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.
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.
- 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.
with Andy Mooney (CEO, Fender)
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)
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…https://www.saavn.com/.
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.
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 musicians make better entrepreneurs?”
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?
with Christopher Leacock (Music Producer, Major Lazer)
“How a star is born”
with Heather Parry, (Chief Content Officer, Live Nation), Alex Kantrowitz (Senior Technology Reporter, BuzzFeed)
“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.
I am writing this post from Lisbon to sum up the conversations on music at this year’s Web Summit.
Using blockchain as the foundation for music content management and distribution presents unprecedented opportunities for artists…
to control your identity, to simplify publishing, to define licensing options, to distribute sounds, to track content consumption, to get paid immediately without relying on 3rd parties.
Leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) to augment an artist’s creativity…
will AI augment or replace us? I believe that it will augment us to start with! You already listen to heaps of human-generated music that influences your musical creations and are now given an additional tool to be ever more creative.
Big players, money driven and who do not particularly care about music or artists, increasingly take decisions principally based on data…
struggling to cope with listeners reduced attention spans and with the pace of change, live-streaming services curate playlists based on the data they collect, radios play songs/artists that have proven track records, labels and managers sign new artists looking at the data and numbers they generate, and so on and so forth.
In my opinion artists have to wait it out and not succumb to this numbers game and utter confusion. I’d say focus on the quality of your craft and keep having fun :)!!!
Panels I attended, in order of interest
‘Block and roll: Blockchain and music publishing’
with Panos Panay (Berklee College of Music), Joseph Lubin (Ethereum), Jow Conyers III (SongTrust), Robert Hackett (Fortune)
The focus should be here.
Using blockchain technology in music for securing contracts and to manage sales would simplify to the Nth degree music management, distribution and payments. It sounds like a deal breaker and an opportunity to further push middle men out of the way!
Blockchain will constitute the basis for a unique decentralised, robotised, accessible repository of truth. Paying artists immediately if their content is played or sampled or utilised in anyway, shape or form; avoiding having to deal with disputes over song rights and ownership; and enabling more and more changes we cannot imagine yet!
‘The future of songwriting with AI’
with Taryn Southern (Singer/Songwriter)
Taryn is a YouTuber I didn’t know about but a quick look at her channel speaks for itself (she’s been at it for over 10 years!). She talked about having started collaborating with AI for her productions and mentioned using Google Magenta, Amper Music, and IBM Watson.
‘How curated playlists are replacing radio as the new tastemakers’
with Nick Sabine (Resident Advisor), Alexander Holland (Deezer), Laidback Luke (DJ, Producer, and Founder & Owner of Label “Mixmash Records”), Mark Savage (BBC)
I arrived half way through the talk (got carried away with a lovely breakfast)…when I arrived all speakers were agreeing that for artists it is important to be featured on playlists as they are one of the primary means of discovery nowadays.
Radios will not disappear any time soon and they will complement playlists, giving listeners more choice than ever.
‘Hip-hop artists are the original entrepreneurs’
with Ryan Leslie (SuperPhone), Ben Beaumont-Thomas (The Guardian)
When asked wether black singers/songwriters have less opportunity to make it in music if compared to white people, Ryan Leslie replied that it is not about race but about wealth. And wealth gives you access to the right people. BAM!
Success happens at the speed of communication and it is all about discovery; according to him the strongest tools we have at hand to push our music nowadays are our phone number (hence his product SuperPhone) and our Facebook messenger id.
‘Managing artists in 2017’
with José Woldring (The Media Nanny), Madeline Nelson (Heads Music), Sol Guy (Sol Guy), Nick Sabine (Resident Advisor)
Madeline Nelson, Wyclef Jean’s manager, said that music managers have to take care of way more things than they used to in the past, they’ve become the new labels.
A lot of their decisions are based on data today: they have unprecedented access to data so this is how they choose best strategies for content launch, for tour dates and more.
It also emerged that nowadays radios decide wether a song can be played or not on the basis of data; meaning that if your song is not getting enough playlist plays or Shazams it will not make the cut on a radio show!
