Thursday morning, ASCAP EXPO-goers were treated to a conversation with four gurus at the fore of digital music licensing and distribution. Paul Anthony, creator of Rumblefish, Ryan Born, multimedia entrepreneur and CEO of AdRev, Kevin Breuner, marketing director for pioneering digital music distributor CD Baby, and Gary Gross, the head of Universal Publishing Production Music met in a discussion geared toward maximizing earning potential and market penetration in the rapidly shifting sands of the digital music economy.
Born stressed that "For some independent artists, streaming is generating a lot of income and engaging large numbers of fans."
All four gentlemen had sage advice to offer on this front, explaining that even if an artist remains fully independent, servicing all of his or her own licenses and distribution, there are key strategies like implementing detailed metadata and social media saturation that can amplify their effort.
"Pristine metadata creates success in micro licensing. A lack of metadata equates to an unlabeled box in an infinite warehouse," offered Anthony.
The man behind Rumblefish, a longtime aggregator and collector of music licensing relationships for a host of clients, illustrated the value of teaming up with third party music distributors like his own company, or CD Baby, or the many other services currently cropping up in the digital marketplace.
"We have dozens of partners. We pull songs and put them in those platforms to grow their usage. We do our best to place millions of songs based on their metadata in exhaustive detail. We create BPM (tempo) where we can't find it. We create genres where we hear them."
All four panelists detailed the vast amount of networking and legwork that go into a truly lucrative music marketing plan in this day and age. Born offered specific reasons why joining up with a digital music aggregator to proliferate tunes and increase licensing potential is a boon to any indie artist.
"If you're getting a lot of hits on your channel," said Born, "you are probably getting 10 percent of the money you could be getting...Songs are only monetized through third party aggregators, while YouTube only monetizes video content."
Born conceded that YouTube has recognized the way agents like AdRev really improve their business model, which is good for everyone: "YouTube makes a lot of money from the songs that we have claimed. They listen to us, and that helps increase everyone's livelihood."
Gary Gross added that it is vital to consider what a publisher can do for an artist's catalog, when Universal Publishing, for one, generated 50% of its revenue in foreign territories. The idea struck me, that it is easier for a multi-national company with an illustrious track record to initiate and pursue such opportunities, than it could possibly be for any artist developing their career and music.
From Deezer and Animodo to Tunecore, Rumblefish, Beats Music and Bandcamp, the new music marketplace is brimming with potential avenues for the budding artist to expand his or her business. With companies like CD Baby and AdRev ready to throw all of their resources into the pool it is a very exciting time for music.
It is, however, important to know that YouTube deals only in exclusive micro-licensing agreements and will hold payments in the face of a conflict. Namely, if you are an artist, don't do such deals with two different third party players. Beyond that, the internet is waiting to turn a profit.
These pioneers are working for fair royalty rates paid for licenses and performances online. They are creating and enhancing brand identity. The panelists made several mentions of fighting to extend detection criteria below the 30-continuous-seconds marker that YouTube currently implements for tracking streaming content.
Ultimately, these music revolutionaries are at the helm of a movement to empower the artist and level the playing field between independent music and the money-making opportunity of commercial song.
"Whatever digital store pops up, we will have your music there," explains Breuner of CD Baby. "It will be well-represented globally...Last year, CD sales were up 15 percent through Amazon and other vendors. We look for ways to maximize profits for our artists and their revenue streams."