Warner Bros. Records (WBR) today announced the appointment of Larry Mattera as Executive Vice President, Commerce, Digital Marketing & Strategy.
A two-decade industry veteran, Mattera joins WBR from WEA, Warner Music Group’s global artist and label services arm, where he was SVP, Head of Global Digital Accounts. Mattera will relocate from New York to WBR’s headquarters in Burbank and report directly to Cameron Strang, Chairman & CEO, Warner Bros. Records.
Mattera’s role will, for the first time at WBR, combines oversight of the label’s commercial activities, across all traditional and digital platforms, with responsibility for digital marketing initiatives and strategy.
Before joining WEA in 2007 as SVP, Digital Sales & Marketing, Mattera spent six years at Island Def Jam, where he created the company’s New Media Department. He began his career in 1994 at Epic Records and then moved to Polygram Group Distribution in 1996.
Sturgill Simpson has remained on the road for most of the year, barking his way through a live set that veers from Bible Belt bluegrass to amplified, full-throttle psychedelia. It’s fitting, then, that most of those concerts have come to a close with a medley of the Osborne Brothers’ “Listening to the Rain” and T. Rex‘s “The Motivator,” two songs that represent the full span of Simpson’s influences.
“The Motivator” was originally released on T. Rex’s Electric Warrior, an album that helped push the glitter and glitz of glam rock into the mainstream. Decades later, it’s a reminder of an era where sleaze, swagger and sex ruled the roost, replacing the acoustic guitars of 1960s folk rock with something harder. That makes the song an odd choice for a country band perhaps, but Sturgill Simpson and his road band — whose lineup now includes two keyboardists — rip it to shreds, turning the tune into a stomping combo of Telecaster thunder and pounding percussion.
In the video above, the guys wrap up a September 15th show in eastern Virginia with their own version of “The Motivator.” After a four-minute guitar workout, Sturgill brings the song to a brief halt, walks over to drummer Miles Miller and playfully wipes the sweat off his head with a handkerchief. With that, the musicians launch back into the song for three glorious seconds, finishing everything off with a snippet of the song that began the medley: the Osbornes’ “Listening to the Rain.”
With a new album reportedly in the can and an ongoing tour that stretches through Thanksgiving, Simpson and company will keep themselves busy until 2016, when Simpson’s Atlantic debut is expected to hit stores.
In a followup to an article he wrote in 2014 regarding the potential forcryptocurrency to revolutionize the music industry, recording artist/songwriter D.A. Wallach recently did an interview with Forbes in which he speaks about problems in the architectural structure of the music industry, and the need for a distributed registry.
Roughly a year from the publication of Mr. Wallach’s seminal piece on this topic, I strongly believe that blockchain technology (or some alternative distributed ledger) is the very best path forward in order to develop a music industry that enables those who create music to control their works and be compensated for their usage, and for those who desire to consume/utilize/build businesses around music to do so in a transparent and efficient manner, without self-interested intermediaries distorting and leveraging the process.
Pie in the sky? Perhaps, but progress is being made, and certainly no better “solutions” are presenting themselves.
I recently had the opportunity to check in with Mr. Wallach about this topic, and, over the course of a lengthy conversation, we discussed not only his views on the progress made with respect to blockchain technology and musicians, but also his work with Spotify, and his strong conviction that there is a more moral way to approach the music industry than that which currently exists.
Our conversation was direct, and at times heated, but it is abundantly clear to me that the music industry is incredibly fortunate to have someone like Mr. Wallach to help define its future.
In this first part of our conversation, presented below lightly edited for grammar and clarity, we discuss:
How the problems of today’s music industry has less to do with nefarious executives, and more to do with “poorly architected systems.”
The need for a distributed registry.
The unlikelihood of some sort of consortium or governmental agency coming together to create a registry.
How consent decrees and other forms of collective bargaining are hindering artist’s ability to determine the usages of their works.
Mr. Wallach’s “thought experiment” on what might happen if an artist became popular – via social media, etc. – and the artist’s works were played on the radio without the artist affiliating with a PRO.
Through my own work in that area, it is an article that keeps getting referenced, which is a testament, not only to how great the article is, and how well written it is, but, also to you generally, and everything that you have done in the industry. So, I was wondering, before we jump in, if you could set the stage about your career and what led you to this point.
