Sweden's Silent Maestro: The Unseen Artist Behind 650 Aliases and 15 Billion Spotify Streams

Fame is often synonymous with visibility, but Johan Röhr has become one of the streaming era’s most illustrious shadows.

Orchestrating a Spotify discography that outperforms the highest echelons of pop royalty without ever stepping into the spotlight, this Stockholm symphonist has been identified as the mastermind behind over 650 artist aliases on Spotify. Röhr’s compositions have amassed a staggering 15 billion streams, according to The Guardian.

Röhr’s prolific output includes over 2,700 songs. His music, a mainstay on Spotify’s mood-centric playlists, serves as the unseen backdrop to millions of daily lives. Much of the artist’s success is believed to come specifically from editorial instrumental playlists.

Critics argue that the dominance of a few, faceless artists undermines Spotify’s pledge to support small, independent musicians. Financially, Röhr’s windfall from his streaming success isn’t fully known, although his company did report a record-breaking year of 32.7 million kronor ($3 million USD) in the 2022 fiscal year.

In response, a Spotify spokesperson told The Guardian: “There is an increased interest in functional music created to enhance everyday activities such as relaxation, focus, or studying, and these playlists are created to match the listeners’ demand. This type of music typically exists in Spotify’s Focus hub which limits competition with artists from traditional genres of popular music.”

A Third of Women Have Experienced Sexual Harassment While Working In Music, Report Finds

A new report, which arose from research by the Musicians’ Union and the charitable organization Help Musicians, shines a light on the plight of women working in the music industry in 2024.

Over 2,500 female musicians were surveyed in the “Women Musicians Insight Report,” which suggests that work-related abuse and financial disparities significantly impede the career advancement of women in the music industry. The study found that half of women have experienced gender discrimination and a third have been sexually harassed.

Another finding in the study correlated women’s age and visibility in the music scene. While 47% of musicians ages 16-55 were women, they comprised only 26% of those over the age of 55. Age discrimination was found to occur much more commonly in female musicians versus males.

“The findings of the latest Census report show there’s still so much work to be done to make sure that working as a musician is equitable for all,” said Sarah Woods, the Chief Executive of Help Musicians and Music Minds Matter. “We hope these insights will encourage the industry to continue collaborating to reduce gender-based barriers and ensure gender equity in every part of music.”

“It’s alarming to witness the persistence of gender disparities highlighted by the UK Musicians’ Census, where discrimination, harassment and unequal pay remain prevalent issues faced by women musicians, demanding urgent action,” added Nadia Khan, founder of the nonprofit Women In CTRL. “This pivotal moment presents a unique opportunity for change ahead of the next musicians’ census. It’s vital that the industry makes genuine commitments and takes decisive actions to prevent the recurrence of the same data.”

You can read the full “Women Musicians Insight Report” here.

James Blake Launches New Music Platform, Vault, to Address Streaming Inequity for Artists

After taking a stand against streaming inequities for artists in today’s streaming landscape, James Blake is taking his passion a step further after announcing the launch of Vault, a new platform to share unreleased music with fans via a subscription service.

Vault, Blake says, is a platform for artists to “make money directly from the music they make” by enabling them to cut out intermediaries and avoid contracts that often prevent them from releasing their music. It’s also a workaround to record labels who take the lion’s share of royalties of songs and social media platforms like TikTok, which he said “doesn’t pay properly.”

“About a week ago I went viral with a post about the effects of streaming and TikTok on artists’ ability to support themselves,” Blake said in a video he shared prior to the platform’s launch. “I wanted to give you some figures. This is how much artists make out of streaming: Between $0.0003 and $0.0005 per stream depending on that platform. Which is one million plays equals $3,000. If you’re signed to a label, then imagine that number’s cut at least 50%. And after management cut, which is between 15 to 20%, and taxes and recording overheads, it’s just not sustainable for an artist to focus just on their art.”

Blake also hopes Vault will remove some of the red tape around releasing music and eliminate the need to develop TikTok campaigns to earn recognition. The goal is to redirect musicians’ focus back onto their art rather than forcing them to relinquish their time and creativity in favor of exhaustive—and oftentimes fruitless—marketing.

“Most musicians are not extroverts who are social media and branding geniuses, least of all me. And I wanted to find a way for musicians to make money directly from the music they make, not least to be able to reinvest in the very expensive process of renting studios, hiring musicians, etc.,” he continued. “I’ve spoken to a lot of artists who feel frustrated that so much great music goes unreleased because it doesn’t meet certain requirements or trends.”

Check out Blake’s announcement below and find out more about Vault here.

FOLLOW JAMES BLAKE:

Facebook: facebook.com/jamesblakemusic
X: x.com/jamesblake
Instagram: instagram.com/jamesblake
Spotify: spoti.fi/30HCwq9

Ultra Music Festival Has Generated Over $1 Billion for Miami's Economy, Mayor Says

Miami’s iconic Ultra is proof that music festivals do a lot more than provide entertainment for fans.

