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Perspective, pings and other things relevant to our world

Warriors Of Rock

September 28, 2010

Our Gold & Platinum program continues to be the gold standard (excuse the pun) for recognizing extraordinary musical achievement.  In today's music marketplace - where album sales are still an important part of the equation but no longer tell the whole story about an artist's commercial success - reaching the industry-wide standard of 500,000 in sales for Gold, 1 million in sales for Platinum, and 2+ million in sales for multi-Platinum is no easy feat. Which is one reason why today's music labels and artists are all about diversification and innovative strategies to reach fans.

Last night, I had the pleasure of formally recognizing one such example:  Platinum award-winning band Soundgarden has partnered with videogame maker Activision to bundle its new album "Telephantasm" in the latest version of the Guitar Hero® franchise, "Warriors of Rock."  These 1 million units, purchased by Activision, are non-returnable and represent official sales of the album - in stores TODAY -- with royalties going to the band and its label for these sales. Because of this, we're pleased to award Soundgarden with a Platinum certification for "Telephantasm" -- they truly are Warriors of Rock.
This groundbreaking partnership between Soundgarden and Activision marks the first time a newly released music album has been simultaneously bundled with a videogame launch, and has opened the door to a new type of RIAA certification: recognizing a band's success based on the sale of non-returnable units from a music label to a gaming company, instead of to a traditional retailer.

We're delighted to be able to recognize this innovative new method of selling music. Guitar Hero® is a huge platform for music, and embracing alternative outlets is essential to an artist's success in today's marketplace.  This unique partnership between Universal Music Group and Activision demonstrates the value music brings to other industries and is a perfect example of how modern music companies continue to find new ways to reach fans.

I anticipate we'll be seeing more and more of these types of partnerships and cross-pollination of industries which benefit everyone, especially music fans.  Here's to the future!

Kate Harold, Director, Artist & Industry Relations, Gold & Platinum Awards Program, RIAA

Digital Music Sales -- Can One Number Tell The Full Story?

September 27, 2010

The Financial Times published a story today that did not accurately and completely characterize the U.S. digital music market.  

At a point nearly ¾ of the way through 2010, sales of digital downloads in the U.S. are higher than they were a year ago.  Based on figures from the most recent Billboard (for the week ending September 19), the total number of digital downloads (albums and singles) sold in the U.S. is up 4.5%.  True, digital tracks are basically flat year-over-year by volume, but with Apple’s introduction and rollout of variable pricing starting in April 2009, for much of the year that is not an apples-to-apples comparison.  While digital tracks had been predominantly $0.99 until then, by the end of 2009 average track price was $1.07, and has continued to rise in 2010.  So while the volume of tracks has been flat so far, total revenues have increased.  Perhaps an even more telling data point is that digital album sales continue double digit growth in 2010, up 13% so far this year.  As the myriad of ways consumers can access music online continues growing, digital album sales growth shows increasing comfort with the format among fans building their digital collections.

Even with all this, these figures only partially tell the story.  What’s left out of the Nielsen figures are licensing revenues from models like digital radio services such Pandora or XM/Sirius, or online video and audio streaming services, such as Vevo or MTV.  By any metric, interest in these services is skyrocketing. 

Today’s digital music business is multi-faceted and multi-dimensional.  Any one single figure will usually fail to tell the whole story. 

Joshua P. Friedlander, Vice President, Research and Strategic Analysis, Recording Industry Association of America

Googling "Free MP3s" May Not Be So Free

September 16, 2010

The legal risks associated with downloading music from unlicensed websites and services is well established.  What’s sometimes overlooked by consumers are the security and privacy risks.  We’re not experts on the matter, but the computer security firm McAfee is.  The company recently released:  “Digital Music and Movies Report:  The true cost of free entertainment.”  It’s a must read for those surfing the web for music.  The firm’s findings on how often malicious spyware and malware are associated with web searches using terms like “free mp3s,” queries on virtually anything related to Russia and music, and links in banner ads on questionable download sites are useful tips that should help consumers avoid exposing their computers to dangerous digital viruses.  Check it out. 

