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Insider October 13, 2022 — ByteDance is coming for Spotify

Plus, prosecutors drop charges against Adnan Syed

Netflix’s ad tier is here, and I should probably switch since I only stick around for Seinfeld and I Think You Should Leave. I also still have not gotten over the cancellation of Tuca and Bertie, but that’s a rant for another time.

Anyway, on to the news: ByteDance is pushing further into music streaming, SoundCloud is betting on fan / artist interaction, and Adnan Syed is officially off the hook.

TikTok’s parent company is expanding its music streaming service

ByteDance, which owns TikTok, is reportedly negotiating with music labels with the intention of taking its music streamer, Resso, global. The platform is only available in India, Indonesia, and Brazil right now, but The Wall Street Journal reports that the company is looking at expanding into a dozen new markets (though not the United States — yet, at least).

If Resso were to expand and be integrated with TikTok, which is the single most important platform for music discovery, it could have massive consequences for the music industry. And according to the Journal, Resso is not nearly as profitable for labels and artists as Spotify. Like Spotify, Resso has a subscription tier and a free ad-supported tier (which pays out way less than subscriptions). But Spotify has 188 million premium subscribers, and almost all of Resso’s users opt for the free service.

There is a podcast component, as well. While music is undoubtedly Resso’s focus, the streamer hosts podcasts and has already cut distribution deals with companies like Acast and Libsyn. If Resso were to expand and use TikTok for podcast discovery, it could be a powerful new player in the space.

Even though the US is not in the immediate plan, it could be down the line. In May, ByteDance filed an application with the US Patent and Trademark Office for “TikTok Music,” which specifically stated the service would support podcasts. 

Prosecutors drop charges against Adnan Syed

Three weeks after a Baltimore judge vacated the murder conviction of Adnan Syed, who became nationally known as the subject of Serial’s blockbuster first season, prosecutors have dropped his case entirely. Prosecutors are still pursuing the killer of Hae Min Lee based on new DNA evidence, but Syed is no longer on their list. “This case is over. There are no more appeals necessary,” Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby told reporters on Tuesday

In reaction to the news, Serial Productions tweeted that “dropping the charges is the only fair outcome, but everything the prosecutors put in that motion to vacate was known or knowable to detectives and prosecutors 23 years ago.”

SoundCloud takes a page out of Myspace’s playbook

SoundCloud is refreshing its creator suite and plans to launch new tools to let artists connect directly with their biggest fans. The company is betting that interactivity will set it apart both from giants like Spotify and Apple Music and other distribution services like TuneCore and DistroKid, as the market catering to DIY music artists gets more crowded. 

The first phase of “SoundCloud for Artists,” as the rebrand is called, is a new creator dashboard. The old version required users to toggle between stats like earnings, streams, and top tracks. The new version allows artists to see all those stats at a glance. While that may be easier, it doesn’t offer anything new yet.

What will be new, according to Tracy Chan, who leads SoundCloud’s creator division, is a feature that will show artists their top fans. Last year, SoundCloud debuted a new system for allocating royalties in which a listener’s subscription revenue was divided among the artists to which they actually listen. This is different than the standard pro rata model at Spotify and Apple, where all subscription fees are pooled and allocated to artists based on who has the largest amount of streams. Soon, SoundCloud will show artists who their top contributors are. Chan says the expectation is that allowing artists to connect with those superfans will open up opportunities to monetize on other platforms by selling merch, tickets, or Patreon subscriptions.

“We can actually go back to that concept of you don’t need scale. You need to focus on your 1,000 [or] 100 true fans,” says Chan. 

It’s an acknowledgment of how hard it is for artists to make money off of streaming and how difficult it is for new acts to break out. About 100,000 new songs are added to the streamers every day, making it challenging for new artists to gain traction. According to Luminate, the research firm behind the Billboard charts, consumer listening to new music has actually decreased despite the glut of new tracks. 

So SoundCloud is looking back to the golden days of Myspace, when building fandom was the key goal. “This really helps us make SoundCloud kind of a companion to other music streaming services, to creator economy services, and to live streaming platforms,” says Chan.

Alex Jones has to pay nearly $1 billion to the families of Sandy Hook victims

According to former US Attorney Harry Litman, “we’re talking about such outsized numbers that even if he’s able to bob and weave some, I just don’t see how he winds up anything but basically broke now for the rest of his life.” Rad!

That’s all for now! See you tomorrow.