Conventions & Awards

Highlights From SF MusicTech: Tools, Tech, Revenue, Recommendation, Live & The Cloud

Sfmusic techPlenty of solid discussion filled the walls of the Kabuki Hotel on Monday where the eighth SF MusicTech Summit was held. Strong panelists and bright attendees all contributed to meaningful dialogue that left those of us in attendance with lots to think about. 

Here were some of the highlights: 


Dean Serletic of Music Mastermind shared that major label artists are looking more towards social media now in order to make up for a loss of marketing budgets, which has now leveled the playing field for smaller artists. But with everyone allowed access to the same tools, one attendee posed the question:

“If all an artist is good at is writing outstanding music and having killer performances, are they screwed?”

The general consensus was that until an artist can afford to pay the people whose core competency it is to market music, they must do what they can on their own and with their team of supporters.


However, Michael Fiebach of Fame House added in a responsorial Tweet that good artists (and thus those with a large enough fan base) have to pay for the premium tools, managers, and marketers to set themselves apart from the noise.


Chris LaRosa of YouTube also stressed the importance of a professional website. He goes on to mention that when a potential fan comes to your site, they’re going to make a decision whether or not they like you in no more than 15 seconds.

New Tech Development –

Dave Allen, a digital strategist and the former bassist of English post-punk band Gang of 4, suggests that today’s music tech developers aren’t asking the right questions:


“If you’re going to deliver a music app, you’ve got to ask, ‘What problem does it solve?’ We aren’t doing enough of this. Everyone seems to just want to sell their product."


Jason Feinberg of Concord Music agrees, “We want to figure out new ways to do new things, not new ways to do old things." 

Artist Revenue Streams –

 It was said during the discussion that 3 million songs are tagged globally on Shazam everyday and 8-9% of those result in transactions on iTunes.

Rob McDaniels of INgroove added that unclaimed royalties from SoundExchange are the biggest surprising source of revenue for artists.

Bryan Callhoun of SoundExchange agreed with him. With $40 million of unclaimed royalties on SoundExchange, Callhoun bluntly stated, "If you don't register with us, we can't pay you." 

Dina LaPolt of LaPolt Law, P.C. feels that we need to overhaul our antiquated copyright act and that music is now more of a service now and no longer merely a product.

Music Recommendation Services

David Hyman, CEO of MOG, pointed out that average users consume music online 19/30 days each month with an average of 42 listener hours per user. He also goes on to mention that people prefer man-to-machine over man-to-man relations when it comes to music discovery.

Live Music Marketing

Julia Hartz of Eventbrite mentions that their service provides promoters and the artist access to all their data from ticket sales that allows them to better strategize their tours.

Ian Hogarth of Songkick points out that phone and text continue to dominate concert sharing among friends.

Evan Lowenstein of StageIT emphasizes the importance of creating a memorable live experience by saying, “People cannot pirate an experience, or intimacy."

Music in the Cloud

Music attorney Larry Kenswil explained that cloud revenue is a fixed pie. Artists get a percentage of it and they can't change their size of the pie anymore.

In a response to an audience question about the demand for higher quality audio files hindering the demand for cloud music services, Kensil suggested:

“If you look back to the history of music, higher quality sound has NOT been a consumer demand – it’s been convenience (LP → Cassette → CD → MP3).”

Jon Irwin of Rhapsody feels that music in the cloud acts as an onramp for new music discovery. There's value in having music in the cloud. However, he feels that $10/month is too much for consumers and that it needs to be closer to $5/month.

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  1. $600 for “lots to think about?” So frustrating, where are the solutions?
    A lot of prognosticating on what “will” or “might” happen using stats that only apply to majors… People, the Cloud is NOT ubiquitous and is at best unsettled legal territory Additionally, less that 50% of M/F even KNOW what a subscription service is and less are interested.
    Big points
    “We need to overhaul Copyright ” duh! but who is “we” and how long has that lark been thrown around?
    “People prefer man-machine and not man-man discovery” Ok, stop asking your friends what they’re listening to and definitely don’t read reviews or blogs or twit streams- just trust the machine, specifically MOG’s machine.
    Best info-> Sign up for SoundExchange. Totally agreed.
    You might get enough to cover your registration fee back, but probably not.
    Sorry, I don;t want to be negative, tell me where I am wrong on this. Did I miss the solutions for the intended audience of independent professionals?

