Category: Jose Arroyo

4 hands are better than one

4 hands are better than one

It’s well known that many artists do not write their own songs. As songwriters get more public recognition in the music industry, many fans are coming to the realization that the lyrics they love may not have came from their favorite artists. But how many songwriters does it take to make a hit song?

Apparently, four is the magic number. The top 50 Billboard songs have an average of four songwriters, ranging from 1 (Ed Sheeran’s Perfect) to 16 (Cardi B’s Be Careful). The list below was constructed by searching LyricsOnDemand’s database, which lists the songwriters of each song under the lyrics. How many songwriters contributed to your favorite radio song?

Billboard Top 50 – Week of June 09, 2018


Rank Artist and Song Songwriters Names of Songwriters
1 Drake Nice for What 12 Aubrey Drake Graham / Chauncy Hawkins / Corey Woods / Orville Hall / Dennis Coles / Phillip Price / Marvin Hamlisch / Alan Bergman / Marilyn Bergman / Russell Tyrone Jones / Clifford Smith / Shane Lee Lindstrom
2 Post Malone Psycho 4 Austin Richard Post / Carl Austin Rosen / Louis Bell / Tyrone William Griffin
3 Drake God’s Plan 5 Aubrey Graham / Noah Shebib / Matthew Samuels / Ronald LaTour / Daveon Jackson
4 Childish Gambino This is America 2 Donald Glover / Ludwig Goransson
5 Zedd The Middle 7 Jordan Johnson / Anton Zaslavski / Kyle Trewartha / Stefan Johnson / Sarah Aarons / Michael Trewartha / Marcus Lomax
6 Lil Baby Yes Indeed 2 Dominique Jones / Aubrey Graham
7 Cardi B I Like it 6 Belcalis Almanzar / Kleonard Raphael / Benito Martinez / Jose Osorio / Tony Pabon / Manny Rodriguez
8 Ella Mai Boo’d Up 4 Dijon Isaiah Mcfarlane / Ella Mai / Joelle Marie James / Larrance Levar Dopson
9 Bebe Rexha Meant to Be 4 Bleta Bebe Rexha / David Garcia / Joshua Miller / Tyler Reed Hubbard
10 Ariana Granda No Tears left to cry 4 Ilya Salmanzadeh / Savan Kotecha / Max Martin / Ariana Grande
11 Shawn Mendes In My Blood 4 Shawn Mendes / Geoff Warburton / Teddy Geiger / Scott Harris
12 BlocBoy JB Look Alive 3 Aubrey Graham / Brytavious Chambers / James Baker
13 Mashmello Friends 3 Marshmello; Natalie Dunn; Anne-Marie Nicholson
14 Migos Walk it Talk it 6 Aubrey Graham / Grant Andrew Decouto / Joshua Isaih Parker / Kiari Kendrell Cephus / Kirsnik Khari Ball / Quavious Keyate Marshall
15 Juice Wrld Lucid Dreams 1 Jared Higgins
16 Camila Cabello Never be the same 6 Adam Feeney / Camila Cabello / Jacob Ludwig Olofsson / Noonie Bao / Rami Dawod / Sasha Yatchenko
17 Ed Sheeran Perfect 1 Ed Sheeran
18 Imagine Dragons Whatever it takes 5 Benjamin Arthur McKee / Daniel Coulter Reynolds / Daniel James Platzman / Daniel Wayne Sermon / Joel Little
19 Drake I’m upset 1 Aubrey Graham
20 Bazzi Mine 3 Andrew Bazzi / Kevin White / Mike Woods
21 Cardi B Be Careful 16 Belcalis Almanzar / Mathew Samuels / Anderson Hernandez / Jordan Thorpe / Marilyn Bergman / Alan Bergman / Robert Diggs / Lauryn Hill / Clifford Smith / Lamont Hawkins / Dennis Coles / Gary Grice / Jason Hunter / Russell Jones / Corey Woods / Marvin Hamlisch
22 Kane Brown Heaven 3 Lindsay Rimes / Matthew John McGinn / Shy Carter
23 Post Malone Rockstar 6 Austin Post / Louis Bell / Olufunmibi Awoshiley / Shayaa Bin Abraham-Joseph / Carl Austin Rosen / Jo-Vaughn Virginie
24 Maroon 5 Wait 4 Adam Noah Levine / Ammar Malik / Jacob Kasher Hindlin / John Henry Ryan
25 Camila Cabello Havana 8 Adam Feeney / Jeffrey Williams / Pharrell Williams / Andrew Watt / Brian Lee / Ali Tamposa / Brittany Talia Hazzard / Camila Cabello
26 Lil Dicky Freaky Friday 5 Cat Cashmere / Chris Brown / David Burd / Dijon Mcfarlane / Twice As Nice
27 Rich the Kid Plug Walk 2 Dimitri Roger, Grant Dickinson
28 Taylor Swift Delicate 3 Taylor Swift / Max Martin / Karl Johan Schuster
29 The Weekend Pray for me 4 Abel Abraham Tesfaye / Adam King Feeney / Kendrick Lamar / Martin Mckinney
30 Post Malone Better Now 4 Austin Post / William Walsh / Adam Feeney / Louis Bell
31 Dua Lipa New Rules 3 Caroline Ailin / Emily Warren / Ian Kirkpatrick
32 Calvin Harris One Kiss 3 Jessica Reyez / Dua Lipa / Adam Richard Wiles
33 Nicky Minaj Chun-Li 2 Onika Tanya Maraj / Jeremy Reid
34 Luke Combs One Number Away 4 Luke Combs / Steven Andre Battey / Sammy Mitchell / Robert Steven Williford
35 Khalid Love Lies 5 Jamil George Chamas / Khalid Robinson / Normani Kordei Hamilton / Ryan Vojtesak / Tayla Parx
36 Casper Te Bote 6 Luis Antonio Quinones García / Julio Cruz García / Benito Martínez Ocasio / Darell Castro / Juan Carlos Ozuna Rosado / Nick Rivera Caminero
37 Dan + Shay Tequila 3 Dan Smyers / Jordan Reynolds / Nicolle Anne Galyon
38 Selena Gomez Back to You 5 Amy Allen / Selena Gomez / Micah Rayan Premnath / Diederik Jan Van Elsas / Parrish Alan Warrington
39 Bruno Mars Finesse 8 Christopher Steven Brown / Bruno Mars / Jeremy Reeves / Jonathan Yip / James Edward II Fauntleroy / Philip Lawrence / Ray Charles II McCullough / Ray Romulus
40 The Wekkend Call out my name 3 Abel Tesfaye / Nicolas Jaar / Adam Feeney
41 Kendrick Lamar All the stars 5 Alexander William Shuckburgh / Kendrick Lamar / Mark Anthony Spears / Solana I. Rowe / Anothony Tiffith
42 Jason Aldean You make it easy 4 Brian Kelley / Jordan Schmidt / Morgan Cole Wallen / Tyler Reed Hubbard
43 XXXtentacio Sad! 2 Jahseh Dwayne Onfroy / John Cunningham
44 Offset Ric Flair Drip 3 Bijan Amir / Kiari Kendrell Cephus / Leland Taylor Wayne
45 ASAP Rocky Praise the lord 3 Rakim Mayers / Joseph Adenuga / Hector Delgado
46 6ixN9ne Tati 1 Daniel Hernandez
47 Juice Wrld All girls are the same 3 Danny Snodgrass / Jarad A. Higgins / Nick Mira
48 Nicky Jam X 3 Juan Velez, J Balvin, Jeon
49 Dua lipa IDGAF 6 Dua Lipa / Jason Allen Dean / Joseph Davis Kirkland / Lawrence Michael Principato / Skyler Stonestreet / Uzoechi Osisioma Emenike
50 Powerglive Rae Sremmurd 4 Aaquil Brown / Khalif Brown / Justin Houston / Michael Len Williams


