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DIGITAL MEDIA FROM THE INSIDE OUT: My focus is digital content -- production, distribution, collaboration, innovation, creativity. Some posts have appeared across the web (HuffPo, Tribeca's Future of Film, The Wrap, MIPblog, etc.). To receive these posts regularly via email, sign up for my newsletter here.

Entries in DigitalHollywood (9)

Tuesday
May052015

Ten Things To Know about Today’s Music Biz

I recently organized and moderated two music panels at the Digital Hollywood conference, showcasing the views and expertise of eleven professionals from virtually all aspects of the contemporary digital music business. There were two panels with two discussions (music & YouTube; music and social), but truthfully, this is an ongoing conversation in which music is the canary in the coal mine – trends we see now in music are trends we’ll see throughout the digital media ecosystem.

Many thanks to the panelists, listed below, for their enthusiastic and frank discussions, and apologies that I don’t have direct quotes for attribution. I was busy moderating :) Here’s some of what they said:

The “traditional” music business has collapsed – meaning consumers spend dramatically less on recorded music today than they did at the peak of the business --- whether it’s CDs, downloads, or subscriptions to streaming services. And yet, the ecosystem survives, with money flowing from more sources to more participants.

This was and still is a blockbuster business, with a disproportionate share of the revenue going to the most popular artists. In some ways, the “network effect” has cemented this reality even more than the old days when radio ruled (which, by the way, it still does, sort of).

There are only 300,000 songs that make any money, and 20+ million songs that don’t. That “long tail” can be monetized, but it takes focus and innovation to do so (and one of our panelists has a company that is doing just that). With the cost of production so low, professional musicians now compete with millions of amateur tracks.

We are in the era of music discovery, but most people don't really want to discover anything new. Socially connected apps and streaming services providing many new ways for consumers to sample new artists. And yet, statistically, in the blockbuster music economy, we find that most people don’t actually want to discovery new music. They want to listen to the music that everyone else is listening to.

Now that Everyone (including you) is a brand, all that seems to matter is the size of your audience. Emerging artists are increasingly required to conduct their lives as if they were a commercial brand – connecting with consumers on many different social platforms, and providing content (video, posts, images) well outside the creation and distribution of the music itself, in order to accumulate fans. Partnerships and additional opportunities are now determined at least as much by fan metrics as the music itself. (Ouch!)

Brand partnerships is perhaps the fastest growing source of revenue for artists, with many examples of relatively non-intrusive sponsorships of artists, music, and events emerging. Brands want the cool factor. And they want the exposure potential of the artists’ fan bases.

Social Media Platforms are the Banks; Engagement is the Currency. The savvy artist understands that the levers of their career (building a team, getting a record deal, booking gigs and tours, etc.) depend upon how much currency, e.g., fan engagement they have. In some cases, that is literal currency, because there are numerous ways to purchase fan-count and fan-engagement.

Careers can be made in A Single Event. A tune on a social platform like YouTube (or now Vine, Instagram, Snapchat) can go viral, and sometimes all it takes is attention from somebody with a huge fan base. From Justin Bieber to Shawn Mendes, talent

Radio exposure is still important for an artist, and is one of the best things a record label can get for talent.

Very few people have bad things to say about YouTube, at least in public. Google’s massive video site provides free distribution for every artist, and therefore has the most comprehensive library of music content --- mainstream and niche. Millions of people, especially millennials, use YouTube as their audio streaming service. It’s pending launch of a paid subscription service may be bad news for the Spotify's and Pandora's of the world.

Tidal Will Fail. The high-fidelity music subscription service launched by JayZ and a bevy of blockbuster artists are swimming against the tide, and, our panelists uniformly predict it will not survive. Most of the panelists thought that Apple’s new streaming service, without the “Beats” name, would be one of the survivors, because of its hardware.

Music is inextricably tied to the tech economy, which is why the battle will be slugged out between tech giants like Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook, etc – these companies are fighting versions of this same fight over video, television, books, and much more.

Thanks to my speakers: Take a look at their sites to find out where the business is going.

Wednesday
Apr152015

What's Next? "Music Next" @Digital Hollywood 2015

I'm moderating two panels at this year's annual spring Digital Hollywood Conference, nothing new there -- I've been attending and speaking since the first edition way back in the early 90's. What's new for me this year is the topic -- what's new in the music business.

It all started because one of the standout companies I'm advising in my role as chair of ideaBOOST accelerator -- TuneStars. I was really struck with founder Anthony Shannon's social music app, cleverly calibrated for what's happening now in the music scene for fans, artists and industry types. It's what you'd get if you created a mobile-first version of MySpace married to Linked-in, only better.

Well, as these things happen, I recruited a lot more speakers, and so did Digital Hollywood President Victor Harwood. Before I knew it, I was moderating a second panel in the music track, this one on YouTube & Music, a bit closer to my wheelhouse.

I expect to learn a lot from all the great speakers on my panel and across this great conference, and I know you will too. Drop by if you are attending DH this year, or message me if you want to know more about these great speakers. I'll write a summary after the sessions are over. If you'd like to meet with me at DH, just shoot me a note or DM me. 

