Next up at MidemNet is a showcase for services connecting artists and fans, with a panel of firms doing just that.
First is Ben Drury from 7digital talking about IndieStore, a service allowing indie bands to sell music while registering their sales for the official UK charts – the top artist has generated $50,000 of revenue through the service.
“When we started, we were focused on working with majors and the big independents, and we built artist stores and our own store, but we got bands coming to us saying ‘we love what you’re doing for Coldplay, can you do it for us?’” he says. So 7Digital created a DIY solution, IndieStores. 60,000 bands are using it.
How is 7Digital making money from this though? “What’s really interesting about it is that there is a revenue stream for bands, but other revenue streams have emerged,” he says, citing a campaign where Puma gave away music from some bands on IndieStore, and ended up using one in a TV ad.
Now Daniel Graf from Kyte, the online/mobile video firm. What can Kyte do for artists? “It’s a video platform – I would call it the next-generation media platform for the next decade,” he says. “It started with 50 Cent one year ago, he started using Kyte with a Nokia phone, livestreaming and fans could watch and interact with him. It’s like a community around him, so it’s about the artist engaging with the fanbase.
“Fiddy has now hit 55 million views of his Kyte channel, without any actual marketing investment (apart from whopping mobile data charges, presumably!). And now Kyte has signed a deal with UMG for its artists to use the service.
What’s the appeal? Online video is monetisable by sticking adverts in and around it, he says.Graf also stresses that this kind of video footage brings fans closer to the artists, because it’s NOT hyper-produced MTV style footage. Apparently John Legend met Stevie Wonder backstage at a gig last week, and streamed the meeting on his Kyte channel. Nice!
And hip-hop artist Consequence (I hope that’s how it’s spelt) – who showed off his new line of trainers last week on Kyte by taking his shoe off and filming it, and the next day it was all over the blogosphere.”
Kyte is not a destination, the destination is your MySpace site or your artist website,” says Graf, who says the company is keen to work with labels, touring companies and other music firms, charging a flat rate per month starting at a few thousand dollars, rising according to traffic.
The company just launched something called Kyte Premium aimed at smaller artists, which starts at $150 per month. That’ll come out of the food and petrol budget for some small bands, surely?
Now onto Mubito, a Scandinavian company whose tech allows labels, management firms and artists to build and manage their own websites, adding in widgets and components as they wish. They’ve also done some work on subscription services for artists. “It’s the platform that holds together a lot of the widgets we’ve been talking about, and it requires no programming knowledge,” says founder Andrew Martyn.
The firm is working with all four majors in Scandinavia, and some sites are outranking artists’ MySpace profiles. “We try to work with companies that manage a portfolio of artists. For labels, we have different pricing structures based on how big they are. It might be on a pure revenue share basis, or some prefer to pay a hosting fee, in that case we take less on the revenue share.”
What about unsigned artists just starting out, should they approach Mubito? He says yes, there’s a range of fixed-price packages, starting from a few hundred Euros plus a monthly hosting fee of around 20 Euros a month.
Successes? “We’ve done all of the X Factor and Idol competitions in the last twelve months, and in Denmark we accounted for about 20% of album sales of the winner through the official website,” he says. “We also shipped in the thousands of t-shirts and merchandise from that site as well.”
Now ReverbNation’s Michael Dorenberg. “More and more artists as a brand is becoming important,” he says. “So how do we find more and more ways to monetise these artists? It’s understanding that your brand is becoming more important. An artist value is really the relationship they have with their fans.
“So ReverbNation offers a “fan relationship management system”, allowing artists to capture their fans’ info, or harvesting data from social networks where they don’t control it already.
So, ReverbNation provides a set of widgets for artists, for example which play music or videos, and it measures what’s done with them – how many songs were played, whether the full song was played or not, whether it was shared and so on. “So we can say you’ve listened to a song five times, maybe you wanna buy it. Or you’ve shared it with some friends, how can we reward you for promoting the music?”
Are artists interested enough and savvy enough to make best use of the detailed data that comes back? “We struggle with this,” admits Dorenberg. “It’s like getting into the cockpit of a 767 without an instruction manual.”
He says that everybody’s talking about data at MidemNet this year, and now the key is figuring out how to analyse all that information and use it effectively. “The data gives you the clues you need to do the right things with customers at the right time,” he says.
Is this another thing for major label acts, though? Dorenberg says the site has 300,000 artists and is adding 15,000 every month, managing 10 million fans on their behalf. “I always thought it would be independent artists, but more and more major artists are using us too,” he says.
How do you make money though? “For us, there’s really two revenue streams. The basic service is free, and we hope it will stay that way as long as our venture capitalists keep funding us!” – but there are premium services on top of that, which artists pay for.
“How can we take this aggregate group of artists, and take this data and package them and make them powerful in the aggregate?” he says, saying this will drive new revenue streams.
And finally, Ian Rogers of Topspin. He talks about recent projects like The Fireman (Paul McCartney and Youth), the new Arcade Fire documentary, and the David Byrne and Brian Eno album – Topspin ran the back-end for all three – but has also worked for Josh Rouse, where fans can pay $30 for every song he’s released in the last nine months.”
Some of the most interesting things are bands you’ve never heard of,” he says. One band called Jubilee, who had four songs, sold a $20 access to everything they would record in the next year.
“I think we all agree at this point that the cost of production, while far from zero, has come down. The cost of distribution has certainly come down. But marketing is actually hard and getting harder – getting people’s attention in an increasingly crowded market.
“Why set up a company then? “Unfortunately I don’t think there’s enough companies building these kinds of tools,” says Rogers. “But it is crowded from the point of view that people have a lot of things to turn their attention to. The tools that everyone is building up here holds the promise of a middle class of artists – people who can make a living from their music.
“Is this about bypassing the label? “it’s not about bypassing the label at all,” says Rogers. “We’re working with major labels, smaller labels and artists.” What are the costs? It’s a rev-share on dollars that move through Topspin’s system – no setup fees, although Rogers says they’re only working with selected bands. “We’re trying to choose wisely the artists we’re working with, but there will be a more self-serve solution in due course.”
Do you need the label? Graf says yes (they have just signed a deal with UMG). But he says smaller artists who get the fastest traction is still through the label – like Lady Gaga – who started using Kyte very early on. “It was on MySpace, on her site, and on her mobile site.Is there a conflict brewing between who takes ownership of all this stuff?
Martyn says that some of this is dealt with by contracts at the moment, but that Mubito does let different elements manage different bits. “It is definitely an issue,” he says.
Now Rogers. “When you’re in business together and in partnership, there shouldn’t be an issue. It’s only when you part ways that you should have to go back to that contract and say who owns this?”
Now Dorenberg. “It’s a fundamental problem. I see new releases come out and I say ‘are you going to email the fanlist?’ and they don’t have it, or the tour promoter has a different fanlist…”
So, last question – what other tool should people know about (that’s not on this panel). Rogers says SoundCloud, Graf says Rhapsody – “they should get far more revenues! I don’t know why consumers don’t realise the value of that…”.
Drury says Spotify, “the free version not the paid-for version, which is the problem”. And also “for some reasons, LaLa.com”. Dorenberg says he’s gone blank. And that’s a wrap.