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Ridin’ with Hypebot

My buddy Bruce Houghton at Hypebot, caught me last week for a quick interview before Rethink Music.  Here is an except from our discussion:

HYPEBOT: Your new focus is on consulting and investing. Are there any sectors, particularly within music and music tech, that particularly interest you or where you see the most room for growth?

DAVE KUSEK: Online education is one of them. This is an area that is already transforming how people learn and gain job skills and it is only going to grow as time goes on. There are big opportunities here that will effect tens of millions of people around the world. Online training is going to be huge. Job requirements are shifting and people need to be able to adapt to changing circumstances that can benefit them. The traditional model of higher education is already under pressure and there are many people and companies exploring alternative models that are very interesting.

The other area I am bullish on is live music and live events. The live concert experience cannot be digitized, yet can benefit enormously from technology. There really has not been much innovation in live music or in music merchandising beyond ticketing. I think there is a lot more that can be done with mobile technology and am actively working in this area. My investment in Tastemate is one way of digging into this potential in a meaningful way. We will be bringing our service to a venue near you, very soon.

I also think that there is potential to expand the reach of live performance using remote technologies. I am interested in ways to cut the costs out of touring to make it more profitable and to reach broader audiences. It is amazing to me that there has not been more activity in this area either, so I am looking for companies and people to work with that are thinking differently about what live music is all about and how to make it even more lucrative.

HYPEBOT: What are some of the things that Digital Cowboys has done in the past or is looking to do now?

DAVE KUSEK: We are focused on business development, marketing and product development, particularly in online and mobile services. We also do strategy consulting for businesses wanting to expand or enter new markets or make acquisitions. I say we, because while I am the managing partner, I also leverage a network of people around the world and with different specialties that I bring together to form a team to address the issues. For example, with a lot of the product work that we have done I brought together a team of visual designers and user experience people to execute on the product vision and do the testing. With business development projects I sometimes work with friends that have particular contacts or relationships that are beneficial to my clients. Sometimes I put together a couple different investors or strategic partners to provide capital or distribution or some other need. The main thing is to get the work done and show results, while trying to have some fun and work on interesting projects that are pushing the envelope.

HYPEBOT: There’s some talk of another tech bubble. Do you see think we’re approaching one in music and media technology?

DAVE KUSEK: I do think that some of the deals we have seen recently are off the charts, like Instagram – but who knows? That has all the earmarks of “bubble” written all over it. But Facebook is also about to go public and at their level, what’s another billion dollars?

But really I don’t think overall that we are at the point of frivolousness and excess that we witnessed in the earlier dot-com bubble, at least not yet. I believe that people are just beginning to figure out better ways to communicate and interact and learn via technology. That is having massive implications on the future of society around the world. Take a look at the stock market trend over the past 100 years and you will see that things tend to move up and people get smarter and more prosperous. I am an optimist.

There are a lot of music startups getting funded these days and certainly they are not all going to make it. I think we will see some consolidation in the DIY space as there are probably more companies addressing that market than the market really needs. The same is true for music streaming and distribution and music discovery. I think the real breakthrough companies will be formed by trying to do something completely different, rather than mimicking the past with technology. We’ll see.

HYPEBOT: Any plans to write a follow-up to the “Future Of Music” book?

DAVE KUSEK: I plan to spend a lot more time posting things to my blog and on digitalcowboys.com. This is a much better way to continue to update original thinking and way more efficient than writing another book. The music industry has gone digital and online outlets like Hypebot really do work as conduits in this business. That is a real bright spot in the transformation of the music industry. So, look for more at futureofmusicbook.com.

You can get the entire interview here.

More coverage from Hypebot here and from Billboard here.

We Welcome Your Comments

Comments

6 replies
  1. Ehlvira says:

    , if an artist who coervs a song takes the liberty of adding his/her own style to the song, which then garners a following based upon the said artist’s individual interpretation and musicianship, I believe it can be safely inferred that that following is based upon the new version, rather than the old. If the old version was so enticing, people would continue to patronize that version and ignore the new one. If a tiler comes to my house and replaces my linoleum kitchen floor with a elegant tile, should the layer of the original floor demand royalty payment for using the foundation he/she originally laid down? Credit is one thing, remuneration is another; the new artist is being remunerated for their work, viz. the updating of an old tune. Ideas should not be owned, read, Against Intellectual Monopoly by Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine.The second issue you raise, regarding record companies, is a valid issue as well. To that I say: if an artist would like to take in more of the money, release the record independently. The natural reply to that would be one based upon the capital it would take to reach such a wide audience, and that it makes more sense to go through the label. Well then, is it not right to pay the label for their services: the fronting for studio time, distribution, marketing, etc.? It is a service like any other. The service the artist is paid for is quite correctly the record and performance fees; they are paid for their performance, literally, recorded and live.Lastly, the bar or club, or any other business for that matter, makes money off of the product(s) it sells. People go to bars and clubs to drink and intermingle, restaurants to eat and drink, car dealers for cars, ikea for furniture, etc.; the aesthetics are most certainly not the principal selling tool. If a club has a nicely installed wooden dance floor, should the constructors of the floor be remunerated every time someone dances on it? Should the the construction company which outfitted the local bar with its bar counters be paid a royalty every time a drink is set down on the counter? Hardly. The business, like any ordinary consumer, purchases the music to be played at its establishment. At that point the artist is compensated for his/her/their work. Asking for any more is extortion: you pay me money to play my music, which you lawfully purchased from me at a predetermined fee, or else . I will never be able to reconcile that concept with the ideal of free and just liberty.

