Tim Westergren August 2021

Livestreaming music startup Sessions is launching some new tools to help artists build audiences and make money on its service.

Branded as ‘Fan Forward’, it’s partly about the company’s own AI-powered marketing technology (dubbed ‘Makenoise’) that “amplifies digital marketing across 54 different ad networks in 195 countries in 18 languages on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok and more”. But also about tools to make money from superfan subscriptions.

Atlantic-signed Why Don’t We have been testing it out, and Sessions says that in their first month they have built a “seven-figure recurring revenue business” with their 927 Club membership, which offers fans monthly livestreams, behind-the-scenes content, exclusive merch and virtual meet’n’greets.

Sessions is very clearly taking aim at the current controversies around Spotify’s ‘two-sided marketplace’, including Discovery Mode and its marquee ads. “Artists do not spend money on Fan Forward; this platform spends money on the artists, over 3,000 of them every week already,” is the company’s pitch.

CEO Tim Westergren is the guest on our latest Music Ally Focus podcast, which is out this morning, and he had some fairly blunt views on Spotify’s current strategy, influenced by his time in charge of Pandora, which explored similar ideas around paid promotion.

“It’s a very logical thing for Spotify to do. I mean, it’s a way to reduce content cost, and there’s a very logical appeal to an artist who’s looking for more exposure. But to me… it’s reducing income in exchange for marketing, which has been the formula for an artist since forever… The question has to be: what’s on the other side of this?” said Westergren.

“What’s the streaming worth to you? Where are you as an artist? Where do you hope to go in five or 10 years? And frankly, what do we want this music industry to look like in 10 years? Because the way it’s going right now, in 10 years it’s going to be a few multi-trillion-dollar music platforms.”

“And those platforms will be populated probably mostly by music made by computers. If not made by computers, made by work-for-hire: some small, very small number of sort-of pop hacks, that will be consuming most of the bandwidth. And then these millions of artists and songs spinning rarely on the surface. That’s kind of a natural progression,” he continued.

“And for the compensation to be one tenth of what it is right now, because there’s a natural quest. And again, I speak from experience. When Pandora became a public company, the single issue that was at the top of mind of every investor at every conference was the cost of content. And the company’s future rested on reducing that in some capacity. So you have this unfortunate situation where the platforms through which music is consumed are incentivised to reduce the cost, or the value of it.”

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