Posts Tagged ‘music’

FargoTube’s relationship with Ditto Music is developing and taking shape very nicely, as evidenced by Ditto Music’s new website, which we designed, and which went live last week.

The website is exciting for a couple of very important reasons. First, it’s the next step in the integration of FargoTube with Ditto Music’s metadistribution service. Tracks uploaded to Ditto are getting onto FargoTube in about 24 hours. Ditto gets huge numbers of new tracks every day, so we’re looking forward to a lot of new music and new artists on FargoTube in the coming weeks.

The uploading process is pretty simple for both sites, which makes them both a dream come true for musicians who are handling the business end of their own careers. It takes about 10 minutes to sign up for Ditto and upload a track. My colleague uploaded one Friday afternoon and it was live on FargoTube by Saturday afternoon. Voila!

The second big thing is that Ditto’s new site shows the degree of personalization and customization that FargoTube offers. We’ve emphasized repeatedly that FargoTube is not just another online music store. It’s a platform for creating a social network, a fan site, and a fully developed custom website, all of which turn great music into financially sustainable careers. We’ve also demonstrated that with the websites we’ve developed and launched in recent months for Coles Whalen, the Swon Brothers, Anthony Snape and several other artists, but the Ditto site reaches more musicians in a single fell swoop.

Those websites are available at a range of different levels of customization, sophistication and price points, as we first discussed in January. Musicians and other artists can create their fan sites within FargoTube — or “tubes,” as we also call them — on a completely free basis, using customization tools available on FargoTube.com. For $24.95 a month, an artist can choose a similar format but with custom page design.  A fully customized tube with multiple pages and an online store is $249.95 a month. That range of services — from a sleek, customized and free direct-sales channel to a competitively priced, fully developed website — is a really big deal for artists, for their fans, and for F3 Technologies and its shareholders.

On a separate but related note, it sounds like our services and our partnership with Ditto are creating ever more buzz in Nashville, “Music City, USA,” where Ditto recently opened its North American office and where a large number of FargoTube users are based. Ditto’s new website and its integration with FargoTube can only fan that buzz and continue translating the buzz into growing amounts of music for fans, growing numbers of fans for musicians, and growing numbers of paying subscribers for musicians and FargoTube. FargoTube’s subscriber count hit 800 last weekend and is closing in on 900.

Stay tuned for more. It’s definitely coming.

Just talked to Paul Campbell, our chief operating officer. He and SVP for Business Development Stephanie Miller just got back from Nashville, where they continue to build solid relationships that help accelerate FargoTube’s growth.

One of their meetings was with Will Carter, CEO of Music Starts Here. The organization describes itself as

“Nashville’s community, city and industry-sponsored initiative designed to help artists, songwriters, musicians, technicians and industry professionals (‘Musers’) simplify and streamline the craft and business of making music in and through Music City. To provide an ongoing, relevant and comprehensive resource portal for those looking to pursue their goals and dreams in music helps musicians get into the scene and after they arrive from elsewhere.”

Part of that, of course, is building a financially sustainable career, which is where FargoTube comes in.

Music Starts Here has produced 400+ video tutorials for Nashville newcomers across a wide range of topics. Music Starts here currently pays to deliver these videos via VIMEO, but will begin shifting to FargoTube. With our platform, Music Starts Here can reduce its costs, while creating a new business model that helps it to expand its activities that support young artists. Plans are to deliver some videos free of charge for promotional purposes, while providing more in-depth interviews and workshops on a pay-per-view basis.

Working with MusicStartsHere is exciting and energizing. The organization’s interest in FargoTube is also validation that our platform is the most useful and flexible in giving its customers in the entertainment industries the tools necessary to support and expand their businesses.

Of course, Paul and Stephanie also met with a range of songwriters, producers and musicians in Nashville, including representatives from the label of a country musician who has sold more than 10 million records during his career. We’ll let you know what comes out of those discussions.

As noted separately in a press release this morning, FargoTube and Music2Q, a service that connects independent musicians with potential licensees in the film, television and video-game industries, are launching a strategic partnership.

This is important both for FargoTube and for the independent music community because Music2Q, like FargoTube, represents a growing revenue segment at a time when traditional revenue streams are narrowing.  In this new environment, musicians have to be scrappier and more business-savvy. Helping them reach new fans and generate income in this environment are fundamental goals for both of our companies. Joining forces allows FargoTube artists to tap into the lucrative business of licensing music for movies, television and electronic games.

