Keynote speakers Steve Greenberg (CEO/Founder, S-Curve Records) and Travis Clark (of We The Kings) with Michael Jakary, VP of Label and Field Marketing at UMG Distribution.(Photo: Arnold Turner/A. Turner Archives)
The closing events of the opening day of Billboard's inaugural FutureSound Conference in San Francisco were keynotes from Pandora CEO and president Joe Kennedy, Superfly Presents Co-Founder Rick Farman and S-Curve Records Founder and CEO Steve Greenberg, who was joined by singer Travis Clark of We the Kings.
During a half-hour conversation with Billboard editorial director Bill Werde, Kennedy said it will be difficult for subscription services to be widely adopted by the public if rights holders block them from using their catalogs.
"It's [already] hard enough to make great digital music services," he said, and catalog gaps will slow down the adoption of such services.
Pandora is the leading brand in the Internet radio space, a startup success story that managed to survive brutal negotiations with major labels to play their music. The company went public in 2011 and is rapidly expanding beyond the desktop browser to mobile devices and the living room.
Kennedy said he can understand why labels want to hold off on subscription services. "There's still a lot of profit in the old models -- CD and individual digital downloads. This is a barrier to subscription services getting going," he said. "I think that's the great tension."
Kennedy also said Pandora was blindsided by the increase in royalty rates as the company grew. He said he thinks the next set of rates issued by the Copyright Royalty Board "will be more rational" than they currently are.
"No one knew what net radio would look like when it grew up. Now the economics of the business are pretty established," he said. "That alone is the basis to believe there's going to be a rational answer."
Kennedy expressed frustration at the lack of statutory licensing in other countries, since artists miss the chance to get discovered via Pandora or paid. "It's a terrible loss," he said.
Kennedy also said he ignored the decimation of Pandora's stock on the day Spotify launched.
"We're about creating long term value. Over the long run," he predicted, "the stock price will take care of itself. I really don't get worked up at all about the day-to-day stuff."
Keynote speaker Joe Kennedy (CEO/President, Pandora), left, with Billboard Editorial Director Bill Werde. (Photo: Arnold Turner/A. Turner Archives)
Finally, for their joint keynote, Steve Greenberg, founder and CEO of S-Curve Records, along with Travis Clark, frontman for the band We The Kings, pointed toward a new way for the industry to increase video engagement, talking up the interactive music video as "a form of Ritalin for kids," Clark said Thursday.
S-Curve Records holds an equity stake in Israeli interactive video company Interlude. Started by a musician who wanted to boost engagement with music videos, Interlude built software that turns such videos into games.
The duo demonstrated a We the Kings single that contains a platforming game, rhythm game, and point-and-shoot gaming. "The goal is to try to build game mechanics into the experience of watching a video to build replayability," Greenberg said.
Interlude's first project with musician Andy Grammer for video "Keep Your Head Up" won an MTV O Award for Most Innovative Music Video.