Music talks at 2018’s Web Summit in Lisbon

For the 3rd time I went to the Web Summit in Lisbon and attended all music related panels and…my mind wasn’t blown away…

Admittedly distracted by the launch of my very own new EP a gentle reminder… (go check it out if you haven’t yet!), I am writing this blog post to share with y’all what I have heard.

In brief

My take-aways on music discussions from this year’s web summit:

  • industry confusion continues:
    • traditional incumbents like labels, journalists, etc are still shaking in the attempt to stay relevant.
    • big artists increasingly moving towards creating independent platforms e.g. Feldt with Fangage, Imogen Heap with Mycelia.
  • trending:
    • algorithms to curate music: well over 20,000 songs are uploaded on a daily basis on streaming services like Spotify, making it impossible for humans to sensibly curate without making use of algorithms.
    • music companies producing software and hardware are on to super exciting product evolutions, see Native Instruments and Fender.
    • compared to last year not much talk around blockchain.
  • platform talk: Soundcloud has been deemed ‘out of fashion’; everyone is wondering what Spotify is on about given all the work they are doing for artists (see Spotify for artists); Facebook is out; Instagram is in.

Panels in order of personal interest

“Empowering anyone to make music”
with Daniel Haver (CEO, Native Instruments)

Daniel showcased Native Instruments products (hardware and software)…THAT WAS MEGA EXCITING! I want to buy ’em all! The main take-away is that NI is focussing on creating modular products and solutions with an increasingly lower entry-barrier.

“Electric guitar: Past, present and future”
with Andy Mooney (CEO, Fender)
Pretty damn exciting to hear Andy speak!


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Fender is currently focussing on these four points to grow:

  • With the increase in famous female guitar players (examples that come to my mind are St. Vincent and Courtney Barnett but he also mentioned Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga), Fender is focussing on targeting women to grow its market share.
  • Fender Play: subscription based app that teaches you how to learn to play the guitar, bass and ukulele.
  • Fender Tune: tuner! You download it for free but then if you want you can opt into their newsletters.
  • Fender Tone: subscription based app that gives you access to original tabs and pedal / amp settings over how to play your favourite songs.

The magic of music technology
with Imogen Heap (Music Maker & Founder, Mycelia) // at Centre Stage, not Music Notes

Famous for being part of Frou Frou (electronic duo with Guy Sigsworth), then gaining massive global popularity with Hide and seek in 2005, she has been experimenting with blockchain technology for a few years now (e.g. the first re-known artist to embrace Ujo) and has currently launched her own project.

She came on stage to play a song but for some technical reasons (something to do with wifi) she could not perform so she talked us through her new project: Mycelia, ‘a research and development hub for music makers’ where artists could also generate their passport.

“Electronic Music production masterclass with Jonas Blue”

with Jonas Blue (DJ & Producer, Musician), B.Traits Brianna Price (Music Producer, DJ, Broadcaster, In.Toto & Paciphonic)

Jonas walked us through his music writing process at a high level.
We got a chance to sneak a peak at the way he works with layers on its tunes e.g. he might have 3 layered kick,s or 11 layered synths to get to the sound he is looking for! This would all be pre-production.

My take-away is how important it is to find the sounds you are looking for as you write music as opposed to when you are working on the production/mixing stage; emphasising that treating writing and mixing as two separate steps is most definitely a great idea! If you have ever produced any music you will know what I am on about :)!


“Opening remarks: Setting the tempo”
with Florian Simmendinger (Soundbrenner), James Thomas Morley (Soundbrenner Ltd)

Berlin based startup that has developed smart, wearable & vibrating metronomes.
They are currently working on the 2nd iteration of their product, check out their Kickstarter here.

Previous product costs $99 a-piece, decreasing as you buy more… still quite an investment considering the hustling involved in performing live shows…I’d love to test it before buying it to see if it works for Frank and I…but it definitely sound like something that could help us with our live set!

“The Streaming label: A new model of artist data development and distribution”
with Rishi Malhotra (Saavn)

I did not know about this streaming service before (Spotify-like) but it turns out it has a global reach and it is big in India and Asia…
The main difference with the other streaming services we are familiar with is that they also act as a label with some artists, selecting them and pushing them by analysing the huge amount of data they have available.