Here is the entire MusicNext Forum Track, part of Digital Hollywood, which runs April 27-30, 2015 at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, Marina Del Rey, CA. Here are my panels:

1) Tuesday, April 28th -12:30 PM - 1:45 PM Salon III (Live Webcast from this Room) "YouTube and Music – The Meeting Place for Music"

·      Doug McVehil, Head of Content & Programming, Vevo
·      Jeff Daniel, CEO/co-founder, Starmaker; 
·      Daniel Rosen,  Sr. Music Talent Manager, Fullscreen; 
·      Ryan Tomlinson, President, SKEEmatic; Exec. Prod., SKEE TV
·      Dana Shayegan, VP of Music, Collective Digital Studio (CDS)
·      Nick DeMartino, Principal, ND Consulting, Moderator

Speaker Bios and Session Information - Click Here

2) Wednesday, April 29th - 3:50 PM – 5:00 PM, Poolside Tent I - "Music Apps, Social Media and Technology:  The Explosive World of Music Engagement"

·      Brad Sphar, Vice President, Sony Music
·      Madeline Nelson, CEO/Managing Member, Heads Music
·      Heiko Schmidt, CEO, Parasongs
·      Rami Perlman, VP Music Talent & Influencers, theAudience
·      Anthony Shannon, Cofounder & CEO, TuneStars
·      Ian Roberts, Cofounder & CEO, Hive
·      Damian Hagger, co-founder/Marketing Director
·      Nick DeMartino, Principal, ND Consulting, Moderator

Speaker Bios and Session Information - Click Here

 

Sunday
Apr282013

Social TV panel at Digital Hollywood

I'll be speaking again at the Digital Hollywood conference, which runs from April 29th to May 2nd, at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, Marina del Rey, California

The panel is on Wednesday, May 1st, 12:30 PM - 1:45 PM in Salon III, and entitled:

The Social TV Ecosystem: Smart TVs, Guides, OTT Content, Tablets-Smartphones and Apps

There is no separating it - TV viewing and social media have joined hands. TV shows are posting tweets and encouraging an immediate social relationship among viewers. TV celebrities are reaching out to their fan base and viewers are creating a host of social media-TV relationships. As most major websites, from Facebook and Twitter to the TV sites themselves enable their communities to reach other, all roads lead to the further interaction between the TV viewer and social media technologies.

Moderated by Mark Ghuneim, CEO, Trendrr, the panel includes:

Jeremy Toeman, CEO, Dijit Media
Rebecca Baldwin, VP/GM, Zap2it
Nash Parker, Director, Emerging Technology Commercialization, Alcatel-Lucent
Nick DeMartino, President, Nick DeMartino Consulting
Benjamin Chen, Chairman, Viggle Inc.
Marc Scarpa, Producer / Director x factor digital, Grammy live, incubus hq
Diane Bernard, CEO, FLM.TV

Wednesday
Oct242012

Accelerators and Incubators and Content: A Deeper Dive

The amazing worldwide upsurge of start-up accelerators and incubators was reflected at last week’s Digital Hollywood conference, which featured three packed sessions exploring the topic.

I moderated a “Think Tank” on incubating digital content that featured Ana Serrano, Founder of ideaBOOST  (which I advise), Richard Wolpert, cofounder of Amplify.LA and Chris Gartin, cofounder of io/LA 

It used to be simple, there were accelerators and there were incubators. (Here's the difference).

But, check out some of the other programs represented at the DH conference and you'll see a wide range of models that are emerging to meet a lot of different needs than the venture backed early stage seed accelerators, as exemplified by Y-Combinator and TechStars. (DH speakers came from Originate, Cross Campus, Tipping Point Partners, Turner's Media Camp, Portland Innovation Experiment (PIE), Mucker Labs, and Idealab New Venture Group.

Along with crowdfunding, the accelerator phenomenon is the most-buzzed-about innovation in the start-up world, inspired by the success of the investor-backed Y-Combinator and TechStars that apply a combination of mentoring, seed investment, and exposure to help launch tech startups.

The contours of this ‘seed capital’ model have been widely analyzedchewed over, contemplated, and copied.

What Accelerators Do Right

If an entrepreneur is willing to give the accelerator equity in their company and devote a few months of intensive work, a host of benefits will come their way, as a recent survey of accelerator graduates suggests. 

Accelerators are good at:

1. Generating and validating an idea and a business model. 

2. Investing and finding more investors. 

3. Providing contacts and opening doors. 

4. Providing mentors, advisors and guidance. 

5. Providing hands-on help or education. 

6. Helping in product development and testing. 

7. Helping with product marketing and user acquisition. 

8. Providing a peer group in a high-pressure environment. 

9. Providing a physical location and support resources. 

10. Negotiating and providing discounts, freebies and perks.

Which Accelerators Will Fail?

The proof, of course, is in the pudding, e.g., whether start-ups are able to attract additional capital, customers, and revenues, and, over time, produce an exit (sale or stock offering) that provides returns to the initial investors. It’s probably too soon to tally the success of most of these young companies, but industry veteran Peter Relan recently predicted in a controversial post that 90% of accelerators will ultimately fail on financial terms, because they will be unable to produce profits equal to investments.

