|The One-Dayer Opening Panel. (singer)
Hamish Dunbar and John Chantler (CafeOto), Joey Baxter (Eventbox)
Michael Hann (Guardian), Jeff Thompson (Un-Convention/ Axis), Paul Archer (Daredevil)
CONFERENCE REPORT: The One-Dayer: Finance Technology and the Future of Independent Music (Cecil Sharp House. 12th September 2014. Report by Sebastian Scotney)
Conference instigator Julia Payne from The Hub set the tone for the day from the outset. The starting principles she had in mind in setting up a highly informative day were that: 1) everyone in non-mainstream music needs and is looking for effective models, and 2) ‘we will all be smarter if we share’.
The objective,of the conference, she stated, was to “try to kickstart a community of the curious and the generous.” The Hub work from the principle that most people in music are generous with their time and what they know, and that these are ideas that can be built on. (READ ALSO OUR Q AND A WITH JULIA PAYNE.)
Before the first session there was a song specially written for the day about overcoming fear by Laura Kidd from She Makes War – “I was alone, too shy to sing…” she started. With a bit of communal singing…it was the right kind of thing both to salute the presence of around 200 people in Cecil Sharp House, and to break down some barriers.
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The first panel session, given by the four organisations that had been been selected as having particularly interesting new models in the Joinng the Dots initiative, was chaired by Guardian journalist Michael Hann. He first asked for a show of hands asking the audience what dictaed their choices of music and what channels they used to access it. “Radio and TV”: very few hands. “Buying CDs”: about the same. “Buying in any form” : many more. “Print Media” : more than Hann had expected
First speaker speaker Paul Archer talked about hs business Daredevil Project, which makes “social mobile games for the real world” He spoke fast and then speeded up. Daredevil is keen on its competitive photo-sharing game #DUEL in which people judge photos eg at Festivals, and in which the ranking data for popularity is effectively crowdsourced. One positive is that the benefits of monetization will flow back to the creators. As regards its relevance to music, he thought that the #DUEL method would also work for songs, and that “we’d love to hear from you guys. ”
Jeff Thompson of Un-Convention runs a record label and has developed a system OffAxis, inspired by the Brazilian model Fora Do Eixo. He works towards a model of a barter system where independent grassroots bands can fill venues different towns and get paid. But how do you get Manchester band an audience in Leeds? He was inspired by a festival in Groningen in Holland to arrange of gig-swaps between Manchester and Holland. Bands have a currency in their local following, but problem is that these local and personal networks are finite. As Thompson said:” A band’s tradeable asset is their ability to attract a local audience. The OffAxis is a network open by invitation. If a band can show that it can attract an audience in its own town for a similar band from elsewhere, then OffAxis will give credits which give that band the chance to do a performance “anywhere in the system”.
Hamish Dunbar and John Chantler of Cafe Oto talked about digital subscriptions, a project shortly to go live. The Dalston venue has developed to the pont where it presents over 300 events a year. It now receives some funding but bulk of income is via ticket sales. The Oto people started to think about how they could engage the audience who can’t physically get to the gig. Through a crowdfunding exercise, they bought a high-end multi-channel recorder. They envisage a digital subscription service where people can download one-off unrepeatable performances. Projected price is £10/ month to download and own three concert recordings per month, from a growing archive. “We will pay musicians.” 150 subscribers will cover the costs, they said, and the Oto management will look to put additional revenues they generate towards commissioning supporting material to enhance the podcasts.
Joey Baxter of Eventbox. This former Drum n Bass MC and producer warmed to his theme, which was that live events are good. “The driving force for human evolution, going right back to the Colosseum in Rome,” he asserted. The solution he wants to offer is to provide people interested in going to gigs with a user-friendly app which make it as easy as possible to find out about music events near them. The user taps on a marker on the smartphone or tablet screen, and the app plays music and gives info about the event. He anticipates the revenue stream to mainly come from providing services to venues, and in the longer term from selling their data expertise to other third parties like brands looking for hotspots.
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The second session started with Gavin Sharp of Inner City Music of Band on The Wall explaining that in their 320 capcity venue “it is very difficult to make a surplus that covers the overheads. The annual unavoidable overhead BEFORE staff costs is £100,000 just to keep the building open. Average spend per head at the bar is £9. (including VAT) Sharp explained that he had inherited a normal flat structure of busy young people, but had instigated a more hierarchical staff structure, where everyone has a specific role and responsibility, down to the detail of specific inputs into their systems. He talked about the need for efficiency of systems in a venue where revenues cannot sustain the staff. But the company is implementing the idea that their central core can do the same for other spaces, produce tours, both funded and commercial.
Lawyer Cliff Fluet of Lewis Silkin talked about the asymmetries of costs and income. The “content-producing community”need to do something they are reluctant to, which is to look at overall costs including marketing, and everything, top to bottom, to treat such costs as part of the necessary expense rather than an add-on. He also talked about the curious hierarchy of what people will pay for in pledging packages. The most expensive thing to produce – the album – is cheaper than eg a signed handkerchief. He gave an insight into his activity: “I act for drinks brands, and what these people are looking for is a story to sell to their customers” A topical subject raised its head, namely Apple giving away a U2 album free, or as one speaker complained, “imposing it on their users.”
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In the third session – ‘Show me the Money’, the focus shifted to how a artists could ready themselves to receive “investment”. Alan Davey of the Arts Council talked about the Momentum scheme, which he had instigated, developed and defended against critics who think the Arts Council should not have any role in pop music. He talked about the blueprint for the scheme which had come from Canada. He underlined a key objective of the Arts Council: “we want talented people to be able to make a living.” ACE is currently awaiting its first evaluation of the initial £250,000 spent. Mary-Alice Stack formerly Arts Council has floated off the activity she oversees into a community interest company called “Creative United”, to help connect creative entrepreneurs and give them better access to finance. Kevin Osborne of MeWe360 entered the discussion by stating that he sees a lot of entities which are not yet investable. Marcella Kelshaw of Esmee Fairbairn described the funding models they are experimenting with. There was a director of peer-to-peer funding lending platform Ratesetter. They have £30m a month coming in. Ratesetter lends to individuals rather than to incorporated businesses.
In the next session there was an interesting discussion of driving live attendance by using technology. To the question about giving musi online away for free, Laura Kidd gave an artist’s perspective: “making my music available online is free advertising. It’s for me to make it all add up, draw your own lines in the sand”
I attended the start of the session “Building a Digital Toolkit for Promoters”, which focused first on new cloud services. Shane Richmond talked about a new one with quite a buzz about it called Slack for communicating within teams. Martin Franklin talked about Base Camp project management software.
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This is a very incomplete report on a day in which masses of information was buzzing around, there was a lot of talk about “going to the next level,” “Curious” cupcakes were eaten, and a lot of information was indeed shared. I would have liked to hear the perspective of one of the streaming services, because the value of the information thy hold on what people are listening to where and when could make a real difference to the independent music should they want to share it. But a day which helps to build a cohesive community around music is an unambiguously good thing. Comments and corrections definitely welcome!