Mike does UK: Pt 2 – The Great Escape 2016
For the second installment detailing what learnings WAM CEO Mike Harris ‘ came across on his UK mission (Part 1 here), Mike headed to The Great Escape in Brighton. Two days of new informative musical discoveries are captured below, including topics such as musical data and who’s buying the hard stuff; building a more diverse and skilled industry; Spotify; DIY; Bandcamp; Google Analytics and much more to help the industry get ahead!
DAY ONE: Data
Both the days were split into two streams: Day one was Data or YouTube. I chose data – clearly I didn’t choose life! It is an important issue; good clean data leads to better intel about how to best monetise your music and embedded data also supports the process of monetising your music.
1 | Drowning in Data? Learn How to Swim
There is so much data available now: Sales | Consumption | Ticketing | Rights | mail sand social media analytics. What do you do with all that data?
- Spotify dude was promoting Spotify Artists Insights. Sign up and access your data in dashboard form, which gives you a better understanding to potentially better monetise your music.
- Find your most engaged fans and use them for direct sales (merch/music) and get them to help you further facilitate direct sales with less (but soon to be more) engaged fans.
- Build entire tours around this data, as you will know how/whom/when/where people are consuming your music and what else interests them. (Are people in Trondheim buying woolly Radiohead hats? Is this a) because it’s cold? b) poor taste? c) an opportunity exists to tour there and sell more woolly Radiohead hats?)
- Turn casual listeners into fans by understanding what they like and involving them in a call to action by giving them a fans-first campaign for tickets or merch.
- The Bandcamp rep promoted the ways Bandcamp fans feel they are directly engaging with artists and labels. Globally, on Bandcamp, albums outsell singles 5:1.
- Bandcamp plugs into Google Analytics and offers up data including #plays, #partial plays, #skips and offers the ability to drill right down. It offers buyer data at point of sale.
- Globally, Bandcamp fans pay more than the minimum set price (set by the artist) 40% of the time, which drives sales up by around 50%.
- Focused newsletters (label and artist) are an opportunity to develop very close relationships with fans.
- Some mob called StreetTeam (whom I’ve failed to track down on the interweb…) promoted setting up ambassador programs for artists that sees them sell tickets or promote acts to their peers/contacts. Within their programs 15% of ambassadors sell 60% of tickets and the ave ambassador value is >GBP800 (>$1700~).
- Bestival achieves approx GBP1600 ($3400~) in value per ambassador.
- Ambassadors are influencers more than tastemakers, and are rewarded with free tickets/drinks vouchers etc.
- The data relating to what each ambassador sells, or their reach becomes valuable to inform a better ambassador program as well as more conventional campaign planning.
- MUSO are piracy busters (https://www.muso.com/) who use data to engage with piracy users and turn them to legitimate consumers or shut down their piracy activities
By using BIG DATA to allow them to act at a more granular level to migrate pirate users, MUSO have made leaps and bounds into changing behaviors and attitudes. They claim an unspecified rate of success, but they did quote 34,000,000,000 (billion) acts of musical piracy in 2015, which is pretty massive!
The UK Music Managers Forum commissioned the report: Dissecting the Digital Dollar. It is from the UK perspective, and 76 pages long, but is quite informative, nonetheless. At 11 pages the Exec Summary may be more attractive. They are both below for you reading pleasure.
We certainly got jiggy with a lot of copyright ownership issues between mechanical and publishing rights (the bleeding obvious) and into digital, performance, broadcast rights. The difference between streaming such as Spotify v streaming such as Pandora. Collective licensing v direct licensing.
3 | Transparency Through Technology – and What the Hell is The Blockchain
Now we’re talking, this is where things got interesting as the Blockchain Theory (let’s call it that) was not universally agreed on but was a fascinating idea and partly, only partly, explained what the bloody hell Bitcoin is and how that works.
• Bitcoin transactions are a Blockchain. They are stored in blocks and absolutely open on the public record for anyone to see the transactions. This provides the transparent nature of Blockchain transactions. All transactions are in nodes rather than a central hub and paves the way for permanence of transactions.
• The application for music is a little bit abstract and/or debatable but the following are mooted as positives:
o Accurate and easily available copyright data (ie. who owns that song?)
o near instant micropayments (ie. get streamed: get paid now)
o Transparency through the value chain
o Authorship and attribution
o IP transfer and provenance
o The nexus of control
o ‘Fair trade’ music
o Cutting out the middleman.
