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Kobalt Founder Willard Ahdritz on the New State of the Music Industry 

Kobalt Founder Willard Ahdritz on the New State of the Music Industry

Guest post from the Midem 2020 Digital Edition Keynote. Kobalt founder Willard Ahdritz looks at the radical but not altogether negative effects the pandemic will have on musicians and the music industry. 

Willard Ahdritz: 

There is definitely a lot of passion at Kobalt for our mission to change the industry and make it better for everyone, from fans to rights owners to creators, so when I came up with the idea for Kobalt in 2000, I saw three clear themes. First, I strongly believed in the digital transformation and the opportunities that came with it. As you know, it was doom and gloom up until 2015 – people said streaming was death. But already in 2000, I thought that having access to music on a global scale was a huge opportunity. I also understood that there would be a problem of high volume, low transaction values that could be solved with technology and a centralized global platform. 

Second, I feel for creators and musicians and, having been in the industry both as an artist and having run an independent record and publishing company using the major’s systems, I wanted to introduce transparency into the industry. Technology needs transparency, and I thought transparency drives liquidity, drives volume. And in this, I also saw a huge opportunity for creators to improve their relationship with fans and be able to go directly to them and actually for the first time in music industry history, have the upper hand in being the content creators. I always wanted to be a service provider in order to be aligned with creators. 

And lastly, I also thought it was very important that, to be successful in this environment, Kobalt should be both a music company and a tech company. I wanted to have respect both in Hollywood and in San Francisco to work with creators, understand their needs, take care of their copyrights, and at the same time speak the language of tech people and create tools that would allow everyone to benefit from the opportunities I saw. 

Kobalt Founder Willard Ahdritz 

How the pandemic has changed the way Kobalt works 

So as you know, we take care of 40,000 creators. Every week, we represent 50 – 70% of the Top 100 on the charts. We have 14 offices around the world so we have an organization to take care of and I think we all feel sad for all the suffering we see everywhere. Not just in the music industry but physical suffering, so it is a tough time for a lot of people. At Kobalt, we closed our offices around the world on March 10th. Being a tech company, all employees have a laptop and we are all used to working remotely, globally, across borders. Within 24 hours we were all up and running remotely and after a week, our productivity actually went up. I think that shows Kobalt’s great spirit and we realize that supporting our creators and making sure they receive their distributions is even more important during these tough times. 

How the business has changed during the pandemic 

If we talk revenue side first, there are some financial reports out in the market that say publishing will be up 3% this year and 3.5% next year. We see a bigger impact in areas like synch, given that major film and TV productions have stopped. We know that live, which in certain territories in Europe is a good income for publishers, is lost for the time being. Performance fees from restaurants and bars have suffered but having said that, 

PROs are delayed and only very few societies pay out directly what they have. Most pay out six months, twelve months after they have collected. So we see this being drawn out but overall, I think we can say that if we are -10% this year, we believe that we will be at +20% next year, that people will bounce back, and we see certain productions starting again around the world. There is talk about production hubs where people work and live to start TV production again. 

We are lucky in publishing and in recording. At AWAL, our recording arm, it’s very much business as usual. It’s a digital streaming label and we are working marketing remotely so overall, we are doing very well. What is exciting is that we do get a lot of songs. Creatives have continued to create even more today so I believe later in the year or next year we are going to see some fantastic songs, fantastic music that is just now being written. 

Reports on the global music economy 

Don’t worry, the genie is out of the bottle when it comes to music and streaming. My comment on Goldman’s report, which is a very detailed report and has a lot of good data, is that overall I believe that short-term publishing will be negative this year rather than the 3% growth they mentioned just because of the impact on synch, live, and the restaurants and bars I mentioned. Having said that, I think we are going to bounce back and have 20% growth next year in publishing overall. I agree on the longer term growth they see in the coming ten years. In recordings, I’m actually more bullish than the Goldman report this year; I think they are too conservative as the business has moved so much to online or streaming, so I think we are going to see bigger growth than they are seeing on that point. And one very interesting take-away from the IFPI report that came out a couple of weeks ago is that independents have grown 38% last year and artists direct 42%. And if you include that 12% of what the majors do is distribute independents, it was really a fundamental shift for independents and access, which I thought could happen when I started Kobalt. I think there is a huge opportunity now for the middle tier artists that I have pushed for and believed in to live on their music. We can see now hundreds of thousands of artists that can live on their art. On average, we saw that at AWAL, artists are getting twice as much from recording royalties than from their touring income. So that is a fundamental change in artist economics, and that was pre-pandemic. And obviously that is even more important today. We have artists that you have never heard of – even if you’re a huge fan of live music and cool bands. We have hundreds and hundreds of bands that you have never heard about making $100,000 or more per annum in royalties. And for me, that is a great success in itself for fans, for culture, and for the artists and creators. 

How AWAL artists are making more from recording royalties than steaming 

It is about what kind of contracts you have entered into and how you are making sure that your money is reaching you. We have full transparency at Kobalt so for example in publishing, within our management, we have our own global digital society called AMRA. AMRA has deals with the 30 biggest DSPs in the world. We take in the global usage files, we match, and we send one invoice to Spotify for the global consumption and claim. I have audit rights on my society, our clients have audit rights on the society, and 

as you maybe know, that is not the case in the traditional society environments. We have control of the cost, control over the information, as do our clients. That obviously drives more. On the AWAL side, we are a service provider and we deliver a different kind of deal. Having said that, there are also great record labels who put in big risk money upfront to do that so obviously the deals are different in a way but I have always said that breaking online globally is very different today. Today, you can be #1 without having one video. You have to know how to navigate, how to promote, to work gradually cross border in one go instead of working in one territory and trying to replicate that in a different territory. 