DW: Yeah. For sure. So, as my life stands today, I sort of split my time 50/50 between continuing to make music and putting out albums as a solo artist. And, with the rest of my time, I invest in early stage technology businesses. And, going back even further, prior to Spotify, I was spending pretty much all of my time just being a career artist. So, touring and making records.
And, that started pretty much from the day I graduated college, which was in 2007, that I had started as an undergraduate when my band got a record deal.
And so, I’ve gone through a number of different worlds that all sort of overlap and brought me to the interests that I developed in both cryptocurrency and also in fixing some of the core infrastructure in the music business. And, I had started thinking about some of these issues ten years ago, when I was literally busking on the street in Boston.
GH: Yeah. I probably saw you.
DW: You may have, unfortunately. But, particularly with my experience through Spotify, and from being on the other side of the table, a little bit, I gained an even more acute awareness of really how significant some of the problems were in the way that the industry functions that aren’t necessarily attributable to evil minded executives or anything nefarious; it is really just that this industry and lots of other media industries are built upon really poorly architected infrastructure. In fact, no one architected it; it just sort of evolved over the past hundred years. But, it is not up to the task of today.
GH: Yeah. It’s sort of an architecture of accretion.
Thank you for that introduction and context. And, it does sort of uniquely qualify you, as say you’ve been on both sides of the table; being an artist who has had the trajectory of busking all the way up to putting records out and playing in front of a lot of people, and selling a lot of records – this all gives you context. And, then investing, and working with Spotify.
And, frankly I wish there were more like you. I think that one of the main reasons the record industry sort of devolved was that there was a separation between the people who were making the music and the people who were marketing the music. And, never the twain shall meet. So, we are lucky in the artist community to have somebody like you out there. So, thank you for what you are doing.
DW: That’s nice. Thanks.
GH: To your point about the lack of architecture; unquestionably, the music industry did evolve through accretion. We still talk in terms that are anachronistic, in the sense that they were invented back when the music industry was invented. I mean “mechanical royalties” was a term used when they had to come up with some way to describe taking music and mechanically reproducing it on a piano or a music box, and yet it is still a key component.
What intrigues me about the blockchain or a decentralized registry, generally, is that maybe now we can move to one place that has a more accurate registry as well as one that is less easily corrupted by people for their own desires or for economic imperatives or what have you. Is that a fair statement?
Was that sort of your initial gesture on this or was it not?
DW: No. I don’t think it was. You know, I would sort of distinguish between two separate problems that my article is attempting to address and that, to me, is clearly more two separate problems the longer I think about this. The first one is that we really need this thing. And, by “this thing,” I mean that we need a central registry where we easily keep track of who creates our art and who gets paid when that art gets used.
GH: Can I interrupt you? The idea that we need a central registry…. I would say that we need adistributed registry. Right? I think it might be helpful for people to understand the distinction.
DW: Yeah. Absolutely. I think that is the second problem.
GW: Okay. I don’t mean to change your flow. I just think there is a key distinction, because there are tons of registries out there. ASCAP has a registry, Harry Fox has a registry, Sound Exchange has a registry. What I am arguing for, and I think you are too, is a registry that is decentralized. In essence, it is distributed.
DW: Sure. What I would say is that when I first started thinking about this – before I started thinking about decentralization – I was thinking about the music industry becoming global and that is sort of a universal trend. We have one world, one culture. It doesn’t make sense really to release records in different territories on different days, and things like this because the internet has brought everyone so much closer together.
And, if you can imagine a world in which the United Nations created this database and it was a free public asset and everyone used it. That would be great. And I sort of wouldn’t mind a single party controlling it, as long as they were trustworthy, and were sort of easy to work with, and did a basically good job on the technology side.
But, the world in which we actually seem to live in, is one in which basically no one in the media industries basically trust each other.
DW: So, I actually view the need for decentralization here, or the opportunity for decentralization as sort of a slightly sad testament to how corrupted the media businesses are.
I mean I sort of wish that everyone could work together and form a consortium globally that did this. But, that hasn’t happened. It doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen. It is hard to imagine what would actually make it happen.
And, that led me to the possibility that maybe the only way to do this is to actually produce a solution that will enable everyone to work together. And, that’s what decentralized stuff is good at.
