"A couple of years ago when we did this forum, we were not talking about Meerkat, Periscope, Snapchat or even Vessel," said Universal Music Group chairman Lucian Grainge during his welcome remarks at the Technology Innovators Forum, the two-day confab held in Los Angeles on April 28 and 29. "And in another year or two, there will be another half-dozen campaigns and ideas we'll be talking about."
The fourth Technology Innovators Forum (TIF) is co-hosted by Grainge and Lord Marland, chairman of the U.K. Business Ambassador's Network, and features a healthy mix of venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, creatives and government officials all gathered to find new business synergies for investment and trade between the U.S. and the U.K. with a particular focus on Southern California.
And so far, the effort seems to be working. "A couple years ago, we generated as a group $200 million worth of business between Los Angeles, this forum and U.K. businesses," Grainge noted. "I'm hoping we'll do the same here over the next couple of days."
From there, attendees, which numbered roughly 400, broke into smaller brain-storming groups which were tasked with coming up with "radical" new ideas worthy of funding. The entertainment think tank, for example, proposed a system of credits whereby users of streaming services could generate rewards for service usage which could then be used towards consumption of other brands and retailers partnering with the same platform.
At a power VC panel featuring Mark Suster of Upfront Ventures, Bill Gross of Idealab, Jonnie Goodwin of Lepe Partners and Bruce Dines of Liberty Global Ventures, it was Dave Stewart, the lone artist on the panel and former Eurythmic, here in his capacity as the founder of First Artists Bank, who stole the show.
While the impressive Suster boasted he had invested $100 million in startups with half of them in SoCal, and Gross explained he had helped start 100 companies after being inspired by Netscape's reach in 1995, Stewart noted that his background might stray a bit from his fellow panelists. "I came up through the British music business, driving up the M1 in a van, usually a rented butcher's van with blood in it, until we got enough money at Marquee Club," he explained. "I learned something was drastically wrong in the music business in the mid-eighties, the people coming to run music company knew nothing about music, creativity or art."
Stewart, who first introduced his First Artists Bank app at the Reeperbahn Festival a year-and-a-half ago, is set to launch the app in beta in roughly a month. First Artists Bank will allow musicians to manage their finances and eventually help them with creative services, financing and income generation.
"Bad managers, in perpetuity contracts, foggy accounting," were among thef the shady dealings Stewart cited when explaining to Billboard about the impetus behind the app. "Artists never know their income. Is my royalty statement going to be $5,000 this month or $2,000 or $12,000? I have 45 days until my next payment. The algorithm works with you and your spending habits -- it doesn't matter if you're a young, a starting-off musician or if you're a management company. This is all crystal clear whereas normally, you would get an Excel spreadsheet from the bank or an accountant and it's, like, 'What the f---, I don't understand any of it.' This is all in a world that they understand."