I recently undertook a “state of resonate” project to look at where we are in our journey to becoming a fully functioning DSP that aligns expectation and reality. It’s also intended as a basic educational overview for people working in any capacity in resonate without music industry/DSP experience. Publishing here for the whole coop to enjoy and comment - if they wish. It’s a work in progress - I will add detail/ideas in the future, I am open to adding those from others as well, happy to answer any questions you may have or clarifications that may be helpful.
EXPECTATION VS REALITY aka the Current state of Resonate as a DSP.
Currently we have a working player with good basic features, but the “back end” “content delivery” or “artist dashboard” lacks a truly professional comprehensive form. This needs to be prioritised by the co-op to align with the music industry and artists expectations of what a DSP provides. We can then go over and above their expectations, by building in line with our manifesto, to foster community, level the playing field, avoid the pitfalls of gatekeeping and building a system that is feminist, non-US/Western-European centric, for independent music, fosters support, recognises interdependence, protects privacy, and actively aims to elevate the communities, genres, innovators and territories that have been dispossessed, ignored and exploited.
The issue of an app is separate from the needs of the platform, but is something that also needs to be taken into consideration when building the platform. Essentially though, the app can be built out more easily once we have a comprehensive and professional platform. The app can take the form not just of a player, but also a social and media hub that allows connection and discovery, as one example.
IMPORTANT NOTE - I present here an overview of DSPs and our DSP, I make recommendations for what we need or could need, also what must be a priority. In my experience, for this to be good, it must be DESIGNED AS A WHOLE that can then be built in chunks/EPICS as a comprehensive and planned workflow. I am not a UX designer or programmer, so it is my expectation that after a period of consultation with the executive, board and members, this document will form a guide for the development and platform team to put together a plan/budget and then their EPICs from. To ensure we build what we need, when we need it, with a team, and can fund it properly. There is Nick M’s comprehensive documentation (and here) to add to my own assessment and provide a tech counterpoint to my music industry facing perspective.
[EDITED 11.3.22 to reflect the sale of bandcamp to Epic/Tencent and add in clarifications around artist privacy protection.]
STATE OF RESONATE - What is a DSP anyway - a digital service provider.
PROS - works well, can embed releases across web, collections, playlists, genres, excellent shuffle, good payment structure, artists/labels can add in links, can add liner notes etc.
CONS - hidden in the website, no downloads, no app. Doesn’t elevate any social or musical “connections”, no context for music, on resonate a lot of the information is old - old biogs/photos/links - so the service appears out of date to many users.
content delivery system - the customer reporting dashboard aka artist dashboard
PROS - we include credit information like liner notes.
no self-upload/onboarding for artists/labels (nb. Only bandcamp currently has this, all other DSPs now use aggregators or digital distros)
No bulk upload/onboarding for catalog (previously we were doing this with FUGA via ftp)
No comprehensive metadata handling - we need input, storage, checking, reporting, payments.
No automated reporting - no info on where fans/listeners are, what money you’ve made on what releases etc. Accounting being done by hand and payments triggered. Contracts say that we must report to artists/labels monthly - the human cost of doing this by hand is impossible - this must be fully automated (ideally up to the minute should be possible - AWAL/Kobalt for example provides that) and reports generated within the system automatically with no human intervention.
No stats - we should deliver up to the minute reporting, as well as demographic info, pie charts and graphs showing day/week/year for each artist/release etc.
No smart dashboard for handling, inputting, correcting and amending the data we hold - or that you choose to share.
Verified users - we currently give accounts with no authentication of artist/label, this is unsustainable and will lead us to issues with fake artists/music/users. We need to verify every artist/label account (but also enable a system where we can mass onboard content from independent distributors with this info but not single user verification) then once someone is verified, we don’t need to verify their uploads which they can do themselves using our content uploader. How to do this without upsetting our data protection and privacy sensitive users? Verified credentials for resonate artists?
Content ID checking - this could be a legal compliance issue going forward, we rely on honesty which will fall apart as we scale up our catalog and artists - without proper verification.
Our terms of service are murky and lifted from competitors - we need legal oversight and rewrite of all terms/legal compliance.
Disputes - where does the control of a release lie? With the artist or label? What control? What happens to music on resonate in the case of a dispute?
Safety - GDPR data security compliance? Impressum? Security and privacy. Clear data protection and data handling.
