[GDD Tech] SF MusicTech Summit Next Week; Interview with Coordinator Brian Zisk


Next Tuesday (10/9) we are going to be  in San Francisco, attending the SF MusicTech Summit at the Kabuki Hotel in S.F.’s Japantown district. The increasingly popular event continues its tradition of bringing together some of the top minds and companies within the music and technology sectors, along with a number of developers, entrepreneurs, investors, service providers, journalists, musicians and organizations. Tickets are still available – Click Here. If you are attending the conference make sure to drop us a line so we can meet up

We are really excited to attend the event for the first time and find out what it is all about. As a precursor to attending the event, Brian Zisk, SF MusicTech’s coordinator was nice enough to give us his insights on the event, the status of the music industry and his thoughts on the current explosion of Electronic Dance Music in North America.

GDD: Can you tell me a little bit about the SF Music Tech conference? How did you come up with the idea and who is it geared towards?

Brian Zisk: I love music tech conferences. We had a music technology company back in the 90s Green Witch Internet Radio and we were lucky enough to sell it to a large public company and we would travel around the world and see people from the bay area once a year in Cannes or once a year at SXSW and we thought why don’t we just start a conference where everybody already is – in the San Francisco bay area.

We also knew People were spending so much money to send 2 people to these conferences when instead having one in the bay area people could bring their whole team plus be the title sponsor of our event for the same cost. So I figured we would just do it and I also started an artist advocacy group called the music mission collation in Washington DC. We were very much focused on policy and getting all the people in the room –everyone from the RIAA to creative commons and everyone in between so people could find a middle ground.

But it wasn’t focused as much on entrepreneurs and technologists and that’s what I really love is when you get the musician ands the artists and technologists all together they can really come up with something good.

What we really focus on is folks doing business. Because you can come, you can learn, you can have a great time but if you don’t do business- you are not going to come back again. We set it up in a way that folks come, they have a great time, they see old friends but they also do deals and line up leads so they can move their ability to compete in the music technology field forward.

GDD: So it sets up a ground so people can actually innovate and take the next step – Not just talk about it.

Brian Zisk:  Absolutely! We love bringing technology folks. When Normally you set up a conference and its just CEOs and marketing folks – they don’t even want you to know who their technology guys are. Let alone bring them but if you focus on and bring the technology folks. You get the technologists along with everyone else in the ecosystem.

GDD:  Okay, perfect. How many people are you expecting to attend the event?

Brian Zisk: We are expecting over a 1000 registrations. The crazy part is how many people confirm at the last minute. So that number could swell to about 1100 -1200 but I am pretty confident we are at about 1000 right now.

GDD™: Wow. Very successful turnout.  Congratulations. A couple questions based around EDM, What role do you think technology has played in the rise of electronic dance music America?

Brian Zisk:  That’s a huge question – its absolutely huge. When I started in the 90s if you wanted to be successful musicians you had to sign with a label.  At one of our future music policy summits Hilary Rosen, the head of the RIAA said and I couldn’t believe she said it but – that if you wanted to be the record store you had to sign with a label. Because there is a limited amount of space and we control it.

By having these technologies that allow artists and fans to connect over the internet without intermediaries that can A) take your rights and B) a substantial amount of the money along the way it has really changed the ability for artists and fans to more directly connect it has truly enabled the rise of EDM. Almost none of the artists popular in EDM today have done it by signing with a major label and had a huge promo push and got on the David Letterman show. Technology allowed artists and fans to connect and communication directly, which is why EDM was able to flourish.

Previously it was popular underground. People would still enjoy it but they would go enjoy it Ibiza, enjoy it in the clubs, enjoy it with their friends but it really wasn’t like pretty lights worked with Bittorrent and they reached six million people downloading it – previously you just couldn’t reach that many people it was impossible.  Because of technology a huge number of people can discover and flock to EDM without use of the traditional channels.

GDD™:  Where do you envision the streaming music industry going? Since monetizing very difficult for these companies like Spotify. What is going to be the secondary income source to save them?

Brian Zisk:  There really is multiple questions there. I don’t really call Spotify a streaming service. They are more a music service. It is not about the streaming – the streaming part gets out of the way. It is about the music. In my belief streaming companies will largely be minimized and go away- they really just are protocols for delivering music.  You don’t actually need a company to help do that.

When I had my company Green Witch Internet radio we developed a bunch of open source streaming technologies and that, which enabled people to stream without having to pay networking fees and stuff like that. As for technology folks besides the one who focus on promotion and monetization they are going to have a tough time.

Then you’re talking the music services like Spotify and there are two classes of services there:

1)   Services like Spotify relies on major label content which is a very difficult business because major labels will squeeze so much money out of these services that it will be really difficult for them to do well and survive.

2)   Others that are focused on music but not major label music and there are a lot of these in the EDM space such as Beatport. The ones that will thrive are the ones who help directly connect the artist to the fan or help people make money from the fans.  Who would of imagined as you move down the path people would be charging a couple bucks for a track.

When  I-Tunes came out and they were charge $1.00 for a track it really seemed like that was the ceiling but if you can really do something special between the artists and the fans that really is not the case. For me there is a lot of play in these live streaming companies. The idea that if you cant make it to EDC but that you can still experience from your home. MY example is that I’m married and have a couple kids if I want to see a band its going to cost me what – $600 after you pay for tickets, babysitter, travel, etc. If there’s a good band on in the evening and I can watch it from the comfort of my own home without having to drive Ill pay 20 every night.

I think people are moving more towards enjoying the experience than enjoying individual tracks. Its like Chuck d just said when he was asked about his top 10 favorite artists. He said top 10 favorite artists? I have over 10,000 artists on my I-pod. Its not like top 40 radio where we play the top 40 songs over and over. I think that part of that trend has really helped EDM because in most cases its not like “Oh I love that song with that artist” its ore like I’m enjoying the experience I’m having while I’m enjoying this music. I don’t think we are ever going to see another “Free Bird” type anthem again.

Its much more like “ I enjoy this artist and he’s going to feed me my music and even if I see him do the same song 10 times in a year its not like it’s the same song played the same way. It really has changed everything for BETTER!

GDD™: I completely agree its become more about the experience

Brian Zisk: If you talk to Pasqualle at Insomniac he’s so about the experience and I don’t know if I believe it – he said he’s not going to book the big DJS anymore.  To some extent its not true because Kaskade is still up there. But he said that when he walks around at his festival and he sees people going crazy he will stop and ask who is playing? And the person will have no clue who the DJ is.

Big names are good to draw people into festivals but Once people are at festival its all about the experience as opposed to previously when you would go see a classic rock band they didn’t play their big hit you are absolutely bummed.  You see a famous DJ and dance for 3 hours most of the time you don’t come out bummed if you don’t hear a certain track. If you see Lynyrd Skynyrd and they don’t play free bird you are going to be let down

GDD™: (laughs) DJ’s also have the advantage of being able to play other DJs tracks and not just their own.

Brian Zisk: Yes, there’s a familiarity and it ties it all together.

GDD™: One last question GDD tradition – What is your favorite type of drink when you go out?

Brian Zisk: (laughs) Lagunitas Beer from Petaluma. You will have to try it when you are at the conference

GDD™: Nice! I haven’t heard of it. I will definitely have to buy you one while in at the conference.

Brian Zisk: Sounds good!

GDD™: Well Brian, Thank you so much for your time and I am looking forward to  meeting you at the conference on Tuesday.

SF MusicTech Summit XI will be held:
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
9am – 6pm + parties!
Hotel Kabuki
San Francisco, CA

For More information Click Here