Music talks at 2017’s Web Summit in Lisbon

I am writing this post from Lisbon to sum up the conversations on music at this year’s Web Summit.

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2017 Highlights

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)

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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!

Ujo is one of the first applications of Ethereum specific to music! It is launching its Alpha sometimes this November and I have signed up to be one of the partaking artists!

‘The future of songwriting with AI’
with Taryn Southern (Singer/Songwriter)

I got really excited before this talk started as Bryan Johnson the founder of Kernel came, sat in front of me, and said ‘hello’! Only to find out later he’s dating the speaker…

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)

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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.)

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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)

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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!

 

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Music at the Lisbon Web Summit 2016

I went to the Web Summit in Lisbon last week and absolutely loved it.
Loved Lisbon and spent a total of 10 days there.

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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

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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.

Artists: independent!
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)

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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)

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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.

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‘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)

On music and money: for unsigned musicians based in London

I spent the last couple of hours (not always easy to retrieve the numbers) trying to figure out whether with music I am at a financial loss, or not.
There are only two sources of cashflow at the moment: releases and gigs.

The final balance shows +£0.13 in close to 2 years.

Here’s how.

Releases

Since I started taking music TO A WHOLE NEW LEVEL (for me) I produced 2 releases:

  1. Broken and Uneven (album, 11 songs), released on 02/06/14
  2. What’s In Your Head? (single), released on 17/11/15

Being 100% DIY at this stage, the only costs I incurred** were those of the aggregator that I used (Record Union).

The album distribution cost me $60 (2 years of distribution + one-off fee) to date and the single $10.42 (1 year distribution + one-off fee).
For a total of $70.42.

So how much did I earn for my 2 releases?
Look at this table; it is the export from my account on Record Union.

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I got $66.26.

Making a loss of $4.15, today equivalent to £2.87.


Gigs

I started gigging July 2014 and by September 2015 I had played 31 gigs.

Assuming that I buy a couple of drinks (hihihihi) and take the tube every time I play I could roughly estimate having spent about £248 (£4 X 2 X 31) for alcohol and £148.8 (£2.4 X 2 X 31) for transportation.
A total of £396.8.

Being a registered member at PRS, which is an institution that helps songwriters and composers earn money for their music, I can log all my gigs and claim some royalties for having played them.

31 gigs got me to earn £149.80 from PRS.
On top of that I remember getting paid £50 once and will estimate a generous £20 for other 10 times which will skyrocket me to having earned a total of £399.80.

Making a profit of £3.


Final considerations

Taking my loss from the releases (£2.87) and my gain from the gigs (£3) I made a profit of £0.13.

If I had made a shit-load of streams on Spotify, say 1 million, I’d have made $6,933…still not that much!

I conclude that at my level it is really really really important to keep costs down and in check; together with having A REAL source of income (aka another job).

**For simplicity, I have taken N assumptions and disregarded a number of costs: my house, my gear, my time. Technically you could say I am at a loss then BUT I would argue that I would have spent most of this money anyway.

 

Music & DIY: available resources for unsigned musicians

I recently spoke to a musician-friend of mine (check her out Nicoletta Noé) and promised I would send her the list of all online resources, tools and services I make use of.
As I’m at it, I thought it might make an interesting blog post for other musicians like us.

This post is about sharing what I am doing and NOT about teaching anyone anything.
I do NOT know if what I am doing is right, so take it as it is and please share your views based on your own experience and guts.

I am 100% DIY at the moment and here’s how I am currently set up.

MY APPROACH

Music comes first.
Because it’s fun and because it makes me feel good.
All other activities to package, to market and distribute my music are less interesting to me so I try to minimise the time spent on them and be as organised as I can.

Free.
I invest my time, not my money.

Trial and error.
I open accounts generously then see what works for me.

Consistency.
There is no silver bullet.