Some specifics of our partnership:

  • A free subscription to the www.music2q.com website, valued at $120, to be awarded to a randomly selected finalist at each Open Mic Monday held at Eddie’s Attic, the Atlanta area’s top venue for singer-songwriters and acoustic music;
  • Discounted subscription rates to Music2Q for all musicians using the FargoTube platform; includes a revenue-sharing arrangement for all business driven through FargoTube.
  • Music2Q becoming an affiliate to assist FargoTube in expanding into the film industry by leveraging its numerous connections.

As you probably know by now, FargoTube gives independent artists their first opportunity to profit directly from their creative works in the setting of a social network. Musicians, filmmakers, remote instructors and other artists can upload their content free of charge and then make it available on a per-view, per-media file and/or subscription basis, setting prices and receiving 70 percent of the resulting revenue.

Sony’s jump into cloud-based music has created quite a lot of buzz in the past week. Its new Music Unlimited service has launched in the UK and a half-dozen other European countries; Sony plans to launch it in the U.S. in 2011.

It includes music from Sony/BMG and at least three other major record labels, which I believe makes it the largest service to challenge Apple’s iTunes. But the concept appears to be more similar to Pandora. It selects songs for an individual user based on feedback that user has given in the past, presumably in multiple channels created by that user.

What strikes me about iTunes and Music Unlimited is that our FargoTube service is like a blend of the two, albeit for now on a smaller scale, and with a couple of unique features of its own. (All three offer both music and videos).

The most basic difference between Sony’s and Apple’s services is that Music Unlimited streams its content, while iTunes’ content is available for download. Various tech bloggers have cast Sony’s challenge as a bet that the streaming format will eventually beat out the download format, in which listeners own the tracks they select.

FargoTube, in contrast to both of those services, lets independent artists offer their entertainment in either or both formats. In most cases, FargoTube users therefore can determine the format that best suits their viewing/listening preferences. All of this ensures that all artists’ presence on FargoTube will remain strong even if one format wanes in the film or music industry as a whole.

The early (and perhaps premature) verdict on Music Unlimited seems to be that it won’t displace iTunes. Readers at Engadget were particularly harsh on Sony.

The good news for FargoTube is that major players in the industry are not only beginning to accept that streaming and subscription services are viable, but they are now implementing solutions in the market. FargoTube is positioned to help independent artists jump on the bandwagon!

 

Up into the Attic

Posted: December 3, 2010 by chrisbagley in F3 Technologies, FargoTube, Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

We’re continuing to upload music to the Eddie’s Attic fan site on FargoTube. As we announced earlier in the week, Eddie’s Attic is now using FargoTube to sell recordings from weekly performances and as a fan site.

Eddie’s Attic is a highly respected venue for musicians. It’s relatively small and intimate, which makes it especially good in a region that has more than its share of acoustic and folk musicians, and plenty of singer-songwriters. It has played an early role in the success of several well known musicians, including Sugarland and John Mayer.

We expect the weekly uploads to be popular among fans who miss a Monday and have to download, and among audience members who want recordings of their favorite tracks from the evening.  Moreover, the relationship will introduce FargoTube to  hundreds of the South’s best unsigned musicians, who represent a key market for us.

The music continues next week when we upload the music from Monday night’s performance. Stay tuned.

Counting our agreement with Broadcast Music Inc., which we announced this morning, we’ve formally pledged to compensate half a million copyright owners for their music that is uploaded to FargoTube. BMI enforces copyrights on behalf of 400,000 musicians and other owners, and a similar performing rights organization, whose signing we announced last week, represents a significant but smaller number of copyright owners.

This is particularly important for a feature of FargoTube that we haven’t discussed extensively: FargoTube lets users post and share videos in much the same way that free websites allow. While each content owner organizes his or her “tube” around the videos that he or she posts and sells, subscribers can post their own favorite videos to the tube, if the tube owner allows this feature. The feature is part of what makes FargoTube a social network, and not just a distribution platform.

Inevitably, in some cases a user will post a video without the explicit consent of its creator or copyright owner. We’re paying licensing fees to BMI and SESAC to ensure that the artists do get paid for those videos.

We recently signed an agreement with SESAC (formerly the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers), pledging to pay appropriate royalties for all videos and other content we upload to FargoTube.

Most of FargoTube’s content falls under agreement with individual artists because that’s how it’s organized: Content owners create “tubes,” each of which is an online social network centered on content by a particular artist. Most of the revenue that artists receive from FargoTube is therefore direct. The royalties we pay them through SESAC are comparatively small.

