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Music Curation and Monetization at Northside's NeXT Conference

posted by Laura Baker-Finch on June 14, 2013

Photo: Northside NeXT Conference 2013 by Laura Baker-Finch

Brooklyn, New York -- A company that curates playlists based on context and one that measures the analytics of social signals may seem totally unrelated, but they can both be used to monetize the music industry in new, untraditional ways.

Songza and Next Big Sound are doing just that. "Your Friends: The Ultimate Music Curator" panel during Brooklyn's Northside Festival's NeXT Conference, Eric Davich of Songza and Liv Buli of Next Big Sound not only discussed the power of acquaintances as curators but how this can be used to monetize artists' hard work.

Let's first start with Songza. Launched in 2006 as a music retail project, Davich and his partners quickly found that, like themselves, people were reluctant to pay for tracks. What they did next was to change their view of music as a whole. No longer a viable product on its own, they began to view music as a "life enhancing tool" rather than a commodity. Viewed this way, artists and those within the industry could then sell these enhancing tools as "the product."

In order to convince music consumers make the switch as well, Songza curates playlists based on context. Depending on the day, time, and your previous selections on the website or app, Songza will provide you with options of situation, mood, and genre to choose from, eventually leading to playlists from either their team of experts or featured artists and brands - Mercedes Benz sponsored playlists during Fashion Week.

While Songza helps mitigate the relationship between music and audiences, Next Big Sound works behind the scenes so managers, labels, and artists can better understand their target audiences, leading to smarter business decisions and promotional strategies.

During the panel, Liv Buli was careful to note the distinction between tracks streamed and tracks shared. NBS compiles not what people are listening to at any given moment, but which artists people are sharing with their friends via social media outlets. Rather than tracking the streams, the Next Big Sound Chart compiles the "Hey, check this out"s.

In a consumer environment in which access is often favored over ownership, the data collected by the chart can help emerging artists and their teams promote themselves in the most cost effective ways and on the best platforms. Ultimately, these analytics can help artists make money through experiences, touring, and merchandise rather than focusing on album sales.

Although descriptions of these two curatorial companies proves enough to see how the music industry can still be monetized, Eric Davich and Liv Buli went on to discuss other companies tackling the same challenges.

Davich brought up the example of BandPage, a new site on which artists can sell experiences rather than, or in addition to, music. With album sales continuously in decline, artists make the majority of their revenue via merchandise and touring. Through sites such as BandPage, artists have another outlet to make money and engage with fans - both loyal and potential - while still giving their music out for free.

Along the same lines, Buli mentioned the Kickstarter campaign of Alexz Johnson, a Canadian musician who utilized the platform to fund her entire 2012 tour. By offering experiences in exchange for donations, Johnson raised $67,140 of a pledged $30,000 goal. Depending on the amount pledged, backers could receive anything from a personal thank you email to an exclusive acoustic show and a tours worth of backstage passes.

Conclusions? If you're an emerging artist, give your music out to as many people as possible for free in order to take advantage of the built-in marketing tool that is social media on the Internet. The more consumers who hear you, the more people who will be willing to pay for merchandise, tours, and the new magic word of the music industry - experiences.

Follow @laurajbf on Twitter

See Also:

New Music Seminar: Building the $100 Billion Music Business, Part 1
New Music Seminar: Building the $100 Billion Music Business, Party 2
Red Bull Hosts Musical Instrument Innovation Competition at Northside