The SF Music Tech, a Focus on Innovations For Online Music

Article  by  MAIA BOYÉ et MATTHIEU DARTIGUENAVE  •  Published 04.03.2013  •  Updated 04.03.2013
[NEWS] Music recommendation, Artist Content and live streaming ... back on the main innovations presented at Music Tech Summit in San Francisco.

The opening conference of the San Francisco Music Tech Summit entitled "Music Discovery" that was held Feb. 19, 2013, gathered the professionals of the online music recommendation: Rhapsody, Pandora and The Echo Nest. Even though each of these companies is offering different services, they all have the same goal: to collect data on users’ tastes in order to provide with them songs and artists they are likely to appreciate.
Music discovery is going to be one of the major issues in the future, which is why the online music services wish to develop it very quickly. Thus, according to Ethan Kaplan, VP Product Development of Live Nation Labs, "One of the largest investments of Apple today is music discovery which consists in facilitating the discovery and recommendation on iTunes. " Apple is expected to launch its radio service this year.
To implement these personalized recommendation technologies, companies such as Pandora, which had 67.1 million active users in December 2012, invests greatly in collecting users’ data. Algorithms can then process the data to provide relevant suggestions to the listener. Thus, users have access to websites completely customized to listen to their music. In February 2012, a study by eMarketer confirmed this trend, quoting that "67% of Internet users will listen to a personalized radio in 2016 in the United States."

But at this conference Ty Roberts, co-founder of Gracenote, the largest platform for music data collection in the world, showed the limits of the music suggestions. According to Roberts, "the average person knows between 10 and 20 artists." Although those figures are anecdotal, it proves the paradox of music recommendation. Platforms such as Pandora, Spotify and The Echo Nest offer a huge selection of songs, but at the same time tend to lock the user in a bubble of similar suggestions.
Indeed, these algorithms that generate suggestions to users are really far from replacing the advice of a record shop owner. That is why, during the summit, speakers raised the recommendation of making this system more "humane" or "smarter". One wonders at this point if it does truly add to the cultural enhancement of the user, considering that we see that most users create playlists of primarily mainstream music.
At the conference "Music, Brands & Technology" speakers highlighted a very surprising trend. If we could believe that the brand content[+] NoteIt is the creation of an artistic content by a brand that supports its productionand distribution. It is a collaboration between an artist and a brand.X [1] became the credo of an entire industry; it seems to be gradually replaced by the artist content[+] NoteIt is an editorial or video content created by the artist himself towards his fans.X [2].
The brand content is obviously still accurate, even if it is not really new. Specialized agencies in the field, such as Pereira O'Dell, represented during the SF Music Tech by its creative director Jaime Robinson, extol the virtues of this model that allow the artist and the brand to have a greater visibility by making a unique creation. For brands, music is obviously a great way to get closer to their target, enhance their image and attract new consumers.
But some, like Nick Alder, VP of Business Development of Cashmere Agency, go further by saying that "in the coming years, the artists will manage and produce their own content." In fact, he said, "We are going from the brand content to the artist content.” Artists tend to be closer to their audience because of the Direct-to-Fan trend, that is to say the disintermediation of communication between the artist and the listener. This trend has grown significantly thanks to technologies such as the GoPro camera presented at SF Music Tech Summit, which can produce high definition videos easily. Artists use it to film rehearsals or backstage scenes in order to strengthen the complicity and proximity with their audience. Indeed, the user is increasingly used to search for a unique and original content on the Internet, and so he is "less interested in what he could find on MTV compared to a content directly created by his favorite artist," said GoPro member Will Hoover. For the artists, the Direct-to-Fan and the self-produced content seem to be key elements to engage and emancipate the audience.
Among the winners of the Music Hack Day in San Francisco, which took place one week ahead of SF Music Tech, an innovative project, Copper, seems to have similar ambitions. In fact, the creator, Scott Fryxell, very committed in supporting artists, has created a website that allows the user to ‘tip’ artists that he enjoys. By installing the button "Copper" on the browser, the user, when he finds content or a song that he likes, may decide to give a amount of money. Copper is in charge of finding the person who created the content and paying him 100% of the amount. In this spirit, the start-up eliminates the intermediaries who could take much of the artist’s income.
What has been also brought out of these conferences is the live streaming development. This new music market seems to be flourishing. For example, the platform Ustream broadcasts more than 12,000 concerts per month, and this number is constantly growing. According to Carl Rogers, co-founder of the live streaming platform IROCKE "the live streaming industry will explode in the coming years, and new companies have enough room to come in the market." The speakers define themselves as pioneers in a field that is still very young. The concept, which allows people to follow the concerts of their favorite artists from their home computer, needs to be experienced again.

In addition, platforms such as IROCKE or the new Evntlive of Judy Estrin, do not attempt to replace the live experience but to find an online alternative. According to the founder of Evntlive, "We must be able to create an emotion which is super close to the live even if it will always be fundamentally different. You must connect the artist to his fans.” However, the technologies of live streaming are very expensive and can discourage entrepreneurs to get into the field; but all agree that there is a place to take in the adventure.
From the artist’s point of view, this concept has many advantages. Indeed, it is a way to promote themselves and connect with a new audience by creating a closeness similar to the live. Users who experience live streaming are more than random followers on Twitter. The level of fan engagement is much higher.
The issue of monetization of such services has also been raised: "The young talents are still reluctant when it comes to charge the live streaming concert because some great artists keep it free," said Karl Rogers.
In short, the different modalities of auditors’ participation can be enhanced. Platforms must also improve the interaction between artist, audience and users to build a coherent ecosystem in which everyone can enjoy the musical experience.
Ultimately, the music industry seems to have found in technological innovation a way to develop new services and monetize them. Therefore, 2013 could be placed under the sign of music discovery and the musician’s appropriation of its own content. To be continued.

Photo credits: 
Logo of SF Music Tech 
Pictures by Maïa Boyé at SF Music Tech (February 19th, 2013)
  • 1. It is the creation of an artistic content by a brand that supports its productionand distribution. It is a collaboration between an artist and a brand.
  • 2. It is an editorial or video content created by the artist himself towards his fans.
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