Turntable.fm's Seth Goldstein with Topspin's Ian Rogers at Billboard's FutureSound Conference in San Francisco Friday. (Photo: Arnold Turner/A. Turner Archives)
Opening day two of Billboard's FutureSound conference in San Francisco Friday, Turntable.fm chairman and co-founder Seth Goldstein said in a conversation with Topspin's Ian Rogers that despite his company's success, it's too early to tell if royalty rates he's paying to labels can support its business model.
Billy Chasen and Goldstein created the online music service Turntable.fm in 2011. Users can create online rooms where they DJ for an audience, earn points and group-chat.
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The site operates under a statutory music license and has a million registered users and a passionate core of 20-40,000 daily active users, Goldstein said, who use it an average of 10 hours per month. The New York-based company has raised seven million dollars in venture funding, and this November artist Wale announced that Turntable.fm DJs would handle opening performances remotely before his live audiences.
Goldstein said that music companies can make money off the audience in Turntable.fm rooms. Human DJs, he argued, are qualitatively better than Spotify playlists, or Pandora stations.
"We really focused on building a better mousetrap and getting the fly wheel going," he said.
"The most monetizable aspect of Turntable.fm in terms of business is that we've got this incredibly engaged group of people doing things that computers do."
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Goldstein also said Turntable.fm is turning down requests to have Kanye West or Bruce Springsteen DJ Turntable.fm rooms that could fit 200,000 people. Instead, the company helped Adele invite 200 "super fans" to a Turntable.fm room to debut their new album.
"It's an intimate venue. It's CBGB, not MSG," he said. "It's a VIP experience."
Turntable.fm is now focused, he said, on building out features for a formal launch at South by Southwest, and obtaining direct licensing to take the application international.
Glassnote's Daniel Glass with Billboard Editorial Director Bill Werde at the FutureSound Conference in San Francisco Friday. (Photo: Arnold Turner/A. Turner Archives)
In the second keyote, veteran music industry executive and Glassnote Entertainment Group founder Daniel Glass blasted major label ignorance, fear and oversized egos for dooming early adoption of digital strategies, and the situation has not improved much in 13 years.
During a 30-minute talk with Billboard Editorial Director Bill Werde about managing artists in the age of digital, Glass detailed how he came up in New York college radio, and worked at small New York label Chrysallis breaking artists like Billy Idol and Sinead O'Connor. He moved up the food chain to the top of major music labels, but broke with the mainstream around the time of Napster.
"Napster had a profound effect on me," he said.
He went to the heads of major labels he worked with and was not encouraged. "Fear and ignorance" prevented early partnerships with tech companies, he said.
"It was sad. Nobody was talking to each other. They were saying 'this is going to threaten our lifestyle.' That was the moment when I knew ... the divide was happening and I think it still exists, unfortunately."
With bands like Phoenix and Mumford and Sons, Rolling Stone magazine named Glassnote "Best Indie Label" in 2011. When he started, he said wanted to embrace digital opportunities.
"Our game plan was to be very permissive. We are progressive in the way we leak music, sometimes to the chagrin of our distributors," Glass said.
The label leaked "1901" by Phoenix and streams Childish Gambino for free on NPR right now.
"Our marketing plan is to get people to see the artist live and that's our plan. It's a one-line plan," he said.
Glass said he views Facebook, Spotify, Last.fm and Pandora favorably, as well as iHeartRadio. Music execs who dwell on pulling music from on-demand catalogs are wasting time. "I think you're crazy to dwell on it. It sorts itself out. It's going to be monetized."
Glass said managers should listen more to artists who how they want they're music presented and where they want to be.