‘Investing in the future of music’
with Amadea Choplin (Pex), Tracy Gardner (Warner Music Group), Mark Savage (BBC)
One of the main difficulties for artists and whomever represents them is to collect money for the use of their content. First you have to find the platforms that are making use of your artists’ content and then you have to find a way to monetise it e.g. a tricky one is the use of music on gifs.
Interesting for me was to see how Warner Music Group are not resisting the changes that technology brought about in music and are doing their best to understand and adapt to the new ecosystem. Feels like status quo isn’t enough nowadays!!!
‘Independent labels in the streaming age’
with Simon Wheeler (Beggars Group), Charles Caldas (Merlin Network), Zoe Henry (Inc.com)
An ode to indie labels…and the past really…
Talk was not super interesting…main thing was that nowadays if you want to have an indie label you have to do it because you love it and you have a passion for it. Not for the money. If you jump in for the money you will not go anywhere!
‘A production masterclass with Wyclef Jean’
with Wyclef Jean (Wyclef Jean), Nelson Freitas (Nelson Freitas), D.A.M.A. (D.A.M.A.)
Wyclef showed people how you can record different tracks and quickly mix it to become a song. The best thing was to see Wyclef in action sharing some Fugees vibes!
‘From the classroom to Coachella’
with Martin Garrix (STMPD RCRDS), Ben Beaumont-Thomas (The Guardian)
Martin talked about how he started and how he made it to where he is now. Interesting and nice guy but nothing to report a part from the fact that he absolutely loves music!
‘Can tech save the music industry?’
with Hans-Holger Albrecht (Deezer),Wyclef Jean (Wyclef Jean), Martin Garrix (STMPD RCRDS), Ben Beaumont-Thomas (The Guardian)
This talk actually took place at Centre Stage before Al Gore’s speech on climate change. Despite the big names, nothing much to report!
Compare this post to what was said last year, click here!
I spent July in NYC to explore its music scene as much as I could: playing open mics and gigs, going to concerts, and soaking it all up.
I want to keep a list of all places and situations I discovered and decided to make it a blog post for other people that want to do the same.
Considerations on the city from a Londoner
New York City is buzzing with energy and excitement at all times. It is so alive that it blew my mind! ‘The city that never sleeps’ indeed: always on, multi-cultural, and yet with very strong American roots, it made me feel alive and…home!
Nobody looks at you funny if you ask for a table for one or drink pints alone at the counter. People have a gracious way of striking up a conversation and without being creepy finding out who you are, what you do, what you think, what you like.
Life through the glass!
Music is such a big part of New York City: you see people singing songs aloud whilst listening to their headphones (and nobody turning around to watch them…I saw it so many times that I decided it must be normal); cars blasting out music, streets bursting with clubs, bars that pump out loud music, and heaps of venues offering live music.
NYC still makes you feel you are welcome, a place where you can explore being your true self and evolve. If you decide to share your ideas in front of an audience you will find one and people will listen!
New York is freedom.
I never felt so free in my life as I did in the Big Apple.
Public transportation runs at all times so you never have to worry over how to get home!
My list of venues for open mics and gigs
I have played five open mics and two gigs in the past month.
In general, open mics situations tend to attract decent amounts of people if compared to London and the audience respectfully listens to you; a piano is generally available; and it is really easy to make the acquaintance of other artists.
This is the list of open mics I played at, in order of my preference:
- Pete’s Candy Store, Williamsburg (on Sundays): one of the historical open mics in NY, hosted by Bruce Martin who is a force of nature, the open mic is super chill and fun, the sound is good and the place is nice; you get to play 1 song; I went twice.
- Sidewalk Cafe, East Village (on Mondays): hosted by Somer who disposes of infinite patience and sarcasm; at least 40 – 50 people show up on a weekly to play; she runs a lottery to assign you a slot, so if unlucky you might pick up number 44 and have to wait until midnight before you get to play; the sound is good; you get to play 1 song; I was asked to play a gig after the open mic.
- Little Skips, Bushwick (on Tuesdays): hosted by Joe Crow Ryan…that man is a living legend; raggedy madness, underground feel and definitely a whole lot of genres all together; it is a messy open mic but really unique and fun; the sound was good then bad then good again then bad but the good vibes make up for the technical unreliability; you get to play 2 songs.
