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Ian Rogers, CEO of Daisy and Executive Chairman of Topspin, is a music and technology industry veteran with roots in defining the way artists and consumers promote and experience digital media online. The Topspin platform has been used by such artists as Chester French, Eminem, Arcade Fire, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Beck, and the Beastie Boys. Ian has been building digital media applications since 1992. Prior to joining Topspin, he was Vice President of Video and Media Applications at Yahoo!, where he oversaw the strategy for products and services, and was also a principal at the Beastie Boys’ record label and lifestyle brand Grand Royal. Ian just recently joined forces with Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine to lead the efforts for Beats Audio and their new Daisy digital music streaming project.

The music industry is being reinvented before our very eyes. Learn how it is developing from today’s entrepreneurs including Ian Rogers from TopSpin, Steve Schnur from EA, and Derek Sivers and how you can capitalize on the changing opportunities.

MPN is my latest project and an online service for music business people and music and artist managers creating the future of the industry. MPN provides online music business lessons, exclusive video interviews and advice, career and business planning tools and thousands of specially selected resources designed to help you achieve success in this ever changing industry. MPN gives you the tools, expertise and guidance to help you get organized and take your music career to the next level. Learn from industry experts, set your goals and realize your vision.


(Friday Feb 6th, 2009) the digital distributor to college campuses Rukus shuttered its doors with this notice: “Unfortunately the Ruckus service will no longer be provided. Thank you,” That means lights out for a number of colleges, universities and students who had signed up for “free” ad supported music.

Ruckus, first hatched in 2003, was acquired by TotalMusic, a collaboration between Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment.

TotalMusic itself (reported on here in 2008) is also now being shuttered, at least according to details shared by Vice President of Product Management Jason Herskowitz in Digital Music News.

“I regret that we didn’t get to show you guys more about what we built – but in these extremely hard economic times it’s hard to blame them for pulling the plug on a still-highly-speculative offering,” Herskowitz offered. “I only hope that someone else figures out how to crack this music-on-the-web nut in a way that is a win for everyone in the value chain,” Herskowitz continued. “The problem is that to make a music service a win for everyone, all of the famished participants have to sit at the table – and be content to let all the others have a little bit to eat, even though they are still hungry themselves.”

It is clear that protected music locked up in a highly controlled service is just simply not what the consumers want anymore, if ever. Continued pursuit of a rights-managed solution that attempts to preserve the status-quo of copyright holders controlling the distribution of music is futile. No more money needs to be wasted on looking backwards.

Instead, lets all come together and help to create systems that embrace frictionless distribution of music and respect the desire of the music consumer to select what they want to listen to. If we make it easy for them to find what they want, more will come. If we make it cheap enough so that the music appears to be free, move will come. If we make it possible for people to spread the word on a new service that suits their needs, more will come. We need to look forward, not backwards and admit that the old game is over and a new game has begun.

I met with Derek Sivers this past weekend (founder of CD-Baby) and asked him what he thought about the recorded music business and the decline in CD sales. He said “well I’m not quite sure what you mean Dave, as sales of indie music at CD Baby have increase at least 30% in 2008 over 2007.” What CD Baby does is provide a way for indie artists to sell their music online in CD form, to sell their music online in digital form and to provide distribution for artists who had none. Many of these artists are thriving now because Derek was willing to think different.

TuneCore is another service that lets artists put their music online for distribution through iTunes, Rhapsody, Amazon, eMusic and other services for a small up-front fee. This is a radical business model that looks forward, not backward, and pushes indies artists ahead on their journey.

New companies such as Lala, iLike, TopSpin, ReverbNation, SonicBids, Nimbit and many, many others are taking radical new approaches to indie artist promotion and distribution that will change the way that the music business functions. Connecting artists directly with their fans in a meaningful way that respects that relationship and lets it thrive is the way of the future.

Artists need to band together to assemble the knowledge and power that is required to propel them into the future. Watch this space for much more on this subject in the coming months. It is time for a revolution in thinking about music commerce and sustainable models for artists and their fans to connect and engage and prosper and interact. This is what the future of music is all about.

I recently interviewed Ian Rogers of Topspin Media for a new project I am working on the – “Future of Music Toolkit”. More to come on that later…

Ian brought me up to speed on the development of the Topspin platform for music promotion. They are creating very cool marketing software and services to help artists and their partners build businesses and brands. This is clearly part of the future. Here are some comments from Ian and a link to his presentation to The Recording Academy at the GRAMMY Northwest MusicTech Summit 2008.