Why independents had so much growth in 2019 

I think it is the access to music that people can see today. You know yourself how you explore music, how you access music, how artists are recommending other artists they like or fans are recommending. And the latest data suggests that half the people in the UK listen to music through Facebook today. There’s more interesting access to music coming. Think about Tik Tok, where were they on the map two years ago? And in this pandemic, I see people are investing in how they can enjoy live streaming, how they can use new tools and new services. I think the pandemic will fast forward the transformation. I believe that the music industry will be even bigger than what we thought it would be pre-pandemic. Fundamentally, 85% of people think that music is essential or very important. Fundamental human behavior has not changed, so I am positive. 

How Paul McCartney came to Kobalt 

I can only say what I believe myself, that I met his advisor and lawyer, Lee Eastman, who followed me over the course of 5/6 years where I told them what we do, how we work. They did their due diligence, saw us delivering. In the end, they came on board and they were very happy that we delivered what we had told them we would. I like to say that Kobalt is the smart people’s platform, and clients recommend clients. 

I think up to half of our clients have been recommended by someone they trust or they work with and they see on our apps or portal what we have delivered for them. It is very humbling that Max Martin and Paul McCartney are competing for who has the most #1s on the Billboard charts, and they are both clients. 

What I find exciting is that technology treats everyone the same. I am pleased to say that whether you are Paul McCartney or the new young band, you keep your copyrights and get the same great service. We learn something new, we develop something, and we roll it out to every client. 

That is how I think we create a great industry, how we create value for everyone in the industry.

AMAZON MUSIC OPENS UP STREAMING DATA WITH AMAZON MUSIC FOR ARTISTS APP 

AMAZON MUSIC OPENS UP STREAMING DATA WITH AMAZON MUSIC FOR ARTISTS APP

Here is some much needed good news for today! Amazon Music has announced the long-awaited beta launch of Amazon Music for Artists – a new mobile app for artists and their teams designed to help acts “better understand their business on Amazon Music”.

Guest post by Tim Ingham of Music Business Worldwide

The music streaming landscape just got more transparent.

Available on both iOS and Android, the app serves up information regarding artist streaming performance on Amazon Music’s various tiers, as well as insights into each act’s fanbase. 

According to Amazon, its features include: 

  • New success metrics, including the Daily Voice Index, which illustrates how an artist’s music is performing on Amazon Music with Alexa – including insights into voice requests by artist, album, song, and lyric. 
  • Access to near-real-time streaming data, providing artists with the latest streaming data across their entire catalog. 
  • A fan insights tab, which provides a breakdown of an artist’s most engaged listeners –Fans and Superfans – so they can focus on growing these segments over time. 
  • A custom date filter, so artists can choose specific dates, or length of time to track performance in near-real-time, including the last 24 hours of a release. 

CD Baby is a verification launch partner with Amazon Music for Artists, meaning any artist who is distributed through CD Baby can get expedited access to join.

The launch is coupled with a companion website (artists.amazonmusic.com) where artists and their teams can learn more about the app, as well as opportunity areas, best practices, additional resources, and more. 

In January, Amazon Music confirmed over 55m global ‘customers’ were now using the firm’s various tiers; this number included an estimated subscriber count of approximately 50m, up 16m year-on-year. 

Last August, Amazon Music rival Apple Music launched Apple Music for Artists, which in turn was designed to rival Spotify’s analytics tools. 

And in November, Universal Music Group revealed its own data/insights app. 

The Universal Music Artists (UMA) app can be used to view personalized, global data insights from Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon and YouTube (with data from Deezer set to be included in 2020). 

At launch, Amazon Music for Artists is available globally in English to download via the mobile app store on either Android or iOS

Growing A Music Community Through Instagram Stories  

Growing A Music Community Through Instagram Stories 

Bas Grasmayer walks us through how he was able to cultivate interest in his project Hard Dance Berlin through the persistent use of Instagram stories highlighting the performers and their upcoming shows. 

Guest post by Bas Grasmayer of Music x Tech x Future

Last week I announced the launch of Hard Dance Berlin. Since then, I have been spending a few minutes each day building up the community around it by leveraging Instagram stories (@harddanceberlin). 

I hope by highlighting some of the activities, you’ll find some inspiration for how to grow your own projects. 

Goal & tools 

The Instagram account is very much an extension of the project’s main site. The goal being to highlight performers and events in Berlin’s harder and faster styles of electronic music. 

Instagram is a place where people interested in this already spend their time – as opposed to a random new site – and a tool many of them use to discover events and music. 

Stories’ ephemeral nature make it easy to drip interesting content for this community every day. 

Key principle: support, support, support 

In general, whenever you create something, make sure it solves problems whether they’re your own or other people’s. This should be your primary goal and activity. This is how you shape something valuable. Look for problems; solve them. 

Give more than you take. If you ask for anything in the beginning, then ask people to help you help them. In my case that means soliciting promo material, images, etc. so I can better promote other people’s events to the community. 