- The West Brooklyn, Williamsburg (on Mondays): about 10 people show up to play and some are regulars (some of the finest musicians I’ve ever seen playing an open mic); the sound is good; you get to play 2 songs and if time allows it, you can play again at the end.
- The Bitter End, between Greenwich Village and Lower Manhattan (on Saturdays): the stage is huge, the open mic starts early in the afternoon, it is pretty chilled and a nice environment; the sound was good; you get to play 2 songs; I believe that if you enquire you could probably book yourself a gig there too.
Talking to people at open mics I was also recommended the following ones which I did not get a chance to check out:
- Mondays: Cafe Vivaldi, Park Side Lounge, Prohibition
- Tuesdays: Under St. Mark’s, Topaz, Park Side Lounge
- Thursdays: The Sugar Bar, Music Inn
I played two gigs.
I landed the Sidewalk gig after playing at their open mic; I was the last person on stage at the gig; the sound wasn’t amazing and luckily one of my people stood up to tell me to turn down the volume of the guitar after the 1st song. The set was 45 minutes. A bunch of my NYC friends showed up and also two groups of people having drinks next door decided to come in and watch.
The Rockwood Music Hall | Stage 1 gig came about after I sent them an email at the end of April asking if I could play there. I was the last person on stage with everything running late. The quality of the two bands I saw playing before me was really high, probably the highest quality venue I have played thus far (a part from Scala in London). The sound engineer was really good and always listening. Too bad everyone left just before I started to play as it was almost 1:00am on a Wednesday night.
These are three more venues to keep on the radar to play gigs:
- The Silent Barn, Bushwick
- Baby’s Alright, Williamsburg
- Pine Box Rock Shop, Bushwick
I feel everything is possible in New York City and I will make sure to go back there.
I went to the Web Summit in Lisbon last week and absolutely loved it.
Loved Lisbon and spent a total of 10 days there.
I attended all three days of the conference. The 3rd and last day was the one that interested me the most, with a stage entirely dedicated to music called ‘Music Notes’.
In this post I share my take over the music industry trends that emerged at the summit, then a quick snapshot of each of the music panels I attended.
Music industry trends
The new giants and decision makers in the music industry are the streaming services.
Through their playback algorithms, mass-customised playlists, artists features and social mechanics they greatly impact which songs/artists get discovered.
Artists have started sucking up to them and some are already striking deals with them; whilst labels seem to keep at their merciless fall, further losing their negotiation power.
The music industry is growing ($$$) but the economic model hasn’t been pinned down.
Different panelists affirmed that 2016 has seen the aggregated turnover of the music industry grow compared to last year, and firmly believe that the $$$ will continue increasing in the years to come.
Despite that nobody knows what shape the music industry will take…artists don’t, streaming services don’t, indie labels don’t, big labels don’t, managers don’t…nobody does. Really, nobody does…
No safe bets ahead but the recognition that streaming is huge.
There is no one-size-fit-all here but the gist of it is that if you already have a big-enough audience then it does not make much sense for you to partner up with a label and share profits; whilst if you are building a following and seeking to boost your audience size, then partnering with a label could be a great next step, with the idea that once you are big-enough you will go back controlling your own brand, independently.
The panels I attended, in order of interest
‘What’s an indie label to do these days?’
Bruce Pavitt (Sub Pop Records) and Jim Carroll (Irish Times)
Bruce Pavitt people!
He ran a remarkable panel telling it how it is; stay independent if you can or use labels as an accelerator for your career to then go independent again; Macklemoore, Chance the Rapper (possibly the most nominated artist throughout the day), and more are not signed to any label, hence maximising their own profits.
Bruce is also working on the 8stem project, really worth checking out. I applied to get my tracks re-mixed on his platform, wait and see!
