Former Cooking Vinyl digital marketer Sammy Andrews has become a familiar face at music-industry conferences over the past year.
Now independent, her keynote speech at this week’s FastForward conference in Amsterdam wrapped up several of the strands she’s talked about before – access to data, the crossover between streaming and ticketing, virtual reality and more – in a call for more “convergence”.
Here are some of the highlights:
Artists must be at the centre of the industry’s digital shifts
“The future of our industry is our artists. Without them, we are fucked. It’s something that we forget far too often: if we don’t have any music to sell, we don’t have an industry. if we don’t have any bands out touring, we don’t have an industry.
So often when I do these events talking publicly, talking about the industry, and no fucker talks about the artists!… But in nurturing those artists, we should hopefully have a sustainable and thriving industry.”
Streaming is not the enemy for artists and songwriters
“I’m a well-known streaming advocate, on the whole. As long as our artists are getting paid, I’m happy with streaming. I don’t think we’re there with a lot of things yet though… On top of any money we’re able to gain from streaming, there’s serious currency within the data…
The rates per stream: have we got those right yet? I don’t think so, but the reason I don’t think so is that streaming is still a baby. Although I believe it’s the future, and now we can see it working and we know the consumption methods have changed, that pie is still tiny.
What I do believe is that if we nurture streaming services, working with them, we can grow that pie and get into places where there isn’t currently a streaming infrastructure… in countries where there is still no data infrastructure, no internet and no data plans on mobiles.”
Metadata is a ‘clusterfuck’ but the problem can be solved
“We are in such an amazing age of data. We’ve never received more. We get trillions of lines of data: every time a song is played somewhere a transaction takes place. But are we able to pay the people that wrote those songs, that are the rights owners and licensees? Not efficiently yet…
I can’t talk about metadata, and the global clusterfuck that is metadata without talking about the Global Rights Database. There have been loads of attempts at this, and for all of this system to work, we need a global rights database. The fact that we have so much music around there, and we can’t assign the correct rights or make sure that people are paid is ridiculous…
PRS for Music are continuing on a project called ICE which involves several collection agencies merging data into a database. It is not a GRD but it is a step in the right direction of getting all that data into one place.
Auddly, if you haven’t heard of that I’d advise you to check it out. It’s a brilliant new company: a piece of software trying to make a difference. A producer, when he’s finished a session with a band, before he exports that out he can put in all the rights: and songwriters can sit and input the rights. They can argue the songwriting splits, they can input session musicians. So that right from the source, the second that piece of music is created, a rights database is created and put in the system.
Spotify and the publishers? This bothers me slightly, but it’s also great that Spotify are doing it. I don’t believe that any one DSP should have a global rights database. O think that’s a little bit backwards. i think we need a central or decentralised potentially database that all the DSPs can feed from, rather than them doing it on their own.
So if spotify go and build one, which is great, it means we’ll get probably a lot less lawsuits, but what about Apple, or Deezer? Are they going to access Spotify’s database? i think that’s a little bit backwards.”
The industry should ‘draw a line’ over bad data
“A lot of the time when the GRD falls down it’s because we as an industry cannot agree on anything! We can’t agree who wants to pay for it, who wants to fucking do it. And also people are worried about backdated rights and backdated data, which is quite frankly corrupt.
Over the years we had songs from the 50s, 60s, 70s, even the 80s: the data frankly doesn’t exist any more or it’s inputted as incorrect. My suggested solution for that is perhaps we should form an industry-wide amnesty. At some point, as an industry, we hold our hands up and go ‘That didn’t fucking work!’ but we’ll say everything up to a certain date where we know data is corrupt, let’s draw a line there as an industry.
Have a certain set of rules and a certain set of standards that apply to that data. And anything going forward from there applies to a new set of rules which is inputted into a global rights database. I don’t think there’s another way around it.”
Artists need more data on their fans from the streaming services
On a really basic level, just from socials, analytics and retargeting, bands have access to these things: who they are, where they are. But no real means of contacting them unless you have their email address, or unless you want to pay for it through Facebook or Twitter.
But if I go on Spotify or another DSP and I stream a song, this is just some of the data trail I leave behind me: if I’ve skipped a track, the device ID specific to the device i’m listening on, the source – where did i come from, did i come from a playlist, how did i land on that track? – my gender, the year i was born, territory, and the time that i listened…
Why is that important? We can place ads at the right times when we know when people are online listening. For labels as well as bands, we can advertise other relevant music and artists to these people when they’re online listening.”
Spotify and Apple could run ‘the ultimate festival’ based on data
“Bearing in mind all of that data that they’re collecting, and they also have email addresses for all of our fans, Spotify or Apple could curate the ultimate fucking festival, if they wanted to, based on our listening habits.
They can not only see what we’re immediately listening to, what we’re listening to before then, after then, how we got there. Right down to they can predict what clashes we wouldn’t want to see.”