Billboard. (2018, June 09). The Hot 100. Retrieved from

Lyrics on Demand. (n.d.). Retrieved from

The Future of A&R

The Future of A&R

A&R’s find and discover talent that can be commercially successful in the music industry. According to Music Clout, they used to “serve as the middleman between the artist and record label and work very closely with the artist,” but now “the power of an A&R rep [has been] diminished” due to the advancements of technology (n.d.). The internet creates a direct path from artist to audience. It also creates a transparent ceiling where music companies can gaze down on musicians and see which ones are making traction. Once they have identified artists that have an established following and show the potential to be commercially successful, they can come down and swoop them up from the indie scene (or at least try). I believe the role of an A&R rep has shifted from seeking talent to seeking people with a paying audience, but there’s nothing wrong with that. According to McCready, “A&R’s primary business function is to… reduce the likelihood of failure in the marketplace (2011).” If that’s the case, then seeking a paying audience rather than talent is fulfilling the primary business function of an A&R. Talent doesn’t pay the bills, but in the world of music streaming, an audience that listen does.

I believe A&R is necessary for small and major labels. Many acts in the music industry are short-lived, but “good A&R’s can… push artists further. (Lindvall, 2011).” A large audience will not always translate to large revenues. Music is basically free now thanks to streaming, so even though an artist can have many listeners, it is not guaranteed that they will turn into paying customers. A good A&R will be able to identify and exploit revenue generating opportunities using an artist’s brand and character. A good A&R can also work closely with the artist to further develop their brand and convince their audience that he/she is worth seeing in a live setting. There are many things an A&R Rep can provide, but that doesn’t mean this support will necessarily come from an A&R rep.

The role of A&R has changed when compared to ten years ago, and will continue to change. The publishing side of the music industry is now more like the A&R Department. They sign artists and catalogues and work with them to get the most money out of the music, whether it be song placement in movies, TV shows, sports, or even video games. They also work with song writers too, which many labels fail to do. I think the role of A&R will eventually be provided by streaming companies, such as Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music. That is where most of the listeners are at, so what better way to develop as an artist and get your music heard than by getting plugged into a popular playlist by a major streaming company like Spotify?

“Big data” is a major factor in the music industry. For people like myself that enjoy numbers, data, and statistics, we thrive on it. It is easy for an artist to download an Excel file from YouTube or Spotify with all of their sales, statistics, and streams. In fact, these reports can easily be acquired from the artist’s digital distributor (TuneCore, CDBaby, etc.). This data has information on the listener and their activity, revealing gender, geographical location, age, and even the device they are using for listening. Many artists are not aware of the importance of this data so it is not vastly used, but for people who want to be involved in the business of music and want to create songs that will captivate their audience, this data is extremely important. Record labels and A&R’s use this data to determine what kind of records are worth investment/attention. As time passes and the value of “big data” is realized, I believe it will be utilized by everyone in the music industry, including A&R’s, artist managers, and even songwriters. The data is extremely valuable.


Lindvall, H. (2011, January 27). Behind the music: Is the A&R era over? Retrieved from

McCready, M. (October, 2011). Why the traditional A&R process is failing the industry and musicians alike. Retrieved from

Music Clout. (n.d.). The ugly truth about today’s A&R. Retrieved from


What Facebook’s Licensing Deals mean for YouTube

What Facebook’s Licensing Deals mean for YouTube

Earlier in the year, Facebook secured licensing deals with Sacem, Socan, and Wix Publishing. The social media company had previously secured licensing deals with Universal Music Group, Sony Music, and Warner Music (Welch, 2018). These licensing deals illustrate Facebook’s desire to attract more users to its platform through music, but more importantly, it show’s the company’s commitment to work with the music community as we try to turn streaming into a sustainable source of income. In order to show their consideration for music creators and rights holders, Facebook hired Tamara Hrivnak. Hrivnak was the Director of Music Partnerships at YouTube for six years, and prior to that position she was the VP of Digital Strategy & Business Affairs for Warner/Chappel Music Publishing (Levine, 2017). Her experience will be extremely valuable to Facebook’s efforts and could give them a favorable advantage as they prepare to battle against YouTube for music video consumers.

I remember when bootlegging was extremely prevalent in the early 2000’s. There was one artist here in my hometown, Houston, that would literally find bootleggers and fight them during that time. But for every bootlegger he battered, two more appeared. Although he was upset about missing out on sales due to the bootlegged copies of his music, he did notice that his fan base was growing. Eventually he set up a meeting with all of the bootleggers in town with the intent of making them authorized sellers. The meeting did not go well. The bootleggers said they could only afford to pay him .05% of his asking price; an asking price he felt was already extremely low. Needless to say, he was outraged. He continued to battle with them for months, but they just wouldn’t go away. After hundreds of brawls, his stamina and resolve were finally depleted. He gave in and allowed the bootleggers to legally sell his product on their payment terms, and he’s been stuck with this awful deal ever since. The bootleggers in this story represent YouTube, and the artist represents music companies and publishers.

YouTube has been a thorn in the Music Industry’s side for quite some time, particularly due to what is known as the value gap. According to IFPI, the value gap illustrates the “growing mismatch between the value that user upload services, such as YouTube, extract from music and the revenue returned to the music community (2017).” In other words, the value gap explains the variance between the benefits YouTube receives from uploading music on their platforms and the money that labels and artists obtain from those activities. As you can see from the chart below, the difference is blatant.

Does FB’s licensing deals prove that the music industry is regaining authority in a tech-driven world? If Facebook is able to take some video consumption away from YouTube, it could give labels, publishing companies, and artists more power in terms of negotiation. YouTube has grown tremendously over the years. One can argue that this growth is primarily due to how YouTube has been able to integrate music into their platform. According to the 2016 IFPI Music Consumer Insight Report, 93% of YouTube users aged 16-24 utilize the platform to access music, while 82% of total users utilize it for music listening (IFPI, 2017). With over 1 billion users, YouTube is the most popular platform for music streaming. YouTube is able to attract a large number of consumers and advertisers due to their music catalogue, however, they fail to pass on suitable revenues to the copyright owners of that music (primarily because the service is free). One may argue that the copyright owners should prohibit YouTube from showcasing their music until a fair price can be agreed upon, but it’s not that simple. With over 1 billion users (82% being music consumers), YouTube has all of the bargaining power. Michael Weston once said, “To win a negotiation you have to show you’re willing to walk away. And the best way to show you’re willing to walk away is to walk away (Wise Old Sayings, n.d.). It’s difficult to walk away from 1 billion customers though. Even if they are not paying for the digital version of the music, artists and music companies can recoup the losses through revenues from live shows and merchandise. Labels and publishers certainly do not want to leave 1 billion potential customers at the table. But if they have the opportunity to serve those same customers on a different platform (like Facebook) then they may not be hesitant to leave. That’s what makes this development so dynamic and noteworthy.

