JVKE and SoundExchange CEO Discuss Viral Sustainability and Why It’s the ‘Best Time’ To Be an Emerging Indie Artist
Here are the main takeaways from "The Creator Boom: How the Industry Can Transform" panel, moderated by Billboard's Kristin Robinson, at SXSW 2023.
During a SXSW panel on Thursday, March 16, Billboard’s Kristin Robinson moderated a conversation between fast-rising singer-songwriter JVKE and SoundExchange president and CEO Michael Huppe.
Titled “The Creator Boom: How the Industry Can Transform,” Robinson clarified from the start that perhaps a more appropriate name would be how the industry already is transforming, and noted the ways in which independent artists who take off on TikTok, like JVKE, are helping write a new rulebook, with companies like SoundExchange (a non-profit collective rights management organization) helping newcomers play the game — and get paid.
Below are the five biggest lessons learned from the conversation.
WEIGH THE OPTION OF STAYING INDEPENDENT
JVKE was indeed offered multi-million dollar offers from major labels to sign, and said “there were so many different options and pressures, and it’s a safe option to take the check up front and recoup in 5-10 years, but in that moment I was just like, ‘I’ve seen how much I can grow on my own and we’re curious to see how much further we can go.’ We’re doing it for the greater good, to encourage artists to see how high the ceiling is.”
His best advice for others looking to follow in his path? “It’s really important that every up and coming artist has a tenacious mindset and commitment to overcoming every obstacle, the heart to keep going. It starts with the artist, you yourself have to really go after it. At first, just focus on being self-sufficient – because we have the ability to be now.”
Huppe agreed, and added , “Lower barriers to entry and being DIY means creators are exploding, we’re having so many more people enter the system. It’s fascinating and very fertile for the industry. The problem with that is what used to be a little more orderly, sometimes it feels like chaos out there. Part of what we do is bring order to the chaos.”
WORK TO ATTAIN VIRAL SUSTAINABILITY
“I’m always trying new things and there’s always this balance of trying to fund what you want to do, but you want to balance that with real impact,” said JVKE of his struggle to both sustain momentum and use his platform wisely. “There’s always so much joy that I find in connecting with my fans and I’m always looking through my DMs, looking at my Discord, all sorts of platforms to connect with fans. Now I have a tour coming up and I think that’s really important for a modern artist, to know there are real people, not just numbers [driving your success].
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF TODAY’S ENVIRONMENT FOR RISING ARTISTS
Huppe said that when he first entered the industry, the biggest threat was pirate cassette operations. “Now,” he said, “the biggest change is what used to be an ownership model. For 80 years the industry was based around ownership, everything was for sale.” He added that there are, of course, new products being monetized today, like virtual merchandise in the metaverse. But even so, he said, “Now people own very little and it’s all about access. Record labels have adapted and the artists, especially the younger up and coming artists, have really grabbed onto it and seized it.”
Which is exactly why JVKE believes it’s “the best time ever to be [emerging] because you can make music, put it out, get equipment [shipped to] your bedroom. All of those gates to entry that used to be there are pretty much gone, and I think that’s why we see so many people releasing songs now. And I think in the next few years we’re going to see a lot more up and coming artists with a similar story to me.”
BALANCE CONTENT WITH MUSIC
For an artist like JVKE who took off thanks to TikTok, he spoke to the digital dance of balancing out creator content with posts that directly tease or promote his music. “It was more of a grind when I started out,” he said. “Ultimately, it’s all a mission to connect with people personally. As much as we talk about the algorithm, it’s also just reaching people where they are. Every artist likes doing different things, for me I love writing songs and the raw element of throwing up my phone and playing it and seeing if people like it. Part of growing, for me, means expanding my team so I can stick to what I’m best at. But at first an artist has to do it all themselves.”
MIND YOUR METADATA
Metadata, simply explained by Huppe, “Is data about data.” He said,” In today’s streaming world where 85% of the U.S. recorded music market is streaming, it’s that metadata that determines where the money goes.” He said that over 36 billion performances are reported into SoundExchange each month, with the company paying out every month, totalling over $1 billion annually. “The payment needs to flow properly so people can make a living,” he said. “Metadata is not the sexy part of this, it’s not why anyone does this, but your life will be substantially different if you do it well.”