The ethos is: support, support, support – the music, the people, the parties and the scenes. Double down on your ethos early on, because things can get muddy later on and there’s always a risk of believing in your own hype once things take off. 

This also makes it easier for people to join and help the community: if there is growth potential in an area, the goal should be to grow everything. If one part of the community grows stronger, we all grow stronger. 

Method & content 

Here are the types of content I currently post to serve the community. I’ll highlight for each one how they help to grow the Instagram: 

  • Short-term highlights (“check out this party tonight”) 
  • Longer-term highlights (“next week xyz”, “just announced next month: x”) 
  • Music highlights (“check out the new mix by xyz”) 

Short-term highlights 

When focusing on events, I try to do the following things: 

Share a picture from the promoter or venue’s Instagram timeline. This helps connect the community to people active in the scene, and it also sends a notification to the account holder and allows them to repost the story to their own stories (in turn giving @harddanceberlin more exposure). 
Tag as many (relevant) people as possible (the event’s performers, promoter, venue, etc). This again provides value for fans to understand what’s going on and helps them check stuff out, but it also means your story can now be shared by anyone who was tagged. 
Location tags. Tagging to a location increases your discoverability for people checking out stories around that area. To be honest, I consider this optional as it usually just gives 1 or 2 more views per story and I’m not sure if it has lead to follows. Sometimes you can get lucky and get hundreds of views though. 
Add the MUSIC one might expect at the event to the story. It’s an important service to the community using the stories to determine whether to investigate an event, but if it’s music by one of the performers, it also makes it more likely they’ll repost your story. 

The ‘growth hacking’ term is leveraging “other people’s audience” (OPA). 

Longer-term highlights 

Longer term highlights focus on events from about a week or so out. It follows a very similar approach as the shorter term highlights, incl. tagging the performers. This allows people from out of town to repost your story to announce to their fans that they’re going to be in town. It also means you can build up some extra hype for particularly interesting events and line-ups. 

The above screenshots also indicate how it only takes me a few minutes per day: for story 1, the artwork was sent to me by the promoter. For story 2, I just reposted one of the promoters’ announcements. For story 3, I made a screenshot of the Resident Advisor calendar I maintain and cropped out irrelevant stuff. 

Music highlights 

On weekdays with zero events (Berlin can be wild and last week actually had a relevant event every night of the week), I’ll highlight music of local producers, DJs, labels, collectives, etc. 

Currently about 50% of all followers see the account’s stories. That’s a high engagement rate and I want to keep it there, so ideally I have something for people daily. It’s also important to keep the growth momentum up. I’ll explain why next. 

Instagram account discovery 

Alright. So, someone I tagged reposted a story. What now? 

I tend to go for really clear names when naming projects. MUSIC x TECH x FUTURE is exactly the scope of the content; it’s what I want to talk and think about. MUSIC x GREEN was actually going to be called MUSIC x SUSTAINABILITY, but the latter word was annoying to type out in a URL. So this is called Hard Dance Berlin – a bit tricky SEO-wise since a big YouTube music channel has done an event in this city by that name once, but it explains exactly what the project is about. 

So when somebody sees the account name when content is reposted, it’s pretty self-explanatory that if you tap on the story and go to the profile, you’re going to get more of hard dance in the context of Berlin. 

So here’s what you’ll see: 

And that’s it. Within two weeks, I should have it organically at 100 highly relevant and engaged followers. By summer, I think I can hit 1k. Should I do some paid promotion, that can go a lot faster. The upside of something as niche as this, is that it is easy to know where to find your audience when targeting ads. 

Maybe it seems highly tactical, or whatever, but the reason why I spend my spare time on it is because of the love for the music. 

Not everything can be done online! I’m too old now to visit all of the events, but I try to make sure to go to a decent portion of them, speak to some people, etc. and also play sometimes. This has helped me get some early visibility with friends following and resharing some of the content. 

I hope the above has been helpful and insightful, and not just blowing my own horn. 

If there’s just one takeaway, let it be this: always give more than you take.

7 Useful Tips For Optimizing Your Facebook And Instagram Live Videos  

7 Useful Tips For Optimizing Your Facebook And Instagram Live Videos 

If marketing is king then social media video marketing is King Kong!

I found this to be a helpful bit of information for DIYers wanting to take advantage of live video marketing through Facebook and Instagram. Check out this guest post by Victor Blasco

Social media’s live videos are an extremely useful – and popular – marketing tool. Audiences love to engage with artists and content creators that use them, and bands and musicians can leverage the immediacy of the format to showcase a  more approachable side. But carrying out a successful live video can be challenging. In this piece, we go over the crucial elements you should account for 

Social video killed the radio star: for any musician nowadays, being active in social media is not only advisable; it is crucial. 

Most of your existing and future fans are also Facebook and/or Instagram users. So, neglecting your digital presence there equals missing a golden opportunity to strengthen your brand and expand your audience! 

But being there is just the start. 

An effective social media presence calls for you to constantly engage with your followers, especially for those in the music industry. And there’s simply no better way to achieve that level of interaction than through live videos. 

There’s a reason why Facebook ranks live streams highest in people’s feed, and why experienced video companies always factor them into their strategies. But doing live streaming right can be a daunting task. 