YouTube and Facebook could soon be in a bitter war to see who can reign supreme over the video streaming market. All the while, music labels and publishers will be standing idly by, waiting to see which platform wants their songs the most. As demand for digital music increases, the price will have to increase as well. I believe recorded music is extremely devalued and that people have acquired a false sense of entitlement when it comes to accessing music. Facebook’s willingness to negotiate with labels and publishers shows that they have an appreciation for music and want to create a partnership with our industry. I commend them for that and applaud them for producing a new revenue stream for creators and right holders.

I believe the music industry is taking initiative by engaging with social media companies. This endeavor creates various opportunities for music industry professionals. Facebook hiring Tamara Hrivnak (a former music business expert) is a perfect example of this. Tech companies understand how important it is to have an industry insider on their side, especially when it comes to negotiating deals.

Technology and music have always had an unsanctioned marriage. In order for the music industry to remain relevant, we have to find ways to stay ahead of the curve. Music streaming has proven to be a profitable source of income for labels and publishers for two years in a row, so it’s only right to ride the wave and widen the stream of revenues. As new social media companies enter the market, they will also be required to do what Facebook is doing if they want to incorporate music into their platform. This deal sets the standard for the future of music in the social media era. I just hope we can stay ahead of the next technological curve so we never have to accept terms from a position of weakness again.


IFPI (2017). Music consumer insight report 2016. IFPI. Retrieved from

IFPI (2017). Rewarding creativity – fixing the value gap. IFPI. Retrieved from

Levine, R. (2017, January 1). Facebook hires YouTube’s Tamara Hrivnak to lead global music strategy. Billboard. Retrieved March from

Nicolaou, A. (2018, March 18). Facebook strikes new music licensing deals. Financial Times. Retrieved from

Welch, C. (2018, March 9). Facebook now has music licensing dealsw tih all three major labels. The Verge. Retrieved from

Wise Old Sayings (n.d.). Negotiation Sayings and Quotes. Wise Old Sayings.

Nipsey’s Hustle

Nipsey’s Hustle

Over the years, Nipsey Hussle has never conformed to the undeclared rules of the music industry. In 2013, he received critical acclaim for his mixtape “Crenshaw,” and the marketing tactics he used to communicate its value. During a time when most artists were releasing free mixtapes on, he decided to do something different. He made 1,000 physical mixtape copies and put a $100 price tag on each one. In an interview with Rap Radar’s B.Dot, Nipsey stated the $100 “isn’t the price of the plastic case and polyurethane disc… it’s the price of revolution! The price of rebellion against an industry that has tricked us all into making products that have no soul for fear of not being heard (2013, October).” He labeled the campaign “Proud 2 Pay” and sold every copy he pressed “in under 24 hours… even though the mixtape would be available for free download the next morning (Hunte, 2013).” This move sparked conversation in the Hip-Hop community and gave his core fans the opportunity to show appreciation for his work. Jay-Z bought the first 100 copies (Markman, 2013).

Hussle was recently in the public eye for teaming up with DJ Khaled to “purchase a historic Los Angeles hotel” in Santa Monica, California (India, 2018). He has a history of investing and thinking outside of the Hip-Hop world. In 2013, he invested in Bitcoin and is now a frontrunner in the emerging technology (Kennedy, 2018). He’s very business savvy and diversifies his business portfolio by exploring opportunities outside of music.

During a time when artists are releasing 3-minute singles to capture the diminishing time span of people, Hussle released a full-length album, Victory Lap, that demands attention. He has features from prominent artists, such as Kendrick Lamar, CeeLo Green, Marsha Ambrosius, YG and Puff Daddy, making his project noteworthy. He also has an underdog feel to him, which is why I believe people resonate with his music. He’s inspiration to any entrepreneur, and illustrates how going against the grain can be beneficial in establishing your brand and differentiating yourself from the competition. It’s all a part of the hustle.


B.Dot. (2013, October 4). Nipsey Hussle on releasing $100 album. Retrieved from

Hunte, J. (2013, October 18). Proud to pay: Nipsey Hussle’s new rule on grassroots marketing. Retrieved from

India, L. (2018, March 6). Nipssey Hussle and DJ Khaled invest in bid to purchase historic Los Angeles hotel. Retrieved from

Kennedy, J. (2018, January 16). A beginner’s guide to bitcoin and cryptocurrency, according to Nipsey Hussle. Retrieved from

Markman, R. (2013, October 9). Jay Z spent how much on Nipsey Hussle’s Crenshaw cd? Retrieved from

Popular Culture in Music: How Times Change

Popular Culture in Music: How Times Change

Music plays an important part of popular culture and essentially breeds symbols and genres that are to be associated with myths. Incorporating older components of media into a new design allows the creator to utilize symbols that have proven to be effective in the past. Not only can a creator expand their reach by incorporating an older piece of popular culture into a new work of art, but they can also strengthen and reinforce their ideas by integrating media that supports their message. There is no point in reinventing the wheel, it has already been done. One can, however, improve the wheel by adding new aspects that advance upon the original creation. Or one can use the wheel’s design as inspiration for a new product. This is essentially the same mind state many people have when merging an older media creation into a modern project. I view samples in songs as quotes. Just as when a person uses a quote to strengthen their points, one can use a sample to strengthen their song. Hip-Hop artist Future was able to do just that by incorporating a sample from Tommy Butler’s “Prison Song” into his now triple platinum single “Mask Off.”

“Prison Song” is a 1976 record featured on Tommy Butler’s “Selma” Album, which is also a musical tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Civil Rights Movement was a breakthrough political campaign in America’s history that brought attention to the oppression of African Americans, even after slavery was abolished. It paved the way for racial uniformity and equal opportunity. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was at the forefront of the crusade and was one of the driving forces behind its momentum. His contributions enabled many people within the black community to stand up against cultural injustice. Without his influence, it is unclear where America would be today. Tommy Butler used “Selma” as a medium to illuminate this pivotal piece of American History. “Selma” is not only an album, but it was also a 1978 musical play. The play puts black history in the limelight and highlights the efforts of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr. played the leading role in establishing voter registration. The city of Selma, AL became the foundation for this voter registration reform. That is the reason why Tommy Butler chose to name the musical play “Selma.” The play received backlash from mainstream media due to its unapologetic perspective towards racial injustice, but it paved the way for African Americans to voice their struggle and oppression. “Prison Song” is a piece that echoes Martin Luther King’s perspective about fighting racism in a nonviolent way. Tommy Butler tells his target audience how violence will only lead to prison, which will further confine the African American’s body and spirit. He states that one must be forgiving towards their persecutors, as they are oblivious to their wrongdoing. It’s a powerful song with a mix of Blues, Soul, Funk, Gospel, and Jazz. These genres that are popular within the African American Community, which allowed the piece to resonate with the target audience.

