midemblog: Do you think labels are adapting to technology fast enough?
Bas Grasmayer: As a streaming service, quite a few of the labels we deal with now have CTOs (chief technology officers), who take care of all of the technical stuff, and even get apps developed. But we notice a lot of other labels are not thinking about it, because they consider music and technology as separate things, and they have no idea what they should be thinking about.
> What do you consider as some of the best recent music-meets-tech practices?
Björk’s Biophilia app is often cited in cases like this. It’s interesting because when you look at the credits, over a hundred people made that app. I could be wrong, but big albums are made by 20, 30, maximum 40 people… I also liked We Make Awesome Sh’s Calvin Harris app, where you could only hear his new album if you were dancing. It didn’t cannibalise sales, and it gave fans a cool tool to preview the album, and helped them to feel more connected with the music and the artist. It’s hard to find best music-meets-tech practices, as labels tend to think ‘put the music out, and the rest will follow’. But now, we have these devices in our pockets that are more powerful than our computers were five years ago. That opens up a lot of potential. Or if you consider that now with iTunes you can create functionality around the music that you can charge for separately, thereby creating new sources of revenue, that’s a great new development.
> Are labels making progress when it comes to social media?
It depends. Spinnin’ Records have a really powerful social media approach, notably with their YouTube channels. What’s even more interesting, though, is how a lot of labels now get started out. Say there’s a certain sub-genre starting somewhere (such as moombahton in 2012, chronicled by Grasmayer here). Some guy starts a blog and puts all the music on there. Then bedroom producers start sending that blog exclusives, and slowly that blog starts turning into a label. They may also start off as a YouTube channel, like UKF, which started out simply curating dubstep. So as today a lot of new music companies are born out of social media, they have a more natural approach than if they had set up a traditional company and then wondered what they were going to do with social media.
> What do you make of new models like Other People, Nicolas Jaar’s bookclub-style label, where fans get two new tracks per week for $5/month?
That’s a lot like drip.fm (ed.: it was inspired by it), where you can subscribe directly to labels. It’s good for labels with strong identities, like Fool’s Gold and Mad Decent. There’s a lot of potential in fanclub-type services. You can let people be a part of something, and maybe even create a bit of competition, for example by saying things like ‘become one of our 1000 biggest fans to access the livestream’. Fans can either influence their way in, or pay their way in. That’s happening right now, but in a fragmented way. I expect we’ll be seeing more of that soon, but on a bigger scale.