The Midem conference has a high-profile new keynote speaker from the artist community: Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park.

He’ll be speaking on 7 June at the event, as well as being a jury member in its Midemlab startups competition.

Shinoda knows a thing or two about startups: he’s also the co-founder of Machine Shop Ventures, an early-to-growth stage venture fund that has invested in tech firms like Lyft, Robinhood and Shyp. He’s also an advisor to Spotify and Sonos.

With Midemlab in mind, we asked Shinoda what attracts him to a tech startup.

“Even before we launched Machine Shop’s VC fund, when I was approached with any offer, I wanted to meet the founders. Even if they have a great idea and a great plan, those things often hit roadblocks and need to change, sometimes dramatically,” he said.

“And success in navigating those times comes down to the leadership. In our own band, I feel blessed to have five other friends who all have different talents and perspectives. In our band, that synergy makes it tick, and keeps things inspired.”

Shinoda and his bandmates were early to the idea of engaging with and investing in tech startups, although this has since become more common for musicians with the money and interest to explore this sector.

“For me, technology and music are like left and right hands. They’re two parts of the same thing. Music making and performance software is really powerful right now, there isn’t anything I feel that isn’t possible,” said Shinoda.

“It’s such a great time to be an artist. I used to have a studio rig the size of a refrigerator in the back of our bus when we started our career. Now, I’ve literally got more powerful software in my phone.”

There has been plenty of debate in recent years about whether this is really a great time to be an artist, particularly as streams have started to replace sales as the primary means of music consumption.

Formed in 1996, Linkin Park’s career has encompassed the Napster-fuelled rise of filesharing, the subsequent decade-long slump in recorded-music sales, and the emergence of iTunes and music-download stores, and now streaming.

Mike Shinoda

How does Shinoda feel about streaming and how it’s working for him as an artist, but also for younger, emerging musicians?

“I think the real question is, what are artists doing to understand their fans? Streaming has long been the future of the music industry, and the inevitable is finally here: everyone is streaming, so now everyone has mountains of data to help them understand what to do,” he said.

“But I always remind young artists, it’s not really about the marketing and the social media. It’s about ‘the song’. Each time we start a new song or album, the underlying foundation – what is it about? What are the words, vocal melody, and chords? – that’s where the rubber meets the road. Once you’ve got that, it makes everything else a hell of a lot easier to figure out.”

We expect to hear more about Shinoda’s views on the industry, and the prospects for young artists, during his Midem keynote.

As he prepares to judge the show’s crop of music/tech startups, which technologies are firing his enthusiasm? Augmented reality is one of the techs that he’s monitoring.

“AR is interesting because I’m excited to see the opportunities for artists and creators, to make experiential content that not only integrates with your life, but moves us on a emotional or spiritual level,” said Shinoda.

“Too often, when a new technology comes out, the content made for the technology relies too heavily on the trick of the platform, like VR. Nobody wants the ‘plop a VR camera in a car and drive around’ for more than a minute.”

“We need VR and AR experiences that tell us stories, make our lives more interesting, inspire us. On that note, I like some of the things Chris Milk is doing, and I’m excited to see what happens with Magic Leap.”

The submission deadline for the Midemlab contest is 20 March, so there is still time for startups to enter in one of four categories – music creation and education; music discovery and distribution; marketing and data/analytics; and experiential technologies.

Disclosure: Music Ally is a partner for Midemlab, alongside bluenove, Northzone, 500 Startups, FrenchWeb, Paris&Co and STHLM Music City.

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