‘The truth about the music industry’
with Tinie Tempah (musician), Hans-Holger Albrecht (Deezer), Eric Wahlforss (SoundCloud), Ne-Yo (musician), Andrew Flanagam (Billboard)
Old school musicians do not feel they are getting properly paid for their work as performers and songwriters; where 1M streams pays off roughly $90 (figure came from Ne-Yo and wasn’t disputed during the panel); ‘new’ musicians like Tinie Tempah seem to have a lesser sense of entitlement to bigger earnings and are personally managing their career 360 e.g. music production, social media, merchandising…
‘The new festival experience’
with Marian Goodell (Burning Man Project), Jonathan Mayers (Superfly), Gabrielle Korn (Nylon)
There has been a continuous sprouting of more and more festivals but only a few good ones; Burning Man and Superfly mobilise people by the tens of thousands and apart from music, they see themselves as promoters of community values but not responsible to run political agendas.
‘The building blocks of musical experience’
with Roland Lamb (ROLI)
Blocks by Roli, they call it the democratisation of making music.
Demo of a very cool product that will soon be distributed in Apple stores; I found it all the more interesting as I was already fascinated by the Oceanboard which I started to mess with starting in 2014 at the Silicon Milkroundabout in Bricklane, London.
‘Thoroughly modern manager’
with Tishawn Gayle (Compound Entertainment), Ted Chung (MERYY JANE & Stampede Management), Lily Mercer (Viper Magazine)
The role of the music manager has changed as music consumption did: moving money from one pocket to the other, with smaller margins for parasites and waste of resources; demanding increasing resourcefulness for those that try to stay in business.
The guys on stage weren’t smart, they were extra-smart, out of the norm individuals, entrepreneurs.
The role of a manager might change shape and there might be less artists that can afford one but those that know how to do their job will ultimately be any artist’s key to success.
‘Evolved entertainment booking’
with Ja Rule (Fyre), Billy McFarland (Fyre), MDavid Low (FyreBookings.com), Michael Hirschorn (Ish Entertainment)
FyreApp is changing the world of artists booking by trying to help private buyers and artists communicating directly.
Ja Rule and his team are working on yet another type of disintermediation in the music industry; getting rid of the middle-men that for too long have taken advantage of the communication gap to take their stake in all booking transactions.
‘The art of the hussle’
with Tinie Tempah (Musician), Dumi Oburota (Disturbing London), Andrew Flanagain (Billboard)
Tinie Tempah and his manager (and friend) Dumi shared the story of how their act came about, the continuous hussling for a few years, the breakthrough, and their business today. Nice guys, genuine talk and all interesting to hear for musicians like me.
‘Music production on the road’
with Thomas Gold (Thomas Gold), Gabrielle Korn (Nylon)
Thomas shared how he goes about producing his music when he is on the road.
Interesting term of comparison if you produce music yourself; in a nice way, but he seems to be a backup freak as he explained how he backs up his files in 3 different places because of one instance when his computer was stolen and it took him weeks to re-work on just a little fragment of all his stuff.
‘From the roots’
with Eric Wahlforss (SoundCloud), Eamonn Forde (Music Ally/The Guardian)
I didn’t find that much was covered or ‘uncovered’ with this talk possibly because Eric had already been on 2 other panels that I attended that day.
‘Innovate or die’
with Arabian Prince (NWA, iNov8 Next), Ravi Rajapakse (Blackfire Research), Eamonn Forde (Music Ally/The Guardian)
‘Talk to me’
with Ryan Leslie (SuperPhone), Nora Rothrock (Rothrickdigital)
‘Listening to change’
with Jonathan Levine (Master & Dynamic), Olly Mann (The Media Podcast)
‘Master of your own destiny’
with Ray J (Raytroniks), Billy Jones (Raytronics), Lily Mercer (Viper Magazine)
“Fresh and invigorating, this delightful female led punk rock sets Sere Trouble out as one of our favourite new acts of 2016.”
Headphones is my contribution to AltDialogues Mixtape Vol. 1, together with another 32 brilliant songs from other artists.
100% of proceeds are being donated to Barnardo’s. Get involved in this brilliant cause.
Emily Chudy asks me some questions for the Unsigned Friday column on Get West London.
An amazing review on Even The Stars for Burning Milk.
Makes me feel all efforts are well worth it and ever grateful to Dave :)!
Alt Dialogue shares a great review of ‘Burning Milk’ on the day of its release.