So today, I’m going to share with you some useful tips, tricks, and pro secrets you can use to get the most out of this incredible tool in your repertoire. 

Shall we dive in? 

#1 – Planning A Broadcast 

A crucial point in creating any successful piece of content is knowing exactly who it’s directed to. As many of your decisions will hinge on your fans’ preferences and lifestyle. From high-brow ones like the level of interaction, you’ll have with chat, to more practical ones such as which network you should go for, or the ideal time to stream. 

Another aspect you’ll want to decide beforehand is what the stream will be based around. There are no hard and fast rules about this, but here are a few ideas your fans would undoubtedly enjoy: 

•         Broadcast a few practice tunes, or play music in an unusual spot. 

•         Show the behind the scenes of a video clip production or practice session. 

•         Host a video explaining the meaning behind a song, or how you got into music (You can also use an Ask Me Anything format for these). 

•        Invite a colleague to collaborate with you and stream together. It will help both of you increase your follower counts. 

Whatever the theme though, make sure it meets these criteria: being compelling and relevant to people interested in your work. 

#2 – Promote Ahead of Time 

A few days before the streaming, start announcing it to your followers. To pique their interest from the get-go, use interesting wording and visuals alongside your announcements and reminders. 

On the day of the stream, remind your audience of the event a few hours beforehand. You can avoid sounding too promotional by posting about how anxious or excited you are about it, or showing some teaser content. 

That said, the best method for ensuring your fans know about your broadcast is to start streaming regularly and sticking to a schedule – Which can even help you maintain a relevant presence even when you are not doing many shows or have new releases. 

Do keep in mind that too much exposure can end up being counterproductive, though. So keep these streams reasonably spaced to keep the flame alive! 

#3 – Keep In Mind Before Going Live 

Have you noticed how cohesive an explainer video’s narrative feels? Well, while your streams will be neither recorded nor edited, you should still strive to keep a similar level of consistency! 

How? You may ask… Well, the core precept behind live streaming is its freshness. So, scripting your content is not really an option. However, you should definitely outline your stream ahead of time, all with relevant keywords, potential transitions, and cues. 

Doing so will keep you from getting lost in the middle of the stream, and should give you a better handle on the whole thing. 

Also, try and make sure your environment is conducive to a great streaming experience! 

The background should be attractive and distinctive, but not distracting. Indoors, favor harmonic frame compositions, being mindful of your place in the frame. Visually symmetrical spaces are the most pleasant to see. 

Other technical factors you can’t overlook pre-stream are lighting and sound/acoustics – particularly if you are going to perform! 

For instance, you can use natural light filming close to a window or in an exterior location. Check that the lighting is not too direct. If that’s the case, you can soften it with light diffusers. 

If the sound quality plays a significant role in your stream, prepare your space acoustically, reducing the reverberation and external noise. The latter is especially detrimental in outdoor locations, so recording a bit ahead of time to optimize it is advisable. And on that note… 

#4 – Practice Makes Perfect! 

Even if you don’t suffer from camera shyness – and, as a musician, you shouldn’t – you can benefit remarkably from dry running your video. In fact, you’ll notice a significant difference in the way you handle yourself in front of the camera right from the beginning. 

The actual streaming won’t be the same as a controlled rehearsal. Nonetheless, try to conduct practice runs as realistically as possible. Simulate answering questions, welcoming new viewers, and reintroducing yourself and the subject from time to time. Request a friend to offer you constructive feedback, or do it yourself by recording the dry runs and pinpointing your weak points. 

Strengthen your camera presence by looking straight at the lens, as if you were looking into a person’s eyes. That is unbelievably powerful for engaging your viewers. 

#5 – Branding In Your Live Streams 

Being yourself is not only an empowering piece of advice. It’s also an excellent marketing strategy. 

Your audience is attracted to your unique style for a reason. That’s why you should let it shine throughout the whole stream. It should be reflected in the setting, in your outfit, in the way you talk, and of course, in your music. 

Doing so helps you sound natural, and that alone can put you ahead of many other streamers. It’s pretty noticeable when somebody is forcing a faux personality or trying to seem like a presenter. They do this to appear more professional, but it’s most often than not the wrong way to approach this. 

Just like a brand would do, emphasize the uniqueness that distinguishes you from the rest! 

#6 – Call To Actions Appropriate To The Format 

In case you are not familiar with this marketing term, a Call To Action is anything that prompts the audience to take action. A core principle of successful marketing and promotional efforts! 

What “something” means exactly varies with your goals. Commenting, sharing, visiting your website, downloading your new single, or attending to your show, are popular goals that can be attached to CTAs. 

Live streaming CTAs tend to focus on engaging the audience. You may encourage them to suggest songs or topics, to vote, or to ask you questions. Demonstrate appreciation by taking their opinion into account, thanking them, and reading their comments out loud. Those little rewarding gestures make people feel valued and are great motivators to foster online engagement. 

Anyhow, merely mentioning a CTA during the streaming is not enough. It’s vital to remind your viewers about it in the comment section as well, and direct them to what you’d want them to do at key points in the stream: shortly after starting, at the midpoint, and most definitely when you wrap up the stream. 

#7 – Connect & Thrive 

I can’t stress enough how critical it is to connect with your audience when streaming. 

As mentioned earlier, the primary fuel behind social media is interaction. It’s not a one-way channel, so don’t just use it as a one-way content storage service. 

