‘Health Insurance Is The Most Important Cause In Music’ -Todd Hansen, Better Than The Van (Pt. 2)
This is part two of my interview segment with Todd Hansen, co-founder of Better Than The Van, a hospitality service for touring musicians. In part two, Hansen talks about the disconnect between the value of music and the actions of fans, rallying for the cause of health insurance for musicans, and where his company fits into the emerging digital landscape.
Has music become devalued in the way that fans aren't willing to pay for it or have they become in some way disconnected from that value, and the music itself has also become disconnected from its perceived worth?
Todd Hansen: That’s a tough one. I think it’s case specific. Take Kickstarter for example. A lot of bands have had success raising (a lot of) money to record a record. That’s supporting music with out buying the finished product. Yes, we all know what Radiohead did with In Rainbows, but smaller bands have tried that tactic and it’s worked. If fans knew how much work goes into writing and recording a record they may feel differently about why they should pay for it.
I think that’s the real disconnect. Originally the medium created the scarcity. Now that we have digital abundance, it’s a free for all and when scarcity exits the equation, in walks devaluation. Is it right? Is it good? No, but it’s happened.
What other social causes around music are in need of support—beyond giving musicians a place to stay and helping to fund the production of their art—and how can we move towards raising awareness?
Todd Hansen: I think the most important is health insurance. Bands and many of the people who support what they do (managers, bookers, promoters, roadies) lack health insurance of any kind. One minor/major injury can be financially devastating. MusiCares is trying to fill that need and I think more can be done both in private industry and through the government.
Do you think that the opportunity before us—to rethink and recast the cultural industries and build a sustainable infrastructure—is enormous?
Todd Hansen: That’s a huge question. I think the future is rather bright. Technologically the foundation is there across the cultural industries. Yes, things are in flux right now. We’ve gone through/are going through a technological renaissance. In regards to music the tools exist for bands to make the most of the art they create, BUT tech can’t do everything. The band still needs to be smart, the songs need be great and they need to go on tour.
What role will Better Than The Van play in this new digital ecology and how will it be a part of the ongoing evolution of this ecosystem?
Todd Hansen: We want to be music’s home for hospitality. To get there we have a few things we’re working on. First is to re-launch the service with a new look and features that promote easier connection both band-to-host and host-to-host. Second we want to offer BTTV as a housing/hospitality platform to more regional and national music festivals. Lastly we want to pull in API’s from Yelp, Hostelling USA, and Hotwire to deepen the experience and provide more hospitality options. We’ve got big ideas and hopefully we get there.