The Grammys drew top-drawer names from the digital music world for this year's edition of their Social Media Rock Star Summit series, with Shazam CEO Andrew Fisher, Turntable.fm Chairman Seth Goldstein, GetGlue CEO Alex Iskold, and Spotify's artist-in-residence D.A. Wallach of pop duo Chester French on the panel, which was moderated by Ian Rogers, CEO of Topspin Media.
The discussion focused on the connection between musicians and fans, and the digital platforms on which entertainment content is consumed.
From left: Ian Rogers moderator and CEO of Topspin, Seth Goldstein CEO of Turntable.fm, Alex Iskold CEO of GetGlue, Andrew Fisher CEO of Shazam and D.A. Wallach first artist-in-residence at Spotify onstage at Social Media Summit at The Conga Room at L.A. (Photo: WireImage)
Rogers wasted no time in kicking things off by asking each panelist what they thought was the biggest change over the last 10 years. The panelists each had a different take on things, but two key themes emerged through the rounds of answers:
1) Connectivity - Alex from GetGlue was the first to point out that information travels across the web in fundamentally different ways than it did a decade ago, which Andrew from Shazam and Seth from Turntable both echoed.
2) Vulnerability - Seth from Turntable continued the thread and explained that artists are expected to be open to fans and vulnerable in a way they haven't ever been before - it's no longer about hiding behind the curtain, and that means breaking down barriers and finding ways to connect with their fans in genuine and authentic ways.
Curation quickly emerged as recurring topic on the panel, with Wallach being the first to explain that Spotify views its catalogue as the platform, and the curation of that platform (catalogue of music) creates the user's experience, naming their recently-launched apps (including one with Billboard) as an example of how the catalogue can be used to create products and experiences at a mass scale.
Ian Rogers moderator and CEO of Topspin and Seth Goldstein CEO of Turntable.fm speak onstage at Social Media Summit at The Conga Room at L.A. Live (Photo: WireImage)
Interestingly, Rogers noted that when he was at Yahoo and their recommendation engine served up albums a user might like, those recommendations performed worse than personalized recommendations ("Ian suggests you listen to this album") every single time - and all panelists agreed that at least for now, humans win at the curation game.
The panelists also all agreed that the ownership of the music experience was the focus - everything from discovering new music to sharing the music you've come to love and becoming the beginning point in the discovery experiences for others - users want to feel like they own each part of that journey.
Shazam, the largest network represented on the panel and also one of the oldest, shared some interesting statistics about the discovery part of the music experience - saying that they gave away over a million copies of Madonna's new single from people Shazam-ing the song during the Super Bowl halftime show. Also, their data reportedly suggests that if an artist makes it to no. 1 on Shazam's charts on a Saturday, that they have an 85% chance of hitting the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart within 4 weeks.
The conversation continued and touched on the fact that artists are now their own distribution networks, and rely less on the major labels and traditional distribution channels to get their music out there thanks to their extensive and socially-connected web of online and offline fans.
The Social Media Summit reception at The Conga Room at L.A. Live (Photo: WireImage)
And then there was money. Specifically, the money that services like Spotify and Turntable pay to rights holders when someone using their service listens to a song.
Turntable didn't exactly dodge the question, but their answer clearly reflects the ongoing negotiations they're having with many people in the business - saying: "We're having great conversations with the industry, and we respect the rights holders."
Spotify has a different way of looking at things, and a much more upfront answer about the money they pay for streams of songs within their service. Yes, they pay very small amounts for each play of the song, but they're helping the artist monetize the entire lifetime of the song, not just the moment of purchase, since their platform has a floor but no ceiling to what they'll pay the rights holder for plays.
A panel with some of the brightest thought-leaders and innovators in the music tech space wouldn't be complete without asking "What's next?", and if the answers shared during the panel are any indication, the next year is set to be a wild ride for these companies.
Turntable is planning on helping emerging talent break out of their platform and into the mainstream - and cited DJ Wooooo as an example of how DJ's can begin to gain widespread notoriety by starting within their platform.
Shazam will be broadening their services into media discovery this year - starting with the Super Bowl and Grammys.
Spotify plans on expanding into gift certificates, seamless experiences and more people paying for music - their goal is to stop the ongoing trend of people consuming music for free, and as a result they want to double or triple the size of the industry.