GH: Yeah. I’m there. So, decentralization sort of addresses both of those things. One, it obviates the bug in the ointment of if people have control they are going to utilize that control to their own ends. And, that’s life.
It also allows for it to be global, as you say, and finally allows for us to be able to distribute it across anyone who wants to use it. So, it’s not just in the hands of a few people.
DW: I agree. I think that you are absolutely right that people are keeping… you know, ASCAP maintains their own database; Harry Fox maintains their own database. All of thee people are keeping their sort of proprietary dataset around.
GH: I am sorry to interrupt you, but, that’s where their value comes from, right? That’s part of the inherent problem of saying, “Hey, ASCAP open up your database.” Well, if they do that they are giving away their secret sauce. They are giving away their value.
DW: You know, I think that’s their perception, and, you know, they may be partly right. But my view of it – and I am not like extremist “information should be free” type of person – it’s just that in this case, I don’t see anyone deriving much value from having this stuff be proprietary. Sure. It is part of ASCAP’s value. Yes. They have a pretty comprehensive database of their songwriters and the stuff those songwriters created. But, I really don’t think that’s where their value comes from in the world.
I think the reason songwriters affiliate with them is to go and effectively collective bargain on their behalf with broadcasters and other people who use music. By the way, I think that is always going to be a potentially valuable service that they can provide in the world.
GH: So, let me stop you again. I do disagree here. And, that’s okay. I think that ASCAP and BMI and any of the PROs are the most likely low-hanging-fruit to be disrupted by the blockchain.
Let me just throw a straw man out at you and you can tell me where I am wrong. And, I am probably going to work this into an article. So, I am testing it out on you today.
So, if you decide that this music thing is for the birds, and, you don’t want to do it anymore; you are going to open up a restaurant instead, right? You want to play music in your restaurant. And, you are not you; you are someone that doesn’t know the ins and outs of the music business. And, you get a letter or a knock on the door from ASCAP or BMI saying, “Hey, you want music in your restaurant? Great. You need to pay us a blanket license fee and then you can play anything that’s in our catalog because we’ve negotiated” — as you said re collective bargaining — “we negotiated for our writers. And you say, “Alright. I understand. Great!”
And the PROs say, “By the way, if you don’t purchase this blanket license, we are going to sue you.”
So, what if we were in a — and I am sort of jumping ahead a little bit — but, what if you and I got together and said, We are going to find two to three hundred artists out there who have the rights to their compositions, and we are going to put it up on the blockchain. We are going to stipulate that this music can be used by restaurants and then we are going to find three hundred of our friends that have restaurants, and say, “Hey, you want music in your restaurant? You can use this music according to the database that we used the blockchain tocreate.”
And the people supplying the music will set whatever reasonable price, and the people that want to use the music willdecide: “yeah I am either going to pay or I am not going to pay that.”
What do we need ASCAP or BMI for? Scale?
DW: Sure. The system you are proposing I find really appealing, right. And, I think at a certain level, artists shouldn’t need to affiliate with one of these PRO’s in order to have their music usable in the world.
GH: And, you think you have to? You can tell I have a bias against this. So, you can shoot me down at any point. But, you are right. They shouldn’t. Then, there is a burden on the services — that artists have to align themselves with — to report accurately and effectively, and we both know now that none of the PROs come anywhere near that.
DW: Sure. Look, I would distinguish between two functions that the PROs provide. One, is that they keep track of who owns this stuff, and then they move them all around, right? They go and get a check from Clear Channel. They figure out how to go and split it up. You can debate whether or not they can do a fair or a good job of that, but let’s assume that they do an OK job of it. So, that’s one of their functions. And, the other function is this sort of collective bargaining thing.
DW: And, the collective bargaining thing, in general is good for artists who don’t have a lot of power. And, it’s potentially worse for artists that do have a lot of power. So, this sort of alternative PRO that you are describing is actually sort of being done right now with a lot of powerful artists in the form of this GMR; Global Music Rights.
DW: Which isn’t bound by the consent decrees of U.S. Congress, and so can’t demand higher rates on behalf of its songwriters who are the sort of folks who you can’t live without if you have a radio station.
GH: If you are the Eagles, you can say, “We are going to pull our music from ASCAP, BMI or whoever and limit our usage.” And the Eagles will not let, for instance, tv shows broadcast their music without a direct license. But, all that does, and tell me if I am wrong, but doing this without the blockchain or some other decentralized registry, is just building a new system that is essentially the same as the other one, but perhaps more elitist.