Streaming services could disrupt the live-industry establishment
“My gripe with a lot of the live industry: I come from a metal background. I like Metallica and Iron Maiden as much as my friends, but I don’t want to see them headline every festival ever, for the rest of time. The live scene for me has become really really stale… We are not nurturing next year’s headliners very well…
The most crucial things when we are talking about the data: the DSPs have got their [fans’] email addresses. We’ve all got phones in our pocket that they can push a notification to. But they don’t… They’re testing some stuff, but on the whole they’re not. And crucially, artists do not have access to this data… There is no direct way to contact the people who are listening to your music…
Pandora bought Ticketfly, and they sold thousands of tickets in 24 hours for the Rolling Stones… Spotify have tested an email out to top listeners. ‘You’re a top listener, do you want access to these tickets?’ That’s incredible, when you think about the potential of that for the whole industry.
If we can access our top listening fans, and I mean top listening fans, not someone who’s saved a track to a playlist weeks ago. Someone that listens to that band every week, or a few times a month, or has listened to an album a few hundred times. Those are the people we wanna be getting in to gigs.
“And those are also the people that the live monopolies currently sell tickets to. So if all the streaming services start selling tickets, that will be hugely disruptive to the live scene as we know it, and especially to the ticketing agencies.”
There should be more technology used in concerts
“When we have people in a room together at a show, we’re not using any form of technology really to interact with them while they’re there.
If you go into the V&A Museum in London, and you walk around, you can interact directly with all the exhibitions that are there using beacons. If you walk past something and you’ve got the app, you can instantly interact with it.
I’ve never really understood why as a music industry, if we’re all there at a gig and having a really lovely night… on the way out, as you are leaving, why not be using location-based technology to push a notification to those people that have just had a really nice time saying ‘Enjoyed the gig? Do you want to have a free album?’
We haven’t even started looking at this. Some of the festivals in europe have experimented with it. I’ve experimented with it at a club night, and it worked really really well. but we’re not doing it on a big scale, and that worries me slightly.
It’s just another way, I think, of showing that our industry is a little bit far behind the curve on tech. We know it’s there, but we don’t know how to make use of it.”
Let’s look at how blockchain technology can help musicians
“We have a terrible, terrible problem with the lack of transparency in this industry. Our artists don’t believe anything, and I don’t blame them. They’ve got labels doing deals and they don’t know what’s happening. No one knows who owns what any more, no one knows who’s got an equity stake…
Blockchain solves a lot of those problems by making a lot of things publicly available… And instant transactions. Blockchain would allow an instant transaction and an instant payment to rightsholders. At the moment – and it feels a little bit archaic to say this out loud – artists have to wait sometimes a year to get paid!
If I go on now and play a song on any streaming service, most artists will have to wait at least six months, maybe a year, sometimes longer if the data’s corrupt, to receive a payment. Does that not seem a little bit outrageous, when I could transfer any of you £10 right now from my phone?
Blockchain is not without its issues, and I’m absolutely not saying that it is the ideal solution, but this, tied in with a global rights database, whether it’s centralised or decentralised, and trying to get access to all of this data from the DSPs will help us make real, live, actionable decisions off the back of it, build relationships, get more data into the industry, and nurture the very people that we need to survive.”
The music industry needs to stop squabbling
“It honestly baffles me that we spend so much time squabbling over bullshit in this industry without looking at what’s directly in front of us, and the potential to use some technologies that are there.
Whether they work or not is a different thing, but at least as an industry we can agree. What is our option: to not do it? To carry on as we are now, to squabble over lawsuits, to allow our artists and our songwriters not to be paid properly when they should be paid?
I don’t think that is an option, so the only option we have is to look to new technologies, to agree as an industry that we have to do something else.”
Virtual reality is going to be ‘massive’ – including for music
“When I was talking earlier about the digital services selling tickets, what I’m also referring to is them selling virtual reality experiences. VR is going to be massive this year… it’s honestly mindblowing, some of the applications for it, and we’ve only just scratched the surface with it in music.
Universal have put their stake in the ground and invested, and we know that a lot of the digital services are as well… Apple are heavily recruiting for VR, and we know Apple have video capability.
As a music lover, I’m always probably going to want to go and stand in a field, get really drunk with my mates and watch a band, but there are millions of people who are not going to want to do that. And this could be a great incremental revenue into the industry if we do it right.
We know that in the UK, all the major televised sporting events are setting up for VR, to be able to transmit live VR. It’s exactly the same process for us, but we’re only just at the very beginning…
I think this could be huge for the industry as a new format, and I really don’t think it’s going to detract from the current live scene. I think there’ll be people like me that will always want to go to a gig and have that experience, but it could be a new, additional revenue stream – and a creative outlet to do something really cool.”
Don’t be pessimistic about the future
“I genuinely genuinely believe that this is a new era for the music industry. I’m very heavily against all the naysayers who say we’re completely fucked. We’re not completely fucked! What we are is a little bit lost.
There are ways that we can make this industry so much better, but there are at the moment a lot of old guard around… When piracy took hold, I feel like we as an industry put our head in the sand. ‘If we don’t look maybe it will go away!’ And it didn’t go away.
Streaming and then a lot of new technologies provided answers to problems that we’ve had that in some way we created ourselves by ignoring. But now more than ever, and especially with all the lawsuits taking place at the moment, they’re not going to go away. We can use this to actually draw a line in the industry, and collaborate globally.
I’m talking trade organisations, labels, artists. Everybody. Let’s just fucking agree we need to do something and make it happen.”