Three of the Hottest Reasons Not to Invite a VC to a Music Conference

Sorry, couldn’t resist.  They tell you that if you want to have a clickable post make it about lists of things, so after reading “SXSW: The 7 Hottest Topics in Music Tech“, I thought I’d give it a try.

The thing to remember about the conference part of SXSW is that there’s two conferences.  One is at the panels where panelists are pitching, the other is everywhere but the panels where things are getting done.  Frankly–I went to two panels this year and had a reason to go to each.  So here’s a good example of why I don’t spend a lot of time at the panels.  Not saying they’re not worthwhile or anything negative, just that this is  a good example of why I don’t tend to show up there as much as I do at the Four Seasons (where they have valet parking).

The DMN story is about a panel with Director of Product Management at Facebook, Michael Cerda, VP of Business Development at BandPage, Chris Wiltsee, Managing Director of Walden Venture Capital, Larry Marcus and the moderator was SF MusicTech veteran, Todd Tate.

In other words–no musicians.  No songwriters.  So unless you really like being spoonfed what the VC class and their followers want you to believe, no reason to go to yet another “top down” panel.

Proof?  You ask for proof?

Here’s three of the 7 that I think prove the point.

1.  “Business Models For MusicTech Companies With Copyright Reforms”:  This was a biggie for Pandora investor Larry Marcus.  (Who is a well-meaning guy, so don’t flame him.)  When a VC starts talking about “copyright reform” what they really mean is “using my crony capitalist connections in Washington so I can make more money and musicians make as little as possible”.  He’s a Pandora investor, right?  If you want to see how much Walden VC made off of Pandora, click here.

Don’t get me wrong–I want venture investors to make piles of money off of music tech companies.  It’s just that I’d like artists, songwriters and musicians to make piles of money, too.  Risk-adjusted, to be sure, but when we are asked to take a cut in royalties and subsidize Pandora’s business, we are investing, too.

And when we do it because the government orders us to do it as in the case of the statutory license and the ASCAP/BMI rate courts, the rate we should do it at should reflect the value of Pandora’s one product–music.

So here’s the money quote–so to speak–that DMN attributes to Mr. Marcus:

“I hope there is a shifted mindset for people who own the copyrights, the labels, to construct win-win deals.  And that’s NOT about upfront cash payments.  It’s where if the company succeeds then everyone succeeds.”  -Larry Marcus, Walden VC

Right–first of all, “people who own the copyrights” are not just “the labels.”  So either Larry needs to back to music business school to understand how insulting it is for him to completely gloss over songwriters and independent artists, or Pandora needs to finally come clean and stop this charade that they give a rats ass about artists and songwriters.

But the choice part is “that’s NOT about upfront cash payments.  It’w where if the company succeeds then everyone succeeds.”

No, see that’s what happens when you are a stock holder.  So unless a VC is planning on treating those scruffy artists and songwriters the same as his well-scrubbed little cheeks, that statement is complete bunk.  Or something.

2.  Replace House Sound Mixers with a Machine:  Another quote from DMN:

“Algorithms can do a better job at live mixing than most people” – Larry Marcus.

He thinks the “Virtual Sound Guy” app is just around the corner. And with the notoriously shitty house sound guys, I’m interested to see what an algorithm can do.

You must be playing somewhere other than Austin and Nashville.

Next they’ll be telling us that you can download Abbey Road in a Box for free off the Internet and make a better record than The Beatles.

3.  The Real News:  Why do the tech giants stop you from connecting with the fans you drive to their platforms?

In fairness, Mr. Marcus is quoted by DMN as saying something important:

“[Y]ou may have 2 million followers on YouTube, but you can’t actually reach those followers. It’s really important to own your fans.”

There’s a very simple fix for this that I have discussed with Beats and Spotify but no takers:  Allow artists to have a email signup button that would take the fan out of the service to the band’s own email sign up page so that the fan could sign up directly with the band.

So I’ll be looking forward to Pandora adding this feature soon.

Something else for Tim Westergren to think about in his 13 bathroom house after he has a think about copyright reform.

One thought on “Three of the Hottest Reasons Not to Invite a VC to a Music Conference

  1. I just think it would be a great idea if independent labels, artists, musicians, songwriters go to panels where VCs are panelists and ask the following three questions (no matter what the topic of the panel maybe):
    1. Do you provide venture capital for independent labels, artistsbands, musicians, songwriters?
    2. Why not?
    3. (If an independent label rep) But I am a business having a better business plan than most internet music providers, how about $500,000?
    I think you get the idea. Would love to hear and publish the responses.


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