Reinventing the music industry is not about one solution, but many. That was the introduction given by moderator Virginie Berger this morning, for a panel discussion aiming to spotlight ‘the next generation’s voice’.

The panel (left to right): Jeff Castelez, CEO of Dangerbird / The Pablove Foundation; Emily White, co-founder of Whitesmith Entertainment; Berger; Mathieu Drouin, founder of Crystal Math Management; and Toby Langley, founder of Transgressive and Rockfeedback.

The discussion began with some major label-kicking. “I saw people having meetings about meetings about meetings,” said Castelez, referring to the way he saw major labels dealing with artists. “When artists come into our offices… people comment that they get a feeling that it’s people who actually like music.”

“We’re creating a business around the artist, and we strongly believe in artists owning their own rights,” said White, on her company’s approach.

“By definition, those who are trying to push the industry forward are in a cottage industry,” said Drouin, who sets up companies for the artists that he manages, to assign their rights to. “I’m a capitalist at the end of the day more than a music guy!”

He worked with Metric – one of the success stories of D2C music. “If you have 10,000 fans, you have the basis of a business, and you can grow it quickly… If you can give your fans the tools and the incentives to do the marketing for you, they will. That was what we focused on.”

Castelaz chimed in saying that “we’re talking about doing business deals [with artists], rather than signing them to record deals“.

Langley said that Transgressive wants to be seen as a ‘badge of quality’, finding challenging and beautiful music (“…and then thinking about how the f*** we’re going to fund it!”). But he counselled that flexibility is the key, rather than trying to be a one-stop shop that does everything for artists. “You have to be opportunistic in the right way.”

How involved are artists in a company like Transgressive’s decisions? Langley said the company is completely transparent about all aspects of its business with them. Drouin, meanwhile, says Crystal Math also bases its relationships on “trust and transparency”.

This is going to be a big year for a shakeout, when finally people who aren’t delivering value are going to fall off the map,” he said.

White stressed the importance of catering to every fan when you’re a company working around an artist, from the casual fans who just want a download in exchange for an email address, to the more hardcore.

Metric spent $3,500 on paid-for advertising for their last album, which sold hundreds of thousands of copies. “The distributor wanted to buy a strip-ad in the LA Times,” said Drouin, pointing out that the best video of a single from the album was also made for $498.

Castelaz also had strong views on the gloominess that has been pervading the industry in recent years. “We have to stop reading press about how bad the music business is. It’s a disruption that is not healthy for us. We need to be disruptive in other ways… We have to just turn that noise down, because it really is misleading.”

“Mindshare of the press is coming from people running multi-national corporations,” added Drouin.

The panel also talked about how they’re not just giving content away – White said that even when music is free for fans, companies are getting email addresses and useful data – for example location data of the fans downloading and listening, which can be used to plan tours.

Time for another case study: Castelaz talked about The Dears using Ustream for a weekly webcast, in which they played a new song every time from their upcoming album. “We have to encourage advocacy and conversation between the artist and the fans,” he said.

One artist made $250,000 on a world tour by offering ‘last minute VIP experiences’ to fans – going backstage, having dinner with the band, or even playing basketball with them – all driven by Twitter and their mailing list to get fans to bid each night for the special.

Drouin summed up. “You used to be completely dependent on a machine over which you had no control, and if it stopped paying attention to you, you had NO way to communicate with those fans… If there’s one thing you do, do everything you can to engage with your fans, and own that relationship.”


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Stuart Dredge

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


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    I love this story. It does take grassroots interest…and all of us pushing ahead are quite alone. For artists, even labels, they continue to miss opportunities provided in social tools and ad tools to propel news and content. All labels could easily invade social media if their own employees began to champion their own music.

    Metric …is an interesting example, but, they were also championed for over five years by Alex Luke, formerly of iTunes, at events, radio, etc. They had a leg up.

    Post, practice and post some more. Like the Matrix…there is no spoon, see the code in real time…and perform with it.

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