The co-op - getting artists and labels into the co-op as full members should be encouraged in our platform design. How does that look - how can we achieve that? Value added…
- ICE license allows us to stream but it doesn’t allow us to sell downloads.
- Merlin - we have no deal with Merlin.
- PROs - we have no direct deals with PROs
- Currently we operate in a grey area, where we ask artists to forgo legal compliance and we cannot legally comply as we don’t handle metadata correctly.
Media - all platforms in 2022 must acknowledge that they are also media aka publishers. Taking this into consideration when building the new user back end for Resonate is essential. What’s the issue here? Gatekeeping. Daniel Ek says spotify isn’t a publisher (they are) only because he wishes to avoid getting controlled like facebook and other social media. Bandcamp used publishing for expansion with bandcamp daily - they arguably saved a lot of freelance journalists jobs, but essentially it’s a platform that heavily gatekeeps and influences site sales, as well as being extremely US centric with the writers, so serves as a good model in many ways for what Resonate should not be. How do we get around this? A blog that our artists, collectives and labels curate themselves (quality control then becomes an issue and you still need an editor). Taking editorial in from different sources, our own podcasts and other podcasts, audio in general. Giving artists control over the space that represents them, forging connections based on real work and not on listener algorithms etc.
APP - we don’t have one. What should it actually do? But looks like we can have one!
WHAT IS A DSP - examples of DSPs
(I’m not going into detail here, please investigate yourself a few of them, i’m just going to list their pros and cons for our purposes)
CORPORATE Digital Streaming Platforms
Spotify By far the biggest market share - I have seen stats that show c. 90% of all streaming revenue coming from Spotify - with all the rest hugely behind… Apple 4%, deezer 1% etc.
Market share achieved by ease of shareability, tools for social media, playlists, free bundling into cars and products, check out vouchers, ads and marketing campaigns like wrapped (which is now backfiring and was the work of an unpaid intern).
Market share achieved by the ubiquity of amazon, free bundling, check out vouchers. Tiny market share compared to spotify.
pandora (US only so irrelevant)
Market share achieved by being “owned by artists”, now owned by Jack Dorsey (twitter), in the best position to clean up from Spotify woes - has an excellent discovery/credit mechanism that Resonate members have highlighted and would like us to replicate.
High def streaming powered by (which is very interesting) About Audirvāna: founded in 2011 by Damien Plisson
Market share achieved by ease of use, shareability and it offered a simple solution to need to share music privately and track usage/comments. Unfortunately not legally compliant and business was destroyed by Major Labels wanting their slice and better systems entering the marketplace. Still a key platform for producers, collaboration, and certain genres like Hyperpop. Good piece on their future strategy.
Market share as main video sharing platform, cat videos, owned by google and never gave a shit about paying anyone.
Once the biggest, now one of the smallest. But has a warm fuzzy place in some peoples hearts… US centric.
Warner owned, French, wanted to do user-centric payments by Majors shut it down. Has pretty small market share, pays artists a bit better.
INDEPENDENT/ ALTERNATIVE -
Pays artists more, strongly independent, subscription service.
High def streaming powered by About Audirvāna: founded in 2011 by Damien Plisson
UK based independent started by a small record label.
Focused on mixes and radio shows. Pay producers for their music in mixes, also has live streaming.
New Irish music streaming service co-op
Focused on playlists and patronage. Says it’s non-profit but that’s just because it’s not making a profit. Very small audience share but embraced by electronic community. Just tends to highlight spotify playlists… but some behind a paywall. Also has COMMONS live streaming universe, but main issue is that no collective patronage - still artists battling out for attention and money with each other.
Direct community support, again, no collective patronage - still artists battling out for attention and money with each other. Coop version of patreon for musicians.
Simplfied co-op structure for album sales and streaming Catalytic Sound
DIGITAL SALES PLATFORMS
Good - Direct product to consumer sales, merch and vinyl sales, cuts out distributors and record shops, every artist/label has their own shopfront that they can customise, also offers subscription/club functions, ticker-tape on the front page shows every sale which aids discovery, on each page you can see who has supported a release, playlists can be public or private.
Bad - front of bandcamp is bandcamp daily, their editorial platform, extreme gatekeeping although it’s purpose is the opposite. Bandcamp friday concentrates sales and accelerates competition, record shops are already suffering and their expertise is being lost.
