Indie digital aggregator and marketing firm the Orchard launched a partnership program with more than 10 online sources of marketing, sales and analytics tools in order to bring their services to its clients. Launch partners include Artist Data, Mediaguide, Mobile Roadie, Topspin, Trendrr and others.

The company is aggregating these various services into its Artist Label Workstation, which is The Orchard’s digital management and reporting software that clients use to upload music, track performance, and otherwise manage their Orchard account. The program provides participating service providers with the necessary technology to integrate their solution into the Workstation, and gives Orchard clients a discount on those services.

Orchard CEO Greg Scholl says the move is a way to offer a full range of services without developing its own proprietary technology for each feature, likening it to Facebook Apps and the iPhone App Store. He explains the program further in this exclusive Billboard interview.

Explain what it is you're trying to accomplish with this announcement.
There's a philosophical decision a company like ours makes around app development. Do we predict what tools and technologies are going to be successful in the future, staff a team to develop them, and integrate them into our product our clients use? We came to the conclusion that one part of our business - which is the content ingestion, management and delivery - is the heart and lifeblood of our business. The rest is a teeming sea of innovation that is just at the starting point. The odds that we'd pick the right tools and services, build them, and be right three to five years out is low. It's much more likely that the market will innovate and evolve. And it's much more cost effective for us to offer best in class tools and services. Our clients end up with a suite of offerings that's relevant to them.

You built the Artist Label Workstation yourself and are now adding to it with other partners. Take a second and explain just what the ALW does.
It's the dashboard our clients use to manage their Orchard experience. It includes such basic detail as detailed accounting and sales information. Information about their music and video assets; where it's been ingested and delivered. Where are releases in the process of being delivered? It includes things like merch placements we've secured. What we're doing now is opening up that environment to qualified third party developers we deem are best-in-class and make their products and services available to our clients. We're giving discounts to them as a result of our size and scope. And if you want to use any of them it's as easy as going into your ALW account and integrating and managing them through your account. All the billing is managed through the account.

How did you determine which companies and services to work with?
We're engaged fairly broadly with companies of this nature and we have a pretty good view of the ones we think are doing good things and that are stable, scalable businesses. We do have some level of qualification. The first gate is 'are they offering something that helps our clients make more money and be form effective in their business.' The second is 'is the product or tool scalable, well architected, and can it integrate with our service?' And the third is 'is this a team that we think is talented and has a good vision for the future of digital media?' Applying that as a filter, there are definitely other companies that we add to this over time, but we wanted to come out of the gate with a solid, broad range of companies.

What's the arrangement with these partners?
The arrangement is that by nature of having access to a large client base under the umbrella of the Orchard, right now we have 81,000 artists from 91 countries, we've negotiated rates our clients couldn't get in the open market.

There seems to be a trend towards services integrating multiple third-party services now rather than developing them on their own. Where do you see that trend going and what does it mean for the digital music space?
There's this very strong analog to this in Facebook Apps. It's something that's occurred in social media and other places as well. Our view of why it's important for our business and our clients is that in a period of still very dramatic transition as music continues to evolve, we're still in the very early days of the digital business. Both the size and the scope of it as well as the business complexities and what the business will look like is a dynamic market. In order to serve our clients, I think we need to give them access to a broad range of companies that are innovating on the frontier of different aspects of that. Particularly around direct-to-consumer, and understanding the analytics of social media. I think there will be a tremendous amount of innovation and evolution around those two things in particular over the next three to five years.