious venue as an alternative to the bars and stages of the norm? They’re reportedly not paid a single dime regardless. The crew that work in cities across the world to help make them run globally beyond their in-house team of 50 are also volunteers.

Writing an expose for KQED, Emma Silvers shares the gripes of many artists who have worked with Sofar Sounds. Thanks to Tech Crunch for bringing it to our attention. Oakland singer-songwriter, Madeline Kenney said: “I think they talk a lot about supporting local artists, but what they’re actually doing is perpetuating the idea that it’s okay for musicians to get paid shit.”

Kenney shares how she didn’t even realise the audience were paying for the gigs until she had already played 4 Sofar sets. Likewise R&B artist Xiomara shared that it was a friend who informed her audience members were paying $15 for tickets, saying: “They’re projecting this kind of supportive community vibe, but that’s the complete opposite of what they’re doing.”

Many of the artists also find themselves unaware that Sofar Sounds runs a for-profit company when they sign up to play with them. It’s not that it’s undisclosed but they clearly aren’t upfront enough with the artists when they peddle the community, intimate vibe of their gigs to musicians.

Does this mean they’re the enemy of artists though? Well, no. They’re still providing a cool opportunity and a potential global platform for artists. But it does set a precedent that is already too rife amongst the music industry of musicians not being treated as professionals who are valued. Sofar CEO, Jim Lucchese even says himself: “I don’t think playing a Sofar right now is the right move for every type of artist.”

Lucchese says that, once you take into account all of their maintenance costs, insurance, performing rights payouts and their own labour, “a little over half the take goes to the artists”. But that just de-prioritises the artists position in the making of it all – and raises the question of what their own “labour” costs are considering they often use volunteers on-site.

With a massive round of new funding hopefully Sofar have the funds to take their business to the next step of re-compensating artists as well as building their business. We will have to see how they progress from here as they become more-and-more profitable.

One thing is sure though. We need to pay artists for their work so that we don’t perpetuate the idea that work for “recognition” or “content” is always a good thing.

NME and Uncut’s renowned music publications have been bought out

Two of the UK’s favourite music publications, including 60+ year staple NME, have been acquired by Singapore’s BandLab Technologies.

Music and tech company BandLab Technologies have acquired some prime real-estate in the UK’s music industry. It was confirmed last week that the Singapore-based company have purchased NME and Uncut, two significant online music publications.

The purchase comes a year after NME moved entirely online, releasing it’s last issue ever in May 2018. The notorious publication has been running since 1952 and shifted to a free model in recent years to attempt to bring in more readers as print publication sales dwindled. They eventually went entirely online seeing the market had shifted to the web.

Along with Uncut, NME will join Guitar.com and MusicTech as recent acquisitions into BandLab’s growing music roster. BandLab’s primary business is running their own music creation platform which takes a twist on DAW-style software by making it social with a network between creators sharing and discovering each other’s creations.

BandLab Technologies CEO, Meng Kuok said: “These brands occupy a treasured place place in the UK music landscape and increasing relevance to the global music scene, which we are looking to enhance and extend. These two media brands will play an important role in continuing our vision to create a connected world of music.”

None of the parties have disclosed any of the financial details surrounding the deal but BandLab are confident that there will be no cuts to the staff and that publishing will remain the same. Discussions surrounding the return of NME in-print will happen after the deal is closed.

TI Media, NME and Uncut’s current owners, have praised the two publications as they send them off to their new family. TI Media’s CEO, Marcus Rich said: “NME and Uncut will always have a special place in our story. Their reputation for stand-out, award-winning journalism spanning seven decades goes well beyond the world of music and I’m proud they’ve attained that status as part of our company.

“At the same time, we need to recognise that to achieve the next stage of their evolution, NME and Uncut will be better placed with a business that has music at its heart.”

Use Google Assistant on Sonos One and Sonos Beam Next Week

Sonos is rolling out the Google Assistant onto its Sonos One and Sonos Beam smart speakers next week.

The functionality will launch in the US initially, “with more markets to come over the next few months.”

“This feature will truly elevate the customer experience and marks the first time that consumers will be able to buy a single smart speaker and get to choose which voice assistant they want to use. We think giving consumers choice is always the right decision, and we anticipate this philosophy will be adopted in the industry over time,” he said. Both the One and Sonos Beam ship out of the box with built-in support for Amazon’s Alexa.

You can purchase a Sonos One and Sonos Beam here.