“The future of music discovery”

with Nick Sabine (Founder, Resident Advisor), B.Traits Brianna Price (Music Producer, DJ, Broadcaster, In.Toto & Paciphonic), Cherie Hu (Tech Columnist, Billboard)

I perceived people getting uncomfortable on stage every single time algorithms and streaming services where mentioned…lollll

You need humans + algorithms to curate music today and to keep it diverse.

“Is AI the new A&R?”
with Conrad Withey (Instrumental), Tim Ingham (Music Business Worldwide)

We have assessed that on a daily basis over 20,000 tracks get uploaded on Spotify everyday, making artist discovery an overwhelmingly time-consuming task for labels and their peers.

Instrumental collects data from around the web then organises it so that its users can spot hubs of activity around a track or an artist and decide which artists to invest on.

“Talent can only get you so far”

with Jose Woldring (CEO & Founder, The Media Nanny), Peter Hollens (Musician + Educator, Peter Hollens Music), Jonas Weber (Co-founder, thirdculture), Kieran Yates (Journalist , The Guardian)

The core discussion was around the eternal question of ‘do you need help to be successful’? People on stage came from very different experiences…once more no recipe or right/wrong answer: it depends on your definition of success, it depends on your skills, it depends on what you want…and frankly it depends on who you know.

Interesting to find out that Peter, who posts a new video per week, earns an average of $16k per video that he posts! As of today he has got a little over 2M followers on YouTube, which is a lot of followers! It is interesting for me because it is not easy to get where he got to and do what he does: the quality of his videos is prime, he is talented, he is consistently posting (it is a job), etc.

“Sometimes you can’t make it on your own”

with Andy Varley (Founder & CEO, Insanity Group), Cassandra Gracey (President of 4th Floor Creative , Sony Music UK), Ben Beaumont-Thomas (Music Editor, The Guardian)

Do you really need a label to succeed? People on this panel were inclined to think but I think that we are talking about their job…a bit like asking them: will you still have a job in 5 years?
What is pretty clear to me from listening to this debate is that there is no right or wrong approach here…traditional incumbents can still help making you BUT they are not the main decision makers anymore –> streaming services are.

“Do musicians make better entrepreneurs?”

with Sam Feldt (DJ/Producer and Entrepreneur, Fangage), Cherie Hu (Tech Columnist, Billboard)
Sam is a successful DJ that fed up with not being able to access the data of his fans on FB, Instagram, etc and that having experienced the death of MySpace has decided to create his own platform. Fangage is an FRM ‘fans relationship manager’.
Though it is an interesting concept but vague, so I doubt they will be able to push through with the current pricing model which is mega-expensive:
Screenshot 2018-11-10 at 20.19.36
Most interesting bit was for me to come across this metaphor for the ever green question of ‘Should you stay indie or look for a label?’
Just like with business: are you ready to go the long way and do things on your own or do you prefer to look for investors and speed things up?

“Jillionaire presents”
with Christopher Leacock (Music Producer, Major Lazer)

Christopher talked us through a number of points that artists should take into consideration as they move forward with their careers in the music industry.
I cannot recall the points he made as I half fell asleep during his prezo…

“How a star is born”
with Heather Parry, (Chief Content Officer, Live Nation), Alex Kantrowitz (Senior Technology Reporter, BuzzFeed)

Hard to relate with someone that calls Sean Combs ‘Puff’ and seems to know and have done business with every single biggest stars in the world…Heather is apparently the person behind making the documentary on Lady Gaga and the movie ‘A star is born’ a reality…
Anyhow the most interesting thing I learned was that it took 4 attempts before the production of the movie ‘A star is born’ kicked off. At some stage Madonna was interested and at some other stage it was Clint Eastwood and Beyonce.

“Is tech without emotion just a function?”
with Olivier Robert-Murphy (Universal Music Group)

During his keynote Olivier showed us a video of how music and VR technologies can combine together to create unique experiences for people that are physically impaired.

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