“The lamenting we read in the press is not the story of the new music business. Continuing to talk about the health of the music industry on these terms is as if we’d all been crying about the dying cassette business in 1995. The difference is that when we moved from cassette to CD the winners were the same (big companies who owned access to cash, distribution, and marketing) and the definition of winning was the same (more units sold for these big companies).

Music consumption isn’t declining: iPod sales up 59% Y/Y (source: Apple), P2P filesharing volume up 35% Y/Y(source: NPD), audio streaming up 25% Y/Y (source: Accustream). And despite the endless discussions about the “pirates,” there isn’t an unwillingness to pay for music, either: 1.6B decisions to buy music in 2007, up from 1.3B in 2006 (source: Neilsen Soundscan), 40% Y/Y increase in worldwide digital music sales (source: IFPI), 8% Y/Y increase in North American concert revenue — an all-time high (source: Forbes.com), 40% paid an average of $5 in Radiohead’s pay-what-you-want model, Nine Inch Nails self-release generates $1.6M in first week sales, includes sell out of $300 box set in first 48 hours (source: NIN.com).

IMHO the only perspectives that matter, that of the artist and the fan. I see news about the health of the music industry as defined by the stock price of WMG or quarterly earnings of UMG, Sony, and EMI every day. What I don’t see, apart from a few articles on Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails, is an update on how the world is changing from the artist point of view. But I tell you, when I talk to managers and artists they feel it, they feel an ability to take their careers into their own hands, to redefine what success means for them, and that is the emergence of the new music business.

I say this with all respect to our friends in the existing music business. We all know smart people who are busting their asses trying to solve the Innovator’s Dilemma those companies are facing.

Again, there are only two players in the music business that matter at the end of the day: the artists and the fans. The rest of us either add value or get in the way. Don’t get me wrong, over the years labels have added a tremendous amount of value through financing, A&R, marketing, promotion, etc. I’m just saying that every player needs to either understand how it truly adds value or it needs to get out of the way, Topspin included. Our business does not operate on lock-in, ownership of copywritten work, or long-term contracts. We either add value today with a compelling service or we die. And I’m perfectly happy with that.”

See Ian Roger’s complete presentation here.

Want to know what’s up with new music startups? Read on. Great coverage by Paul Bonanos from The Deal. So good to see mainstream financial coverage of our music industry.

Striking a chord

A decade after Napster, a new crop of Internet startups is challenging the music industry’s dominant companies. Their instruments of choice: social networking, discovery, ad-supported streaming, marketing and other tools that change how business is done.

New Music Startups

Source: Tech Confidential

U.K.-based We7 Ltd., which has drawn funding from British musician Peter Gabriel, along with VC firms Eden Ventures and Spark Ventures plc, both of London, offers free songs that contain short advertisements that vanish after a few weeks. We7 recently added songs from a third major label, while SpiralFrog signed up only two of the four majors, meaning that finding free songs can still be something of a wild
goose chase.

Nashville’s NoiseTrade, a bootstrapped startup, provides a way for artists to give away music in exchange for the e-mail addresses of prospective new fans, while angel investor-backed TrueAnthem Corp. of San Francisco connects brand advertisers with musicians, who introduce tunes with short, personalized ads.

Consumers less inclined to possess a virtual copy of a song also have more options. That includes subscribing to libraries of music content and Web sites that allow streaming songs on demand and limited downloading. Publicly traded RealNetworks Inc. of Seattle has emerged as a clear leader among such products with its Rhapsody service, while the existing Napster, which purchased its trademark from the original bankrupt startup, has lost subscribers and remains far from profitable. Both companies offer several tiered plans, ranging from roughly $10 to $15 per month, that provide access to millions of songs from all four major labels, as well as “tethered downloads,” or DRM-restricted files that expire once a customer cancels his subscription.

The market for free music “streamed” on a Web site is more complex, with some startups relying on subscription services to supply songs through their own user interfaces. Most streaming services are married to some other Web utility, whether a social networking site, music discovery service or
paid-download store.

With investment from VC firms Sequoia Capital and Morgenthaler Ventures, both of Menlo Park, Calif., as well as from Universal Music and Warner, social music site Imeem Inc. of San Francisco has built the fastest-growing free streaming service. All four major labels now supply music to Imeem, which lets users play songs on demand.

Imeem’s growth highlights the pressure on “old music” companies, like other old media firms, to change with the times. And the legal battles between upstart music firms and incumbents have been no less intense than the fights in other quadrants of the media industry, such as the ongoing court dispute between Google Inc. and Viacom Inc. over the search giant’s use of protected video on YouTube. Warner sued Imeem in 2007 over alleged copyright infringement, only to later buy a stake in the startup after settling the case.

