midemblog: Your members are DIY artists. What do they expect of publishers? A ‘light touch’, or a hands-on approach?
Hessel van Oorschot: The majority of our artists are very realistic. They seem to understand a basic concept: the more time they invest in putting their music out there, the more opportunities that open up. Tribe of Noise, as a music licensing company, regularly experiments with new business models. The most effective way for us to know if we’ve hit the mark is by inviting our members to participate and test-drive them. We have invested in a community management team to reach out to our members and keep an open dialogue; find out what’s working with their music, what’s not, and generally encouraging them to stay active. Our members are our biggest asset as they are directly responsible for our all rights included music catalogue. A music catalogue in general is a static thing, people buy your license or not and move on to your competitor. A community of DIY artists is organic and dynamic. Collectively our members have hundreds of thousands of songs on the shelf, ready to go or in their heads, ready to record.
> What makes you think that music publishers could be taking advantage of more digital opportunities than they are right now? Why haven’t they done so up until now?
We all know this: change is scary! So if you are running a successful business since the dawn of mankind and your year-to-year revenue is still relatively ok (compared with the rest of the music industry) then the thing lacking here is a sense of urgency. My philosophy: fix the roof before the rainy season starts. First thing to do, digitise every single contract you have. Yes, even the ones piled in warehouses with the bands and artists you haven’t done business with in years! The more you input into a digital database the easier it is for you to catalogue, organise and analyse. If you don’t believe in the long tail then forget about my last remark.
To take the next step you have to start listening to the problems of your customer. They need a simple, easy to understand, 100% legal licensing deal now. The standard license agreement needs to change because they need the music in higher quantities and in faster moving media outlets than ever before (online virals, advert games, customer loyalty programs on mobile apps). Of course they need to do all of this with shrinking budgets. So, if someone anywhere in the world behind a computer screen can’t license one of your tracks immediately the moment they need it (24/7, one stop shop) for the right price, you will lose this game. Most difficult step: renegotiations with rights holders. The contract of the future is flexible, non-exclusive and simple.
> What do you see as the single biggest digital opportunity publishers could take advantage of right now?
The ability to license music from top notch artists. But, and this is happening right now, music supervisors and other media buyers are more and more in favour of easy going deals than investing time and money in crazy lengthy negotiations to get a major act signed. Brand engagement through music will mean less and less mega stars powered by brand X, Y or Z and more online conversations, contests and challenges with willing consumers. A brand organising a global contest and licensing local and authentic content from artists is very powerful marketing magic. So publishers who can level their artists with a brand, help nurture a brand related community and grow the conversation between their client and their customers through music is a key to success.
> Could you give some examples of success stories in this domain?
At Tribe of Noise we’ve invested a lot of time and effort to come up with a more flexible music-licensing model; a legal framework welcomed by customers in need for a solution. The first promise we made to our collective of DIY artists (roughly 300 when we started), was to go out there and make noise and generate exposure for them. We had a few ideas where the money could come from eventually, but needed more time to prove our business models. Fast forward to 2012, our community has grown to almost 18,000 artists in 60+ countries, we have a 24/7 one stop shop for music licensing to media buyers online and most importantly we have real artists making real money with Tribe of Noise.
One of our success stories is the in-store music / out of home media business. Music most of us know as elevator music, background noise, etc. Would it make sense to invest time and resources in upgrading the quality of the music channels in restaurants, supermarkets, hotels and shops during a financial crisis? It sounds counterintuitive but with any crisis comes opportunity for creative expansion and alternatives. We see real potential here for our DIY artists to break down the stereotypes typically associated with “background music” while also offering a cost effective solution for retailers. If we can guarantee quality music, pay our artists and help our clients to communicate with consumers resulting in incremental sales at the point-of-purchase… I’m in!
> What would you like to take home from midem 2013?
I’ve been in the industry long enough to understand that most musicians are passionate people, not business people. They love to make music, get exposure and engage with fans who hopefully buy their music and merchandise and visit their gigs. Every single day you can read a new story online on how making money from fans is changing. Musicians who are not able to cope with this new reality are having a hard time. We (the industry) need to reach out, test drive new business models, share our learned lessons and guide musicians along the way. So what would I like to take away from midem? As many partnerships as I can with open-minded, forward thinking music industry professionals. That doesn’t seem like too much to ask, does it?