But we’re going out of our way to ensure that artists are compensated fully for their work, and to make sure that artists see us as a committed partner, an important distinction for a website in an era when 95 percent of music tracks are downloaded without appropriate royalty payments, according to an estimate cited in an excellent New York Times Magazine article on Sunday. After all, that’s FargoTube’s very reason for being — artists are sick of posting their videos online without seeing any return or, worse, seeing their works pirated over the internet. We also believe that the agreement with SESAC gives us credibility and will help speed our adoption by musicians and other sorts of artists.

SESAC is the third-largest of the three major performance rights organizations — copyright enforcers — in the United States. My semi-educated guess is that it represents 100,000 to 200,000 artists, compared to about 400,000 each for the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers; and Broadcast Music, Inc. The royalties we pay to SESAC are based partly on the total content by SESAC’s artists that gets uploaded to FargoTube and take into account the fact that we pay most of the content owners directly.

I’m willing to bet that most radio stations make a point of keeping their agreements with SESAC, ASCAP and BMI current. Most restaurants and clubs that play music probably wait to get a visit like the one described in the NYT Magazine article.

I suspect the vast majority of internet-based music players are similar to the restaurants. They figure they can operate below the PROs’ radar for a couple of years — or maybe indefinitely — so they don’t make a point of paying for licenses right away.

FargoTube is different, and our decision to be so proactive with the PROs is designed to underscore this difference. SESAC isn’t necessarily going to endorse FargoTube or refer artists to us, but we believe that highlighting our shared goals will help bring in a lot of artists.

FargoTube’s very business model makes it different from other internet video and music sites: It puts artists in control of their own tubes, social networks centered around videos and other rich content. While some of the artists will choose to sit back and watch the money roll in, we suspect most of them will participate actively, either in person or through employees, because interaction differentiates FargoTube from simple commerce sites like iTunes and Amazon.

Its European roots notwithstanding, SESAC is based in Nashville, and seems to have more than its share of country-music artists. F3’s COO Paul Campbell and SVP of Business Development Stephanie Miller have met with SESAC reps on a couple of recent trips, between meetings with country musicians and record labels.

A press release we put out earlier today gives a bit more detail about our SESAC agreement.

The timing of our announcement coincides nicely with the NYT Magazine article. It followed a BMI representative as she traipsed from bar to bar in the Arizona desert, signing agreements worth a few hundred dollars each. That contradicted, in my mind, at least, the image of the recording industry as a bunch of fat cats who collect on artists’ creations from corner offices in New York and Los Angeles skyscrapers. I blogged about it here.

This blog post has been updated since its original posting so that it answers questions I received from an F3 investor.

I’m willing to bet that most radio stations make a point of signing agreements with SESAC, ASCAP and BMI that are at least conceptually similar to what we signed. Ssome restaurants and clubs that play mu

Yesterday’s New York Times Magazine had a fascinating, fascinating article about performance rights organizations, which enforce music copyrights.

The article followed Devon Baker, a field agent for BMI, one of the three largest PROs in the United States, as she trekked across the Arizona desert in an effort to wring a few hundred dollars a year from bar after cafe after strip club. I guess you could call her a soldier in the ground war over intellectual property.

Up until yesterday, I had never wondered how many proprietors are out there buying CDs for $9.95 from Amazon and then playing them while selling $2.95 bottles of Bud Light, but I’ll bet it’s a lot, and BMI’s agents are apparently trying to find and charge all of them. It looks like an awfully tough slog.

BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.) is organized like a nonprofit, and a representative told the magazine that it gives musicians and record labels 89 percent of the fees it collects on their behalf, after subtracting 11 percent for its own costs, including the salaries of Baker and other field agents. BMI employs several hundred agents like her and claims about $1 billion in royalty revenue each year, according to the article. I’m guessing that the other two majors, ASCAP and SESAC, are comparable in size. (The two names are acronyms for the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers and the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers, but all three organizations are equally focused on U.S. copyright law).

We at F3 Technologies have been looking at PROs because their mission is complementary and so similar to that of our FargoTube video and entertainment service: helping artists and content owners to regain control over their creations.

There are differences, of course: Whereas Devon Baker begins collecting revenue from heretofore illegal use, FargoTube is a completely new type of platform that can bring new fans to content owners while allowing artists to connect with existing fans more richly.

By “richly,” I mean more profitably, but also through richer content: FargoTube accommodates music, high-definition still images and videos, including exclusive interviews, short video messages, music videos, and movie-length features. And FargoTube is built like a social network, so fans of a particular artist can interact with each other, share videos subject to the artist’s approval, and get information about upcoming tours.

My favorite difference between PROs and FargoTube: F3 employees don’t have to negotiate with screaming bar owners in dusty parking lots.

