Stuart Dredge from Music Ally reports from the final panel session of today’s MIDEM Manager Summit, which focused on fan data, and the ownership thereof… Also watch this session in full, only on midem.com!

With moderator Ajax Scott (left) the panellists are (left to right) Myke Brown of Tata Young Management in Thailand (he manages Tata Young), Jean-Charles Carré from Gumprod (David Guetta), Todd Interland of Twenty-First Artists (Lily Allen, James Blunt), HMV’s live manager Jason Legg and Ian McAndrew from Wildlife Entertainment (Arctic Monkeys).

So who manages the artist-fan relationship? The managers, you’d think. McAndrew addressed the topic first. “We’re much more in the driving seat today than we were in the past,” he said, saying that artist websites ten years ago were one of the turning points. “The relationship we govern and manage between the acts we represent and their fans is a crucial part of our business.”

Interland agreed. “I feel quite protective of it in many ways,” he said, highlighting issues around the intent to share information from labels and artists, which isn’t always followed through by actual sharing of that information.

Carre said that his organisation controls everything on the database relating to David Guetta, although it then shares that information with Guetta’s label and other partners. Guetta has 1.9 million fans on his Facebook page, apparently.

Myke Brown offered a perspective from Asia, saying that in the future, the way Asian labels handle artists will change. “Currently they’ve been almost indentured servitude!” he said, while stressing that this doesn’t not apply to every label. Just the majority of them. “If they decide to leave the label, they lose all their music and pretty much start out with nothing,” he said.

HMV’s Legg offered the retailer’s perspective on evolving relationships with music fans. The company has traditionally had its web database of users, with 1.2 million active subscribers who buy music regularly from HMV.com. However, its launch of a ticket site and investing in live music firm MAMA Group, it’s brought in more databases.

The company has also launched a loyalty scheme, which currently has just under one million customers. But does the company share the data? It’s beginning to share ticketing data, especially when it works with artists direct. “We can harness that data for your products as well,” he said. So HMV tried to drive sales of the last John Mayer album by bundling them with ticket sales for gigs in its venues.

McAndrew talked about the need to protect fans’ data, so they know their information isn’t being passed around willy-nilly. Meanwhile, Interland used his client Lily Allen as an example to show how different elements are competing. Allen’s record company is trying to build a database of fans which Twenty-First Artists has nothing to do with, yet Allen herself controls her MySpace completely.

Carre talked about how he manages David Guetta’s web presence. He has a three-person team – one to design the website, one for data and CMS, and one to produce the content, including audio and video. Meanwhile, Twenty-First Artists tends to use consultants to handle its projects instead, though.

Brown said that it’s not just a question of “getting the databases”, but about how managers are going to use them. So when looking at taking an artist into a new country, he digs into his database to judge whether it’s worthwhile, for example.

Everyone seems to want to ‘monetise’ the data around artist-fan relationships, but how much more is there to it than that? Moderator Ajax Scott asked about how managers are fostering longer term relationships.

Carre pointed out that people who’ve signed up to David Guetta’s database only get free content – “the money comes from the music and the ticketing,” he said. “The website for us is the free area.”

Interland said he hasn’t given monetisation much thought – “it’s more about developing a relationship, at least initially”. Meanwhile, McAndrew said Wildlife is taking a more long-term view – will fans come to a show or buy an artist’s records in the future, for example.

He also talked about the potential for the future in taking more control over ticketing – the idea that bands might be able to sell all the tickets for a tour to their fan database, rather than putting them on general release being one example.

Legg said HMV has been looking to strike deals like the one for John Mayer – where people buying his album got access to tickets 48 hours in advance. And they’re working with a range of people – management, labels and promoters – to make all this work. It varies dramatically between artists too – “horses for courses”.

Moderator Scott asked about data and contracts – will there be more attention focused on who owns the various databases – websites, Twitter, ticketing? McAndrew said that any artist deal nowadays will “require them to pass over those rights in the deal – or would be pressured to do so”. However, he says many of the independent artists that Wildlife works with were able to retain those rights.

What kind of information are managers getting from sites like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook? McAndrew said he’s not necessarily interested in harvesting that information, while Carre said he sees those sites solely as a way to redirect fans to his artist’s own website, where he can get them to sign up.

Which of those platforms gets the best response from fans? “For now it’s Facebook and YouTube,” said Carre. “They’re the two websites that provide a lot of contacts.” However, Interland said Twitter, while McAndrew and Brown said Facebook too. Nobody said MySpace – interesting, given that site’s current focus on improving its artist services.

Is it not helping managers any more? “I think MySpace is going through a bit of a crisis really,” said Interland. “It seems to have lost its potency.” Which, when you think about how closely Lily’s rise to fame was identified with the site, is a pretty significant statement.

Finally, the managers were asked how they see things developing in the next five years. HMV’s Legg looked forward to HMV “taking the place of the traditional record label” as it expands its activities in music – an intriguing statement.

Meanwhile, Carre thought that artist websites will become even more important as they start to sell music directly to fans.


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Stuart Dredge

Stuart Dredge is a freelance journalist, and a regular contributor to Music Ally, The Guardian and more... including midemblog :)

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