  2. Great article Hisham, thanks…
    Hi Michael,
    It’s all about the people. While you might have problems with the soundbites, you would have loved the people who came out, and connecting with them to move everyone forward. Advance tix were a small fraction of the day of show price you repeatedly list, and the rooms were at capacity in any case.
    If you self select to come in the future, you will be welcome, but there was more negativity in your one post (towards an event you weren’t even present at) than encountered during the entire day.
    While you obviously did not like the article, you would’ve loved the SF MusicTech Summit. My hunch is that you would have even found solutions which would’ve benefited you.;-) Most solutions are not off the shelf software packages these days, they include the relationships and reputation which you build over time.
    An incredible crowd of people self selected to attend, and for that, we are thrilled, and thank you all so very much.
    All the best,
    Brian Zisk

  3. Brian,
    We have met actually and I respect you and all of your work greatly….. and @hishamdahud coverage has been excellent – per usual.
    You are correct to point it out- that post was way too negative; and as someone interested in moving this thing forward, that was partially unfair. I apologize, as it was not meant as shot against you or the spirit of the Summit, just the results. I have worked, and built relationships, with many of the people who attended and it is actually conversations with those people that I am expressing.
    Your effort in making this conference a destination for forward- thinking Music Tech is beyond respectable and contrary to many others, it is produced extremely well.
    I should mention Gobbler, TopSpin Media, Rovi, Songkick, Soundcloud, Soundexchange and others were excellent and are truly making a difference today for Independents. We use them all currently.
    Without getting into whether I, personally, attended, I did have people I paid for and there were more private arguments than maybe you are aware of, especially in the Publishing /IP/Copyright realm. My intention here is only to push for solutions for the people that need them the most and they need them now.
    This is not new: Too often these conferences skew to Major label needs which are not always in the best interest of independent labels, artists and publishers- or even startups. I think you would agree that especially at this event most attendees, if not all, are not playing the Major label game and need statistics that are relevant to their business model.
    I’m a huge fan of Bopler’s potential in Social Media Music and Evan’s StageIT has personally been important to many clients. Elevator pitches (well hosted by you) and live demos were excellent as well.
    My point here is there seemed to be no dissent present concerning Cloud or subscription because it was not in the presenting companies’ interest and that doesn’t seem good for anyone.
    I would refer you to the dustup in the Lyrics Services panel for another example of attendee’s concerns that went unresolved.
    Thank you for all of your work and I will continue to support SF Music Tech Summit, as I think others should. Surely we can agree on a healthy debate. I just believe there should be solutions, not just connections, much akin to Mr. Allen’s comment above about Apps.
    Perhaps I am alone in expressing my opinion of this, but I know I am not alone in the sentiment.

  4. Totally understand, and I accept your apology.
    But your post does sit there like a turd in the punch bowl.
    Thank you though for the complements including:
    “Brian, We have met actually and I respect you and all of your work greatly….. and @hishamdahud coverage has been excellent – per usual.”
    “Your effort in making this conference a destination for forward-thinking Music Tech is beyond respectable and contrary to many others, it is produced extremely well.”
    We did go heavier on the IP/Publishing/Lyrics/Digital Music Notation side than we had before, and that area reminded me a bit more of the earlier Future of Music Policy Summits we put on than typical SF MusicTech Summit fare. There were definitely more conflicts, policy questions, and disputes around IP at this event than in the other areas of the Summit, or at Summits in the past.
    Nonetheless, any time you get 900 intelligent people passionate about the convergence of Internet Music and Technology involved in heated discussions, there will be numerous solutions put forth, but also many unresolved issues.
    There were a lot of solutions for lots of people. Just not everything for everyone. 🙂
    Regarding the Cloud Computing Panel, we had invited a number of folks who could or would not appear, ranging from Amazon’s Head of Music to Ben Sheffner of the MPAA… I can’t even figure out which dissenting side you believe we didn’t attempt to get. 😉
    In regards to statistics, the SF MusicTech Summit is much more about apps than Powerpoints.
    In any case, the Summit was a great event, thanks so much Bruce and Hisham for covering it, and to all the rest of you who have contributed to, and benefited from its success.
    All the best, and thanks so very much!
    Brian Zisk

  5. @michael
    I flew in from Europe to attend the event, and was’t completely sure what to expect. Many conferences seem to drag an entire day about cloud and social media, with a great amount of self proclaimed experts, and I sometimes feel like you.
    SFMusicTech was different though.
    Besides the interesting content, what I found amazing at the SF MusicTech was the openness of an entire community to find solutions for the various topics concerned.
    We live in an era that there are no straightforward solutions, but mainly explorations in finding a solution, ‘your’ solution. What SFMusicTech gave me, is group of people open to discuss, share their knowledge-projects and difficulties, and build a future together.
    Bravo Brian for organizing the event and for creating the atmosphere of reshaping the biz.
    bart becks

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