Seize every chance you have of connecting with your fans. Keep an eye on the comments for a while after a stream and answer their comments, respond to their questions, even invite them by name to your future streams. These small personal touches can make a huge difference in how the audience engages with your content and social presence. 

In short, make them know that they are important to you. 

Final Thoughts 

Creating a successful live stream is not an easy task. However, it is a tool that blossoming musicians from a few decades ago would have killed to have! It enables you to cut out the middle-man and market your music persona, with a low-cost, and with superb results. 

What matters the most is to be authentic and fresh. Being so, the connection with your fans will come along, without having to force it. 

Even though streaming will be hard at the beginning, I can assure you’ll end up enjoying it a lot. There’s something deeply gratifying about connecting with your audience, regardless of the professional benefits it generates as well.

Victor Blasco is an audiovisual designer, video marketing expert, and founder/CEO of the explainer video company Yum Yum Videos. Besides running the business, he’s a lifelong student of Chinese philosophy and a passionate geek for all things sci-fi.

 

Show Business is a Lot More Business Than Show - I Can Help 

Show Business is a Lot More Business Than Show - I Can Help

For most of us, making a full-time living making music is the goal. But in order to achieve this, it is essential to identify whether or not you're on the right track. 

As an exercise, think for a moment about why you're not currently making a full-time living making music... 

  • Do you know how to make a full-time living making music? 
  • Do you have a strategy for getting started and building a sustainable music career? 
  • Do you understand the different income streams available to you? 
  • Do you have a strategy for growing and nurturing a community of fans and followers? 
  • Do you have a strategy for monetizing your community? 
  • Are you marketing effectively? 
  • Do you have clarity about to whom you should be marketing and how? 

I would love to talk with you, hear your story, and help you move your career forward. If this sounds interesting to you, contact me today and let's create a plan to help you make a living making music.

Contact me today for a free no-obligation consultation.

Michael Pickering, M.A., Music Business, ACUE 

BERKLEE COLLEGE OF MUSIC 

Michael Pickering, President and Chief Creative Officer of Lionsong Entertainment, Inc., and former Director and founder of the Music and Entertainment Entrepreneurship program at the Community College of Aurora, is a creative leader, entrepreneur, educator, and musician. He holds a Master of Arts in Music Business Degree and a B.P.S. in Interdisciplinary Music Studies Degree from the Berklee College of Music. He has served on the boards of local arts and entertainment organizations, authored post-secondary music curricula, and spoken at many local and national music industry events. He also provides music and entertainment business and performance consulting services (www.mpickeringmusic.com). Michael and his wife, Amy Pickering, remain active as national headline music and clean comedy performing artists for corporate, theatrical, educational, outreach, cruise, and private clients worldwide — www.michaelandamy.com.

Could a Scalable Curation System be a Way Out of Our Industry’s Data Mess?  

Could a Scalable Curation System be a Way Out of Our Industry’s Data Mess?

It seems almost unimaginable that the problem of matching copyrights to copyright owners in order to enable accurate, streamlined, expedient, and reliable royalty payments to those to whom they are due is one of the largest problems facing the music industry in our current technologically advanced global community... until one begins to peel back the complex layers of historical lack of music industry record-keeping, incongruent global laws surrounding royalty issues, and the avarice-fueled corruption so prevalent in an industry that generates billions of dollars worldwide. Add to these issues the fact that there is little motivation from some organizations around the world that benefit financially by opposing solutions to the problem!

While many theories have been floated about how artificial intelligence and blockchain could be the cure for rights holders’ and creatives' financial woes, neither of these would untangle the industry’s rats nest of data, but a scalable curation system might. 

Could a scalable system offer a solution out of the music industry's data rat's nest? Could it be put in place in spite of those who would stand to lose ill-gotten gain so easily gleaned and hidden within the current mess? Check at this article by Vasja Veber, Co-Founder and Business Development Director for Viberate and let me know your thoughts.

Scalable Curation System Is Possible And A Way Out Of Our Industry’s Data Mess 

If you’ve talked to anyone in the music or entertainment space over the last ten years, you’re likely to have heard complaints and laments about the state of data in the industry. Though recording and composition metadata are often at the center of these woes in music–they are, after all, how creatives and rights holders get paid–other slices of the music business are faring even worse when it comes to data. 

There’s lots of gushing about everything from AI to blockchain, technologies that many of us take very seriously, but at the bottom of the problem is just one big, tough-to-untangle data mess. 

The nature of the mess may sound familiar to many outside of music and live entertainment. The data tend to be of very poor quality; you don’t actually know who came into your club or event, as ticketing information is appallingly inaccurate, for example. Data are very dispersed, scattered across socials, retail sites, streaming platforms, and other proprietary services. Worst of all for this machine learning-powered era, some of the early indicators of what’s going to be big–in the live music case, what’s taking off at certain small clubs, smaller tastemaker festivals, or key parties–may not be part of the mainstream data that’s easy to integrate via existing APIs. 

These issues find specific form in the music and entertainment industry, but have relevance to a wide range of businesses, from hospitality and event organizing to DTC and other data-reliant retail. And in live music, as in many other realms of commerce and marketing, addressing them demands a serious look at how to build a team to cultivate accurate information globally, which in turn requires a scalable approach that empowers individual data curators. 

