In addition to writing (not at often as I’d like) for my own blog, each week I contribute a short post for the new LGBTA community site dot429. The producers of the site asked a small number of their founding members to do these weekly posts, and to make things easy on us, each week they provide a theme and then all the writers address that topic through whatever filter their particular area of expertise brings. In my case, the filter is social media and technology.
For the week of August 16, 2010 the theme was music. Though a big fan and appreciator of music and probably more educated than your average bear when it comes to the industry, figuring out an intelligent take on music through a social media lens, well, let’s just say I’m not the best source.
But I know the person who is.
In addition to being a dear friend and long time colleague, Brian Zisk is the producer of what has become the penultimate gathering for anyone and everyone looking at how technology shapes the music industry. The San Francisco Music Tech Summit – now in its 4th year and 7th iteration – brings together players from all parts of the music industry ecosystem for a single day of what is always informational and interesting discussion.
The following is the unedited version of a very brief interview posted on dot429.
You’ve been deeply steeped in music and technology, how have you seen, specifically with regards to social media, the music industry evolve in the last, say three years?
Traditionally, the biggest problem that the record industry has had is that they haven’t connected very well with the fans. The biggest reason people weren’t buying CDs from an artist who they loved when that artist had a new CD was that they didn’t know the artist had a new CD. It was very much that there was the artist, then there was the label and there would be the distributor then there would be the retailer then there would be the fan. Social media allows the fans to connect directly with their fans. You have artists who can promote to fans who can opt in to their Twitter lists, who can opt in to be connected on Facebook. The connection between the artist and the fan is the main thing that sustains the artist/fan interaction and social media has made that so much easier, better and more effective because there’s no bottleneck on it. It used to be that if you wanted to be popular (as a musician) you had to get on late night TV or you had to get on a major radio station. Now you can go out there and one by one connect directly with the folks who will support you and it is making, I think, for a healthier music ecosystem. It might be a smaller music ecosystem…
Let’s talk about that because the phenomenon you’re talking about also results in a splintering (of the music industry). In this social media world instead of having a handful of major labels and a smaller subset of indie labels that served as the main clearinghouse for new music, you now have artists going directly, you have new kinds of labels…on the discovery front, this also makes the act of (music) discovery a lot more challenging for the end user. There are lots of tools that have come out. What are some you’ve seen?
That’s a really interesting question because it drills down into the question of what causes people to like music and truthfully in most cases it’s not solely the notes and the tone and the melody, it’s very much the social context. It’s what your friends like. It’s what your social group likes. So LaLa was doing this pretty well, Spotify is doing it well, though not in the US, companies like Rdio – they make it very easy to see what’s popular with your friends so there are plenty of automated technologies ranging from EchoNest to Pandora and all of those that will say “Oh, if you like X … you may like Y” but what’s much more powerful is if all of a sudden you find out that you trust these five friends and they’re all listening to this new band. It’s these social filters that services like Rdio and even extending to things like YouTube and StumbleUpon (the filters) drive people to the music that they are likely to enjoy on a social basis. The other thing still is, the major media is still (around) but what happens now is, you know, you’ll have (the TV show) Glee. They will glorify a musician and it will be the most popular show but the ancillary effects of everybody going online and being able to see the behind the scenes, see how they choreographed the dances, and all of that stuff – (using social media) it adds much more context to this mass exposure
The San Francisco Music Tech Summit is now in its 6th year?
It is the 7th iteration of the show, it is the fourth year we’ve done the show. There have been years (like 2010) where we do two. The next one is December 6 and we’ve been confirming some amazing people already!