As the 25th anniversary of Ultra Music Festival looms in 2025, the event remains a pillar of Miami’s economy, providing an annual economic boon rivaled by few.

The city’s mayor, Francis Suarez, stated that over Ultra’s 24-year tenure, the fest has generated over $1 billion in revenue for the city. That includes the impact to nearby restaurants, boutiques and other retail and service industry businesses.

The 2023 Ultra Music Festival.

Alive Coverage

“For a festival, it’s almost been here for a quarter of a century and has produced over a billion dollars in economic activity,” Suarez told 7 News Miami, adding that Ultra is a “worldwide event.”

Ultra returns this weekend from March 22-24. With a slew of electronic dance music superstars descending on the city to perform as well as festival-goers from around the globe, it’s again bound for a massive year from an economical standpoint.

You can find out more about Ultra via the festival’s official website.

FOLLOW ULTRA MUSIC FESTIVAL:

Facebook: facebook.com/Ultra
X: x.com/ultra
Instagram: instagram.com/ultra

Inside the Ambitious Quest to License Daft Punk's Music for “Beat Saber”

Meta Quest gamers are experiencing a whole new level of “Digital Love” after Daft Punk‘s music joined the illusory realms of Beat Saber.

From the iconic vocals of “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” to the ageless melodies of “One More Time,” Daft Punk have finally sliced their way into the beloved VR rhythm game. The legendary robots were “hands-down one of the most requested artists from fans to add to the Beat Saber lineup,” per Meta.

The ambitious effort to activate Daft Punk in Beat Saber took over two years, according to Vickie Nauman, founder of the Los Angeles-based consultancy and advisory firm CrossBorderWorks.

“The collaborative effort was between Beat Saber core team, Warner Music in London and Daft Punk crew,” Nauman tells EDM.com. “This probably involved 10 main people across the three parties over more than two years and it included a lot of back-and-forth about which songs Beat Saber wanted in the game, the music rights involved, and what songs the artists wanted.”

Nauman has worked with the title’s developer, Beat Games, to execute the company’s licensing deals since its early days as an independent gaming studio in Prague, a role in which she remained after Facebook (now Meta) acquired the studio in 2019.

“As a rhythm game, Beat Saber has specific requirements for what will work in the game and our beatmapping process led to some last-minute changes, but everyone was very accommodating as we all wanted it to happen,” she continued. “We’ve wanted Daft Punk in the game since the game started in 2018! Then the band broke up and we thought there was no hope until the Warner UK team rekindled the idea. A real multi-team effort.”

A collaboration between Daft Punk and Beat Saber had been a latent dream, but the pie was never in the sky. Tim Miles, Warner Music Group’s Senior Vice President, Sync, tells us his team had an unwavering belief that there was a “genuine and authentic fit” between the two, but the timing needed to be right.

The stars aligned in 2022, when they were brainstorming for the 25th anniversary of Daft Punk’s influential Homework and Alive 97 albums. It felt like the perfect time, Miles said, to leverage their relationship with Meta.

“After working on other gaming projects with The Pokemon Company and Ubisoft, we were incredibly sensitive to the vast amount of time and resources it takes to create gameplay—and in the case of Beat Saber, beat-matching the visuals to the music,” Miles explains. “With this in mind, we were extremely thoughtful about what the experience would be for fans and this is why it’s the first Beat Saber pack to include live versions of songs and the graphics during the game. The pack also showcases Daft Punk’s iconic helmet, which isn’t a million miles away from what the Meta Oculus VR headset looks like, so clearly it was meant to be!”

Available as of March 7th, the official Daft Punk Music Pack is somewhat of a watershed moment for Beat Saber. The release has led to the game’s first-ever live tracks and mashups as well as its longest song, “The Prime Time of Your Life (Live 2007).” That record clocks in at 10 minutes and 23 seconds, dethroning Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” and building forearm muscles everywhere.

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The developers at Beat Games didn’t stop there. With the pack comes a new in-game environment inspired by Daft Punk’s fabled pyramid stage, on which they performed their totemic Coachella set back in 2006.

It all paints a picture of a paradigm shift in the way music is licensed for games. The technological terra firma beneath gaming’s feet is growing at a rapid pace, empowering developers to transcend the constraints of music alone and use it to build multi-sensory dreamscapes.

Miles believes we’re seeing a broader scope of music’s capacity for storytelling to enhance the gaming experience. The upshot, he says, is a “huge opportunity” for artists and writers.

“Traditionally music in games would be used as a part of an in-game radio—look at GTA or Far Cry for example,” Miles explains. “We also had great success with karaoke and rhythm games, like Guitar Hero and WeSing, back when they were en vogue. Nowadays though, the space has evolved to include opportunities for artists to score and create songs for triple-AAA games and fit straight into the game’s narrative. For example, we worked with Stormzy for Watch Dogs: Legion in the form of bespoke DLC, and Ed Sheeran for Pokemon Scarlet and Violet where Ed’s ‘Celestial’ plays on completion of the game.”

