Posts Tagged ‘Nashville’

On the road again

Posted: March 26, 2011 by chrisbagley in F3 Technologies, FargoTube, Uncategorized
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Back from Austin, three days in the office to review and follow up on South by Southwest, and then back on the road again, this time to Nashville. Chief Operating Officer Paul Campbell and Senior VP for Business Development Stephanie Miller drove up to Music City, USA, for two days of meetings with strategic partners and potential partners for FargoTube.

They moved forward on a nice promotion with Ditto Music, one of our top partners. Ditto just expanded from Europe to the U.S. with a new office in Nashville, and its marketing push includes a “Battle of the Bands.” Stephanie, Paul and Ditto co-founder Lee Parsons hammered out details of FargoTube’s participation. For starters, the top three bands will win their own customized tubes — fan sites — on FargoTube. FargoTube partner GigLaunch, a booking agency and clearinghouse, is also contributing prizes, as is Music2Q, a FargoTube partner that helps musicians in licensing their works to films and television programs.

On Wednesday evening, Paul and Stephanie took in a performance by — and met with — the Swon Brothers, new FargoTube users from Oklahoma who were touring last week. More news on Zach and Colton Swon as they continue to tour and record — and to post their tracks and videos on FargoTube.

F3 also met with others, including a publicist who is both using and promoting FargoTube in her own business.

All in all, the sales team had a short and sweet trip, and is following up with some breath-catching before hitting the road again in the near future.

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.

I decided to tag along with F3’s sales team to NextBigNashville a couple of weeks ago. Paul Campbell, Stephanie Miller, and I busily attended conferences addressing the problems that independent artists — and even signed artists — are still having in distributing their creative works and profiting from them.

 


Performance at the famous Bluebird Cafe!

 

The Nashville scene is very unpretentious when compared to other music scenes I’ve been exposed to. I must admit to being more tuned in to the rock-music industry, but Nashville was a very comfortable place for me, probably because I play guitar and keyboards, and even played professionally for several years in the ’80s. (Look as hard as you want, you won’t find any pictures of me, my clothes, or my hair at the time; thankfully, the internet as we know it was not yet invented , and cameras still had film.)

As I settled in to the conference great room where everyone could meet, relax, eat lunch and socialize, I set out apart from Paul and Stephanie and plopped down at a table with what I thought was a BIG country star, trimmed ShoLo hair, boots, crisp jeans, he had the Country Star look for sure. Others were at the table, too, but I “knew” this was the right guy.

I sat down and introduced myself, which prompted the others at the table to begin introducing themselves; the guy I thought was the BIG country star was actually a BIG Nashville attorney who represents all your favorite country stars; however, the guy to my right, who looked like my last waiter at Chili’s, turned out to be the songwriter Chas Sandford. Admittedly, I had no idea who I was speaking with, but I am a musician and genuinely respect and admire all fellow artists.

 


Chas Sandford (courtsey of chassandford.com)

 

Remember, I told you country music wasn’t my strongest skill set? It turns out that Chas (yes, we’re on a first-name basis now) had not done so badly for himself. I later learned that as a hit songwriter and publisher, he won twelve ASCAP “Most Performed Songs” awards, including John Waite’s “Missing You,” Chicago’s “What Kind of Man Would I Be” and Stevie Nicks’ “Talk To Me.” His songs have also been recorded by Tina Turner, Rod Stewart, Melanie, Roger Daltrey, Berlin, Millie Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, Alison Krauss, Rick Springfield, Sammy Hagar, Jimmy Barnes, Don Johnson, David Wilcox, Tyler Hilton, Sheila B. Devotion and others.

So, I am now speaking with a couple of key people in the music industry – wouldn’t you agree? — and eating lunch (which F3 co-sponsored) with my new friends.  The conversation with Chas and the big Nashville lawyer would be the first of many — with artists from ALL genres —  lamenting over the same problem:

I own this entire library of my music, and I have no idea what to do with it, how to market it, or how to distribute it.