Main sales platform for electronic music, also does streaming, has it’s own content ID system that could be interesting for Resonate (they created it for their live stream videos)
Pays 1c per stream minimum, doesn’t need to make money, has an editorial arm, plus subscription, plus radio Beats etc.
All the independent record shops who are currently getting screwed by bandcamp, Brexit, cost of materials and shipping, Adele and vinyl being a dying medium. Including Bleep, boomkat, phonica, hardwax, juno etc.
Digital promotion or service platforms
Good content upload system with tracking and management of data reporting
Pro royalty management publishing systems
audio salad - white label poss
infinite catalog - white label poss
Details - label management tool
DSP distro and aggregators -
IDOL - labelcamp
FUGA - we have a FUGA login and previous bulk integration was done direct with us via FTP.
Ochre (from warp/bleep)
SO WHAT DOES RESONATE NEED TO INCLUDE IN IT’S ARTIST DASHBOARD/CONTENT DELIVERY SERVICE AND REPORTING?
Professional automated system for onboarding music with full metadata
Dashboard overview for content management, accounting, reporting, connections.
Sleek information sharing and presentation.
Minimum deliverable outlined below.
Key results - legal compliance, automation, transparency, control, reporting.
- Simple upload system for music - direct by artists and labels, also for distribution. This means uploading single releases as well as mass upload of releases and associated data. Ensuring we have the correct upload fields, as well as efficient and secure file handling for music files, artwork etc. API integration with FUGA, IDOL etc - poss using Kendraia…
IDOL label camp example >> this is the information we need for our upload tool fields + UPC/ISRC codes to then deal with the metadata input & checking
- Complete metadata for every release (see below for overview of why) - checking information against the ISRC/UPC codes to ensure that the data is complete and correct (spotify are using a different system to check than ISRC/upc codes and that’s why so much of the info/releases/artists are wrong on spotify - we need to do better than that).
- Verification of USER NOT RELEASE - verified artists, labels, distro etc. Then we can trust the content being delivered into our system and put compliance on users. Avoids issue of fake artists and tracks etc.
- System of accreditation - using metadata but also artist/label control - to allow for detailed credit of who does what on a record - from the person who ran the studio to mixer and engineer, trumpet player, session singers and writers. This offers not just a view of the artistic world and relationships, but allows for deeper discovery and illuminates the many layers of music. The social power of music.
Ability to browse the catalog by composer, writer, audio engineer, etc. with advanced search filters.
Content control/system - easy to use system to change press shots, biog info, URLs, remove releases or change costs etc,
Stats - Analytics and play reports
- Track your listening habits, and see how much money went to creators.
- for artists and labels to see their track/release stats - most popular music, top countries, top cities, gender/age of listening, direct support payments.
Payments - stripe integration, up to the minute reporting of listens, downloads, PAYG, earnings.
Payment options - Pay what you want, remove and re-publishing of music, buy now, patronage payments etc. Beyond stream2own. Resonate can be used to window releases, create transactional streaming and interview models, introduce pay to play for high value content, or just accept donations etc. content/communication.S20 Proposition for buying full albums - #5 by LLK
Chapters for longer tracks, podcast fee etc.
Gift listening credits to new listeners and your friends.
Social network - Resonate as a hub for streaming then opening to the musical world, connecting music and fans, the social power of music.
Genres - control of genres, new genres, use to power discovery and connection
Smart payment options - allowing for membership, streaming credit for those without funds, allow different pricing for different territories etc.
Playlists & collections, private and public, for sharing, editorial etc.
Legal - contracts? Content ID System - finding illegal files, ensuring correct payments, unlisenced covers, remixes, edits etc.
Downloads - Download tracks that you own and listen to them offline in high quality. Offline listening - via app? Real stream2own
Video, podcasts, plays, spoken word uploads, streaming, sales etc.
Integration for sales - allow artists to integrate to their chosen sales platform eg. bandcamp, local record shop, bands in town etc.
- Use your Resonate membership to join a network of co-operatives.
- Allows local artists and listeners (without a good internet connection) to sync with global Resonate users to stream and share their creations both in their own community, and with a wider audience.
Trust and authentication
- Simple and verifiable licensing, personalized streams, and special offers.
PRIVACY - how do we protect artists in dictatorships making protest music? Artist control, resonate not being party to information that could compromise…
WHO CONTROLS MUSIC RIGHTS, WHAT ARE THEY & WHY ARE THEY SO IMPORTANT?
