Dissecting The Digital Dollar: Updated Print Edition Published

17 July 2020




  • New book brings together five years of work exploring all aspects of the music streaming market
  • Launch event highlights how streaming is impacting artist and management businesses, while identifying five key issues ahead
  • Book available to purchase here

Friday July 17th 2020

The Music Managers Forum is delighted to announce publication of a new updated print edition of Dissecting The Digital Dollar.

Written by Chris Cooke of CMU Insights, and based on more than five years of research, the book aims to provide artists, music makers and their managers with a comprehensive overview of the streaming business – helping them navigate this increasingly complex ecosystem and make educated choices about how their music is used, licensed and compensated.

Based on research and interviews with hundreds of music industry professionals over a five-year period, this Third Edition includes an updated version of the original Dissecting The Digital Dollar report – including recent market trends and copyright reforms – as well as a summary of our roundtable discussions, and four Digital Dollar guides providing further insight on label deals, transparency, fan data and song royalty chains.

It is an invaluable resource for anyone with an interest in music’s commercial future.

Annabella Coldrick, CEO, MMF said:

“The devastating impact of COVID-19 has understandably re-focused attention on the streaming business, and means the MMF’s Dissecting The Digital project is more pertinent than ever. Since we started this work 5 years ago, streaming income has become increasingly important to artists and it is absolutely crucial that managers have the information to make the right commercial decisions. While we have seen much progress, there are certain orthodoxies in this market that must continue to be challenged. MMF remains committed in advocating for changes and ensuring the system delivers efficiently and effectively for music makers.”

Tim Clark, Co-Founder, ie: music:

“The MMF’s Dissecting The Digital project has been running a full five years, and remains the most comprehensive overview of the streaming market and the place of artists and music makers within it. As well as helping managers be informed to make better deals so their artists can benefit from fair shares of streaming income, it also outlines key areas where reforms are urgently needed. It is my most thumbed work of reference!”

Lisa Ward, Red Light Management:

“The streaming ecosystem can often feel impenetrable in its complexity, but Dissecting The Digital Dollar offers an easy-to-read step-by-step guide to navigate how licensing works and where revenues flow. The book also highlights many of the dysfunctions in this market that are long overdue reform, particularly the often arcane distribution of songwriter royalties.”

Dave Cronen, Academy of Contemporary Music:

“Teaching students and new entrants to the industry about streaming and its continuing impact on the music business is a challenge. This is an ever-evolving area, filled with nuance, complexity and opinion! What Dissecting The Digital Dollar does so well is to strip back those complexities and lift the lid on how money flows through the system. It’s a thought-provoking read and I strongly recommend it to anyone with an interest in music’s future and a full understanding of a key income stream.”

Launching the book last night, the MMF hosted an online discussion featuring Laura Bettinson (lau.ra / FEMME / Ultraísta), Sammy Andrews (Deviate Digital), Shauni Caballero (The Go 2 Agency), Shaurav D’Silva (2-Tone Entertainment) and Matt Johnson (Red Light Management).

As well as exploring viewpoints on how streaming is impacting artist and management businesses, the event saw Chris Cooke present five key issues ahead:

1. Understanding the streaming business is more important than ever

Streaming now accounts for more than half of all recorded music revenues worldwide, making it more important than ever that artists, songwriters and their managers fully understand how the streaming business works. New kinds of services are also gaining momentum, especially in emerging markets. This means understanding the streaming business is a constant learning experience.

2. A revolution in music distribution means more choice and more competition

Artists now have much more choice when picking partners to distribute and market their recordings. And every music-maker can now access basic distribution, sometimes for free, which is brilliant, but has also resulted in unprecedented amounts of recorded music going live each week. Managers need to understand which approaches work best for each artist, and what kind of marketing activity ensures releases stand out among all the noise.

3. Getting songwriters paid remains a challenge

The streaming business is at its most complex when it comes to songwriter royalties. The Music Modernization Act will hopefully address some US-specific issues in this domain, but there are plenty of other issues to be addressed too. Managers need to understand these complexities, how monies flow down different ‘royalty chains’, and support those publishers and collecting societies who are genuinely focused on finding solutions.

4. Transparency is still an issue

The lack of transparency in the streaming business has come up again and again throughout the Digital Dollar project. Some progress has been made when it comes to the Spotify-style business model, but new secretive deals with YouTube, Facebook and TikTok have posed a whole load more questions. Managers need to keep identifying the key questions that need to be asked of their clients’ business partners – and to keep on asking them!

5. New business models will drive growth in the next five years

In the years ahead it seems likely that alternative streaming business models – user-generated content, livestreaming, karaoke, podcasts, maybe a social-streaming hybrid – are going to become drivers of growth. These create great opportunities, but they also create new challenges. Managers need to be constantly looking to the future and considering how the big issues of today will evolve as the market diversifies and matures.

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