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FutureSound Conference Highlights: Innovation Drove the Discussion

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Last week's second annual Billboard FutureSound conference in San Francisco brought speakers from all facets of the music and tech relationship to speak about innovation in the music industry.  Labels, investors, start-ups, rights agencies, artists, managers and music platforms all gathered for a positive discussion looking at the future. 

Speakers included keynotes with Deadmau5, Marc Geiger, Don Was, and Fred Wilson, and panels and presentations with Bandcamp, Bandpage, Beatport, BMI, EMI, Epitaph Ford Motor Company, Getty Images, Google,  Gracenote, GVC Capital, Rhapsody, SoundExchange, TAG Strategic, Topspin, WME, WMG and more.

 Bill Werde, Editorial Director for Billboard opened the conference highlighting it as somewhat of passion project for the team at Billboard who “believe in the future of digital music".  Discussing the theme of innovation, he added; “We're not looking to poke sticks, we're looking to find solutions"

Compensation and Licensing:  The Day 1 issue of the discussion was the difficulty of licensing - although the need to overhaul and standardize a licensing compensation model that works was apparent throughout both days of discussion.  While compensation, accountability, transparency, and fairness stood out as the concerns, the real issue was lack of knowledge and understanding of the challenges that what each party faces.

The real real solution seemed to be for parties to work together in order to develop an industry wide compromise.  As the panel on Innovation & Licensing discussed, the pointing of fingers at each other is what creates problems.   DDEX was used as an example of labels, publishers, and services that have simplified their processes by working together rather than against one another.

The Fan Pyramid:  Different variations of the fan pyramid (or funnel depending on the speaker) were presented by Google's Tim Quirk, Topspin's Ian Rogers, and GGV Capital's Hany Nada, and referenced by speakers throughout.  There are different levels of how fans interact and support an artist, and purchase their music.

Casual listeners are the largest category of a fan with lowest spending (if any) and lowest engagement.  The higher the fan loyalty, the easiest to monetize and engage fan group.  The key message was to recognize and engage different fans differently depending on their level of fan loyalty - including the levels in between.

Streaming and Fan Discovery: David Marcus, SVP of Worldwide Artist Services, WMG later elaborated on how streaming plays a bigger role into the fan ecosystem “streaming ...is important to get people into the pyramid...first you have to entertain people, they have to feel excited about something...streaming leads into that"

Monetization and The Fan:  Hany Nada used the now infamous case of Amanda Palmer to drive home a well built point on learning to engage and recognize the different types of fans.  48% of the million dollars raised by Amanda Palmer's Kickstarter campaign came from only 4% of Amanda's fans.  An artist's loyal supporters are willing to pay much more than the casual listener. The need to appreciate and engage the other 96% however, were just as important for Amanda's campaign to hit the famous million dollars.

“The way we monetize music is to figure out what drives the fans.  I don't think we're doing that today." Concluded Nada  “If anyone knows how to do that, give me a call."

Billboard's Innovators Showcase: Derrick Fung, CEO of Tunezy - the winner for the challenge - demonstrated that what drives fans, is the opportunity to connect on a closer level with an artist.  His start-up brings indie artists thousands of dollars by selling experiences like Skype calls, or merchandise like handwritten song lyrics.

Fung's story captured the audience and the entire point of the event.  A year after spending his vacation attending Billboard's first ever FutureSound event, Derrick Fung stood on the stage and told the audience of how inspired he had been.  He thought, “now is the time for innovation" cashed in his bonus, and quit his job.

Tunezy beat GetMixxdplayground.fm, swarm.fm, and Tixie from the shortlist of start-ups chosen to demo at the event.

Direct to Fan: Topspin's CEO, Ian Rogers discussed the correlation of bundling music and the profitability of the music industry.  While music sales will likely never return to full-album purchase at just under $20 an album, there is large opportunity for the artist in bundling.  The loyal fans are willing to pay a high premium for exclusive or bundled product and fan experiences.

Emily White, Co-Founder of Whitesmith Entertainment had an even simpler way of looking at the direct-to-fan approach; “the highest margin we see is direct-to-fan, so that is where we prioritize".

Direct to Fan Challenge: “For the casual listener, how do I reach that casual fan to tell them I have a show next week?  Asked “Zoe Keating, Artist.  “The connections of fans aren't available to us" said David Marcus about the lost potential opportunities with music services. 

Bandcamp, CEO and Co-Founder Ethan Diamond built on the missed opportunities in the music industry.  While Bandcamp does provide fan contacts and data to artists, “the crime is that most artist's don't go in to get their data."


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