7 Key Themes from SXSW 2015

SXSW 2015 Panel Key Themes:

  1. Remixing:
  • Can get money now from remixes of your song from the Association of Rights Holders
    • This is big because before people would remix your song but you wouldn’t receive a penny for it. Now, not only will Spotify start featuring more remixes on its platform, it will have a very clear payout system to both the original songwriter and the remixer.
  • Remixing a Christmas favorite is a very powerful way for artists to make money
  • Having a famous artist remix your track has always been one of the most common ways to gain recognition; however because of today’s musical consumption patterns, the converse is also true. If you put out a remix of a famous person’s song, you can increase your own following because people actively search for remixes of their favorite songs on both YouTube and SoundCloud. If you are putting out killer work, you will develop your own tribe in a way that wasn’t possible before digital.
  1. Innovation Around the Music Consumption Experience:
  • Fans want to be part of something special
  • If fans hear your song for the first time in a special environment, the value of that song to them automatically goes up and encourages repeated consumption of the song:
    • eg. SoulCycle: a user first hears a song in SoulCycle during a speedy, elevated run, vs. hearing that song for the first time on a blog à the former has the potential to make them love the song even more because they give that song credit for the good rush they felt in the moment of consuming the song à the memory association is extremely positive and powerful
      • Same goes for hearing the song for the first time when they danced with a lover, or a family member or a group of friends at a club. Main difference, is now you want to really ensure that the user has a repeated way of accessing that song after they have heard it in that elevated way. Artists must start recognizing and acting on the value of those moments, as fans want to have access to that song. Must make it easy for them! Must put pressure on companies who use your music to ensure that they are giving it to the listener via Spotify link etc.
    • Recurring nature of the experience very key – Get people coming back, deliver them good surprises repetitively mixed with old classics that resonate. Because fans stream the music they hear, artists are kept on Billboard charts longer, on Spotify charts longer, and in the cultural fabric longer.
    • eg. SoFar Sounds: House-based concerts in 153 cities around the world. Thousands of dedicated, engaged and active fans waiting to be served new live performances. Active legs on the ground in each city to promote your music to fans who care and evangelize to their smaller communities. Remove opaque components of the industry such as booking agents and replace with a special experience that fans want. Then, when your music is consumed in these settings, memory associated with hearing this music for the first time is enhanced, positive and lasts longer in the emotional memory. Desire to consume the song longer goes up. Experiences are also recurring in nature – concept is clear and expectations are set, but each show offers a surprise and special intimacy that makes fans walk away with something memorable. The tweets, instagrams and documentation from friends all drives new traffic to the band in a trustworthy way since it’s coming from peers and not labels. This adds value to the song and band in a way that has never existed before. (Attention level = awareness x credibility)
    • Creative Record Releases: Optimized now for longevity vs. day 1 sales. In fact, they are now rarely a one day event. They are month-long events circled around weekly surprises, engaging moments, updates, pieces of content released, etc…things that keep allowing the fan to keep driving to the song, since the first week of album sales is no longer a relevant metric. Instead, longevity on Spotify is what the new strategy around releases are!
    • eg. Festivals (Wanderlust, Coachella)
      • Understand that people want that amazing “oh shit!” moment that makes them want to share
      • People love having an activity, something to point out, to take home, to share (a photo booth)
      • Festival apps have high download rates – have your music streamed in Spotify via these apps
      • Encourage collab between artists that no one can get elsewhere unless they come to this festival! This innovation around the experience also drives increased traffic to both artists because each elevate the other
  1. Wearables:
  • Wearable tech as gateway to more accurate song selection, potentially solving the curation problem of, “who knows me best?”
    • eg. A watch/wristband tells Withings app that you are sleepy, awake etc, which in turn tells your Spotify so that it knows which songs to chose for you accordingly
  1. The Attention Economy:
  • Money follows attention, so pursue attention first
  • Biggest challenge today more than ever is for artists to cut through the noise, since they have access to the same tools that non-celebrities have as well
  • Artists must keep providing: must constantly be in front of your fans, reminding them you and are doing awesome stuff
    • Once a fan follows you, they have signaled to you that they are interested in what you post. Hence you must keep delivering content that keeps them coming back for more. Hook large volumes of engaged people for free, then monetize later through brand partnerships, selling directly to them or through creative new experiences that appeal mostly to superfans.
    • Skeptical? Consider this: Artists collectively leave $2.6B on the table because fans want to consume but can’t – they have listened to, watched and bought everything that the band offers. The band must continually be putting little pieces of content, be it stories, images, songs, videos, SnapChats, vines etc that keep fans listening, checking and buying. Then keep directing them to Spotify link and other revenue-generating sources.
  • Create seamless fan experiences – link your Instagram to Spotify; have a consistent “voice” (e.g. Taylor Swift, Bob Lefsetz), and really only use those media you truly enjoy and care about. Avoid even using the other media you don’t life if possible because fans will see right through it if someone else is managing it for you.
  • Artists must have constant calls to action to keep their fans engaged, listening and paying attention. After a while of this, fans are converted to superfans because they feel part of it, they have a stake in it, they are responsible for making the whole thing work, for bringing on a new layer of fans!
    • In short, your first 1000 fans are responsible for your next 10,000 fans.
  • Use Shazam to lean-test a song via radio – if you give the song to just one radio station, see how many users Shazam it locally. Then you can see if people like the song or not before going big with it and pushing it as your main single.


