More than a year after launch, Google is still bringing slow, but tangible improvements to YouTube Music. While the ability to upload your own tracks to the service isn’t yet live, we now have confirmation that it’s coming. A little less exciting piece of news is that the app is testing a new, improved Now Playing interface.
The point of this new UI is to make everything clearer. Shuffle and repeat buttons are no longer hidden in the sliding queue overlay, and lyrics are more prominently displayed instead of being mysteriously concealed behind the information button. There are also several cosmetic changes, including a centered album art and progress bar, a toggle for song/video, and some reshuffling of the different buttons.
The platform has partnered with Bandsintown to give artists a simple way to earn some money doing live-streams while live performances are on hiatus.
Bandsintown and Twitch announced a partnership to enable musicians with more than 2,000 followers to access Twitch’s monetization tools when streaming live events. Artists have to first create a Twitch Channel, which is free.
Through Twitch, streamers earn money by accepting subscriptions from their viewers and offering Bits to Cheer, which are virtual goods viewers can purchase to Cheer in chat. The performers get a piece of that revenue. Bandsintown also said its fast-tracking the application process, which normally takes two to five business days.
When artists started canceling shows in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak in February, Harvey Mason Jr., the chairman and interim CEO of the Recording Academy, saw that the music industry was headed into devastating, unprecedented territory.
“We knew right away when one or two tours got canceled,” he tells Fortune. “If people aren’t able to do concerts, it’s going to be really hard for our community to continue to make money. That’s musicians, cartage people, engineers, lighting—everybody who works to put these things on, not just the people you see on the stage singing.”
That’s why the academy and its affiliated charitable organization MusiCares quickly established the COVID-19 Relief Fund, which provides financial assistance to music industry professionals whose jobs and lives have been disrupted by the pandemic. To kick things off, both organizations donated $1 million each, and more contributions are coming in from all over the industry. Payments are already going out to help people with rent, medical bills, groceries, mental health treatment, and other needs.
To be eligible for the MusiCares fund, applicants initially had to have at least five years of employment in the music industry (or six commercially released recordings or music videos), but the board voted to relax the criteria to help more people. Now, the minimum is three years, though those with less will be considered. The amounts given out are determined on a case-by-case basis, as opposed to a set amount like the government’s proposed stimulus checks, while the fund awaits more donations. “If we could give $10,000 to everybody who asks, we would rather do that,” Mason says. “But it’s just going to be a matter of how much money can we raise and how many people need help.”
US-based BandPay is one of the startups trying to help musicians get paid for their work more efficiently. In its case, that takes the form of an app on which collaborators set milestones for their projects, with funds in escrow that are released when those milestones are hit. Now the company is getting a payment milestone of its own: a $2m funding round from an unnamed angel investor, which BandPay says it will use ‘to build its user base, starting with artists, producers, and other music professionals, as well as to continue building out features to serve them’.
We gasped the other day when it emerged that SXSW didn’t have an insurance policy that would cover cancellation due to “communicable diseases, viruses, and pandemics” – like the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). If that was the shot, here’s the chaser: it appears that both SXSW and the also-canceled Ultra Music Festival will not be refunding people who’d bought tickets for this year’s events.
An email sent to SXSW ticketholders stated that “SXSW has to rely on the registration terms you agreed to when you purchased your credential, which acknowledge that SXSW will not issue refunds”. It noted that 2020 badge purchasers can “defer their registration to 2021, 2022, or 2023, with additional benefits that we will update you on as soon as possible”. Ultra Music Festival in Miami is adopting a similar approach: an email made no mention of refunds according to the Miami Herald, but instead said: “all tickets purchased will, of course, remain valid and will be honored at either the 2021 or 2022 Ultra Miami event, at your option”.
The financial impact of the cancellations, which has already been talked about a lot in terms of local businesses in Austin and Miami as well as the artists who were due to perform, is now also trickling down to the music fans (and in SXSW’s case, startups and industry folk) who’d bought tickets. Oh, and also employees in the case of the SXSW organization: it laid off a third of its full-time staff yesterday, while CEO Roland Swenson has already voiced doubt on SXSW’s ability to “carry on and do another event in 2021” in a Wall Street Journal interview. A very difficult situation when this year’s badge-buyers are being invited to defer their registration to next year.
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Entertainers are not paid to headline the halftime show. The NFL does cover the costs of producing the show as well as a few other expenses for the artists but it does not give them an actual check after it’s all said and done. However, those who take the stage during the big game enjoy other perks, and Shakira and JLo are finding that out now. Read on to find out how much their music sales have spiked and which song has had the most downloads since.
According to initial sales reports via Nielsen Music, the songs performed during the show garnered a sales increase of 1,013% in the U.S. Collectively, those tunes sung by the women sold 16,000 digital downloads on Sunday, up from 1,000 sold the day before.
Billboard noted that the Puerto Rican and Colombian stars also saw an increase with the sales for the rest of the songs in their catalogs as well. Download sales in the U.S. reached 21,000 downloads on Feb. 2, up from 2,000 on Feb. 1.