“If you've got nothing to dance about, find a reason to sing.”

Melody Carstairs

Alphabet recently announced in its latest quarterly earnings report that YouTube reached more than $6 billion in advertising revenue during the first quarter of this year, up 50% year-over-year.

The MLC also launched a new, five-part webinar series about their Data Quality Initiative (DQI) starting on April 27th. Head of Third-Party Partnerships, Dae Bogan, will host each of the five sessions with one of The MLC’s DQI partners - Vistex, Blokur, Exactuals, Music Data Services, and TuneRegistry - presenting their version of the DQI to showcase opportunities to check musical works data in bulk.

Apple’s services business hit more than 660 million paid subscriptions and topped $16.9 billion in revenue during Q1 2021, up from $13.3 billion a year ago. Services encompasses a wide range of Apple's businesses, including Apple TV+, Apple Music, the App Store, iCloud and other software sales.

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Compiled by Heidi Seo

Exploration Weekly - April 30, 2021

YouTube Ad Revenue Tops $6B in First Quarter

Google-owned video platform YouTube brought in more than $6 billion in advertising revenue in Q1 2021, according to the quarterly earnings report of parent company Alphabet. That's up from $4 billion in the same quarter of last year, a 50% year-over-year growth rate. YouTube first revealed its advertising revenue a year ago, and since then saw its fortunes wobble somewhat amid the pandemic advertising drawdown. Now, however, the video site is seeing turbocharged growth return. Alphabet overall brought in $55.3 billion in revenue, with net income of $17.9 billion. The company announced that it would repurchase up to $50 billion in stock.

The MLC Teams Up with Data Quality Initiative (DQI) Partners on New Five-Part Webinar Series

The Mechanical Licensing Collective (The MLC) has announced a new, five-part webinar series that will highlight its Data Quality Initiative (DQI) starting on April 27th. Each of the five sessions, hosted by The MLC's Head of Third-Party Partnerships Dae Bogan, will feature one of The MLC’s DQI partners – Vistex, Blokur, Exactuals, Music Data Services and TuneRegistry – presenting their version of the DQI as made available to their customers to showcase its capabilities for checking musical works data in bulk. The MLC created the DQI to provide a streamlined way for music publishers, administrators, self-administered songwriters and foreign collective management organizations (CMOs) to compare large schedules of their musical works’ data against The MLC’s data. Through the DQI, The MLC provides participants with reports that highlight the discrepancies between the two sets of data so that they can more easily address those discrepancies and improve the quality of The MLC's data.

Apple Touts 660 Million Paid Subscriptions Across Services, Including TV, Music, and Games

Apple's services business is off to a hot start in 2021. The tech giant's services revenue topped $16.9 billion in the first quarter of the year, up from $13.3 billion a year ago. Services encompasses a wide range of Apple's businesses, including Apple TV+, Apple Music, the App Store, iCloud and other software sales. Apple CFO Luca Maestri told analysts on an earnings call that the company had "more than 660 million paid subscriptions" across its services division, including video, music, news and games, and that its video, music, games and advertising businesses all had their best quarters yet. Apple as a whole had revenue of $89.6 billion in the quarter, up 54% year-over-year.

Spotify Subscriptions Grew Just 2% to 158M in Q1, Monthly Active Users Topped 356M

Spotify published its financial results for Q1 2021 on April 28, revealing that its global Premium Subscriber base grew to 158 million in the quarter (ended March 31). That was up 21% year-on-year, but up by just 2%, or 3 million subscribers, on the 155 million that SPOT counted at the end of the prior quarter (Q4 2020). The company’s total global Monthly Active Users, (MAUs), meanwhile, grew 24% year-on-year to 356 million in Q1 2021 and by 3% compared to the previous quarter (Q4 2020). Spotify’s Premium subscriber growth translated into Premium revenue of €1.931 billion (approximately $2.35 billion) for Spotify in Q1, which was slightly up (2%) from the prior quarter (Q4 2020) and up 14% year-on-year. Meanwhile, Spotify’s ad-supported revenue hit €216 million ($262.8 million) in Q1, down 23% from the prior quarter (Q4 2020), but up 46% year-on-year. Spotify’s Premium Subscriber growth (to 158 million subs) hit the top end of the company’s guidance range of between 155-158 million for the quarter.

PRS Royalty Distributions Up in 2020, But COVID Effect Means Collections Were Down 19.7%

UK song rights collecting society PRS has announced that the total sum of royalties it distributed to its songwriter and music publisher members last year was up 2% to £699.4 million, but that the COVID effect will be felt much more this year. The songs side of the music rights business is feeling the negative impact of COVID more acutely than the record industry, because songwriters and music publishers rely more than artists and labels on those copyright revenue streams that were hit by the pandemic. Royalties paid to the society by the live sector last year were down 79.1%, with public performance at large down 61.2%. Total income from the radio sector was down 9.2%, because commercial stations saw their ad income hit by the pandemic, especially early on. And all of those declines combined mean that collections across the board – including international income – were down 19.7%. Digital income continued to grow of course, up 5.1%. Royalty distributions to members are expected to be down about 10% in the next year.

SONA’s Songwriter Fund Now Accepting Emergency Grant Applications

Songwriters of North America (SONA) opened up applications for its newly-relaunched Songwriter Fund grant program on Wednesday April 28, offering emergency support to writers in need during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Directed by songwriters Autumn Rowe and Michelle Featherstone with management by Sarah Robertson, the fund grew out of an effort by Rowe to raise money for her struggling peers at the beginning of the pandemic when she solicited donations from artists including Leona Lewis and Billy Clark. Officially launched in May 2020, the fund has given out over $400,000 in $1,000 emergency grants to date.

Spotify is Launching Podcast Subscriptions, and Unlike Apple Won’t Take a Cut from Creators

Next week, Spotify will launch its podcast subscription option for partners. But, according to the Wall Street Journal, the company will be letting content creators keep 100% of the subscription fees: Spotify, at least initially, will not take a cut of podcast subscription revenue. By contrast, Apple will keep up to 30% of podcast subscription fees under its program, which is launching next month. Most creator platforms, including YouTube, Twitch, Facebook and Patreon, also take a cut of subscription fees and/or fan payments. Currently, Spotify doesn’t allow customers to pay for subscriptions through Apple in-app purchases. Similarly, you won’t be able to purchase Spotify podcast subscriptions through Apple. At a high level, Spotify wants to make it as attractive as possible for creators to make Spotify their preferred platform — and to dissuade them from participating in Apple Podcasts Subscriptions. Spotify’s bet is that the move will keep its podcast flywheel spinning by attracting more total listeners. Also unlike Apple, Spotify is spending big bucks for exclusive podcast programming.

Pandora Ended Q1 2021 with 55.9 Million Monthly Active Listeners

US satellite-radio firm SiriusXM has published its latest financial results, and as usual they include figures for music-streaming subsidiary Pandora. It ended March with 55.9 million monthly active listeners, down from 60.9 million a year ago. Since its peak (81.5 million) in the final quarter of 2014, the service has shed nearly a third of its listeners – a mark of the competition provided by Spotify, Apple Music and other streaming rivals. On the brighter side, Pandora’s advertising business is growing well: ad revenues were up 29% year-on-year to $312 million in the first quarter of this year, even though ad-supported listener hours were down by 8.3% to 2.87 billion. Pandora added 113,000 net new self-pay subscribers for its paid tiers during Q1, taking its rounded total to 6.4 million.

Random Ramblings

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