  1. Alternative Sources of Revenue:
  • Those successful in the music business today are taking tiny pieces of revenue and adding them all together.
  • Labels and artists rarely paid attention to other sources of revenue besides recorded music because they didn’t need to – being in the business of recorded music was extremely profitable
  • Today, artists must be constantly creative and looking for alternative ways to monetize the value they generate through creating music for their fans
    • eg. Odd Future has a store, their own festivals – has become a lifestyle/a brand
  • The artist must know what she can get for each piece of music she makes – e.g. sync licensing, film scoring etc
  • Sell merch on tour aggressively
  • Artists should ensure to register their songs and their work so that they can always get paid for it (especially making sure metadata is correct and consistent)
  • Keep all your stems and instrumental versions ready and accessible, as these may be used in slightly altered versions of your song made to fit a certain commercial etc
  1. Curation Will Save the Industry:
    • NOTE: Some alternative words for curator are evangelizer or advocate
  • Curators pick the songs and music that feel relevant to the cultural ephemera – people want to be talking about the same things and have something to connect over
  • Curation assigns context and relevance to what would otherwise be thousands and thousands of songs without a home
    • In short, art needs intermediaries to assign value to it so that buyers know what to consume
  • Back in the day, College Music Journal charts used to break new bands because they were relevant to the youth and so big labels always wanted to get their bands played there
  • For the same reason, got to get bands in front of wherever the youth are now: SnapChat etc
  • Vine and SnapChat stars who use snippets of a song are an amazing way to gain traction and recognition when you are just starting out as an artist
  • 3 types of recommendation engines:
    1. You like this song, so you might also like this song bc it has similar properties (Pandora, Music Genome Project)
    2. Other people who listened to this also listened to this (Amazon, Spotify “collaborative filtering” model)
    3. A friend recommends a song for you because they know you and your patterns – they may not even like the song themselves, they just know And since you trust them, you listen to the song. à This kind of recommendation engine has the highest success rate of being accepted and correct in it’s suggestion. It is the kind that most companies are trying to recreate now. (Apple/Beats claims they are able to do this. If they are, they will win big.)
  1. Entrepreneurship:
  • Go where people are the most scared – fear sheds light on the clear pain points of the industry – go tackle the problems no one wants to tackle:
    • Royalty payouts
    • Songwriting rights holders
    • Ways to make money from recorded music
    • Identify new sources of value to people in the music industry – who is your customer? The artist, the fan, a brand?
  • Define value in a completely new way, as well as how you plan to deliver that value in a way that no one else can
  • Find new companies and grow with them. Follow them. Find people early.
    • Patreon: Support the creators you live
    • BandPage: Engage and sell to your fans
    • Tradiio: Get rewards for helping new artists emerge
    • Place: Platform that allows like-minded individuals to connect over interests they love
    • Taptape: Invest in musicians you love
    • KROMMATIK/ Chromatik: Play along with free sheet music
    • Zoundio: Music composition app for tablet
    • Music Messenger: Send and receive songs from your mobile device
    • Gigit: Book live music
    • SoStereo: Where brands discover music
    • Bandhub: Make music with other people over the internet
    • SideStage: Book an amazing musician for your next event
    • Rithm: Song-messaging
    • Eyegroove App: Create short videos to music you love with interactive effects
    • Storygami: Add layers of multi-media content to your video
    • Sensbeat: Tell stories with music
    • MoodSnap.fm: Image-driven music discovery
    • Undrtone: Share and discover new music with music browser and native player
    • chew.tv: Stream live DJs performing in real time
    • Vydia: Platform that helps artists monetize and distribute their visual content
    • Whispa App: Create music on your mobile phone
    • SoFar Sounds: Secret local shows in 153 cities around the world
    • Busker.co: Book local musicians to play at your private event
    • Fanswell: Host musicians at your house
    • Veromuse: Discover music socially
    • Soundsight Headphones: record video and music with your headphones and share
    • Festpop: Easiest way to discover new festivals
    • Aspiro/ Tidal: Swedish rival to Spotify boasting higher quality audio
    • Loudr: Make money playing covers
    • Virool: Get your video seen
    • GBox: Sell and distribute videos easily
    • FreeFrom Dev: Build an artist app and make money off your free music
    • Smashd: Millennial tech and culture media site

Playing the drums: