Income from streaming services eclipsed CD sales for the first time in 2014, and the fatcats have taken notice. This month, Apple, which spent $3 billion to acquire Beats last year, announced it is developing its own subscription streaming service to rival the likes of Spotify. The service will be available online and through its soon-to-be-revamped iOS music app. In an interesting move, Apple has appointed Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails fame) instead of an engineer as the front man in the development process. The company also has plans to overhaul iTunes Radio (look out, Pandora), introducing regional market targeting and other personalized services. With more than 800 million customer accounts, Apple has the potential to become a market leader in short order. (Spotify, by comparison, has only 15 million paying subscribers internationally; Pandora fewer than 3 million.) And it’s not just big tech who wants in on the action. On March 30, Jay Z announced the launch of his own streaming service, Tidal, having bought Tidal’s parent company earlier this month. Jay Z’s main objective seems to be fair play for musicians, and indeed, the company will primarily be artist-owned (though at present, that seems only to include celebrity musicians in Jay Z’s tax bracket.) The platform – which will be available in 31 countries – will, like Apple, offer only paid subscriptions. For its part, Spotify isn’t standing still. In January, Sony announced that Spotify would replace Music Unlimited as the music streaming outlet for its PlayStation Network. That platform, available in 41 countries (which triples Sony’s live streaming reach), went live on March 30.
Streaming services aren’t the only mechanism by which tech giants are trying to elbow into the music business. In March, Google formally launched YouTube for Artists, a set of online tools aimed at helping musicians generate more revenue from their music, and ostensibly plan better tours through in-depth access to viewer information on a city level. YouTube also revamped its Music Awards this month, putting the artist front and center. And commercial theater is now in play as well, with Amazon’s announcement that it is expanding a its service which sells theater tickets to London’s West End shows. The service — which previously sold only discounted tickets and special offers — will be direct competition for current ticket venues, including numerous websites and London kiosks, and could be a first step towards taking on Telecharge and Ticketmaster in the United States.
Middle East Museums in the Hot Seat: Museums and cultural heritage sites were all over the news from the Arab world this month — though sadly not for welcome reasons. On March 18, gunmen attacked the National Bardo Museum in downtown Tunis, killing two Tunisians and 20 foreign visitors, and wounding at least 50 others. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack – Tunisia’s deadliest since 2002 – shaking a country that prides itself on having emerged as the most successful post-Arab Spring democracy. On March 29, Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid announced that Khaled Chaieb, a prime suspect in the attack, had been killed, and the museum reopened to the public on March 30. (In response to the attack, the NYPD stepped up its presence at major museums in New York.) Thankfully, there was no sign of damage to the National Bardo Museum itself or its collection, though it wouldn’t have come as a surprise if there had been. In recent months, Islamic State militants have taken to destroying ancient antiquities deemed blasphemous. Following February’s much-publicized destruction of replica statues and original artifacts at the Mosul Museum, they destroyed three cultural heritage sites: the ancient archaeological site of Dur-Sharrukin (present day Khorsabad), the 3,000-year old Nimrud, and 2,000-year old Hatra. The latter two are UNESCO world heritage sites. Meanwhile, in Yemen, the ongoing conflict between Al Qaeda and the Yemeni army has also robbed the country of its cultural heritage, though in this case, the perpetrators are looters. The silver lining in that tragedy? Some looted museums have become shelters for displaced Yemenis, and, in the absence of functioning cultural institutions, Yemen’s remaining artists have becoming increasingly resourceful, continuing to gather and show work – albeit underground.
Got to Give It Up for Good: The copyright battle that has gripped the music industry for more than a year was settled when an LA jury decreed that Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams had committed copyright infringement, pilfering elements of Marvin Gaye’s 1977 song “Got to Give It Up” for their track “Blurred Lines” without permission. The decision is believed to be one of the largest damages awards in a music copyright case, with Thicke and Williams ordered to pay $7.3 million to the Gaye estate. The song, which broke records for its No. 1 run, and this lawsuit—which was actually brought preemptively by Thicke and Williams in August 2013—has prompted fierce debate about the difference between homage and plagiarism. What this means for the future of copyright and creativity remains to be seen, though Thicke and Williams are not optimistic. In a joint statement released after the verdict, they noted that “while [they] respect the judicial process, [they] are extremely disappointed in the ruling…which sets a horrible precedent for music and creativity going forward.”