“Gaming is definitely an alternative channel for music consumption, and how artists and developers engage with it is still in its infancy,” he continues. “The exciting part is the number of opportunities are increasing, developers are becoming braver and more agile and record labels like Warner are leaning into the space with an open mind. The process is also similar to how we place our artist’s music across Film and TV, and how we work with top-tier Hollywood productions.”

Beat Saber players can secure the Daft Punk Music Pack for $12.99 or purchase individual tracks for $1.99 each. New Meta Quest owners who want to add the game can bundle it with the pack for $39.99.

New Penny-Per-Stream Royalty Bill Proposed to Congress

Musicians may soon get a long-awaited raise at the expense of streaming services.

In an effort led by representatives Rashida Tlaib and Jamaal Bowman, the United Musicians and Allied Workers (UMAW) have proposed the Living Wage for Musicians Act to Congress. The bill would help ensure that artists are able to build a successful career in the tumultuous age of digital music streaming, according to its authors.

“Streaming has changed the music industry, but it’s leaving countless artists struggling to make ends meet behind,” Tlaib said in a statement. “It’s only right that the people who create the music we love get their fair share, so that they can thrive, not just survive.”

It’s important to note that this is an additional royalty on top of artists’ current royalties. The new royalty would be paid directly to artists, bypassing the tortuous, multi-level corporate filter every penny of streaming revenue goes through.

Platform subscription fees and a 10% levy on non-subscription revenue would fund these royalties, ensuring that artists receive a minimum of one penny per stream, a rate that is significantly higher than what streaming services currently pay. The royalties would be paid out through a central fund and would be subject to an eventual cap on the amount of profit per month.

UMAW have also launched a petition in support of the bill, asking for musicians, music professionals, advocacy groups and independent labels to pledge support.

“There is a lot of talk in the industry about how to ‘fix’ streaming – but the streaming platforms and major labels have already had their say for more than a decade, and they have failed musicians,” UMAW organizer and musician Damon Krukowski said in a statement. “The Living Wage for Musicians Act presents a new, artist-centered solution to make streaming work for the many and not just the few. We need to return value to recordings by injecting more money into the system, and we need to pay artists and musicians directly for streaming their work.”

More Songs May Vanish From TikTok After NMPA Reveals Plans Not to Renew Licensing Deal

TikTok has been dealt another blow after the National Music Publishers Association sent a letter to its members informing them that the organization does “not anticipate” to renew its licensing deal, Billboard reports.

That means a lot more music may disappear from TikTok after millions of songs were removed when Universal Music Group severed ties with the social media giant following a contentious contract dispute. The NMPA, the largest music publishing trade body in the nation, now plans to follow suit.

“Recently, the press has highlighted concerns around TikTok’s licensing practices, concerns that NMPA has heard directly from many of our members,” the letter reads. “At this time, we do not anticipate that there will be an option to renew or extend the current NMPA licenses or participate in a new license with TikTok through NMPA.”

Whether or not more indie publishers join UMG’s boycott remains to be seen, but the platform’s latest musical death knell doesn’t bode well. The NMPA’s license is due to expire on April 30th, leaving many wondering what the future of TikTok looks like as the threat of more songs vanishing en masse looms.

Elsewhere in the NMPA’s letter, the organization said the onus to negotiate a new license is now on publishers, who must engage directly with TikTok after the deal lapses on April 30th. Prior to its impending expiration, the association offered its members the option to negotiate TikTok licenses on their behalf.

The letter arrives after biting comments from the NPMA’s CEO, David Israelite, who said he believes TikTok’s business model falls short of fairly compensating musicians.

“It is exposing a massive bias that exists in the music industry, with licensees like TikTok and even with the press in terms of somehow not thinking that songwriter rights are equal to the artist rights,” Israelite told Music Ally this week. “That bothers me.”

“With regard to TikTok, there’s a general feeling that the amount of money paid for music overall is not enough,” he added. “Then it’s a separate question of how that money gets divided between the songwriter contribution versus the recording artist contribution.”

You can read the NMPA’s full letter below.

If you are receiving this Member Alert you are currently participating in a license with TikTok through NMPA’s 2022 model license opt-in.

NMPA is notifying all participants that these two-year licenses are set to expire on April 30, 2024.

Recently, the press has highlighted concerns around TikTok’s licensing practices, concerns that NMPA has heard directly from many of our members.

At this time, we do not anticipate that there will be an option to renew or extend the current NMPA licenses or participate in a new license with TikTok through NMPA.

NMPA members should make their own business determination whether to engage directly with TikTok to negotiate a license beyond April 30, 2024.

It is important that all NMPA members understand that without a license in place, TikTok should not be using your musical works on its platform.

Starting May 1, 2024, any members who are not licensed with TikTok and would like to discuss enforcement options can contact attorneys at NMPA.

If circumstances change prior to the expiration of the current TikTok licenses, NMPA will promptly notify members.

We are here to answer your questions.