Nonetheless, Relan believes the accelerator model creates genuine value for the industry and the country beyond simple ROI, because they constitute “a new education system, one where relevant real-world experience has begun to trump degrees. The right program can provide the same connections that accompanied acceptance into the right university 15 years ago.”

Beyond VC Expectations

Not all accelerators and incubators are financed by venture investors. There various models – let’s call them start-up factories --- sponsored by cities, universities, economic development authorities, even clusters of angel investors in a region. They often have non-market objectives, for instance, creating jobs in a region or improving the performance of a given industry.

A recent example is the “Made in New York” Media Center, an incubator to be launched soon in Brooklyn by the Independent Feature Project in conjunction with General Assembly and the City of New York. 

Other accelerators are sponsored by a company, for example ad agency Weiden + Kennedy’s sponsorship of the Portland Incubation Experiment (PIE); Turner Broadcasting’s launch of Media Camp); and the Canadian Film Centre’s launch of ideaBOOST – each has its own reason for making the investment.

Turner is looking for tech companies that address business needs within the broadcasting industry, and which can help Turner thrive. Companies incubated within PIE may also have a media focus, but in addition, are intended to support the Portland tech ecosystem. IdeaBOOST seeks to help the Canadian content business, as well as to encourage its practitioners to build sustainable companies using principles derived from the lean start-up movement.

These and other accelerator models will blend program features to meet their own goals beyond the straight-up ROI expectations of venture investors (fast growth, 10-100x return).

VCs Don’t Like Content Companies

The classic seed-accelerator concentrates on technology start-ups, which, if successful, can scale rapidly and deliver a Google-level return on investment. Like a mutual fund, the accelerator spreads investors’ risk across a bundle of investments, and then injects the companies with capital, learning, and networking.

Like certain VCs, there are industry-specific accelerators, for example in health care, biotech, nanotechnology, automotive, and others.

But, until recently, not content. In posts here and here, I suggested that maybe the chasm between content and tech is blurring.

VC’s historically do not much like content companies, as a recent TechCrunch post articulated, despite the fact that people spend a third of their time online consuming content. 

Content companies are tough to “scale” quickly, meaning grow the number of customers, and therefore revenue potential. Certainly not like tech platform superstars like Pinterest, which added 11 million monthly uniques in 9 months.

Furthermore, content companies rarely have huge exits like an acquisition – meaning smaller paydays for investors, and a sale often takes longer than tech businesses.

Finally, the traditional tech investors consider content companies to be lifestyle businesses, and simply are not capable of reaching “$100mm and then $1 billion in revenues – anything less is insufficient.”

Enter IdeaBoost

“I’m reluctant to even use the word ‘accelerator,’” said IdeaBOOST’s Serrano at the Digital Hollywood panel, in part because its model veers from the ‘classic’ accelerator model in several ways: It is financed with funds from the government and two large private companies, not VCs looking for a big payday from participants; IdeaBOOST does not take an equity stake in its companies; and most importantly, its first group of eight companies are all building content.

IdeaBOOST, which official kick-offs its first four-month cohort on November 5th in Toronto, is a hybrid model that borrows from many sources in order to support aspiring content companies.

Kickstarter and IndieGoGo inspired IdeaBOOST to include the public in the development process. But instead of soliciting funds, applicants ask the online public to “boost” their project, and in the process acquire a database of prospective customer email addresses before even being selected. IdeaBOOST applicants drummed up more than 300,000 votes in just a month.

This focus upon audience engagement is a key differentiator for ideaBOOST, borrowed from the lean startup movement’s focus upon customer development. The 8 companies accepted in ideaBOOST will be required to use customer validation processes as they develop their product, business plan, and audience engagement scenarios. Mentors for IdeaBOOST companies include content, business, and tech experts from Canada and the U.S.

Co-working space

Founders of Amplify.LA and io/LA have both tech and entertainment cred, and have recruited talent from across both industries. "Pure" content start-ups are in the minority, says Amplify's Wolpert, but if the company can grow, they consider it. io/LA does feature more involvement by talent, so their hybrid model, just launched this year, will be intriguing to track. 

The two programs have also grafted the seed-accelerator model onto another important trend, the co-working movement. Both groups have facilities which house the companies receiving their investments. In addition, other start-ups and creatives are free to work out of the space, with tiered fees based upon what the companies use. Both have active educational programs featuring thought leaders, experienced entrepreneurs and mentors from their accelerator. Both programs foster synergy between and among the membership, with the result that participants can quickly build teams, stronger companies and better products.

If you’re looking for a great work environment for your start-up in either Santa Monica or Hollywood, check them out. And chances are, there is a similar opportunity in your community. Just check out these examples from around the world.  

Friday
May062011

• Transmedia Storytelling

I participated in a panel on Transmedia Storytelling at the 2011 Digital Hollywood Content Summit. Here are the slides I used for my part of the presentation. 

TRANSMEDIA STORYTELLING

If you'd like to download the slides, go to SlideShare. Note: there are extensive comments that you can see better if you download the presentation.