“Mask Off” is a Rap/Hip-Hop single released by Future in 2017 for his self-titled studio album “Future.” The song was created in conjunction with renowned Hip-Hop Producer Metro Boomin. “Mask Off” has been crowned as a certified Triple Platinum single as of July 14, 2017, proving the notion that it has connected with Hip-Hop fans across America. Future is known for his catchy style and eccentric delivery. “Mask off” features a captivating flute (which is a sample from Tommy Butler’s “Prison Song”) throughout the composition and has a Soul feel to it that has permitted it to stand out in the competitive music market. Throughout the song, Future speaks on drugs, robbery, poverty, and money. These topics often resonate with people living in inner city communities. Although “Mask Off” may sound shallow at first, the fact that “Prison Song” was incorporated into the work makes one think there is more to the song that rap clichés. I believe the song’s success can be attributed to Metro Boomin’s production, as well as Future’s rap style. Future is a well-known artist with a powerful fan base and practically anything he touches becomes a hit. Regardless of that notion, the sample of “Prison Song” cannot be overlooked. It is another contributing force that makes the single noteworthy.

I believe “Prison Song” was successfully incorporated into “Mask Off” because although the two pieces do not technically speak on the same topic, they both touch on the subject of oppression, poverty, and the battles that many African Americans face. Tommy Butler speaks of forgiving one’s oppressor throughout “Prison Song,” and explains how participating in violence will eventually land one in prison and add to the mental suffering already being endured by African Americans. Going to prison and being locked in cell of anguish is exactly what his oppressors want. In Butler’s eyes, it’s better to be the bigger person and rise above violence. He has adopted Martin Luther King Jr.’s ideology. On “Mask Off,” Future glorifies drugs, robbery, and money (topics that are often the focal point of many mainstream Hip-Hop songs). Despite the glorifications, his presence over the song illustrates how he has been able to drive through social barriers in order to reach fame and success within the Music Industry. Future has been able to achieve this level of success by embracing his community’s struggles and speaking on the aspirations and urges associated with people living in poverty. The two songs touch on oppression, but in different forms. By incorporating a sample from “Prison Song” into “Mask Off,” Future is also acknowledging the struggles his ancestors endured that allow him and others to follow their dreams. He’s paying homage to the ones before him.

At first, the connection between the two creations is not very clear. Tommy Butler’s “Prison Song” is a very soulful composition filled with sorrow and concern, while Future’s “Mask Off” is very flamboyant and bold in nature. But after watching the music video for “Mask Off,” one can clearly see the correlations between the two pieces. In the music video, Future is featured riding around in an extravagant Bentley while riots and revolts are occurring around him. People in masks are fighting against policemen dressed in riot gear. Flames engulf the streets as the revolution ensues. One can quickly make an easy comparison between the two songs and draw further analysis. In “Prison Song,” Tommy Butler speaks on being forgiving and compassionate when dealing with oppression, as it’s the only way to stay out of a physical and mental prison. The oppressors in his case are the Ku Klux Klan and other prejudice groups. In the video for “Mask Off,” the oppressors are racist police officers wrongfully killing unarmed minority groups. In the last verse of the song, Future is performing on top of a building an inciting the revolution. He then says, “Mask On, **** it Mask Off,” as if he is not afraid to show his face and reveal his identity to his oppressors. Although both Tommy Butler and Future want the same outcome (racial equality) they have different means of obtaining that result. One wants to do it through mercy, while the other wants to do it through rebellion. The two examples have a shared meaning but speak in different contexts, which completely changes the overall message.

These two pieces are a part of different time periods in American History, yet they both revolve around the same topic. That topic is racial inequality and oppression. Tommy Butler is speaking from a position of disadvantage, as he is at the mercy of his oppressors and uses forgiveness and understanding as his line of defense. Future, on the other hand, is speaking from a position of strength as he is a wealthy music figure with incredible reach and influence. He believes rebellion and revolt are the way to defend against racism. Although Future has a different message, his song embodies the same topic. I believe that is why he and Metro Boomin decided to sample “Prison Song.” By incorporating this older piece of musical media (which is also a piece of African American culture and U.S. History), Future is fortifying his perspective on oppression, poverty, and social injustice. He is also expanding his reach to older audiences that are familiar with Tommy Butler and illustrating that he understands the importance his ancestors played in his modern success. The sample serves as an artifact that highlights the notion that some things don’t change. Although we have come far in regards to racial equality, racism and discrimination still exists. Rather than trying to hide these realities behind his incredible fortune and fame, Future chooses to take the “Mask Off” and show where he stands. He stands brazen in the face of his oppressors, unfazed and resilient.



FunkDawg0711 [username]. (2008, September 15). Tommy Butler – Prison Song [Video File]. Retrieved on September 2nd 2017 from:

West, M. (2017, January 16). Selma, The Musical: An Unheard Song. Retrieved on September 2nd 2017 from:

Holden, S. (1984, February 22). Stage: ‘Selma’ At the Federal. Retrieved on September 2nd 2017 from:

(n.d.). Retrieved on September 2nd 2017 from:

(n.d.). Gold & Platinum – “Mask Off.” Retrieved on September 2nd 2017 from:

(n.d.). Here’s the 1976 Sample metro Boomin used for Future’s “Mask Off” Single. Retrieved on September 2nd 2017 from:

Witmer, P. (2017, February 23). A Brief History of That Kickass Flute Sample on Future’s “Mask Off.” Retrieved on September 2nd 2017 from:

Mench, C. (2017, February 21). Does Future’s “Mask Off” use a flute sample from the 1976 Musical ‘Selma?’ Retrieved on September 2nd 2017 from:

2016 Digital Music Revenues

2016 Digital Music Revenues

The upsurge in digital music revenue has created immense opportunities for the music industry to expand and finally grow. However, there are still challenges ahead. As artist begin to realize the power they have in generating profit, it will become imperative for business professionals to reaffirm their importance to the musician’s career. My experience as an independent artist accompanied with my analytical skills allows me to communicate with both sides and enhance business relationships.

Jose Arroyo

Lessons from Vinyl’s Resurgence

Lessons from Vinyl’s Resurgence

The music industry is constantly evolving with the fast pace development of technology, as are many products and services in the world of commerce. Although technology tends to move us forward, ever so often it satisfies nostalgia. Whenever these situations occur, one must examine it in order to find further opportunities.

Although vinyl sales make up a small portion of the music industry’s revenue as a whole, I believe the trend is noteworthy and deserves attention because it provides insight into a far greater theme. Business Insider published an article last month about the uptick in vinyl sales. It was accompanied by great graphs and stats.