To do anything with data, you have to find and refine the necessary sources for input, the data points that actually say something about the business, community, or scene. There are so many options out there in most cases that it’s tempting to rely on scraping plus a few APIs from relevant platforms. Another common approach is to simply set things up for crowdsourcing, and let the communities or customers fill in the data, yet that can quickly turn from exciting approach into moderation hell. Ideally, you want to combine a few firehose-like streams of data with important input from users who are incentivized to do a better-than-shoddy job at contributing information. In short, you need to tame what’s out there in the wild. 

Only humans can tame this wilderness and make it productive, people specially trained to weed out poor or irrelevant data. There’s too much complexity, nuance, and regional variation at this point to find automated solutions. That’s why we knew, as we tackled the data mess in our business, that we needed curators, real humans who knew what looked reasonable and what seemed off. Because we’re growing a large network of profiles, crossing the million mark recently, we also knew we needed enough humans to do the work well, and needed them to have certain knowledge and skills. 

These skills were determined by the focus we adopted early on. We knew that aiming to become something vague yet all-encompassing (“the Facebook for music,” as many startups liked to bandy around at some point) would make our site useless. Furthermore, we saw a massive gap in the live event realm. So we focused on live music and how other platforms and data points speak to live music scenes. There’s a lot to be said for niche approaches, and when you want to create industry-leading data, being a generalist isn’t necessarily a logical choice. 

In fact, our industry, like many others, has seen a proliferation of vanity metrics in the digital era, as well as metric fraud like purchasing, follows and streams. To counteract these forces, we homed in on unexpected metrics and data points that tell stories helpful to our clients and users, who range from fans to festival organizers and booking agents. For example, we surface which artists of note are following one another, something hard to figure out when scanning an artists’ thousands or millions of Twitter followers. This can show unanticipated connections and suggests potential collaborations and partnerships. 

We also made sure to solve one of the industry’s toughest data problems, by following one simple rule. One artist = one profile. It sounds ridiculously obvious, but even the world’s leading streaming platform doesn’t follow that rule. The only way to achieve that level of precision is by adding a human touch. A lot of times we have to defend our claim that we have one of the largest artist databases in the world, currently just shy of 500,000 profiles. We hear things like, “yeah, but I know this service that has 2 million.” They might claim this, but if you go to that particular service and type in “Tiesto”, you’ll get 10 or even more profiles for the same artist. From a data perspective, this renders such service useless, because having data scattered through multiple profiles for the same artist doesn’t let you engage in any kind of data-related analysis. It’s like one person having multiple social security numbers. 

Along with finding these simple, but hard-to-solve data pain points, we also looked for benchmarks and metrics that made sense to our community. For example, we realized that the price of a standard-sized beer was a great benchmark for the overall cost of a festival or venue, guiding music fans to find the right experience for their budgets and helping event operators see how they measure up to the competition. People note the cost of a pint, our curators validate it, and we can then show a meaningful data point to our users. Other industries may find other quirky yet extremely telling metrics that can only be revealed by well-cultivated data. 

On top of right-scaled humans and data that actually matters, you need a large dose of flexibility. To find enough skilled people with a broad grounding in pop culture and strong local knowledge, we had to get creative. We found lots of talented and qualified people in our home region of Eastern Europe. We recruited people from around the world and used crypto to pay those in unstable regions who had the skills we needed. For example, we found a good group of curators in Venezuela, where inflation almost instantly destroys fiat currency values and where banking is chaotic, to say the least. By keeping our focus reasonable, we can make their jobs reasonable, reducing curation or moderation burnout. 

These approaches need to be tailored to your industry, but the human-machine balance in cultivating quality, actionable data should be your goal. It’s allowed us to raise the bar on insights into the live music business, insights we expect to continue to grow richer as time passes. A scalable curation system is possible, with the right mix of openmindedness, tech tools, and smart people.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE MADE A SONG IN THE STYLE OF TRAVIS SCOTT. IT SOUNDS UNNERVINGLY LIKE TRAVIS SCOTT 

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE MADE A SONG IN THE STYLE OF TRAVIS SCOTT. IT SOUNDS UNNERVINGLY LIKE TRAVIS SCOTT

My friend and copyright expert, E. Michael Harrington recently sat on the panel to address, "How is AI enabling authors to explore new market possibilities in music?" presented by the US Copyright Office and the World Intellectual Property Organization. AI is raising some very interesting questions with respect to music creation, ownership, royalties, and lawsuits. I suspect Michael would have an interesting take on the following article posted by Music Business Worldwide. Enjoy!

Originally Posted  TIM INGHAM of Music Business Worldwide

This. Is. Wild. 

A US-based digital agency, Space150, recently thought it would conduct a fun experiment: model Travis Scott’s sonic and vocal style via Artificial Intelligence, and see what original production AI might subsequently invent. 

Every lyric and melody you hear in the below, says Space150, is entirely created by AI. 

The track is called Jack Park Canny Dope Man. 

Executive creative director at Space150, Ned Lampert, told AdWeek: “We were sort of fascinated with like, ‘What if we tried to make a song – like an actual good song – by using AI and basically creative directing AI?’” 

Lampert said the agency chose Travis Scott because “he is just such a unique artist”. (He’s not that unique anymore, though, is he – because he’s basically been cloned by a robot.) 

