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Music setting the record straight with Tech - WR #203
Weekly Roundups
March 1, 2024

Music setting the record straight with Tech - WR #203

Well this week certainly came with a lot of important news for the music industry. From that surprise lawsuit from TuneCore to Apple’s responses to the EU’s fine, we have a few major topics to get into.

#1. Apple’s practices are still under the EU microscope

As we talked about last week, Apple is about to be officially fined by the EU for a whopping $541 million. Apple went public and reacted quickly: “Spotify pays Apple nothing for the services that have helped them build, update and share their app with Apple users in 160 countries spanning the globe. (...) Fundamentally, their complaint is about trying to get limitless access to all of Apple’s tools without paying anything for the value Apple provides”. On their end, Spotify slapped back: “Spotify’s success has happened despite Apple’s best efforts to gain an artificial advantage by favoring their own music service at every turn while placing roadblocks and imposing unfair restrictions on ours

But that’s not all. Some allegedly unlawful practices were noticed at Apple regarding the Digital Markets Act (DMA). Some gatekeepers blocking developers in creating apps available on navigators (hence bypassing the 30% Apple Tax) could be under investigation as well.

#2. AI isn’t as good as humans when curating music

As AI-driven playlist curation gains momentum, the music industry faces a critical juncture: will AI's efficiency make our playlists from now on?

Curated playlists, once the high standard of musical discovery, now stand at a crossroads as streaming platforms now look towards AI-powered curation. While human-curated playlists offer personalized listening experiences and vital exposure for artists, there have been more and more ethical concerns, with allegations of playlist spots being sold for profit.

Despite Spotify's AI initiatives like Discovery Mode, prioritizing algorithmic recommendations, recent layoffs and declining user satisfaction are suggesting that AI might not do the trick. Not fully at least. Industry experts like Glenn McDonald advocate for AI-human collaboration to enhance playlist curation, while others caution against overlooking the irreplaceable role of human intuition and emotion in music discovery.

The future of music curation hinges on striking a delicate balance between AI-driven efficiency and human ingenuity, paving the way for a harmonious fusion of technology and creativity in the digital music landscape.

#3. Could YouTube be that artist-first Social Media platform?

Universal pulling its catalog from TikTok signals a pivotal moment for the music industry, prompting a reassessment of social platforms' role in artist promotion. It’s not enough that visibility is reached through them, music still has to be paid for. As artists increasingly prioritize social media for releases, a gap widens between music's cultural significance on platforms and its industry revenue.

While platforms like TikTok drive engagement, they often prioritize songs over artists, underscoring the need for a music-centric social platform. So what about YouTube? Boasting a vast user base and innovative music ecosystem, they could be the perfect candidate.

With YouTube's focus on artist engagement and AI remixing tools, the platform has potential to reshape social media around artists. As the industry seeks a music-first platform, YouTube stands out as a frontrunner in this transformative shift.

#4. TuneCore goes after CD Baby

Well that’s slightly surprising, DMN revealed this week that TuneCore is suing CD Baby regarding allegedly stolen trade secrets.

The lawsuit, filed in November, without any mention of it in the media, targets CD Baby and a former TuneCore employee, Faryal Khan-Thompson, former TuneCore’s VP of international. She is accused of accessing and downloading confidential documents from TuneCore's secured server.

The lawsuit claims she used personal email credentials to gain unauthorized access to TuneCore's network. The court has prohibited CD Baby from using TuneCore's confidential information until May 1st and has imposed similar restrictions on Khan-Thompson. The judge has directed both parties to address unresolved issues, including the return or removal of any confidential information found on CD Baby's network.

#5. Warner Music launches its superfan app

Warner Music Group CEO Robert Kyncl was at the Web Summit in Doha to talk about the future of music. Topics like artificial intelligence and the evolving role of technology in the industry were mentioned and Kyncl announced that WMG is developing its own 'superfan app', aiming to connect artists directly with their most dedicated fans.

The app, set to launch later this year, is designed to be cross-platform and facilitate artist-fan relationships. This initiative aligns with a broader industry trend of focusing on artist-centric experiences.

Indeed, recent data suggests that superfans represent a significant portion of music consumers, spending more on music than the average listener. While specific details about the app remain undisclosed, its development signals WMG's commitment to deepening artist-fan engagement in the digital age.

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