SoundCloud launch their next wave of artist promotion on ‘First On SoundCloud’

SoundCloud have a host of new artists to push out as part of their new artist discovery program after helping artists to break out last year.

Last year SoundCloud launched ‘First On SoundCloud‘ to highlight up-and-coming artist in the US, UK, and Germany. It was a success and helped bring to light some of the rising artists on the independent artist-focused platform to even more listeners.

The campaign focuses around the real connections that artists and their fans have, particularly on platforms like SoundCloud where you can have real interactions. Every week through Spring and early Summer, SoundCloud will put the spotlight on new music and introduce listeners to the different communities that exist on SoundCloud.

The second wave of First On SoundCloud will highlight 20 new or rising artists who have had an impact on SoundCloud, including: Flipp Dinero, DNMO, HappyBirthdayCalvin, Billie Eilsh, and IV Jay. Using real comments from SoundCloud listeners the campaign will promote artists in unique ways.

You can learn more about the artists being featured in the coming months here.

Bandcamp are pressing vinyls for artists and labels now

Bandcamp’s platform for independent artists and labels is getting a bit more physical with a new vinyl pressing service.

Bandcamp provides a streaming platform and digital store for artists and labels to easily share their music with fans and the world. Their store lets uploaders choose to add merch and physical copies to their releases but now they want to open up the wonderful (and thriving) world of vinyl music to independent artists and labels.

Bandcamp announced the new service last week, citing that in the last 5 years vinyl sales have grown 600% on their platform alone. With 3,500 unique vinyl albums added to the site each month, Bandcamp decided that they can no longer ignore the new wave of vinyl popularity.

They felt that, as vinyl becomes the physical music of choice with streaming services replacing CDs, that it should be prioritised better for smaller musicians. They note that only 9% of albums with sales on Bandcamp in 2018 offered a vinyl version of their record – and even then they are often very limited pressings. Vinyl is still in many ways inaccessible for lots of small artists and labels.

Bandcamp’s new vinyl service will require no up-front investment so artists won’t be left out of pocket if their sales don’t perform as well as expected. To ensure quality of all pressings, Bandcamp’s vinyl partner has over 60 years experience in pressing vinyl that looks and sounds great.

The vinyl service will be launched for all artists and labels later this year with four pilot campaigns to show what they’ll be capable of with their vinyl service.

Bandcamp promise:

Eliminates risk. No out-of-pocket costs—your fans’ orders finance your pressing, you don’t.

Eliminates hassle. We press your records, print your packaging, and ship to your fans (and fulfill digital too).

Complete control. Your record’s design, and your campaign’s pricing and desired profit are all up to you.

High quality. Our manufacturing partner has over 60 years experience producing vinyl, ensuring your record will sound, and look, its best.

Ideal for offering vinyl at the same time as a digital pre-order, a first pressing of an existing digital-only release, or a repress of a sold out record.

Where to get help for mental health as a musician, manager, label and tour crew

There is a very valuable helpline offering support to those struggling with their mental health in the music industry. 

As we have sadly been reminded a few times in recent years, mental health can be a serious issue for people involved in the music industry. There a lot of pressures involved in being an artist, manager, label-runner and the various other roles in music.

A helpline is available from UK charity Help Musicians UK that offers advice for musicians and other music industry cohorts. Launched as part of their Music Minds Matter campaign in 2017 the helpline was inspired by the death of Chester Bennington, the lead singer of Linkin Park who took his own life.

The helpline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 0808 802 8008 and is free of charge. You can also send an email at MMM@helpmusicians.org.uk. 
Don’t be afraid to reach out.

Get a whole new library of virtual instruments free with LABS

Expand your library with an infinity of virtual instruments to breathe new life into your music and DAW.

The LABS programme comes from British music tech company, Spitfire Audio. Specialists in sound sampling and virtual instruments they have combined their versatile knowledge of music to create an always expanding range of software instruments that you can get totally free.

From a modular piano to synth pads to strings, each instrument is meticulously recorded to sound amazing and versatile. A new one is added every month so you can keep coming back and expanding your library with even more unique and amazing sounds.

They use a dedicated plugin with simplified controls for easy customisation. Sliders control expression and dynamics whilst a big knob will help you customise the instrument to your own personal workflow.

Since re-launching their LABS series last year, Spitfire Audio’s free virtual instruments now work straight from your DAW of choice so you don’t need to mess around with any other software to get playing.

Check out all of the instruments Spitfire Audio are offering for free and download them now here: www.spitfireaudio.com/labs/