As the music industry becomes more intertwined with technology, physical music mediums are beginning to diminish. Streaming platforms have made the distributing of music a seamless process. One no longer has to go to a record store (or a digital store) in order to access music. Spotify and Apple Music provides a colossal catalogue of songs for a monthly payment. The advancement of technology contributed to the rise of music streaming and consequently minimized the power of physical (and digital) record sales. One example that illustrate this notion is vehicle manufacturing. New cars are no longer sold with CD players. Smart Technology in vehicles allows one to play their favorite songs from their mobile device; physical music mediums are no longer required. However, I find it ironic that vinyl records could see a consistent increase in sales during the music streaming revolution. It is my conclusion that this trend is occurring because although music streaming has the capacity to deliver tunes to us in a convenient manner, it is inadvertently diminishing the consumer’s listening experience. Fans are attempting to regain that higher involvement with music by looking to the past, but it’s up to us in the industry to reinvent that feeling and bring it to the present.

I believe this trend illustrates the idea that more and more music fans want an enhanced listening experience. Two examples I can think of are headphones and live concerts. High cost headphones have seen an upsurge in the past few years. Since 2013, headphone unit sales have annually increased by 11% on average, according to Statista. When Beats by Dre came out a few years ago, they were marketed as providing studio quality sound in a fashionable package. Fans wanted that greater listening experience, so they bought into expensive headphones/earphones. They have continued to do so on a consistent basis. Festivals and concerts are also becoming more prevalent among music fans. According to statistics compiled by Statistic Brain, concert ticket sales have increased by approximately 37% since 2011. These figures are astounding and they all have a common theme: People don’t want to listen to music, they want to experience it. The upsurge in vinyl sales provides perspective into this notion.

Since vinyl sales make up a very small percentage of music industry revenues (4.6% in 2016), I do not believe it will have a personal or professional impact on me within the next few years. However, the overlaying theme in the trend (people wanting a superior listening experience) most certainly will. Music companies and artists will have to be creative in order to capitalize on this opportunity. Making great music is not enough; it has to be delivered in exceptional fashion.

The two graphs I found on do a great job of providing insight into the trend. The first one illustrates the change in sales, while including the vinyl market share as well. However, I believe the graph is still ambiguous. There is missing information and figures that could provide greater insight into the trend. The vinyl pie graph has information I would like to see incorporated into the first chart, but I also believe adding the age demographics of vinyl buyers, as well as music genres, would be beneficial. This is too much information for one graph so I think splitting the information onto two separate charts would be the best option. I created mock graphs with made-up figures to illustrate how the graphs would look. I attached the graphs, but also provided the Excel workbook with all of the data for those who would like to see it.

Three external factors that could influence the trend of vinyl sales (and ultimately the music consumer’s desire for a greater listening experience) include: Customer Base, Technology, and Music Companies/Artists. According to an article published in 2016 by Digital Music News, people aged 18-34 account for nearly 50% of all vinyl purchases. Most of this age demographic wasn’t even around when vinyl was the dominant source of recorded music revenue. This customer base is also the age group most active in music listening. Only time will tell how the upcoming generations will choose to experience music. I believe there is still a huge untapped market in the older demographic age group. Technology is also a factor that will affect the way people experience music. Artificial Intelligence is slowly creeping it’s way into the music industry. Market adaptability and the capacity to target new opportunities technology presents will determine whether the industry can continue to grow with technology, or get left behind. The last factor, is music companies and artists. As I stated before, music companies and artists must find ways to deliver music in new and creative ways. Streaming is trending right now, but as royalty percentages decrease (new licensing deals between music companies and streaming platforms wanting lower royalty payouts) complications will eventually arise. Artists such as Jay-Z have already taken a stand against low royalty pay outs by removing large portions of their catalogue from streaming sites. I believe other artists will do so in the future as well. This will result in innovative methods being utilized to deliver music, outside of streaming platforms. Artists and music companies must be able to leverage technology in order to appeal to consumers and give them the heightened listening experience and fulfill their unmet desires.


UMG’s Management Approach

UMG’s Management Approach

As an active music artist with a long-term goal of managing my own music company, I admire UMG’s success and influence in the music industry. They have a wide array of artists on their roster, such as Drake, The Weekend, Adele, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, and Taylor Swift. They also own the rights to many popular albums and songs from music legends, such as John Lennon, the Beatles, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Kiss, and even Eazy-E. Through asset acquisitions (like album copyrights and publishing rights), artist development, market adaptability, innovative leadership, and customer focus, UMG has been able to provide high quality products while putting themselves in a profitable position.
UMG is currently under the leadership of Sir Lucian Grainge. He has been the CEO and Chairman of the Management Board since 2010. Grainge has over 25 years of experience in the music industry and has an extensive background in music publishing. According to an article published by Variety, Universal Music Group’s value has tripled in value since Grainge became the Chairman and CEO of the company.
The music industry has fought hard to break out of the depressive downturn it’s been in for the past 10 years plus. Pirating and digital music sales are some of the factors that contributed to the despair. Music streaming, however, has created an upsurge in revenues for the past two years, and large music corporations love it. UMG is demonstrating effective management because they are showing adaptability to the new music environment. Instead of fighting the changes and complaining about the marginal payouts streaming platforms distribute, UMG has embraced the changing landscape while increasing their revenue. They are also displaying their customer focus by taking initiative and become engaged in the new market.
According to statistics compiled by, UMG has the largest music industry market share when compared to all other music companies, accounting for 29%. Sony and Warner Music make up 22% and 17%, respectively. The other 31% belongs to all independent music companies not named UMG, Sony, or Warner Music. UMG’s grasp on the music industry can be attributed to their diverse catalogue of music, adaptable marketing strategies, and innovative leadership.

I believe the company demonstrates effective management because they are adapting their business approach and using their current assets to maximize profitability, while making further acquisitions that will increase revenue and grow their footprint in the music industry. They are also providing products in a way that satisfies consumer needs. As they say in business, you have to ride the wave. That wave right now in the music industry is streaming.

Last month, UMG struck a licensing deal with Spotify, the biggest music streaming company at the moment. By making this move, Universal is demonstrating it’s market adaptability by investing in the new music market landscape. According to a publication released by Statista, streaming subscription services accounted for 38% of total music consumption in 2016. This upsurge translated to increased revenues in a market that has seen downturns year after year.

Although UMG is allowing Spotify access to their catalogue, they still included some contingencies to that will be advantageous to the company’s long-term goal of making music streaming profits a sustainable source of income. In order to come to terms, UMG required Spotify to “window” certain albums, where only paid subscribers to the will be allowed access to the music for two weeks. This move was made as an attempt to incentivize going from a free Spotify plan to a monthly subscription. Spotify has also agreed to give UMG access to their massive database, which will give Universal insight into current and future trends listening trends. In an article published through Full Sail’s library, Robert Levine quotes an industry analyst saying, “Universal is the one that can call the shots,” and I couldn’t agree more. UMG is the first of the Big 3 to strike a licensing deal with Spotify. Their market flexibility and ability to position themselves for sustainable growth (while catering to the average music consumer) shows effective management and great leadership skills.