WEBSITE

WORDPRESS
Free
It’s the blogging platform that powers my website.
You can choose a template you like and be independent in the creation and management of your website.
One drawback: I cannot use all the integrations and widgets available online (this is because the platform prevents me from using any Javascript).
https://seretrouble.com/


SOCIAL & ONLINE PRESENCE

SOUNDCLOUD
Free
I use it privately to upload and share my music before official releases.
I use it publicly to upload demos I want to share, older material and also my new releases.
I like to interact with people on the platform.
https://soundcloud.com/seretrouble

FACEBOOK MUSICIAN/BAND PAGE
Free
I mainly use it to organise gigs.
Also to share photos, some updates and to shortish/not-necessarily-perfect videos.
I like to interact with people on the platform.
https://www.facebook.com/seretroubleofficial

YOUTUBE
Free
I posted a few videos of a live set in a rehearsal studio.
I also use it to post my songs playing on a still frame image because heaps of people consume music from that platform (especially younger peeps).
I like to interact with people on the platform.
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrNWlpuQQA751-oWHp4IEzg

TWITTER
Free
I use it to share some updates, photos and details for a gig.
I mainly use it as a ‘broadcast’ tool.
https://twitter.com/SereTrouble

BANDPAGE
Free
I have an up-to-date artist profile on it and use the audience widget to collect email subscriptions from my website.
It was recently bought by YouTube so something low maintenance and worth watching.
It offers a range of integrations and widgets to manage your online presence.
https://www.bandpage.com/seretroubleofficial

BANDCAMP
Free
I have an up-to-date artist profile on it and have uploaded all my music on it.
Seems to be a platform of reference for some venues, festivals, and others in the industry.
It offers a range of integrations and widgets to manage your online presence.
https://seretrouble.bandcamp.com/


REGISTRATION AND DISTRIBUTION

PRS
One-off membership fee: £30
I am registered as a songwriter.
I register my songs there and this ensures I receive payments if the songs get played anywhere (any channel and any geography).
Also, when I play gigs I am recognised a £6 to £8 for each one.
https://www.prsformusic.com/

RECORD UNION
You pay per release
Aggregator service to distribute my music on all relevant players: Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, Tidal, etc. across all geographies I select and am willing to pay for. On the basis of my streams they pay me what I am due.
I am considering testing a new aggregator for a future release.
https://www.recordunion.com/Profile/39539


ONLINE TOOLS

SONGKICK TOURBOX
Free
It allows me to record future gigs and automatically sends push notifications to anyone using Songkick and listening to me.
It integrates with Facebook but unfortunately not with my free version of WordPress.
https://www.songkick.com/artists/8398438-sere-trouble

THE UNSIGNED GUIDE
Monthly, quarterly or annual fee
It’s the online directory of all music industry contacts in the UK: venues, festivals, blogs, magazines, radios, etc.
I use it to find email contacts to arrange gigs or to promote my recordings.
http://www.theunsignedguide.com/

MAD MIMI
Free
It is an email marketing tool.
I use it to send my newsletter and to keep my list of subscribers organised.
Whilst Mad Mimi does the job, I am thinking of reverting to using MailChimp as I like its templates better.
https://madmimi.com

GODADDY
Pay per domain
It is the platform I have used to register my domain seretrouble.com .
https://godaddy.com

PAYPAL
It collects fees based on how you use it
I opened an account to be able to easily collect payments online.
https://www.paypal.com/

GMAIL
Free
My email provider of choice, together with Google Inbox to manage my emails.
mail.google.com


SERVICES I USED

LANDR
Pay per master depending on the file quality you choose
Online mastering service.
I have used it for my soon-to-release EP Burning Milk.
I feel it is a great service for people with no access (£££) to top engineers and mastering studios at a fair price.
https://www.landr.com/en

MOBINEKO
See pricing online
I chose them to print the vinyl of my soon-to-release EP Burning Milk.
I am still waiting to receive the final product so cannot comment on quality of service yet.
http://www.mobineko.com/


OTHER ACCOUNTS

These are all accounts that I opened but that I am not actively using at this very moment.
I use some of them from time to time and some other might come handy at some stage in the future (or maybe not).

LASTFM || BBC INTRODUCING || PERISCOPE || LIVAMP || WIX || SHOPIFY || MUSICBRAINZ || TRADIIO || PATREON || BOOKYA || ELANCE & ODESK || MUSICGLUE || GIGMIT.COM || DELICIOUS || VEROMUSE || BOX || GOOGLE+ || VINE || TAD


If you got to this point you probably play as well :).

I hope you find this post useful.
Please, reach out seretrouble @ gmail.com to share your thoughts as I am really keen to find out about better ways to “do this”.

Sere Trouble