Penny Fractions

By David Turner

A weekly newsletter on the music streaming business.

A weekly newsletter on the music streaming business.

By subscribing, you agree with Revue’s Terms of Service and Privacy Policy and understand that Penny Fractions will receive your email address.

Penny Fractions





Record Labels Cannot Stop Winning in 2021

In April, I received an early draft of a report commissioned by the Canadian government to look into the economics of music streaming. The full paper is scheduled for release later this year, but there were findings on the dominance of major labels in the rec…


Spotify’s Great Podcast Bet

Podcasts aren’t new to Spotify. In November 2014, a leak showed the company testing out podcasts for the platform. Even though podcasts existed for nearly a decade, primarily within the Apple ecosystem and loose RSS feeds, this period marked podcasts emerging…


Meet The Board That Controls How Spotify Pays Artists

In 2004, George Bush, former United States president, signed the Copyright Royalty and Distribution Reform Act, which established the Copyright Royalty Board. The three-member panel was created to be a more permanent fixture to address questions over statutor…


UK Musicians Propose a New Record Industry

The British parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee announced an inquiry into the digital record industry last fall with a pretty broad scope of what it sought to investigate. Thus, a wide range of people was brought in front of the go…


Musicians Deserve a Better Music Modernization Act

During the height of the Obama years, record industry bigwigs turned inward. Neil Portnow, former president of the Recording Academy, gave a speech to industry suits and government officials including Nancy Pelosi and Kevin McCarthy, both high-ranking House m…


Who Wins in the Post-Pandemic Record Industry?

The live music industry remains in limbo. The United States with millions of people a day getting the vaccine is starting to eye a return to touring. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and a number of other countries reimposed lockdown measures t…


Please Consider Local Music

Last December, Data for Progress, a progressive American think tank, released results from a poll that asked Americans about their thoughts on taxing film franchises to fund the arts via educational programming and grants. The poll showed 57% support vs. 24% …


The Rise of the Digital Music Distributor

A couple of years ago in Billboard, Cherie Hu posed the question: ‘Everyone Wants to Be a Music Distributor -- But Is That Actually a Good Business Decision?’. She identified a number of music distributors (STEM, CDBaby, DistroKid, Ingrooves) and saw money en…


Is There Independent Music in 2021?

Earlier this month, the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) announced its advisory board, which included Dave Grohl, Killer Mike, the longtime producer/songwriter Jimmy Jam, and even industry legend Quincy Jones. The group was founded last year to r…


Will the United Kingdom Reshape the Record Industry?

Last October, the British parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee announced an inquiry into the “economics of music streaming”. The call for a government investigation came from The Ivory Academy, in particular Tom Gray of the #BrokenR…


Why Record Labels Love Social Media

Last year, Rolling Stone ran a piece titled “Social Media, Not Streaming, Is the Music Industry’s Future.” In the article, Tim Ingham quotes Steve Cooper, the CEO of Warner Music Group, who said (emphasis mine): “With an expanding number of partnerships inclu…


The Music Industry Adjusts to the Coronavirus

Headlines about Covid-19 can induce whiplash. Excitement rushed with early data on vaccine effectiveness but skyrocketing hospitalizations across the United States and many parts of the western world quelled that buzz. New virus variants are emerging from the…


Penny Fractions: A View of Record Industry from 10,000ft

A certain phrase in the record industry needs to be retired: “Major label.” In 2020 and even as far back as the 1980s the term obscures the real corporate structures of the industry after years of consolidation, stock swaps, and partnerships. Last week, I arg…


Penny Fractions: How Streaming Saved, but Flattened the Record Industry

Listen to artists when they warn of record industry greed. In 1979, a handful of major record label purchases foreshadowed the record industry’s turn to mass consolidation: Thorn Electrical Industries' purchase of EMI Ltd., Bertelsmann buying Artisa Records, …


Penny Fractions: What’s After #TheShowMustBePaused

In early September, Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang, founders of #TheShowMustBePaused campaign, announced a set of demands for music industry organizations. The original social media campaign came after the death of George Floyd and charged that the record…


Penny Fractions: How Is the Record Industry Surviving the Coronavirus?

Unfortunately, countries across the world are experiencing another round of surging coronavirus cases, business closures, and soft shutdowns. To isolate the music industry, this looming winter represents another extended break from live music without a clear …


Penny Fractions: Is There a Streaming Peak?

Earlier this year, Will Page, Spotify’s former Chief Economist, wrote a story for Billboard titled: “Have We Hit Peak Streaming Yet? What's Up With China? Behind the Latest Music Industry Numbers.” The piece dove into statistics provided by the International …


Penny Fractions: Do We Need to Regulate YouTube?

Two weeks ago, the United States Justice Department, along with a number of state attorney generals, filed a lawsuit against Google for its monopoly in search and online advertising. This caused quite a few headlines because it was the first lawsuit filed aga…


Penny Fractions: Did Streaming Actually Hurt Working Musicians?

David Hesmondhalgh, a professor and researcher at the University of Leeds, recently published a paper titled “Is Music Streaming Bad for Musicians? Problems of Evidence and Argument.” He surveys the recent discourse around digital music, including writers I o…


The Financialized Song: The Rise of the Hipgnosis Song Fund

Merck Mercuriadis enjoys the press. The co-founder and unofficial spokesperson for the Hipgnosis Song Fund, a company founded with a mission to buy song rights, managed to raise over a billion dollars in a short few years. Much of that can be credited to Merc…