AKA IT’S A MINEFIELD WE NEED TO NAVIGATE
What is metadata - what does it do?
“Music metadata, is the collection of information that pertains to a song file, such as Artist Name, Producer, Writer, Song Title, Release Date, Genre or Track Duration, to name a few. For now we are focused mainly on publishing metadata, or the data that refers to who wrote what and in what proportion. If any of this information is missing or incorrect, it can have an adverse effect on how its creators are compensated.”
METADATA STANDARDS overview
EXAMPLE METADATA FORM (from IDOL/ Kompakt - industry standard)
UPC code - universal product code
Master recordings refer to performances that can be played back or reproduced. You can earn money off them by selling physical recordings at shows; using an online aggregator like CD Baby to distribute songs on digital platforms (iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music); or signing a deal with a label that will help manufacture and distribute recordings on your behalf.
The underlying composition of a recording — its music and lyrics — is closely aligned with music publishing, i.e. the money you make when other individuals or groups use music you wrote (the “composition”). This includes a record company reproducing your music (mechanical royalties); a radio station, website, or restaurant playing your music publicly (performance royalties); or a producer using your music in a movie or television show (sync royalties).
Streaming is unique in that it earns both mechanical and performance royalties. Check out a detailed breakdown of how streaming royalties work via our Spotify case study here.
DIGITAL STREAMING LICENSE
PROS - Performing Rights Organizations/Societies
PUBLISHERS from Sony to Budde to songtrust.
Digital licensing -
Major labels vs indie
Record labels may be small, localized and “independent” (“indie”), or they may be part of a large international media group, or somewhere in between. The Association of Independent Music (AIM) defines a ‘major’ as “a multinational company which (together with the companies in its group) has more than 5% of the world market(s) for the sale of records or music videos.” As of 2012, there are only three labels that can be referred to as “major labels” (Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Warner Music Group). In 2014, AIM estimated that the majors had a collective global market share of some 65–70%.
The case for a DSP as a hub that fosters collective patronage and offers a supportive landscape.
If you look at the most successful internet platforms, it’s their interoperability, ease of use, vastness of catalog and one-stop-shop character that in the most part makes them successful. We have seen many huge platforms fail - there is no guarantee that present day success in the digital world will allow you to retain market share forever… Myspace, ask jeeves, limewire, friends reunited, vines, clubhouse… The internet is littered with previously world domineering platforms now a shadow of their former selves.
It’s not going to be enough for Resonate to be a functioning DSP with an app - Resonate must aspire to be more to give the value to artists and independent culture, in the face of mass market and corporate forces.
Social power of music
Transparency and control
Easy to use dashboard and stats
Up to the minute reporting, easy payouts.
Value added - media, socials, forum, patronage
Connection and cooperation in the co-op world.
This problem is further exacerbated by value structures for artists within “platform capitalism”. For the past decade, artists and labels have been expected to supply their music and labor to media platforms largely for free. These platforms have used this content to support their own business/ brands. There’s been limited trickle down to artists and, in most cases, the only return offered is conditional support.
Nearly every video, radio show, studio demo, mix, interview, podcast, opinion piece and live stream artists make are published & owned by other media/platforms. We are now in a time of extreme streaming - home-streaming, content repeats, virtual clubs and charity streams - but it reinforces the destructive model of artist’s labor for free and clogs up social networks not designed for this purpose.
Instead of fostering interdependence, affiliation and community; most platforms make artists and labels vie for attention over one another, rather than allowing them to work in symbiosis for their collective benefit. Many more simply exploit talent without proper remuneration, or function with advertisers and shareholders, instead of artists, as their core of consideration.
We can continue to let facebook/IG, amazon (twitch), google (youtube) & spotify control and profit from our culture, or we can collectively build our own platforms and terms. We can build something new and powerful together, or meekly take the 0.01$ crumbs that corporations discard from their billion $ banquets.
HOW COULD WE DO A SUBSCRIPTION MODEL DIFFERENTLY - the case for collective patronage
- All CO-OP members receive a share of the profits from revenues raised, could become a form of universal basic income for all our collectives. Could create an additional pot of collective income for artists, opt in subscription model, or top artist support, new artist fund etc. This is something for the membership to brainstorm and develop - but we must build a platform that can scale up and allow for creative possibilities.