YouTube, ASCAP Reach U. S. Performance Rights Deal from hypebot.com
Who is ASCAP?
ASCAP , BMI and SESAC are Performance Rights Organizations (PROs). They sell licenses to businesses that play music: concert halls, radio stations, TV stations, cable networks, satellite radio, airlines, colleges and universities, orchestras, restaurants, bars, and hotels. The money collected is then distributed as royalties to the music owners: composers, lyricists, publishers and record labels. Their payment royalty methods for composers and songwriters have a long history of being fuzzy. That’s because it’s incredibly complicated to track when and where every performance or recording of music played occurred and for how many people, even with digital tagging and earmarking methods.
YouTube, owned by Google, now gets 1.5 billion logged-in users per month. The average viewer spends one hour per day using their mobile devices and is becoming a major platform for music listening. But YouTube royalties, even though they are digital, have been among the most difficult to understand – so the news that ASCAP will be helping can only be an improvement. ASCAP has always been good to us composers of concert music, but they can do much for us here because we’re just a blip in the traffic. Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift videos can climb above 2 billion. Even modern classical “supergroups” like Alarm Will Sound only have a few vids over 10,000 plays; Eighth Blackbird is the same except for a Steve Reich piece at 39K (I found a tiny desk concert from NPR at 72K); most of the vids are in the mid single-thousands or less, like my “Earth Caoine” with Richard Stoltzman, which has 7.6K. Youtube pays according to: 1. advertising dollars, which vary widely with popularity, 2. the viewers’ demography 3. retention 4. engagement, 5. type of video, 6. source of views by country, 7. source of views by country, 8. the number of subscribers and 9. the number of views on mobile. According to The Trichordist in 2016, Youtube pays at least one-sixth of Spotify’s rate at $0.00069 per stream, so I’d be owed $5.24 for my 7, 600 plays for all the years it’s been posted. As the play numbers rise, so do the advertising dollars paid. The bar seems to be about a million, and at this time, modern classical music (or whatever you want to call it) is simply not even in the game. So, the ASCAP/YouTube deal makes little difference to today’s composer. Maybe we can change that for tomorrow.
The predominant YouTube music is, in no particular order: Dance (Male age 15-34), Rock (Male age 35+), and Hip-hop (Male age 15-34). Classical music has never been more than 5% of sales, at least since the 80s, and probably for much longer.
The well produced performance videos of well-known performers like Yo-Yo Ma, Joshua Bell and Hilary Hahn, all playing classical favorites, consistently hit 300K to 10M. That’s classical era music which is archetypically emotional and understandable: and these artists show emotion, rare excellence and athleticism, adding to the appeal. This is no different than today’s concert audiences who, on the whole, still prefer Mendelssohn over Messian and Schumann over Schuman.
Maybe “modern classical” / “contemporary classical” / needs a new branding
If we replace the word “classical” with something more accurately descriptive, music lovers might give it a listen – and be open to it. As soon as the word ‘classical’ hits many ears, they shut down because of their preconceptions. For many decades, their favorite bands and artists have employed ‘classical’ instruments and sounds – and they go nuts for it. Yet, better use of those instruments has existed all around them in modern classical chamber music, unnoticed. My experience in front of pop music fans for the last 30 years tells me that much our music will be liked if we can just get a listen. You Tube is yet another reflection of poor branding in contemporary classical music.
How can we use YouTube?
YouTube’s real importance for us is reaching a musically active, digitally native audience. Let’s not continue to brand Classical like pop with just attractive, sexy artists for females, or street-smart looking hipsters, geniuses for groups. I think that we can get new listeners to care about our music if actually we get them in on how our music works. If our music too complex for these folks? Maybe, but we can help them/ invite them in. YouTube offers us to use the video to add images that could help audiences understand the music. Maybe, composers could use images to exposing our musics’ concepts: pitch, form and harmonic relationships, balance, gesture, sonic architecture, acoustics, math, psychoacoustics, color, texture, rhythm, pitch, arrangement, form, emotions, chance and change – and when complimentary – tell stories. No-one can do this better for our own music than us. We can expect higher engagement if we are sharing our passion.