Jonathan Lamy, Senior Vice President, Communications, RIAA

We Salute You

September 15, 2010

We wanted to give the folks at Scouting magazine a nice shout out for their recent article "To Pay or Not to Pay? How to talk to your guys about the dilemma of downloading." The piece discusses the ethical issues surrounding illegal downloading among adolescents today and offers helpful tips on how to set the best examples for Scouts. We heartily applaud Scouting magazine for highlighting this important issue and encouraging Scout leaders to start an open dialogue with their Scouts. This kind of responsibility is great to see and serves as useful and teachable moment for those who may not yet know the harmful impact of piracy on our rich culture and American jobs. It's also a great opportunity to discuss all the different ways young fans can access legal music today. After all, the best kind of Scout is a prepared one!

Cara Duckworth, Vice President, Communications, RIAA

"I Gotta Feeling" This Song Is #1

September 09, 2010

They felt it in their gut and they were right: we are thrilled to report that Universal/Interscope artists The Black Eyed Peas’ smash hit “I Gotta Feeling” is officially the highest certified digital single of all time, at 6x Multi-Platinum.  It’s been beyond a good night for the Peas, as fans can’t seem to get enough of this catchy tune, or of the other hit singles from their 2x Multi-Platinum album, “The E.N.D.”  This year we saw “Boom Boom Pow” reach 5x Multi-Platinum, while both “Imma Be” and “Meet Me Halfway” climbed to 2x Multi-Platinum. 

What does this milestone mean?   For one, it suggests that purchasing music online is becoming even more mainstream.  It’s also a telling snapshot of one path to contemporary commercial and artistic success: diversification.  Today’s music business is no longer just album sales.  That remains fundamental, to be sure, but it’s also about cumulative singles downloads, ringtones, entrepreneurial licensing strategies, a compelling concert experience, and various online radio and video plays.  There’s no single path to success, but a diversified approach and great music can yield a smash hit.   

Curious which tunes the BEP hit surpassed?  Filling out the top 4 best selling digital songs ever are Flo Rida’s “Low” and Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours,” both certified 5x Multi-Platinum alongside “Boom Boom Pow.”  The RIAA introduced the Digital Award Program in October of 2004.  Forty-five titles were included in the initial group of certifications, encompassing tracks from each major recording company and representing nearly every genre in music.  In October 2005, Interscope artist Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” became the first digital single to sell one million units.

Kate Harold, Director, Artist & Industry Relations, Gold & Platinum Awards Program, RIAA

Commerce Dept Chief Visits Music City

September 01, 2010

The Nashville music community received a special visit from Commerce Secretary Gary Locke this week where he discussed the Obama Administration’s outlook on the “scourge of piracy” that has threatened thousands of music-related jobs in Music City. Secretary Locke used this opportunity to speak with local songwriters, label employees, artists and publishers about the steps it is taking to prevent further damage to an industry that is considered to be the “lifeblood” of Nashville. The discussion, at a town hall meeting at Belmont University, was a strong signal of the Administration’s commitment to protecting the rich cultural and economic values that the music community has contributed for decades. The Administration’s commitment and steps it has taken deserve recognition, including the appointment of an Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC) and the release of a first-ever IPEC report that outlines 33 specific actions that are critical to the protection of our country’s intellectual property. These are important and welcome steps.

But none of us can rest on our laurels. The music community has suffered greatly from the impact of music theft throughout the past few years. As one local songwriter commented during the town hall, “I've seen three-quarters of my friends lose their jobs…I've probably seen five publishing companies go out of business this year. How do we get some relief in the immediacy?"

This is just one voice among thousands, but the song remains the same. More needs to be done in order to discourage online music theft. That’s why we’re committed to working with third-party intermediaries like Internet service providers (ISPs) to discourage this kind of illegal activity and ensure that the Internet is a civilized medium with appropriate sanctions for those who abuse it.  The music community is especially grateful that Secretary Locke recognized this: 

To take just one area that I know is important to this group, in our government-wide strategy, we endorsed and affirmatively encouraged the private sector – including content owners and Internet service providers – to work collaboratively to combat intellectual property infringement online.  Especially to combat repeat infringement.

We applaud the Administration’s commitment to the problem and look forward to working with Secretary Locke, IPEC Espinel and others to ensure that American creativity and ingenuity – what President Obama recently called America’s “single greatest asset” – is appropriately preserved for generations to come.

Cara Duckworth, Vice President, Communications, RIAA