Dr. Dre Beats all Odds: Examining his Rise to Success

Dr. Dre Beats all Odds: Examining his Rise to Success

Andre Romelle Young, better known as Dr. Dre, is an incon figure in Music. I believe Dr. Dre’s success illustrates the importance of building strong connections and establishing a personal brand. His journey also demonstrates the importance of diversifying your skillsets in the music industry. Steve Jobs once said, “Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.” Dr. Dre’s success is a collaboration of many people’s contributions. He mixed and matched learning experiences and implemented them into his own projects, while helping other artists break into the industry and establish themselves as well. His approach to music, business savvy, and innovative production has manifested into a high degree of success for him and everyone around him.

Dr. Dre started off working as a DJ at various local hip-hop clubs. In 1984, he played a vital role in the founding of the “World Class Wreckin Cru.” A few years later, Dr. Dre met Ice Cube through his cousin, Sir Jinx (also a producer). Dre and Cube would eventually meet Eazy-E, which was a street hustler/music manager at the time. Eazy-E hired Ice Cube to write a record for his group H.B.O. (Home Boys Only). The song Ice Cube wrote would be on of the most iconic tracks in West Coast Hip-Hop: “Boyz in the Hood,” produced by Dr. Dre. In a 2013 interview with Complex, Ice Cube states, “[The song] was too West Coast for [H.B.O.] so they rejected [it]… Dre convinced Eazy that he had a good enough voice to do it,” and the rest is history. The three would become the nucleus for the notorious rap group, N.W.A.

The rap group had a falling out in 1992 and Dr. Dre left to form Death Row Records with Suge Knight. Dre began his journey as a rapper and released his first album, “The Chronic.” The album received critical acclaim and is now a triple platinum project with over 3 million records sold. Dre also joined forces with Snoop Dogg and 2Pac during his time at Death Row. He would later leave the gangster rap company to form his own label, “Aftermath,” under the umbrella of Interscope Records through a partnership with Jimmy Iovine. He signed Eminem shortly after and continued to garner appraise and recognition in the music industry by working with various Rap Artists. His contributions paved the way for Hip-Hop’s rise to popularity and he continues to find ways to stay relevant in the constantly evolving music industry.

Dr. Dre has many business achievements. He signed and groomed Eminem, which has proven to be one of the greatest acts in Hip-Hop history. Rap Basement published an article in 2013 detailing Dr. Dre’s experience with signing Eminem and how he ignored the criticism he was getting from the rap community. “The race factor was just a minuscule part of what I was doing with Eminem. It was really about the music and how well we worked together.” Although one cannot disregard the duo’s incredible chemistry, examining Dr. Dre’s business mindset makes one conclude that Dre saw Eminem’s potential to grow the record industry (and his own company) by making Hip-Hop popular outside of the Black Urban community. Regardless of that idea, it was still a risky move. Many “gangster rappers” would have cringed at the idea of having their street credibility diminished by signing a white rapper with an eccentric style like Eminem. However, Dre followed his gut and it paid off. Eminem has gone diamond on two separate occasions with over 10M single sales and streams, according to RIAA, for “I love the Way you Lie ft. Rihanna” and “I’m Not Afraid.” Dr. Dre has also worked with one of the most iconic figures in Hip-Hop, Tupac Shakur. On top of that, he played an essential role in 50 Cent’s early success. Complex published an article in 2013 listing the 50 top selling rap albums of all time. Dr. Dre had his production hand on 13 of the 40 top selling albums, meaning his contributions played a part in producing 33% of the best selling rap albums prior to 2014.

His greatest achievement, however, has to be the creation of Beats by Dre. Beats by Dre/Beats Electronics is a concept that was made possible through the collaborative effort of Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre. Jimmy Iovine, founder of Interscope Records, was in a troubling predicament. He was witnessing CD sales drop due to piracy and did not want to continue walking down a diminishing business path. Business Insider published an article in 2014 describing how Jimmy Iovine came up with the idea of selling speakers and headphones in the mid 2000’s. “I can’t sell CD’s anymore,” Iovine said to Doug Morris (then CEO of Universal Music Group). He wanted to pursue other musical ventures. Iovine states he was inspired by Steve Jobs and Apple’s ability of “making hardware and selling it through software.” The iPod was gaining popularity on a global scale. According to Iovine, it was so popular because of music companies. Without music, the iPod would be nothing.

Although Iovine admired Steve Jobs for creating the iPod and “[marrying] technology directly with popular culture”, he was not so thrilled about the cheap headphones iPods came with. According to Iovine, “Apple was selling $400 iPods with $1 plastic ear buds.” He recalls Dr. Dre saying, “It’s one thing that people steal my music. It’s another thing to destroy the feeling of what I’ve worked on.” The two were already frustrated with piracy, and now the iPod’s cheap ear buds were taking away the grandeur of their music. Selling speakers and headphones was Jimmy Iovine’s idea, but it would not have come to fruition if it weren’t for Dr. Dre’s branding power. According to, Iovine ran into Dr. Dre on the beach one day. The two spoke briefly, and Dre told Iovine, “my lawyer, he wants me to sell sneakers – what do you think?” Iovine responded with, “Nobody cares about how you dress… what you should sell is speakers.” Dr. Dre replied, “We can do that.” The two then established Beats by Dre in 2008 and built the company through extensive marketing and acceptance by the pop-culture community, thanks to Dr. Dre’s branding power and reach. In January 2014, Beats also launched a music service with the hopes to capitalize on music streaming popularity. A few months later, Apple announced it was buying Beats Music and Beats Electronics for $3 billion. This business venture is easily Dr. Dre’s greatest accomplishment.

Dr. Dre has a long list of achievements. However, there are some instances that can be accounted as failures. One I would like to discuss is Dr. Dre’s unreleased album “Detox.” Detox was supposed to be Dr. Dre’s third studio album. After going three times platinum with his 1992 “The Chronic” album, helping Eminem go three times platinum with “The Marshall Mathers LP,” and going six times platinum with his second album, “2001,” Dr. Dre had a strong taste of success. He had his mind set on releasing another project. Rolling Stone covered the legend of “Detox” in a 2015 article. “For nearly a decade, [Dre] publicly vacillated on whether or not Detox would ever be released.” Dr. Dre was working with numerous artists from the years 2000 to 2010, and many of those artists would report to media outlets about the incredible music they’ve heard from Dre that would be on the Detox. However, year after year passed by, and with Dre being so heavily involved in many other artists’ projects, Detox never came to realization. quoted 50 Cent as saying, “[Dre is] a perfectionist. But sometimes that can be a bad thing.” Some may argue that this isn’t a failure as the album was never completed, but the fact that Dr. Dre denied himself the possibility of another platinum album does seem disappointing to me. Nevertheless, this does not account for his biggest failure. I believe the greatest blows he’s felt in his business career is losing a $3M royalty claim on his debut album, “The Chronic.”