 

Ken Paulson, CEO, First Amendment Center; singer Caleb Folowill, Kings of Leon; Ken Levitan, producer and manager

 

I also attended several sessions of the conference that focused on the issues of digital distribution rights that face these artists and labels. I heard repeatedly that the record companies have not always kept up with the times: Some still do business like they did in the ’70s, and that can be cumbersome, time-consuming, and expensive.  I believe this is one of the reasons why 40 percent of today’s musicians are independent (including some huge players such as Garth Brooks, Kiss, and Kings of Leon). Independent artists organized a conference on their own initiative to try to solve some of the digital-rights issues.

Now, here came my epiphany, after attending the panel discussions and meeting IP attorneys and managers and musicians from the genres of hip hop, rock, country, and alternative. I realized that…

FargoTube solves 95 percent of the digital rights, distribution, and royalties issues that conference attendees had been chewing over for the past two days!

Wow! I was really excited, and since I’ve played music most of my life (yes, even at church as a kid), I had finally grasped the magnitude of F3’s opportunity.

Dozens of musicians at the conference — and indeed the conference itself — were broadcasting the message “Nashville, we’ve had a problem.”

F3’s response: “Don’t worry, Nashville, FargoTube is the solution!”

Coming Soon: Look for my next entries as I explain why 99-cent Itoons (sic) has not been the answer to digital rights management, sales, distribution and marketing, give my report on F3’s top-notch sales-team, as well as introducing you to more of the artists and bands I have met and spoken with. Till then…

Steve Haag handles investor relations for F3 Technologies. He is principal at SmallCap Support Services in Houston. He can be reached at (832) 201-7913 and shaag@smallcapss.com.

A slideshow of Steve’s photos from NBN is below:

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COO Paul Campbell and SVP of Business Development Stephanie Miller are in Nashville from Tuesday evening through Saturday, rubbing elbows at the Next Big Nashville summit and signing up new musicians and record labels for our FargoTube video and entertainment service. They’ve had meetings nearly back to back from breakfast into the evening.

“Obviously, we’ve had a lot of chances to meet with a lot of people,” Paul said.

F3’s co-sponsorship of lunch on opening day is helping those efforts.

The summit has focused heavily on technology, and particularly distribution and sales technology in the same spirit as FargoTube. Labels are seeking to replace — and to exceed, in some cases — revenue from dwindling CD sales.

“It was a validation of a lot of what we do,” Paul said. “A lot of labels and musicians who are here are building individual solutions, but not a comprehensive solution like FargoTube.”

In that context, it looks like Paul and Stephanie have been able to make an impact. One musician and one music-promotion organization created FargoTube presences for themselves while still at the conference. I’m still trying to get those details. We expect many more to set up on FargoTube over the next couple of weeks, with the service beginning to generate appreciable revenue in the quarter that started today.

On the same note, I just noticed that Kelly Peters, a dance instructor with followers across the nation and particularly in the northeast, has begun to upload videos to his fan site on FargoTube.

FargoTube has gone viral

Posted: September 17, 2010 by chrisbagley in F3 Technologies, FargoTube, Uncategorized
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Anthony Snape's tube on FargoTube

FargoTube hit a sort of milestone today, when a couple of music acts found the site and uploaded their music and videos without us contacting them directly. We just noticed new accounts being created by the heavy-metal group Skydrip and by Anthony Snape, a singer-songwriter with an indie/pop/rock feel who counts Cold Play, Rob Thomas and Neil Finn among his influences.

This means FargoTube, our revolutionary platform that combines video, entertainment and social networking, has gone viral through word-of-mouth advertising, and possibly that it’s becoming cheaper for FargoTube to acquire new content partners. Anthony found FargoTube through a friend in the music industry, and we assume that Skydrip found us either through Twitter, through one of the content partners we’ve signed since June, or after seeing one of our ads on Google,

Skydrip's FargoTube channel

MySpace or Facebook. It’s also possible that they saw one of the press releases we aimed at the artistic community, such as our announcement that we’ve increased the percentage of revenue that FargoTube shares with content partners.

Regardless, we’re very happy to welcome Anthony and Skydrip to FargoTube, and we look forward to helping them share their music, careers and lives with fans.

