Billboard FutureSound Conference 2011 Hub
Billboard FutureSound Conference 2011 Hub

futuresound party
Left to right: CEO of Ticketfly Andrew Dreskin, SVP of Strategic Development at Slacker Jack Isquith, Director of Consumer Marketing at Shazam Jeff Roberto, COO at RevrbNation, Jed Carlson and VP of Client Services at Moontoast, Tim Putnam at the FutureSound Conference (Photo by Arnold Turner/A. Turner Archives)

The worlds of social media and digital music are an almost ideal match, but the ways toward optimizing them aren't easy. Execs from Twitter, SoundTracking, Myxker, Ticketfly, Slacker, Shazam, Moontoast offered a wealth of information during presentations at Billboard FutureSound in San Francisco on Friday.

SoundTracking, Twitter and The Socialization of Music

Ryan Sarver, head of platforms for Twitter, didn't outright dismiss the idea of playing music in tweets during a talk on the Socialization of Music, and he complimented others on their efforts in that direction. Sarver praised the efforts of "music postcard" company SoundTracking, calling it "a fantastic thing" to have SoundTracking building features on the Twitter platform that Twitter doesn't have time to build itself.

Sarver said tweets are getting enriched by such companies and "we think it's a great thing." The company won't ditch the 140-character word limit, but bundling more content around tweets is the future.

"The biggest challenge is getting discovery" of relevant Twitter accounts, he said, and SoundTracking is boosting it.

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The iOS 5 launch, which featured Twitter integration, was the first time Twitter had a chance to talk up its partners like Instagram and SoundTracking. It's a practice they hope to do more of, he said, now that they have the manpower.

In a half hour talk moderated by Fuse's Joe Marchese, SoundTracking CEO Steve Jang, formerly of imeem, said the company's idea came from people saying things like "Led Zeppelin is sound tracking my trip down the I-5".

"People like to express themselves through song," so the group invented a seamless way to do so on the mobile phone: a status update with a link to a 30-second music sample from iTunes.

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Jang said SoundTracking users have evolved from sharing personal music moments to creating a music journal that's public. Breaking up with significant others, talking about old memories of high school and college, and going to live music events are all occasions to post, he said: "People are really using it as a way to communicate that which they can't communicate through words."

Jang said the company is working on new features. The product launched just nine months ago at South by Southwest, and "we made a lot of mistakes along the way, so we're still learning."

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The service is about to cross the one-million user mark, relying on word of mouth and social feeds. SoundTracking is also an iTunes affiliate. "We see great conversion," Jang said.

"When people like your song or your post, they'll tap and buy," he explained. "There's a big opportunity around companies where I can post something meaningful and the recipient can buy it with one tap."

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A new SoundTracking integration with Twitter auto-inserts the artist's Twitter handle, boosting artist followers. "They can see all these people around the world having emotional moments," Jang said. "New followers can find artists' Twitter account that way."

The Future of Internet Radio: Myxer Social Radio

Myxer has long been recognized as a top mobile destination for consumers and advertisers alike - with 50 million users, more than 30 million monthly mobile visits, and 2.7 billion downloads of ringtones. The Miami-based company continues to innovate, as CEO & Founder Myk Willis displayed his vision for streaming music with his new Myxer Social Radio app.

Myxer Social Radio is both a web site and mobile application that streams custom-themed radio stations and encourages users to invite their friends into their station (room) and chat about the music being played.

"Pandora Radio is just a better FM radio that works similarly to an existing radio platform," Willis said. "But what if broadcast radio never existed?"

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In addition to live-chatting during songs, users can upload video about what a song means to them - called the "Story" feature. Users can also make dedications, recording videos and sending songs out to friends and family.

"We're looking for a more passive experience than," Willis said. "Right when you enter a room, your musical tastes - taken from your Facebook profile - affect what's being played."

Myxer's service is free, requiring users only to sign in with their Facebook account. It's currently available as a desktop player, an iOS app, and as an Android app. The service is also said to have a catalog of more than 12 million tracks - powered by The Echo Nest. The company hinted that they have an ad-supported business model, but declined to reveal any specifics.

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Four Concepts That Lead to Event Promotion Nirvana: Integration, Automation, Analytics and Personalization

Ticketfly co-founder Andrew Dreskin detailed his company's plan to continue disruption of the ticket-selling space.

The company provides tools and services for event promoters and venues to help them sell more tickets and become more efficient.

"We feel there is no business better suited for disruption and change than the live business," said Dreskin, who also cofounded and produced the Virgin Mobile Festival. "It's a historic time in ticketing."

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Clubs are flocking to Ticketfly because social media is creating a watershed moment in ticketing, he said: Major competitor Ticketmaster is "rocking the most hated brand in America," Fast Company notes. "Over a billion dollars in revenue is up for grabs for startups like mine and other folks," Dreskin said.

About 40 percent of concert tickets go unsold, and the sector is moving from simply taking orders to becoming marketing tools, tapping the social graph and integrating with several other systems like web sites, newsletters, Facebook and twitter.