“Sometimes a lawsuit is foreplay to a licensing deal,” says Norwest Venture Partners principal Tim Chang of startups’ path to legitimacy in the age of free music. “They infringe so that users get what they want and advertisers pay attention, scale so that you have some leverage against labels, get sued and then settle.”

The digital-music business is entering a phase common to many emerging high-tech sectors. The land rush of startups that follows any significant technological shift, such as file sharing, is already starting to thin out as winners stake their claims and losers get consolidated, if they’re lucky, or simply disappear.

For example, Last.fm rival Pandora Media Inc. faces a fight for survival despite having attracted prominent venture investors and a slew of good publicity. The Oakland, Calif., startup employs music experts to create a recommendation “engine” for Internet radio. But an upcoming regulatory change that will result in a doubling of streaming royalty rates for Web radio companies could spell the company’s doom unless it elects to charge users a subscription fee or finds a way to add advertising that its audience will accept.

Like Pandora and Last.fm, music discovery site iLike Inc. of Seattle has become popular, if not consistently profitable. One key to its success in attracting users has been its availability over Facebook Inc. of Palo Alto, Calif., through which more than half of its 30 million users connect to the service. Through a partnership with Rhapsody, iLike allows users to stream as many as 25 songs per month and download selected others for free while examining their friends’ tastes and recommendations. The startup has raised $15.8 million in two rounds of funding from former Time Warner Inc. executive and MTV co-founder Bob Pittman, star venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, and the Ticketmaster unit of IAC/InterActiveCorp of New York.

“There’s a natural propensity for social networking and music to go together,” says MySpace founder Brad Greenspan, who left the social network in 2003. “When you’re surfing people’s profiles and everything starts to look the same, the only way to differentiate among them is their individualization. And if you add an image of an artist on a site, you will bring in people who want to be close to that musician’s energy, whether by blogging, chatting, befriending or following them.”

Drawing on such desires, music-blogging hub MOG Inc. of Berkeley, Calif., wants to tap into fans’ efforts to spread the word about their favorite artists. Universal and Sony BMG joined the Angels’ Forum of Palo Alto in putting $6 million into the startup, which compiles the musings of volunteer bloggers writing on given musicians and bands. MOG, which also offers on-demand music, represents a one-stop version of the musical blogosphere, where songs are commonly shared without compensation for content owners.

Also harnessing the power of the blogosphere are music-focused search engines such as the bootstrapped Hype Machine Inc. of New York and angel-backed Seeqpod Inc. of Emeryville, Calif., which index thousands of music blogs where MP3s often reside for a few weeks so users can sample them.

Another area where Internet startups are encroaching on the record labels’ turf is marketing. Launched this summer, Los Angeles-based Topspin Media Inc. enables artists and fans to communicate directly, offering a sort of customer management technology package for musicians that allows sales of songs, albums and merchandise. Under one subscription option offered through the company, a fan can pay a flat fee for a musician’s entire recorded output over the coming year — income a musician might otherwise have to share with a label. Venture investors are on board, with Topspin having raised funding from Redpoint Ventures of Menlo Park and Foundry Group of Boulder, Colo.

But rampant music piracy continues to dwarf legitimate sales, cutting label revenues by as much as half since the mid-1990s. Meanwhile, work that had long been the province of music companies has been gradually appropriated by newer, fleeter Internet companies or, as with marketing, “disaggregated” out of existence. Other competitors also have emerged. LiveNation Inc. of New York, a publicly traded live music promotion company spun out of Clear Channel Communications Inc. in 2005, has signed top acts, including U2 and Madonna, and has sweetened its deals by letting artists maintain ownership of their material.”

If so, what will the business look like? A dying era of superstar acts may give way to a music scene carved into myriad niches, with proliferating media channels creating room for more voices — the “middle class” of artists, as Rogers puts it. Artists and fans will operate in closer proximity, with more tools in place to help them connect.

How, then, will music derive its commercial value, and where should investors place their bets? The future is likely to include more sponsorship and patronage. Imagine liquor companies, fast-food joints and other advertisers paying the band of the moment for rights to its music before it’s recorded rather than after it hits the charts. Alternatively, rich benefactors — or legions of fans — could support artists in exchange for early access to a new album or even a shout-out in the liner notes. Tie-ins with other media such as video games will also create opportunities: People may not buy the album for $15, but they’ll pay $39.99 for the “Guitar Hero” version.

The old ways, reinvigorated by technology, are made new again.

Read the complete article at The Deal.