In the last couple of weeks, we’ve made two moves that we expect to increase FargoTube‘s visibility — significantly — in the country-music industry.

First, we’ve engaged a public-relations firm, Splash! PR, to help introduce FargoTube to musicians, record labels and entertainment journalists. Splash! is based in Nashville, where most of FargoTube’s initial partners are located, so we expect many (though not all) of these introductions to be within the country-music industry.

Splash!’s principal, Vanessa Parker-Davis, has helped clients onto the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and into Entertainment Weekly magazine and the Wall Street Journal, so we’re hoping for a significant boost.

Secondly, you may have seen our press release this morning about our involvement in Next Big Nashville and Leadership Music Digital Summit 2010, which runs from September 29 to October 2 at Belmont College. F3, FargoTube and the Recording Industry Association of America are sponsoring lunch on the opening day, which we expect to draw more than 1,000 decision-makers from bands, music associations, record labels and the digital-media industry. An associated music festival is expected to draw 15,000 fans.

We’ll have at least one big banner for FargoTube and one advertisement in the program for the event. Chief Executive Officer Frank Connor, Chief Operating Officer Paul Campbell and Senior Vice President for Business Development Stephanie Miller will be at the conference to press the flesh, explain and demonstrate FargoTube and, if all goes well, bring aboard more content partners.

This post has been updated with separate estimates for attendance at the LMDS summit and the associated music festival.

Big birthday bash

Posted: August 30, 2010 by chrisbagley in F3 Technologies, FargoTube, Uncategorized
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Sherrie (left) and Stephanie Miller, F3's SVP of Business Development

On another sales-and-networking trip to Nashville, Stephanie and Frank helped Sherrié Austin celebrate her birthday Saturday evening. She claimed to be turning 40, but I have my doubts. Then again, Sherrié has been in the game longer than most country musicians her age, and certainly long enough to fill her videocentric social network on FargoTube immediately after setting it up a couple of weeks ago.

The birthday girl

Before Sherrié’s music career even took off, she got into acting, co-starring in 15 episodes of NBC’s long-running “The Facts of Life” sitcom in 1987 and 1988 and appearing in an episode of Fresh Prince of Bel Air alongside Will Smith.

Her first musical fame had already come at age 14, when she opened for Johnny Cash on his 1985 tour of her native Australia.

Sherrie Austin on the deck of the USS Enterprise in 2004 (courtesy of Wikipedia)

She released her first studio album in 1992 as half of the “Colorhaus” duo. Based in Nashville, Sherrié followed with albums in 1997, 1999, 2001 and 2003, including the top-40 releases “Love in the Real World” and “Streets of Heaven.” Four of her singles have broken the top 40 on U.S. country-music charts.

Sherrié is recording new music in Nashville, including several tracks we hope to offer through FargoTube.

Music City meetings

Posted: August 13, 2010 by chrisbagley in F3 Technologies, FargoTube, Uncategorized
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A quick word on our sales team’s trip to Nashville this week. Wednesday was full of meetings with new partners and prospective partners for FargoTube, our video- and entertainment-based social network.

Paul and Stephanie met with a video-based marketing agency with an eye on publicity for FargoTube. This is the second or third agency they’ve met, and we’re planning to engage one or more of them in the coming months as we expand our focus: So far, we’ve focused on encouraging content owners to create “tubes” on FargoTube and post their videos there. We’ve signed a half-dozen, and expect one or two dozen in the next couple of months. In a sense, they advertise FargoTube by bringing their fan bases with them. But as FargoTube’s pool of content grows, we’ll start advertising it directly to prospective FargoTube subscribers, who’ll arrive not knowing in advance which artists’ content they’ll purchase.

Paul and Stephanie also met with a musician and a record-label owner who have signed on to FargoTube in the last couple of months and are laying out their tubes.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Paul has begun working on an arrangement with a nonprofit group that promotes Nashville’s music scene and helps musicians to set up shop there. That relationship could be especially fruitful because FargoTube is an especially powerful tool for musicians with niche or regional followings.

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.