On Tuesday the conference was in transition between interactive and music, with the gaunt, goth looking hipsters flooding into the bars of the sixth street just as the Google Village packed up and the final hack-a-thon was resolved. So the schedulers put all the music panels when the two tribes overlapped. I checked out Spotify and Turntable.fm. Disclaimer - I am a junkie of the first and have never used the second.
The key quote that stuck with me from the Spotify talk (key speaker was their 'Chief Content Officer', Ken Parks) was that more money is made in Macau each year than the music industry globally. I now that Macau is pretty hot on gambling and that a fair high rollers must pass through their tables, but we're talking about music. Everyone must listen to music in some form every day, even if
not by choice. It is utterly pervasive, and it has become utterly terrible at making money.
Easy answer would be to look at Spotify and point the finger. It has been well documented that the amount of money an artist gets per play is pitifully small. But the longer the talk went on, the more I came to the opinion that at least they're trying. They give 65-70% of all revenue straight to rights holders and had generated $250m up to the point of the conference. Now you can cut that number down to a per play figure, but that money didn't exist before Spotify generated it, so on balance they're a force for good. The problem I would augur is with the labels and right managers, who I imagine have large, convuluted systems of trickling money down. It is a convenient position to take, particularly given the other panel member was an artist, but one that makes sense. They have all the power. They have the rights for the music, they can cut any deal they want.
This was further compounded by the founders of Turntable.fm who turned up next. They gleefully announced that they were now licensed with all four majors. They took the approach that they would build an excellent product first and "ask for forgiveness later". All of which are positive statements about the health of their business. But the point they kept returning to was that you have to
take any offer a label puts in front of you. They can walk away, you can't.
And this struck me as a paradox. The labels complain about not making enough money (or at least artist's managers do), but then will hold start-ups eager to create new music experiences to ransom. Fair enough, they want the best deal and they can collective bargain on behalf of talent, but they are clearly hungry for more cash, they just don't want to give rights away unless you can prove you will make them money.
I think this is a gap for brands. Whilst many brands try and associate themselves with music properties or acts, often it is little more than sponsorship or part of product distribution. It seldom has any tangible benefit for the music industry. It brands took the approach of "what can we do for music" rather than "what can music do for us", they will likely to find a very receptive label marketer more than happy to cut a deal. So long as you don't ask for too much in the way of rights.
Oh. Turntable.fm is excellent, if a little for the music geek rather than the music everyman. You can get someone else to DJ your house party remotely. Which could be awful if it wasn't for the fact that once A-Trak turned up for a session and an increasing amount of headline DJs are going into partnership with the site.