• What might be the barriers to and disadvantages of, adoption?
o Issues relating to crypto-currencies (legal/regulatory/ethical/environmental/scalability)
o Potential for plurality
o Integrity of data
o How to reach a tipping point
o New artists v back catalogue
o Challenges presented by transparency
o resistance by incumbents.
• What would a fair trade music data base of songs look like?
o It would contain a minimum viable data (MVD)
o At least one wrier/publisher contact and payment data.
o At least one artist contact and payment data
• If this was adopted it would restrict players such as streaming services and YouTube to play only in Blockchain format ensuring each play was attributed to the correct rights holders and instantly making payment.
• The only people hurt by this would be those who profit from a lack of transparency and clarity of ownership and rights, or those whom withhold payments.
I do not claim to have understood half of what was discussed/promoted here but is was fascinating. It is all about transparency, and rights-holders getting their fair dues efficiently.
I have sought the presentation and when that comes in we’ll post this again.
- This comment was really apropos of nothing at this point: TV deals are done really quickly whereas music is comparatively slow, opaque and dishonest in comparison. This leads to lost business opportunities for artists.
- Sort of flowing from that – was the observation from Stephen King of http://www.believedigital.ca/ that they employ 37 FTEs just cleaning data on behalf of artists. He also believes that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy… Huh?
- ISWC and ISRC (ISMN) coding embedded in all digital tracks would make the issue of artists and songwriters getting their fair comeuppance go away. If Spotify insisted, for e.g., that no embedded coding/no play then after six months of carnage the problem would go away.
- Regarding the above: it can be fraught: Another One Bites The Dust has 59 ISWCs
- All territorial rights need to be qualified when embedding data
- Rights owners must justify any deductions to the artist, and also give the artists opportunity to review or consider the data. The issue is that there is an overwhelming amount of data proffered that makes it impossible to manage for most artists.
- Controversially Martin Goldschmidt from http://cookingvinyl.com/about/ stated that record labels “must move to looking after the interests of their artists not robbing them.” Fair point maybe. He went on to say they must be transparent in their contracting with third parties that impact on an artist and make those contracts available for an artist to peruse. (The issue here is that artists often have no idea of the deal between their label and third parties such as Spotify.)
- Please please please design a royalty statement that meets everyone’s needs and has no fluff. Allow artists to audit royalties to ensure they capture any issues early.
- There was lots of concern about session musicians getting their fair dues as well and the fairness of splits on streaming licences.
DAY 2: Who’s Buying Hard Stuff & Diversity, Skills and Well – Being
6 | Building a More Diverse Music Industry
Well, yes. How often is there a night out at a gig; four bands; 16 white boys on stage?!
Ewen Grant from the Notting Hill Academy of Music discussed their music course and its structure that is centered on employability and relevance. Students are ‘workplace installed’ within 6-9 months, and this is premised on longer courses (2-3 years) do not keep pace with the industry as it changes.
- 15 students on the course and five are on full scholarships, which ensures the right kids get a chance.
- All courses include entrepreneurship as what is the use of learning to be a musician and not understand the business? They also include the notion of DIY.
- Elsewhere in this session, there was discussion around employment – such as there exists an unconscious bias towards recruiting people who are like us. So anyone out there with, let’s say a full figure, bald and 50ish looking for work, WAM is the place for you. But seriously this is an issue when white males are the recruiters: the recruited often do not represent society’s diversity.
- If recruiters think about diversity in the Sourcing and shortlisting stages then this should not be necessary in the assessing and deciding stages of recruitment.
7 | Building a More Skilled Music Industry
- This touches on yesterday’s sessions, but this comment was a good one: The music industry hasn’t educated the General Public on Copyright as it hasn’t yet educated itself. Yep.
- The music industry has not traditionally put an emphasis on training and education, preferring the notion of training on the job, but, the massive evolution of the past 15 years and the greater complexity around that means that knowledge is key.
- Let’s face it training/seminars/workshops are just not very rock ‘n’ roll. Mind you, losing out on your rights or not taking opportunities isn’t very rock ‘n’ roll either in my book.
- A survey of 20 industry CEO’s and senior execs, when asked what is important at entry-level positions found, overwhelmingly, that it was that applicants have done relevant stuff. Hosted/presented gig nights, blogged, managed bands etc. (More important than training.)