  2. Ehlvira says:

    , if an artist who coervs a song takes the liberty of adding his/her own style to the song, which then garners a following based upon the said artist’s individual interpretation and musicianship, I believe it can be safely inferred that that following is based upon the new version, rather than the old. If the old version was so enticing, people would continue to patronize that version and ignore the new one. If a tiler comes to my house and replaces my linoleum kitchen floor with a elegant tile, should the layer of the original floor demand royalty payment for using the foundation he/she originally laid down? Credit is one thing, remuneration is another; the new artist is being remunerated for their work, viz. the updating of an old tune. Ideas should not be owned, read, Against Intellectual Monopoly by Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine.The second issue you raise, regarding record companies, is a valid issue as well. To that I say: if an artist would like to take in more of the money, release the record independently. The natural reply to that would be one based upon the capital it would take to reach such a wide audience, and that it makes more sense to go through the label. Well then, is it not right to pay the label for their services: the fronting for studio time, distribution, marketing, etc.? It is a service like any other. The service the artist is paid for is quite correctly the record and performance fees; they are paid for their performance, literally, recorded and live.Lastly, the bar or club, or any other business for that matter, makes money off of the product(s) it sells. People go to bars and clubs to drink and intermingle, restaurants to eat and drink, car dealers for cars, ikea for furniture, etc.; the aesthetics are most certainly not the principal selling tool. If a club has a nicely installed wooden dance floor, should the constructors of the floor be remunerated every time someone dances on it? Should the the construction company which outfitted the local bar with its bar counters be paid a royalty every time a drink is set down on the counter? Hardly. The business, like any ordinary consumer, purchases the music to be played at its establishment. At that point the artist is compensated for his/her/their work. Asking for any more is extortion: you pay me money to play my music, which you lawfully purchased from me at a predetermined fee, or else . I will never be able to reconcile that concept with the ideal of free and just liberty.

  3. Kevin says:

    Your comments about inpotraiisn remind me of writing book reports in high-school, where my writing style was obviously influenced by the book (being the most recent thing I had read). I’d pick up all kind of punctuation quirks and vocabulary I would never use otherwise. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but picking up a wider stylistic toolkit might have been one of the primary points of those assignments (or at least a valuable side-effect).One of the reasons that I think I distanced myself from listening to music was to avoid being influenced in that way. Perhaps that’s a recipe for never growing (as it would have been if I had taken the same tack for writing book reports), but I already have enough musical baggage. The best example is tonality. I could never hear another tonal piece again in my life, but I’ll still expect every tritone to be resolved by step. The music I’ve already heard is more than enough to react to.There’s obviously more to talk about here, both in regards to composing and growing as a person, so I’m sure I will explore it more at some point. Part of me wonders, though, if our different situations force us to deal with different issues. I’m under no pressure to write, so I don’t suffer from writer’s block as much as an occasional lack of motivation to write. I haven’t so much as sat down to compose in months. I’ve thought a lot about score presentation, which is becoming an increasing source of inpotraiisn for me, but I haven’t written a note. I’m in a position where I can wait until the muse finds me, which is a luxury that I can’t imagine is available to anyone in a degree program. I kind of wish I was in your position, as composing every single day was a good habit that I’ve completely gotten out of.I know you weren’t asking for advice, but I’ve always found more inpotraiisn from thinking and talking about music than listening to it (then again, I’ve always been in an environment where I had to listen to music, so I could be wrong here). I guess what I’m saying is that I’m always happy to talk about music if you think it’ll help.

  4. Kevin says:

    Your comments about inpotraiisn remind me of writing book reports in high-school, where my writing style was obviously influenced by the book (being the most recent thing I had read). I’d pick up all kind of punctuation quirks and vocabulary I would never use otherwise. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but picking up a wider stylistic toolkit might have been one of the primary points of those assignments (or at least a valuable side-effect).One of the reasons that I think I distanced myself from listening to music was to avoid being influenced in that way. Perhaps that’s a recipe for never growing (as it would have been if I had taken the same tack for writing book reports), but I already have enough musical baggage. The best example is tonality. I could never hear another tonal piece again in my life, but I’ll still expect every tritone to be resolved by step. The music I’ve already heard is more than enough to react to.There’s obviously more to talk about here, both in regards to composing and growing as a person, so I’m sure I will explore it more at some point. Part of me wonders, though, if our different situations force us to deal with different issues. I’m under no pressure to write, so I don’t suffer from writer’s block as much as an occasional lack of motivation to write. I haven’t so much as sat down to compose in months. I’ve thought a lot about score presentation, which is becoming an increasing source of inpotraiisn for me, but I haven’t written a note. I’m in a position where I can wait until the muse finds me, which is a luxury that I can’t imagine is available to anyone in a degree program. I kind of wish I was in your position, as composing every single day was a good habit that I’ve completely gotten out of.I know you weren’t asking for advice, but I’ve always found more inpotraiisn from thinking and talking about music than listening to it (then again, I’ve always been in an environment where I had to listen to music, so I could be wrong here). I guess what I’m saying is that I’m always happy to talk about music if you think it’ll help.

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