His debut album is highly regarded as one of the breakthrough albums for Hip-Hop by many music fanatics. Although it has gone platinum three times, Dr. Dre has not seen any physical royalties from the album. He created the project during his tenure at Death Row and made a verbal agreement with the record company that gave him the rights to 18% of the record’s retail sales (20% when sales hit over one million units), according to an article published by Dre also made verbal arrangements that entitled him to 4% of producer royalties. However, when he left Death Row to start his own company (Aftermath), reports that, “Dre bought his freedom by disclaiming ownership interest in… Death Row and the sound recordings he had produced there.” Dr. Dre chose to take legal action in 2007 in order to recoup some of the monetary loses. However, his verbal agreements did not stand a chance in a court of law. Dr. Dre’s administrative royalty claims were denied in 2014. The Chronic has been featured in various movies and video games, and Dr. Dre has lost millions due to these verbal agreements. He did, however, win a lawsuit that entitled him to 100% of the Chronic’s digital sales, so his debut project is putting some money in his pocket, but a small amount compared to what it has earned over its lifetime. I think the verbal agreements Dr. Dre made with Death Row and the impact they had on his royalties account for one of the biggest business failures in his career.

One thing I have learned about Dr. Dre’s achievements is that you have a greater chance of success when you expand your skillsets and services. His entire portfolio is a symbol for diversification. He went from being a DJ to being an Emcee. He then went from being an Emcee, to becoming a music producer. Although he saw much success producing hits for artists like Eazy-E, Tupac, and Eminem, Dr. Dre didn’t just confine himself to making beats. He began rapping and creating his own albums. Once he had established his name in the music production and rap arena, he founded his own record label. The experience he gained being a part of NWA and playing a fundamental part in the rise of Death Row gave him the insight and knowledge he needed to spot talent and produce success. You have to help others in order to truly leave a mark in the music industry, and Dr. Dre has clearly done both.

I’ve also learned that you have to be an independent thinker and put yourself in positive situations. Dr. Dre never stuck around if he felt he was being mistreated or taken advantage of. He left NWA and Death Row due to monetary disputes and creative differences. He chose to build his own music company and establish his own business, which is what I am trying to do as well. Although his successes can serve as great learning moments, I’ve also learned from some of his missteps. Perfection is always the target, but examining Dr. Dre’s rap career demonstrates that one can be a perfectionist to a fault. I think Dre battled with this notion when working on his third album, “Detox,” which he never released. He spent so much time trying to perfect it that he never actually finished it. Failure is a scary thing, but not pursuing things out of a fear of failure can lead to unrealized success. This is something I am learning.

Perhaps the greatest thing I’ve absorbed from researching Dr. Dre is that you have to stay on top of trends and modern times. When Apple came out with the iPod, CD sales were already falling due to piracy and digital downloads. Dr. Dre could not change the direction the music industry was taking, so he chose to become a part of it. People were listening to music on their headphones more than ever, and he saw a need for earphones with greater sound quality and exceptional design. He used his branding reach and influence to put these headphones on the ears of many pop-culture figures, from athletes to music artists. The efforts paid off as Apple purchased Beats by Dre for $3 Billion, making Dr. Dre one of the top earners in the music industry.

Dr. Dre has many great leadership qualities. He obviously has a great understanding of business. He used his network and talents at the most pivotal times in his career. When he released his albums, he called on artists he had previously done production work for to feature in his projects. This expanded his audience reach and allowed for greater sales. When he joined up with Jimmy Iovine for Beats Electronics, he used his status to convey the idea that Beats Headphones were “in,” and that you needed to have them. I also believe he is very charismatic and convincing. Eazy-E was not a rapper, but when Dr. Dre and Ice Cube had nobody to sing their song, “Boyz in the Hood,” he found a way to convince Eazy-E to rap the song. This very moment transmitted the three into the small circle of Hip-Hop pioneers. I believe Dre is also very smart and instinctive. When he left NWA, many people saw him as a sell out. But he saw that he was not getting what he deserved from the company. The same thing happened with Death Row. Both of those companies are not even operating now, and Dr. Dre has created one of the most prosperous music companies under Interscope Records (Now under Universal Music Group). He still acts as a mentor to up and coming artists, such as Kendrick Lamar, and remains active in the music industry. Dr. Dre gives off the vibe of a strong-willed, soft-spoken businessman. He isn’t flashy or attention starved, he is happy with being behind the scenes. I believe all of these qualities have granted him the prominence and prosperity he has been able to achieve.

When you’re in the music business, you have to be able to separate yourself from the audience and fans, but also become engrained with them. It is a very difficult task. It’s sort of like being a parent. You want to be friends with your children, but at the same time you want to guide them in the right direction and show them right from wrong. I’ve heard music fans criticize Dr. Dre in the past for not sticking with Death Row. They saw him as a “punk,” if you will. But Dre had bigger dreams for his career. If trying to put yourself in a more favorable position means you are a “punk,” then I guess I am too. Furthermore, when Dr. Dre signed Eminem, many fans questioned the his judgment. According to an article published by the in 2007, when Dre played the songs he collaborated with Eminem on, even his GM was skeptical about his angle. “This guy is blond with blue eyes. What are you doing?” But Eminem was talented, and Dr. Dre was the only one willing to invest the time and effort into his career (despite what the average consumer thought they wanted). Sometimes you don’t know what you’re looking for until you find it. Dre gave us the Hip-Hop world a gem in Eminem.

Beats Electronics is one of Dr. Dre’s greatest accomplishments, but some people saw him as a sell out when he made the deal with Apple. I think that notion is ridiculous. Dr. Dre got a huge paycheck, and now he doesn’t have to worry about money. He can spend his time quietly working on the next big, the next innovation that will transcend the music industry into the next stage of its evolution. I think that might be exactly what the doctor ordered.


BMG’s Perspective on Digital Music Revenues

BMG’s Perspective on Digital Music Revenues

With Nielsen and The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) releasing their Music Industry Revenues Report for 2016, it has been revealed that many record labels are raking in the profits. For the past decade (thanks to piracy and a drop off in physical CD sales) the music industry has been constantly diminishing in value. Last year, however, music streaming earnings allowed the industry to see an increase in revenue, and music companies love it. Technological breakthroughs have given fans the ability to easily discover new music. It has also allowed artists to showcase their musical talents to the world. However, it has created over saturation in the market. Online music streaming has manifested itself into a new wave of revenue, and record labels are riding it all the way to the bank. However, artists have long expressed their discontent with the marginal pay outs that streaming platforms distribute. Digital Music News published an article illustrating how discouraging music streaming royalties are to the average artist. In the article, they exhibited the royalties an independent band received from having over 1 million streams. The results: $4,955.90, an average of $0.004891 per stream. I believe it’s only a matter of time before artists demand higher cuts in royalties from music streaming.

The Financial Times published another article this month discussing this topic. They sat with Hartwig Masuch, CEO of BMG (Bertelsmann Music Group), and asked for his opinion on music streaming and how it will affect the future of the industry. According to Masuch, there will soon be “wake-up calls” for many record labels who believe they are living the dream. “A return to growth triggered by the upswing in streaming is potentially under threat, as artists start to demand a much greater cut of royalty revenues generated.” Streaming and the inevitable demand for higher royalty rates among artists is impacting all of the major labels, but BMG is sheltering itself from the upcoming storm by paying their artists 75% of streaming royalties. According to Masuch, “big music companies spent an average of 19% of their revenues on artists royalties.” That’s a wide gap compared to what BMG pays its artists. Masuch also stated that major record labels use the “complicated” structure of the music streaming market to minimize royalties paid to artists, but even that explanation will soon fall on deaf ears.

I believe BMG is handling the situation very well and is blazing a trail towards future success. Bertelsmann was a media giant in the music industry before, but Sony acquired the company in 2008 for $1.2 Billion. Masuch then reassembled the company with a new vision, “to help artists and songwriters make the very most of their songs and recordings in the digital age.” Masuch created a new company tailored specifically for a digital market, distancing themselves from traditional label business models and adopting a digital infrastructure that allows for songwriters and artists to gain larger royalty revenues. They’re new business model will certainly attract emerging acts. Most artists choose to stay independent, not because they want to do it all by themselves, but because they want freedom to create and higher profitability. By establishing their stance on music streaming and publically advertising their 75% streaming royalty pay outs to artists, they are positioning themselves favorably among musicians seeking the influential power of a music company.

I believe BMG’s response to the growing frustration artists are experiencing due to low royalty rates will bring long term success to the company. In a Financial Times article that was published this month, Masuch stated that “BMG’s ebitda (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization) margin of 22.8 percent in 2016 [is] proof that the larger music businesses have cost bases still mired in the physical world.” According to an article published by Music Business Worldwide, “Universal Music Group posted an annual ebitda figure of $712M… representing a 13% [profit] margin.” Sony had a profit margin of 11.5%, and Warner Music Group had a profit margin of 15.9%. BMG, on the other hand, had a profit margin of 22.8%, larger when compared to the Big 3. Although their total revenue was lower than the other companies, when the data is normalized one can see a big difference in the four company’s profit margin.

The article went on to state how BMG has made over 100 acquisitions over the last 8 years and are now focusing on “organic growth.” I believe the company will do just that within the next few years. But there still remains a question to be answered: How are music streaming platforms going to contribute to higher royalty rates for music artists and labels?


Soundcloud’s Future

Soundcloud’s Future

SoundCloud is one of the biggest online music platforms around right now. Boasting approximately 175 million users, it is difficult to see how the giant music streaming company could possible disappear in the next few years. However, they are currently in a problematic situation that will either make or break the company. I believe SoundCloud’s future will consist of rainy days.

After reading the article by and understanding some of the warning signs that tell whether a company will ultimately fail, I came to the conclusion that SoundCloud is in jeopardy. Although the music streaming website is popular among musicians and DJ’s because it is a free service, their recent transition into becoming a paid music subscription platform has been anything but seamless. SoundCloud now offers music subscription packages that range from $4.99-$9.99/month (Go and Go+), along with their free package as well. Their free package offers users access to 120M tracks. SoundCloud Go offers access to 120M tracks, offline listening, and removes ads. Their Go+ package offers 150M tracks, offline listening, and no ads. However, there are some flaws in their business model that could ultimately lead to an unsuccessful endeavor.

Ben Stager from published an article in April 2016 titled, “We tried SoundCloud Go so you don’t have to.” In the article, he gives an in-depth look into his musical experience with SoundCloud Go.  One of the major flaws he highlights is SoundCloud’s catalogue. Soundcloud’s musical library is devoid of many well-known artists such as Kanye West, Jay-Z, Rihanna, and Beyonce. This is understandable, seeing as how Jay-Z’s has pulled all of his music from streaming platforms and made them available exclusively on Tidal. Though it is an ongoing battle in regards to whether these big name artists should display their music on Spotify and AppleMusic (seeing as how pay outs are marginal), one thing is for certain: they are not running to SoundCloud for music streaming. While on the website, I did some research of my own as well. I looked up a few of my favorite independent underground artist (such as Papoose and K-Rino) and they had a minimal amount of their enormous catalogue on the website.  I was not surprised.

Although SoundCloud has had a few milestones, for example partnering with Chance the Rapper to make his album, “Coloring Book,” available for free (even though Apple Music struck a deal to stream the album exclusively two weeks prior to SoundCloud), the company has not had many highlighting moments. It was once said that SoundCloud would be the Facebook and YouTube of music streaming, but the fact is that many established artists have not rallied around the platform. In my opinion, it’s becoming the MySpace of music streaming. It is big amongst independent and upcoming artists, but once they establish themselves they tend to move on from the platform. Just look at how Drake abandoned the website a few years ago.

Besides not having the support of many well established artists, examining SoundCloud’s financial forecast will reveal that the money won’t be raining down any time soon. Although the company has been experiencing losses for the past couple of years, they have continued to add employees. According to Digital Music News, SoundCloud expended $28M on wages and salaries for 295 employees in 2015. That means the company spent an average $95,000/employee that year. Their employee wages were less than their total revenues. This does not include any other operational costs, such as rent, utilities, and marketing. The year prior, they spent an average of $80,000 each salary for 236 employees. The costs of acquiring talent and operating in the shark-infested waters of the music subscription sea keeps rising. SoundCloud is basing its future success on the idea that they will be successful. Alexander Ljung (Co-founder of SoundCloud) commented on his company’s business model, “The assumption of a successful launch of the new subscription service is the key element of… financial projections for the next three years… [It] bears financial risks regarding the operating results and cash flows of the group.” According to Ljung, the company might have trouble generating sufficient cash for upcoming expenditures, and may require additional funding from investors, or they could “run out of cash earlier than December 31, 2017.” There is a lot of uncertainty clouding the company’s financial future, and that is an unattractive trait for a business looking to acquire more investors.

Besides reporting losses since 2010, SoundCloud has also explored the possibility of selling the company. According to Hypebot, SoundCloud has been attempting to raise $100M since the summer of 2016 (around the same time they launched their Go+ subscription service). also reported that SoundCloud was considering a sale for $1 billion. Business insider made some good points as to why the platform would consider selling. One of the reasons they presented was that SoundCloud might not be able to compete in the rough waters of music streaming, which is dominated by Spotify and Apple Music. Pandora and YouTube also have shares in the market, and consumers are not likely to pay for music subscriptions from multiple platforms. 26% of SoundCloud’s free users are already paid subscribers to other companies.

Spotify initially showed interest in acquiring SoundCloud, however, last year in December those talks came to a mute. published an article detailing the unrealized acquisition. With Spotify’s plans of going public on the trading market, they decided not to purchase SoundCloud, as it could negatively affect their preparation. Dealing with the labels is one thing, but SoundCloud caters to independent artists and DJ’s. Acquiring the company would require Spotify to negotiate deals with labels, independent artists, and DJ’s, something they were not up for. It was once approximated that SoundCloud was worth about $1 billion, but an article published by reported SoundCloud could sell for as little as $250M, a 75% decrease in former valuation. Complete Music Update also published an article detailing how SoundCloud’s CFO and Finance Director exited the company, causing more concern for a sinking ship. Whether SoundCloud can turn in a profit under different management remains to be revealed, but seeing as how prominent Spotify and Apple music are becoming,  I do not see the music streaming platform being around in the next few years.


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