Benji Rogers, Founder And President Of PledgeMusic, Looks Back On 2014

Panel LogoBenji Rogers, Founder and President of PledgeMusic joins us today for Hypebot.com's 2014 Year End Virtual Panel. Rogers has a hopeful outlook for the collaboration between artists and music streaming services, but suggests that streaming companies handle the relationship with care. "The artists are the ones with that power. If the artists are given the tools, and therefore the incentive, they will bring the subscribers and all boats will begin to rise." Continue reading for more from Benji Rogers.

1) Do you see the current debate questioning the effect of ubiquitous free music online leading to real change? Or is the Taylor Swift debate just a short term distraction?

It’s just a short term distraction. The future of music will be an access model, but the existing ones have so far failed to gain significant traction to make it make sense for artists to gamble their social capital on access only. Simply put, artists can’t ignore their sales income just yet, and until this changes, adoption will be slow. 

2) How important are the entry of YouTube Music Key and the expansion of Beats Music within the Apple eco-system?And will they lead to a much larger streaming music audience by the end of 2015; or a just fragment a steadily expanding user base? 

It depends on the tools that they give to artists. All of the services have basically the same songs. If you listen to “Landslide” on Music Key, Spotify, Beats or Rdio, it will sound basically the same. (The exception being Tidal which would be in higher resolution.) 

Christmas_logoSo if they all offer basically the same services: playlisting, sharing, radio, etc., then all that they have left to compete on is price, which will be driven downwards and user interface. The first service to fully embrace flexible direct-to-fan options into their product will be the winner as they will give the artists a reason to back them.

At the moment each company's brand is in fact competing with the very artists on whose music they depend. Direct-to-fan tools that allow a deeper engagement within the streaming skin will be a major factor in the next couple of years or else they will be much like RSS readers. You can have your favorite, but in the end they all do basically the same thing. It doesn’t really matter which one you use. 

Streaming will grow to a healthy size but not without the artists. The streaming companies need to understand that all the cleverly spent marketing dollars in the world will not make their brand more appealing to potential subscribers than an artist's will. The artists are the ones with that power. If the artists are given the tools, and therefore the incentive, they will bring the subscribers and all boats will begin to rise.

3) What was the big shift or story of 2014 that will have a major effect on your business/sector in 2015? 

The first steps towards direct-to-fan in the streaming services are now being tested, and this is one of the brightest paths that I have seen open in the music space for a long time. It’s slow and rudimentary, but it has started. It will be a financial game changer for all involved and will remove all talk of windowing if it becomes a priority for one of the major players in the space. If it is not prioritized, then we will see more of the same, with artists removing or windowing releases to get the financial and data upside that comes with involving your fans at a deeper level elsewhere. 

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