Data analytics, personalized targeting, and influencer rewarding can drive new incremental sales, said Dreskin.

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The first thing venues have to do is integrate, so that they enter event data once, and can automate their marketing and save time and money, he said.

"It's rather appalling what this industry has had in terms of empirical data" but "the beauty of integrated systems and then Internet and integrated systems like Facebook and Twitter is we know how each ticket sold."

The Role of Social in Internet Radio & Music Services

Jack Isquith, head of strategy for Slacker radio discussed the company's whole new social strategy Friday, and it boils down to "act like a kid."

Isquith, a executive at Warner Bros. Records and AOL, said Slacker is built on coders and music curators and initially wasn't set up properly to take advantage of social. The group studied kids and noted how they make friends and have fun.

The company now focuses on Facebook and Twitter, uses single sign-on with Facebook and simple Twitter integration across all platforms. The company changed its URL structure to make it easy to share across platforms.

Slacker also "tried to really embrace fun and timeliness," he said, by going beyond genre to create stations that people wanted to share. Since the new strategy debuted with f8, Slacker has had 20 million slacker Facebook stories published, and 420,000 app likes, quadruple the pre-launch numbers.

And "it's the early days for us," he said.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words: Monitoring Usage Data for Optimal Results

Shazam's director of consumer marketing Jeff Roberto focused on marketing and promotions during his talk.

Shazam is the world's leading mobile discovery service and is the 4th most downloaded app, with 50 million users in then U.S. with 1.3 million new users a week. The service tags four million tags a day, with three hundred thousand clicking through a day, making it the largest lead source to iTunes globally. Shazam sells over $100 million in music annually.

Even with a 10-million-track database, it's not easy to stay ahead of new music releases.

Shazam's free service now has unlimited tagging and has added lyrics, and has begun working with artists like Lil Wayne, Kelly Clarkson, and Coldplay. Tagging promoted artists results in advertising and the opportunity to buy or win concert tickets and other products. Roberto showed how a promotion with Lil Wayne led to a 285 percent increase in tag volume with a 10 percent click through rate.

How Artists Can Leverage Social Webs

ReverbNation recently launched a product called "Promote It" that recognizes that fans are not the end points, but rather nodes that lead to more potential fans.

"This marks the start of social marketing," said Jed Carlson, COO of ReverbNation. "What if we can activate many nodes at once? We'll achieve exponential growth."

He went on to describe what he believes to be three truths about the music business:

1. There are fans for every artist ("every" meaning qualifying artists, i.e. talented artists that write and perform compelling music)
2. The social web makes it easier to find them than it is to convert fans in your local area
3. Finding them faster generates buzz - momentum and buzz drives sales of music

To elaborate on his definition of buzz, he demonstrates that when one gets a song from a friend, that's a recommendation. In contrast, when one gets that same song from a different friend from a different circle, that's buzz.

ReverbNation's "Promote It" product contains four essential elements:

1. Advanced Fan Targeting
2. Ad creation/Optimization
3. Dynamic Landing Pages
4. Enhanced Reporting/Insights

"It doesn't matter what stage you are in your career," Carlson said. "The pass-along rate is the same when it comes to social sharing."

However, Carlson did mention genre has a very specific impact on sharing:

"Rap artists have a harder time passing along their content, compared to, say, gospel which has 3 times the sharing rate," he said. "We believe this to be true because of the higher amount of noise that exists in that genre."'

How the News Feed Drives D2C Sales

Facebook's News Feed has become the direct source of what's going on in and around their world of many people. It's also become the main communication channel between many brands and consumers.

"By 2015, 50% of a company's sales will come from social," said Moontoast's VP of Client Services, Tim Putnam. "There's been a shift in online behavior, as people are now aggregating their own data - they're letting the information come to them."

Putnam points out that once a fan likes a brand, they rarely return to the brand's page on Facebook. In addition, a brand's message may not always reach all of their fans due to Facebook's EdgeRank system.

Factors that determine if a message is seen in the feed include:

- Affinity - refers to the user's relationship with the item's creator. For instance, a Facebook profile you haven't visited or engaged with in quite some time would have a very low affinity ranking

- Weight - what kinds of interactive engagement options are being provided determines weight. For instance - a post with videos, a photo, and/or a link has much higher weight than one with just text

- Time decay - how old the post is. Depending on the feed of the user, older news items can drop out of a user's news feed quite quickly
"With (these) in mind, it's important to make the feed part of the overall marketing plan," Putnam said. "Create a campaign calendar and build your DTC efforts around it."

Putnam mentions that adoption is key in attaining an early market. He also points out that repetition, a solid user experience, and the use of trusted payment methods are all factors that increase consumer confidence.

To sum up his presentation, Putnam offered this list of things to do to increase D2C sales using the Facebook News Feed:

- Differentiate your offerings
- Repeat posts at different times of the day, during different times of the week in order to hit users with different viewing habits
- Ask to share - it's amazing what will happen when you ask (and show them how)
- Remember best practices: commit, be authentic, and rich content is king