Nov 18, 2014

Review: Highlights From SF MusicTech Summit

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Written by: Zach Reisler

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On a cloudy morning in Japantown, hundreds of musicians, industry professionals, sound engineers, and all types of music entrepreneurs descended upon the Kabuki Hotel. At this Japanese themed complex, founder and executive producer Brian Zisk hosted an annual gathering of thought leaders at the intersection of music and technology: The SF MusicTech Summit.

The big names showed up: David Porter, founder of 8tracks; Sam Valenti, founder of; Ethan Diamond, CEO of Bandcamp; Lars Murray, VP of Industry Relations for Pandora. Many spoke on a series of panels throughout the day covering a range of topics from how fans discover new music, to the future of music sales being eaten by subscription services like Spotify. Other panels discussed trending marketing strategies for artists, while one two hour session was filled with five minute back to back presentations of new apps and websites designed to make listening to music, making music, or organizing music twice as easy.


One of the coolest demos during this session was for awebsite called LANDR, which, with the click of a button, automatically masters any track uploaded to the website. No more paying for expensive studio time or costly sound engineers, LANDR’s software is programmed to adapt to all genres and turns a rough take into a beautifully mastered track. The app Jammcard touts an online profile for musicians that can be viewed and shared to make finding collaborators easier. It also “prevents you from having to give out your phone number to weird musicians who randomly approach you,” creator and owner Elmo Lovano joked. One last app, Wego Concerts, is like a Tindr for music lovers. It matches people in the same city based on music preferences and shows you other users going to the same show as you giving you the ability to message them to meet up. It launched in SF a few days ago.

The last panel of the day included Nic Adler from Goldenvoice and Jimmy Chamberlin from the Smashing Pumpkins, and provided some hard-hitting truths. “If the sum total of what you do is putting an mp3 on a plastic disk, quit now” Benji Rogers emphatically told the crowd. Artists are so much more than just musicians today. The panel agreed that giving fans extra experiences like meet-and greets, signings, and even special opportunities such as playing music with artists is essential to creating an authentic, meaningful relationship with fans. Artists who dismiss these opportunities are both leaving money on the table and not maximizing their relationship with fans. “Royalties are a crutch,” said Hany Nada, managing partner at GGV Capital, a large venture capital firm. “Monetizing peripheral content is the future.” That can be anything from selling a unique piece of merchandise to selling an artist’s blood. This was an actual request from a fan according to PledgeMusic founder Benji Rogers. “At least it’s a renewable resource!” an audience member quipped.


The day ended in an open bar cocktail party with beer provided by both Lagunitas and LyricFind. Business cards changed hands, future deals were struck, and the schmoozing was abundant as the liquor flowed and a roar of conversation echoed across the Imperial Ballroom. Brian Zisk publically stated that he doesn’t know whether he will put the event on again next year. But with the explosion of services, apps, hardware, and metadata currently transforming the way music is heard, consumed, and tracked, it’s likely something will materialize to connect new segments of this classic industry.


One of the panels that I found the most interesting was “Building the Electronic Revolution: An Insight Into EDM’s Explosive Growth”, moderated by Ari Evans from LessThan3. Panelists included Betty Tran-Chillino, Insomniac; Alexandra Greenberg, MSO PR; Robert Scoble, Scobleizer / Rackspace; and Jake Udell, Th3rd Brain. Some of the topics covered during the hour-long EDM panel were live streaming, exclusive playlists, Snapchat (using it to tease the EDC Las Vegas lineup), street promoting (flyers, posters, one-to-one conversations with the fans), cashless system, cyber surveillance, beacons, the insomniac app and much more.


The session kicked-off with the panelists discussing live streaming. Here’s some of what they had to say:

“The decision to live stream EDC was a very tough decision for our CEO. He wants people to come to the festival to experience the show in person. There’s nothing like going to EDC in person when you see eight massive size stages on the Las Vegas speedway, 150,000 people per day. There’s nothing like it and that’s why it sells out so quickly. How to translate that in person experience to digital very much had to be planned and well thought out. And what we did was had eight unique feeds so you could see each stage. You could see the people on the carnival rides. You could see from a fans point of view. We actually had fans with GoPros and you could see the stream through each feed. We decided to stream on YouTube for obvious reasons and then on During that period of time we also relaunched and we used a beta technology called Maestro which Ari obviously runs.  That has a lot more interactive features than YouTube. So we drove people to as well as provided the YouTube audience a little bit of insight into EDC.” – Betty Tran-Chillino, Insomniac

“One of my clients is Above & Beyond who just did a sold out show at Madison Square Garden. If anyone is not familiar with Above & Beyond, they’re three guys from England. In addition to their music, they are known to have an incredible emotional connection with their fans. They tour the world over. They invite fans to come on stage. Imagine if you were going Madison Square Garden and you’re going to see Billy Joel perform. And your dream is to be asked up on stage to play guitar with Billy Joel. Well for them, they invite fans to come and do a moment…. This woman is getting all crazy back there. She knows what I’m talking about.  ‘Push the button’.  I just love that she knows what this is. This is an experience that they love to share with their fans. They streamed their live show. And Ari you guys did that show too, LessThan3 did that streaming… First and foremost the fan experience. They wanted to bring their fans from all over the world into the room of what they were doing at Madison Square Garden. Live streaming was a huge part of that. Everything was pushed towards the live stream. They didn’t really care about hosting it through YouTube. It was all through ‘You can find us through’. For them they got to play their new music for their fans and everywhere around the world it became a number one trending topic on Twitter. That was so important to them.” – Alexandra Greenberg, MSO PR

Another topic that was covered was cashless events:

“We just did our first cashless event at EDC Orlando and it went really well. Check-in was much easier. Completely cashless, the entire event was cashless. So basically we mailed all of the ticket boxes to fans. They had a wristband with a chip in it. They had the option to activate their chip through our website or they could activate on-site. They could use credit cards and cash on-site to upload money into their wristband. We did have a backup plan if everything went down. So if you’ve been to a festival and you’ve done cashless and something happened. We did have a backup plan, but everything worked. We had 30 stations on-site. We had 10-12 customer service stations. So if there was something wrong with the wristband we could in real-time figure out what was going on. Cut the wristband, replace it, transfer funds. It was really successful for us. We did have probably less than 1% that wasn’t accustomed to cashless and they were a little irritated that they had to do it. But if you look at the total of positive reactions towards it, it was a win for Insomniac to do cashless. Less long lines. Ease of use.” – Betty Tran-Chillino, Insomniac

Here are a few other notable quotes from the panelists:

“You have to pick and choose what to stream. You can’t stream every festival.” – Betty Tran-Chillino, Insomniac

“The world is about to get really freaky to a lot of people.” speaking about the future in technology being used at festivals. – Robert Scoble

“He’s fans first”  Betty Tran-Chillino of Insomniac said about Pasquale Rotella.

“When does rock and roll wake up to the fact that you need to put on a show?”  – Robert Scoble

“Email is still probably the highest conversion of ticket sales”  – Betty Tran-Chillino, Insomniac

Listen to the full session of “Building the Electronic Revolution: An Insight Into EDM’s Explosive Growth” below. –  Suzanne Welker Jurgens

Many of the SF MusicTech sessions were recorded. Listen to them on SoundCloud!


Photos by Michael O’Donnell for SF MusicTech.
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About the Author

Zach Reisler



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