GIA Takes a Stand for Racial Equity: Culminating several years of activism by key leaders associated with the organization, the Grantmakers in the Arts board of directors has released a statement of purpose detailing its commitment to racial equity in arts philanthropy. The statement confirms GIA’s commitment to addressing structural inequities and increasing philanthropic and governmental support for ALAANA (African, Latino(a), Asian, Arab, and Native American) artists, arts organizations, children, and adults. The twelve actions proposed to support this new focus include advocating for collecting data on the demographics of arts organizations’ boards, employees, and constituents; requiring all of GIA’s board and staff to attend anti-racism training; ensuring representation by ALAANA individuals at annual conferences and among GIA’s own board and staff; and providing unspecified support “for individual members and collective groups of funders who are seeking to achieve greater racial equity in arts philanthropy in their own communities.” While most of these activities were already underway, this is the first time GIA has committed so publicly to being an anti-racist organization.
China Stakes Its Claim on the Arts: In 2015, China overtook the United States as the world’s largest economy, and in March, Beijing confirmed its ascendance in the arts with two important firsts. With the value of art traded in 2014 reaching an all-time high at an estimated €51 billion, China edged out the United States as the world’s largest market for modern art. On the other end of the spectrum, China pulled in $650 million in February box office revenue, beating out the United States for the first time. What’s more, where the global box office rose by just 1% in 2014 – and fell by 5% in the US – in China, revenue increased by 34%. A recent report from Ernst & Young predicts that China will be the world’s biggest film industry by 2020, and at least one partner is taking note, choosing to collaborate rather than compete: Hollywood.
MUSICAL CHAIRS / COOL JOBS
- After eight months as interim president, Julie Stasch was formally appointed president of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
- Victoria Rogers, former New World Symphony executive vice president, has been appointed the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s new vice president for arts, replacing Dennis Scholl.
- Felicia Shaw, former director of arts and the creative economy at the San Diego Foundation, has been named executive director of the St. Louis Regional Arts Commission.
- Tad Smith, former CEO of Madison Square Garden, joined Sotheby’s as its new CEO on March 31.
- Sphinx Organization founder and University of Michigan alum Aaron Dworkin will return to his alma mater as dean of the School of Music, Theatre & Dance.
- Francene Blythe will join the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation as its new director of programs.
- Paul Brohan has been named deputy director of programs at the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation.
- The Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative (based at the University of Pennsylvania) seeks a Research Director. Posted February 13; no closing date.
- The John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities at the Stanford Graduate School of Education seeks a Policy Analyst. Posted March 13; no closing date.
- The Boston Globe is hiring a Features Writer for its Living/Arts Department. Posted March 20; no closing date.
- The Foundation Center in New York seeks a Data Scientist. Posted March 24; no closing date.
- AMS Planning & Research Corp. is hiring a Senior Analyst. No closing date.
- The Wichita Falls (TX) Alliance for Arts and Culture, newly state-incorporated, seeks an Executive Director. Posted March 30; no closing date.
NEW RESEARCH OF NOTE
- The Wallace Foundation released two reports in March which look at building arts audiences. The first is a case study of Pacific Northwest Ballet’s efforts to increase the under-25 audience for ballet. The second analyzes the Seattle Opera’s four-year-long experiment with technology.
- Another pair of reports released in March look into audience demographics. The first, a market research report commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony, looks at orchestra audiences for this mid-sized ensemble. The second, commissioned by the Broadway League, looks at Broadway audiences more generally.
- “Insights and Lessons: Community Arts and College Arts,” a new report commissioned by the Kresge Foundation, offers recommendations for art-based civic dialogue & community revitalization based on the results of two pilot initiatives by the foundation.
- “Corporate Social Responsibility & the Arts,” a new report from Americans for the Arts, provides insights into how corporations engage with arts and culture as they work to achieve their CSR/CCI goals.
- Two recent reports — “Supporting Grantee Capacity: Strengthening Effectiveness Together,” from GrantCraft, a service of the Foundation Center, and “Strengthening Nonprofit Capacity” from GEOfunders — offer insights and guidance for developing nonprofit capacity.
- Several studies have recently attempted to quantify the impact of the arts on the body. According to research published in Economic Inquiry, video game playing has been shown to improve cognitive skills, and a small-scale study from the Athens Medical School in Athens shows compelling evidence that listening to music has a positive impact on cardiovascular health.
- A new study analyzes the practice habits of top performing pianists in an effort to distill which strategies lead to success.
- A landmark report released by from the American Music Therapy Association looks at music therapy with a focus on both active duty service members and veterans.
- A new report from the Writers Guild of America shows a decline in number of women and minorities who make up TV staff writers.
- A recent report commissioned by UK’s Labour party calls on the next government to treat culture as a priority sector, and offers specific recommendations for how to do so.