HITS Daily Double


How TV's Progress Might Inform Streaming's Growth, and Other Stuff

We’ve been going on at length about premium vs. freemium streaming, with emphasis on industry leaders’ hopes for the former and increasing disdain for the latter. The same argument made about downloading is rephrased here: If kids can get it free, why should they pay?

Supporters of freemium, meanwhile, have insisted that the “on-boarding” of streaming customers is still in progress, and with conversion picking up, free on-demand streaming remains a vital gateway drug for consumers.

But is this really a zero-sum game, or are there other possibilities? For pubcos used to collecting from thousands of sources on every copyright, the idea of hybrid consumption models existing side by side—rather than a single approved means of on-demand listening—may be more palatable. Might the biz (and songwriters particularly) benefit from a more experimental approach, whereby different ad-based and fee-based models could co-exist? After all, TV was purely ad-supported for decades before subscription-based “premium” programming came along; the latter thrived on the basis of quality and changed the game overall.

But rather than going away, ad-supported TV mutated. The networks and basic-cable outlets began experimenting with more integrated/branded kinds of advertising. This, in turn, not only expanded the revenue options of content creators but laid the groundwork for new kinds of “partnership” programming with brands.

If iTunes/Beats changes the game again with a killer subscription offering—presumably boosted by windowed or exclusive artist content, not to mention tying together mobile, living room and wearable devices—it could well have an “HBO effect” on the music landscape. But one imagines ad-supported streaming could mutate too, and perhaps begin to present new opportunities, especially for songwriters.

We’re still in the embryonic stage of streaming; we have our networks and our earliest premiums, but we don’t yet know what “basic cable” looks like.

Speaking of TV, we’re still hyperventilating slightly from the over-the-top Empire season finale, and it’s heartening to see a show so fully steeped in (original) music become a ratings phenomenon, with correspondingly explosive sales for the ST. We’ve already noted the herculean efforts of the show’s music maestro, ole-published Timbaland; we should also point out that BMG-signed Jim Beanz also makes a huge contribution to the series’ extensive audio output. We do wish that the amazing piano-playing rapper Charles Hamilton had gotten more screen time on the finale, but his “NY Raining” featuring Rita Ora was featured, and we’re already obsessed with it.

We're still slightly piqued we weren't able to go to Austin and rather stayed on our little editorial hamster wheel all week long. Here's one event among many we would've attended: Universal Music Publishing’s SXSW party at the Samsung Studio Rooftop. The fete attracted an array of players from across the biz, all of whom enjoyed specialty cocktails named after provisions of a standard sync license. Seen wondering if they have BBQ sauce on their clothes are (l-r) UMPG VP Urban Jill Tschogl, artist Chase N Cashe, UMPG’s Lindsey Lanier, G.O.O.D/Def Jam artist Big Sean and Motown chief/UMPG President of Urban Music/Co-Head of Creative Ethiopia Habtemariam.

SINGING ABOUT: Nova Rockafeller, Greg Holden, Courtney Barnett, Jerry Fuentes