- At mid-level it was knowledge beyond the silo, such as being involved in side projects and other activities. Network outside your silo. (Training is important at this level.)
8 | The Merch Market in Numbers (AKA Who the Hell is Buying Those T-Shirts?)
Yep – time to cross the floor, Mr. Speaker. Into the Who’s Buying this Stuff stream. Insights follow:
- The future of CDs is a bit like the future of vinyl; that of a premium product with enhanced packaging/inclusions.
- In 2015 (in the UK) Merch sales grew 3.2% with 16-24 and 25-34 age groups the most likely to buy. They buy online and through artists direct and merch sites as well as at gigs and specialised merch stores.
- Chance the Rapper puts all his music out for free and survives on merch sales to live. Big for him, are on-line customized t-shirts: pick you image and colour on the front and for the back as well as t-shirt style and colour.
- The only barrier is your imagination. Apparently Queen branded pinball machines are a huge seller. Who’d have thunked that?
- New bands should have a more complex/considered merch strategy that represents their reach and demographics that is not just t-shirts and stickers!
- Labels don’t always like Merch deals, unless it is merch that they are not at home with; they do like to control more traditional merch
9 | Getting the Most From Sales Channels
- The most important thing about the interweb (from a music point of view I imagine they mean…) is that the artists now know who their fans are and can have a direct relationship. They can understand them and make and take opportunities including cutting out the middleman. Selling direct to fans.
- But (Isn’t there always a but), in selling direct you are the retailer. If a t-shirt is the wrong size or a CD doesn’t work it used to be the retailer’s problem; now its yours.
- Punters with a subscription service are significantly less likely to buy music outside that service.
- https://www.musicglue.com/ stats show that 70% of artist-fan interaction is via the artist’s own website. But have everything available on that site and in local languages and in local currencies. It frustrates the punter when that doesn’t happen.
- Bundle other stuff with tickets! In the UK an average bundle sale returns GBP30 to the artist. But you must have relevant/current/premium product available.
- DIY or engage someone to do that for you (e.g. Ed Sheeran’s mum, but she might be busy.)
- Print direct to garment on order so you are not carrying unnecessary stock.
- This presenter didn’t seem to give a shit about sweatshops and the ethics around that. That’s up to you but it behooves us all to be as good as we can be, and this is an example. So, think about where you are getting your product from. That can be a sales feature in itself.
10 | Labels as Merch and D2F Partners
- Labels originally saw D2F (Direct To Fan) as a competitor, but many now see it as a key label function. As the value of the music industry dropped at the turn of the century labels needed new revenue streams and opportunities.
- It is no longer about first day/week sales. It is about sustained campaigns and more complex arrangements. It is about the fans and the super fans and a focus ahead of release dates.
- The label/artist/manager relationships have changed as have the legals around that. At the majors, this relationship is more driven by the artist managers. At indie labels, they are more likely to drive this. The label can actually put an artist one-stage removed from the fan. And labels tend not to spend on an artist between releases. (No this isn’t label bashing – but it was a view being promoted.)
- Premium product (such as coloured vinyl) increases the chance of fan engagement. Signed product can be a huge mover. Premium product can cover the cost of entire print run of CDs/records
- The worst thing any third party can do is have the rights to something they don’t know anything about; especially running an artists D2F relationships.
- Fans want direct interaction and access with/to artists. They can get the music anywhere; understand your audience and what they might want and make sure you offer that.
- Ensure your contracts do not tie you to anything working against you. (Yep, I’ve jumped to second person here – but this is an important point.) Do not sign away a royalty to a label/manager/agent/service who do not actually run that aspect of your business. For e.g. a clause in a label contract giving away a merch royalty unless they are actively/professionally running that business stream.
- Did I mention bundling? Promoters are increasingly up for this.
- The best results and therefore, the spoils, are the provenance of those who are prepared to put in the hard work.
- Customers! Fans are great, customers are better!
And there ended TGE 2016. I was sick as a dog by the end of day two and saw about ten bands only compared to last years 60+. I have been a bit harsh blaming that on Brighton balmy summer maximums of approx 13c, with an arctic wind accompanying that.
TGE remains a terrific conference and festival and well worth the visit. I hunkered down for five days to allow my lurgie to become entrenched as a chest infection. That was well planned and executed!
Thanks to the Catalyst arts funding program for supporting Mike”s UK travels.
Stay tuned for Mike does UK: Part 3 – Liverpool Sound City, new experiences.