And, what I am looking for is one that allows for some sort of smart contracts to exist. Where I open a restaurant, but, I can just say, “OK, I like salsa music. I want that in my restaurant, and I am willing to pay $100.00 a month.” And, I plug that in and my machine goes out and looks for artists that do that type of work and are willing to allow their music to be used and the machine sort of match each other up. Is that too pie in the sky?
DW: I don’t think it’s pie in the sky. It should work, you know, if an alien came down and created this from scratch. So, in general, I favor that approach. I think. My wish though is that artists could do whatever they want. If they want the sort of collective bargaining power of ASCAP and they want to go in with a bunch of other artists and have someone negotiate a rate for all of them that might be better than what they could negotiate on their own — more power to them. If someone doesn’t want to affiliate and wants to use a sort of system that you are describing at their own rates, then they should be able to do that too. And, I think the problem right now is that artists can’t do that.
GW: Right. That is the point.
DW: I have had sort of a “thought experiment” for a while that I think would be a fun stunt. Which is: imagine that you had an artist that was really hot on the internet and you had a big bidding war over them and they signed a record deal with whomever, and they didn’t affiliate with a PRO. And then as soon as they get played on the radio, all over the place, they sued every station for each play.
GH: They weren’t affiliated with a PRO. For the people who don’t understand: If you write a song only you have the write to publicly perform it, which means, have your song broadcast on radio, etc. And, if you have a hit, however that might happen – via social media or whatever – and radio stations just start playing it, and you haven’t affiliated with ASCAP or BMI, those radio stations are infringing upon the songwriter’s right to publicly perform the song and the songwriter can sue them for infringement.
DW: Exactly. And, I don’t know if this has ever happened. I don’t think it has happened with a notable artist. It’s an interesting way to sort of put pressure on this system. You could imagine major artists un-affiliating from ASCAP or BMI and just reclaiming their own rights.
GH: You can imagine that. But, the problem with that is, if you are Paul McCartney, and you are making lord only knows what Paul McCartney is making from public performance royalties because “Yesterday” is being played a billion times a day, he is lacking the necessary incentive to say, “I’m going to stop doing that,” and pull that song from his PRO, and, then negotiate directly with every radio station and therefore make more money, because it is more of a pain in the ass to do the administrative side of it.
DW: Yep. Yep.
GH: And, that’s why I go back to blockchain. With blockchain it can be done through smart contracts and machines. Radio stations could say, “OK I’ve got to only play songs that the writer has checked off the box that says, ‘I’m willing for my music to be played and I am willing to be paid this amount.’” And, it could be played with bitcoin or whatever currency. It could be in micropayments and you wouldn’t have the transaction costs.
I want to direct this back to blockchain, though I love your thought experiment.
It’s been almost a year since you posted your article. What has changed in your thinking or thoughts? It most be somewhat gratifying at least to be sort of the “genesis block” almost of this discussion. Are you more or less optimistic about blockchain now than you were when you wrote this? And, what have you learned?
DW: Well, I think both. What I have seen in media related to the blockchain, and in other verticals, notably financial services, is just an incredible flurry of creativity and energy. And entrepreneurial enthusiasm for decentralization and blockchain and similar technology. And so I think this is a technology, generally speaking, that has more of a sort of moral component in people’s minds.
So, it’s not only an interesting technical solution to a pretty complex problem, but it’s also brain candy, because when people learn about it and go a little deeper, they feel really smart, and it sort of tickles your brain because it’s hard to understand. Once you figure out the puzzle. Then, you want to explain it to people, and do something cool with it, and it’s gratifying in that way.
But it also is sort of accompanied by this moral weight, and this notion that this is a fundamentally different way to organize society or to use computation and to get people to do things together. And, I think it is a genuinely sort of novel idea in human history.
So, I think right now we are trying to figure what to do with it. You’ve got a lot of people building things that are stupid, and you have people building things that are smart. And, you have people building things that are too smart and ten years away, and don’t have the sort of enabling technologies in place to make them thrive.
But, my hope is that we will start seeing some usable stuff coming out of this. But, you have to zoom out and look at technology from a ten-year or twenty-year time scale. And, we are just at the very beginning of this, hopefully.