Granted, the lyrics from TravisBott (yes, that’s literally what they call him) meander into the realm of the absurd. For example, as annotated by Genius

“She got the crew on top of my chain (It’s lit); Wasted in the street like a pain (Straight up); You see the diamonds in the light of chain; They say I fucked the bad bitch like I’m rain; I was the bitch on the plane (Straight up).” 

Abject nonsense. 

But on first listen, with those trademark Travis-ism’s (“It’s lit”; “Straight up”) thrown in there, your fair-weather fan might have to do a double, triple, quadruple take. 

And then they might just assume that a human being had skilfully ripped off Travis Scott… and that Jack Park Canny Dope Man deserves a spot on next week’s Rap Caviar. 

Apparently, Space150 started out feeding real-life Travis Scott lyrics into a ‘text generator model’ for two weeks until it began creating its own rhymes. (These rhymes were initially food-obsessed, but got smarter as time went on.) 

Then, according to AdWeek, the agency “used additional neural network programs to create melodies and percussion arrangements to accompany them”. 

What plays below is the result of this experiment. 

It’s kind of jaw-dropping. 

But – in a music industry where barely a week seems to go by without a plagiarism lawsuit landing in the headlines – perhaps not completely in a good way. 

Earlier this month, a new Los-Angeles based, “AI-enabled” indie label called SNAFU Records has launched with $2.9 million in seed funding. 

The company claims to be “the first full-service record label built on AI-music discovery” and is operated by “technologists, A&Rs, producers, and creatives” including those previously employed by Universal, Sony/ATV, BMG, and Capitol, and who worked with the likes of Ariana Grande, Shawn Mendes, and David Guetta.

Does Your Music Qualify For YouTube’s Content ID System?  

Does Your Music Qualify For YouTube’s Content ID System? 

The YouTube content ID fingerprinting system can enable content owners like artists and labels to identify and track the material that they own on the platform – provided, that is, that their music qualifies. 

Guest post by Randi Zimmerman of the Symphonic Blog 

YouTube’s Content ID is a digital fingerprinting system that content creators (like record labels and artists) can use to easily identify and manage their copyrighted content on YouTube. However, whether or not your music qualifies for YouTube’s ContentID is up to many different factors. Not sure if your music qualifies? Here’s what you need to know. 

Does Your Music Qualify for YouTube’s ContentID? 

Luckily for you, we have an additional post that dives deep into what YouTube’s Content ID is and how it works. If you need to refresh your memory, check out “What is YouTube’s Content ID”. 

How to qualify 

To qualify, copyright owners must have the exclusive rights to the material. Some examples of items that may not be exclusive include: 

mashups, “best of”s, compilations, and remixes of other works 
video gameplay, software visuals, trailers 
unlicensed music and video 
music or video that was licensed, but without exclusivity 
recordings of performances (including concerts, events, speeches, shows) 

—————— 

Learn more: 

Everything You Need to Know About YouTube Premieres 

YouTube Release Checklist 

Top 5 Tips for Boosting YouTube Views 

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YouTube Content ID through Symphonic 

Signing up for YouTube Content ID through Symphonic has several benefits: 

Percentage in payout is often superior to that of others monetization services 
We have a dedicated staff that will not only monetize your videos, but place fingerprints and look for other videos that YouTube’s fingerprinting program does not pick up 
As a distributed client of ours, we will scan each and every song in your catalogue to ensure that we either monetize or takedown any other videos uploaded by third party individuals 

If you’re not already signed up for YouTube Content ID, check out our FAQs and Sign Up process to get started!

2020 Colorado Music Educators Conference Presentation 

I am looking forward to speaking at the 2020 Colorado Music Educators Conference at the Broadmoor Hotel and Convention Center in January.

My topic: Makin a Living Making Music: Entrepreneurial Opportunities in the New Music and Entertainment Industry.

Click here to view the CMEA Conference Schedule

Today’s music industry is the wild, wild, west! The gatekeepers who once determined the fate of an artist’s success, the projects that would be recorded, the songs to be released, the bands that would take the stage, no longer wield their career crushing power. To succeed in today’s music industry, musicians need to expand their skillset from being musicians alone to being musical entrepreneurs. This session, Making a Living Making Music: Entrepreneurial Opportunities in the New Music and Entertainment Industry, will help you discover and declare your IDENTITY as artists and entrepreneurs, your VISION for the life and vocation you dream of, and your INTENTION and plans to begin to transform your dreams into realities. 

I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak by CMEA Tri-M Music Honor Society Chair, Michelle Ewer. Tri-M Music Honor Society offers students, grades 6 through 12, an opportunity to perform, serve the community as well as places them in leadership positions. It helps to bring a music department together and operate as one. Tri-M looks different in every school. Colorado has one of the most robust Tri-M conventions across the country; Students come together to share and discover new ways to make their chapters stronger. Students walk away feeling excited and eager to try new ideas they have experienced at the convention. Feel free to click on the links below to answer questions that you may have.  