Paul and Stephanie got back Wednesday evening from Nashville, where they made progress on several fronts for FargoTube. As you may know, FargoTube is F3’s revolutionary platform for profitable online distribution of videos (and now music and hi-def photos).

I was especially gratified to hear that country musician Coles Whalen, one of our first partners in the industry, plans to have an August 6 gig in Denver filmed and uploaded to FargoTube. This is the sort of content that we believe FargoTube helps to bring into existence. Musicians won’t necessarily hire a videographer and video editor without an outlet for distribution and a way to cover the costs, but FargoTube is both: Artists can direct their fans to FargoTube by mentioning it at a concert, as Coles plans to do, or by integrating it into an existing fan site. Fans can pay a few dollars for access to a single video or sign up for a monthly subscription.

Another country musician with Nashville ties, Nik Wyllie, told us he plans to begin uploading content as soon as next week, when FargoTube takes on a set of new features. Nik is set to release an album both through iTunes and through FargoTube; he plans to add video content to his FargoTube tube in the next few months.

While we don’t know whether FargoTube will take the place of iTunes, we do think our service is advantageous for Nik and other artists in several ways that Apple’s isn’t: FargoTube is a social network built around video and other content, so it keeps fans in contact with the tube owner’s content for longer and also provides owners with quicker and more complete feedback on fans’ buying habits. And FargoTube offers music in the universal mp3 format that plays on devices other than the iPod.

Paul also met with a couple of potential clients who themselves serve the country-music industry. One of them, a public-relations representative, is considering FargoTube as a way to distribute the four-minute video tutorials he makes for fellow musicians. The other is a video-production company that F3 may enlist to make a promotional video for FargoTube. We hope that company, too, could become a source of content partners for FargoTube.

(This post has been updated with details of Coles Whalen’s concert)

Our developers are making the last few tweaks to FargoTube Version 2.2 in time for an updated version to go live next week. The update will include several significant usability enhancements and a couple of major new features. We’ll also be launching a broader online advertising and marketing campaign, for example through Google, MySpace and Facebook, once the update is available at http://www.fargotube.com.  This will be our first time marketing the FargoTube platform on a mass scale.  Accordingly, we expect an influx of digital content added in coming weeks and months.

An especially important update is the new technology that F3 developed to prevent illegal copying of videos that content owners upload to FargoTube. Most streaming videos on the internet can be easily downloaded as digital files, through third-party capture programs such as RealPlayer with a plug-in. FargoTube prevents such copying, in keeping with our mission of putting creators back in control of their works. “The content owners and artists can rest, knowing their content is secure,” CEO Frank Connor said.

The owners of “tubes” — the social networks built around video and other entertainment — will still be able to offer their videos and other media in the form of downloadable files. We plan to make them able to prevent illegal sharing of those files by the end of the year. We expect this protection to be crucial for attracting new partners because fear of copyright infringement has kept many content owners from fully embracing the Internet.

As we’ve promised in a couple of recent press releases and blog posts, artists will now be able to upload music files and high resolution still photos to their tubes, and offer that content free or for a charge. Music will be streamed in mp4 format and offered for download in the mp3 and mp4 formats that are compatible with the vast majority of digital music players. We believe FargoTube’s music capability will complement the core video service and allow it to compete more effectively against the likes of iTunes and MySpace Music

Here’s a screen shot of the new page from our staging server: 

The music files are especially important for FargoTube as our sales team continues to make inroads in “Music City USA” — Nashville. FargoTube recently signed its first major partner, Strange Celebrity Entertainment, LLC, a country music label (Click here for more information on our sales trip to Nashville this week).

The other major feature to debut next week is FargoTube’s fourth revenue model, the “Contributor Tube,” which is aimed partly at film and art schools. This model allows instructors to sign up their students for the tube, where they can upload films, graphic designs, photos and other artwork. Students will typically pay for this access along with their tuition. In turn, they’ll be able to promote and sell their creations from the tube, much as other content owners sell their videos and video access through FargoTube.

Other new features include:

  • buttons that allow users to post their favorite videos to their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. We expect this to make FargoTube more fun for users and to introduce FargoTube to potential new user;
  • as many as 20 new themes that owners can use to customize their tubes;
  • a categorization system for tubes. Though a substantial number of FargoTube users will come to the service as fans of a particular video instructor, musician, or other entertainer, the categories will help both new and existing FargoTube users to find their favorite content on our site.
  • Tube owners can now categorize their content — their music, for example, by artist and album.
  • Tube owners can manage multiple tubes more easily, thanks to new buttons that let them click from one tube directly to another