GH: Yeah. I agree. My friend, Andy Weissman, who is a venture capitalist, I interviewed him on this topic, and he said, “Look, my job really is to envision a world that I want to live in that is three to five years away from now.” So, I am with you. I am encouraged by certain people, and as I have said, I have talked a lot with Imogen Heap and others.
I am starting to see little tiny flickers of going from sort of pie in the sky things to: “You know, I think we might actually make something of that.”
In part two of our conversation, we get specific about Mr. Wallach’s work with Spotify, and how blockchain technology could play a role in its growth.
George Howardis an entrepreneur, educator, advisor, and angel investor. He was the President of Rykodisc, one of the original founders of TuneCore, and manager of Carly Simon. He recently co-founded Music Audience Exchange, is an Associate Professor atBerklee College of Music , and advises numerous creative companies. He is most easily found on Twitter.
A handwritten five-page letter penned by Tupac Shakur while incarcerated in 1995 is now being offered with a $225,000 asking price. Memorabilia sellers Moments in Time are selling the letter, which the late rapper wrote to former Death Row employee Nina Bhadreshwar while serving nine months behind bars at the Clinton Correctional Facility (commonly referred to as Dannemora) on sexual assault charges, Complex writes.
In the letter, Shakur talks about following up his 1995 LP Me Against the World, which was released during his prison stint, as well as leaving the “Thug Life” behind. “When a normal man questions his existence, it begins with childhood, teenager, adult,” Shakur muses. “However, when most black males examine their lives, especially those of us from the ghetto upbringing, realize this is not our development stages. Ours begins with a young dustkicker, a thug nigga and finally a boss playa. Each stage has many obstacles and pleasure, but they are all lethal if not played properly.”
Later, Shakur recounts being “schooled in the Rules of the Game” in Oakland, driving through Los Angeles during the 1992 riots and his own rise to stardom. “[Many] never survive the next level of Thug Life…. They become addicted to death. A True Boss Playa knows when to advance…. U must play the game, not let the game play u,” Tupac writes.
The letter was meant strictly for Bhadreshwar, who also ran Death Row Magazine, to use, as Tupac writes in a preface to the essay, “I am not granting this information 2 any other publication, not even Time & Rolling Stone.”
“Hopefully this will do some of U some good. If it does, then I don’t sit in jail in vain,” the rapper writes. “I’ll see y’all in about 18 months. If it’s still in me I’ll drop another album, not 4 me but 4 the homiez that made it #1 and platinum in two weeks.” Shakur was freed nine months into his sentence and released All Eyez on Me four months later.
In February 2015, another handwritten Tupac letter was unveiled at a Grammy Museum tribute to the rapper, revealing that Shakur planned an all-star ONE NATION album featuring artists like Outkast, E-40, Scarface, Smif-n-Wessum and many more. A rare photo of Shakur riding a rollercoaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain was also unearthed and put on the auction block.
When D.C. hip hop artist Oddisee decided to release his sophomore albumThe Good FIght this year, it presented an excellent marketing opportunity for his promotional team, who utilized the artist’s interest in coffee as a means of pitching the new release to the masses.
GOALS D.C.-based Hip-Hop artist Oddisee decided 2015 was a good year for an album, his sophomore project The Good Fight to be specific. For the US-based digital and physical marketing campaign surrounding the release, out on Mello Music Group, we knew we’d have no trouble getting people excited about the album drop. Through forward-thinking marketing tactics, we aimed to spread the word about the album and grow awareness for this multi-talented musician.
To continue engagement around The Good Fight’s central theme as Oddisee toured, we created an Instagram contest where fans could submit their daily inspiration for “fighting the good fight,” using the hashtags #thegoodfight and #mygoodfight on the social platform. After a 3-week run, 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners were announced and received prize packs that included signed copies of the new album. One noteworthy post among many came from Mr. Gary Clark Jr, who reposted @bavublakes’ original ‘gram to his 68k + followers. The contest wrapped up the campaign perfectly, emphasizing individual, daily efforts of perseverance from fans, while organically hyping Oddisee and his latest release.
The Good Fight debuted at #11 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart, #33 on the Current Hip-Hop/R&B chart, #44 on Independent Albums chart and #95 on the Overall Digital Albums chart.