Click here to start a NAfME Tri-M® chapter at your school 

Click here for NAfME Tri-M® chapter resources

Michael Pickering, President and Chief Creative Officer of Lionsong Entertainment, Inc., and former Director and founder of the Music and Entertainment Entrepreneurship program at the Community College of Aurora, is a creative leader, entrepreneur, educator, and musician. He holds a Master of Arts in Music Business Degree and a B.P.S. in Interdisciplinary Music Studies Degree from the Berklee College of Music. He has served on the boards of local arts and entertainment organizations, authored post-secondary music curricula, and spoken at many local and national music industry events. He also provides music and entertainment business and performance consulting services (www.mpickeringmusic.com). Michael and his wife, Amy Pickering, remain active as national headline music and clean comedy performing artists for corporate, theatrical, educational, outreach, cruise, and private clients worldwide — www.michaelandamy.com.

Max Martin, UMG, Avid, DDEX, Session Announce the ‘World’s First End-to-End Music Credits Ecosystem’ 

Max Martin, UMG, Avid, DDEX, Session Announce the ‘World’s First End-to-End Music Credits Ecosystem’

Let’s give these artists some credit. 

Guest Post by: Paul Resnikoff

Photo: Session CEO Niclas Molinder (l) with ABBA member and Session co-founder Bjorn Ulvaeus (r) at SXSW.

Last week, a consortium of industry and artist associations banded together to underscore the importance of a “more robust and effective system of digital attribution and credits.” 

In a joint statement, the Artist Rights Alliance, SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild–American Federation of Television and Radio Artists), RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America ) and A2IM (American Association of Independent Music) urged the industry to double-down on proper artist crediting and metadata. 

“Attribution recognizes artistic achievement, helps creators connect, collaborate, and appreciate each other’s work, opens up new pathways for fans to trace artistic influences, and find new music, and aids accuracy in the digital royalty economy,” the joint statement urged. 

Now, there’s a concrete effort to more seriously address credits, missing metadata, and black box royalty problems. 

At SXSW, a separate consortium has proclaimed the ‘world’s first end-to-end music credits ecosystem’. 

The bold initiative, called Creator Credits, is being led by a heavyweight alliance that includes Max Martin’s MXM Music, Avid Technology, Universal Music Group and DDEX.  Session, led by co-founder (and ABBA member) Bjorn Ulvaeus and CEO Niclas Molinder (pictured above), is corralling the circle of power-players. 

In an announcement at the Hilton Hotel in Austin, TX, Molinder underscored the importance of starting the process of credits immediately.  That would explain the presence of Avid, which owns Pro Tools. 

“I’m convinced that the best way to involve the creators in the data collection is as early as possible in the creation process,” Ulvaeus said during the unveiling.  “Session’s technology performs a short handshake with music society systems to authenticate creators and associate their vital industry identifiers with their account. 

“When a creator walks into a Pro Tools powered studio, their presence will be automatically detected and their identifiers, along with their typical contributions, can be easily added to a song.” 

That approach is a far cry from the typical afterthought afforded to music metadata and royalty credits. 

Instead, Session (formerly named Auddly) is taking a very aggressive approach by starting the credits process during the creation phase itself.  “The proof-of-concept sees Avid embedding Session’s technology into Pro Tools to automatically detect the presence of creators in the studio and allowing the addition of creator credits, contributions and crucial industry identifiers (IPI, IPN and ISNI) to a recording before it leaves the studio,” the company explains. 

“Creator credits can easily be added to a song throughout the production process by automatically associating industry authenticated songwriters, musicians, producers and editors and their contributions.” 

In other words: the credits for a song can be added before the song is finished. 

“With Pro Tools software at the core of many of today’s music production environments around the world, the Avid team shares in the vision that all contributors to a piece of music or any audio work should be clearly identified, recognized and rewarded appropriately throughout the production and distribution process,” said Francois Quereuil, Director of Audio Product Management, AVID. 

“We are particularly excited to enter a technology collaboration with Session and work with key players in the music industry to provide a durable solution to the challenges associated with capturing and recognizing creators’ credits in an increasingly complex digital world.” 

But here’s the really exciting part: these credits aren’t just getting added to a local file. 

Instead, they’re being automatically pushed downstream to managers, labels, music publishers, PROs, distributors and streaming platforms.   That aggressive push is mandatory for proper downstream payments, especially given the spotty distribution of metadata across the fractured music industry ecosystem. 

The presence of Universal Music Group will also add some serious momentum to this initiative.  But Barak Moffitt, EVP of Content Strategy and Operations at UMG, says the two companies have been working together on metadata and credits for a few years.  “In addition to our own efforts, we have been working closely with Bjorn and Niclas for a couple years on the development of this platform as part of our commitment to a robust and effective crediting system for the benefit of the entire music ecosystem,” Moffitt relayed. 

DDEX, the supply chain data standards organization, has also been toiling away on music metadata standards for years — if not more than a decade.   Accordingly, the creator credits metadata will travel downstream to various music industry players in the ‘DDEX RIN’ standard format.  That will include critical industry identifiers for songwriters (IPI) and performing artists (IPN), as well as the emerging ISNI identifier. 

This creator identification information, along with their contributions to the recording and song, are assembled with the ISRC (recording identifier) and ISWC (composition identifier) codes.  That will enable downstream music platforms to improve their matching, payouts and even value-added features. 

The initiative comes at a moment of serious frustration for the music industry. 

With the ink dried on the Music Modernization Act (MMA), the industry is now arguing over an estimated $1.2 billion in unattributed ‘black box’ mechanical royalties being held by the likes of Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music Unlimited.  And that’s just one piece of a gigantic black box whose size is estimated to be in the multi-billions.