Billboard's FutureSound Conference Gets Underway in San Francisco
Billboard's FutureSound Conference Gets Underway in San Francisco

Royalties and equity, licensing and risk-taking dominated opening discussions at the FutureSound music technology conference hosted by Billboard in San Francisco Thursday afternoon.

More than 250 tech company CEOs, music label reps, venture capitalists and major media have assembled near downtown for two days of keynotes and sessions from the personalities at the center of the action.

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Conference attendees at San Francisco's Terra Gallery and Event Venue, where FutureSound is being held Nov. 16-18.

Facebook's new partnership with five leading music companies, and Google's new cloud music service in partnership with major labels represent a renaissance of interest in uniting the tech and music spaces, Billboard editorial director Bill Werde said.

In a keynote conversation, famed investor Ron Conway from SV Angels encouraged labels to get equity in a portfolio of music startups in exchange for licensing. Hundreds of thousands of companies will grow on the platforms created by Facebook, Twitter, and Pandora, Conway said.

"That does a world of good for music and the music industry," he said. "These companies can go from zero to one hundred very quickly."

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John Frankenheimer (Partner/Chairman Emeritus at Loeb & Loeb, LLP), left, interviews keynote speaker and investor Ron Conway. (Photo: Arnold Turner/A. Turner Archives)

Thirteen years after Conway's investment, Napster kickstarted the conversation about digital rights, the next crop of potential billion-dollar startups still struggle with licensing, though.

"These companies need to be nurtured," said Conway.

Twitter is a "greenfield" waiting to be colonized by music tech companies facilitating live ticket sales, tour info, merch sales and fan interaction, Conway also said.

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John Frankenheimer, left, with Ron Conway. (Photo: Arnold Turner/A. Turner Archives)


"I think it's just a really exciting time," said Werde. "I would say for the first time, in a lot of ways."

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 17: (L-R)Community Manager of NARM's DigitalMusic.org Antony Bruno, CEO/Founder of RootMusic J Sider, CEO of Mobile Roadie Michael Schneider, EVP of Strategic Development for Grooveshark Paul Geller and CEO/Founder of Headliner.fm Mike More attend the 2011 Billboard FutureSound Conference on November 17, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Arnold Turner)

Still, the tech and music industries remain at loggerheads over a number of issues revolving around money, and they'll be hashed out over the next 48 hours.

"It's a Christians and lions thing," Werde said. "I'll tell you who is who after the conference."

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 17: (L-R) Co-chairman of Loeb & Loeb, LLP John T. Frankenheimer and Community Manager Antony Bruno during the 2011 Billboard FutureSound Conference on November 17, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Arnold Turner)
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SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 17: Geoff Grotz of Source Audio explains his product during the 2011 Billboard FutureSound Conference on November 17, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Arnold Turner)
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SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 17: CEO of Mobile Roadie Michael Schneider speaks during the 2011 Billboard FutureSound Conference on November 17, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Arnold Turner)
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SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 17: Joy Teitel of Loeb & Loeb LLP and Jacqueline Sabec of Oliver & Sabec P.C. pose during the 2011 Billboard FutureSound Conference on November 17, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Arnold Turner)
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SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 17: Kami Knake of BCKSTGR and Ruth Gonzalez of 12South Entertainment pose during the 2011 Billboard FutureSound Conference on November 17, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Arnold Turner)