VNUE CEO Talks Music Technology, Streaming and What’s Next
A music technology company dedicated to further monetizing the live music experience for artists, labels, writers, publishers, and literally all stakeholders, VNUE has found big success by creating new and innovative products.
Led by a team of technology entrepreneurs, artists and songwriters, VNUE has disrupted the music-tech space by leveraging automation technology and second-to-none experience in the instant live space; and by identifying issues such as lack of transparency with performance rights organizations and solving this through innovation and our patent-pending solutions.
VNUE is the exclusive licensor of ‘instant live’ pioneer DiscLive, offering high end collectible products such as CDs, USB drives and laminates, that feature our fully mixed and mastered live concert content. VNUE also utilizes exclusive set.fm technology to help artists and labels render real revenue from live shows by making that content available to the set.fm platform immediately after the show, utilizing DiscLive expertise.
VNUE has also rolled out Soundstr music identification technology to venues, bars, restaurants, radio stations, and more, to ensure that artists are being properly compensated for music that is performed, and also to ensure that businesses pay by use, rather than expensive blanket license agreements.
We recently had a chance to connect with VNUE CEO Zach Bair for a lively discussion about disruptive technology, music streaming, music identification technology and much more.
Platform & Stream: What was the jumping-off point to start VNUE?
Zach Bair: Since I joined VNUE as CEO in 2016, I have always envisioned the company a groundbreaking, immersive platform for changes in music tech. VNUE quickly took root in the music tech ecosystem ever since that time. And just like the entire music industry, we keep evolving.
With the Pandemic, especially in 2020, there was a live music hush stronger than in the movie “A Quiet Place.”
Our preexisting in the pipeline plans for tours were put on hold in 2020, so we had the opportunity to accelerate and spent time on development. We have engaged in commercial partnerships, and we are testing our Soundstr MRT (music recognition platform) externally with commercial radio station partners and other digital providers.
In essence, we reconfigured VNUE anew but kept our foundational tech for our audiences and then expanded even more.
P&S: Did you sense the time was right to introduce new disruptive technology, specifically in the music technology space?
Zach Bair: I often consider this time as the music-tech version of the Wild West. In fact, it has been that way for quite a few years as technologies become more advance. VNUE is a startup-driven disruptor, activating new models for artists as well as media companies as new technology emerges. It’s a fast-moving, ever-changing industry with plenty of opportunities at every turn.
Today’s music industry is a holistic revolution fronted by music tech pioneers. At VNUE, our work is driven by my own vision and our technology architects, who build order with creative new tools for businesses and audiences alike, with our audiences ranging from teens to boomers.
Our mission is to carefully construct tech-driven models for music in all its iterations and audiences, including consumers, musicians, and B2B music industry clients.
VNUE already offered socially distanced collaborative recording through our set.fm platform during the Pandemic, but has now morphed into a new paradigm, where musicians can play concerts live or virtually, plus offer all the bells and whistles online to their fans including just-recorded content. The music is one piece of the fan puzzle, and the merchandise and other purchase options are critical to the experiential music tech we offer to music lovers and music industry leaders.
P&S: What are your thoughts on the overall business of ‘music streaming’ — and specifically how that plays into what VNUE is developing, focused on.
Zach Bair: Music streaming is disruptive yet offers fans easy access to music everywhere. Streaming provides monthly revenues for musical artists and platforms, of course. But there are problems with accountability when it comes to paying smaller artists fairly.
Our Soundstr product suite offers artists a tech-based, fair way to help artists and songwriters get paid based upon real-time data, which is awesome. It’s a unique, proprietary system, and we expect big things from it for musicians and radio stations, and other services, including the DSPs.
Importantly, Sounstr will allow us to collect and analyze data about music consumption that doesn’t exist presently. We believe this data will be extremely valuable.
Streaming also impacts our business model. Now, we offer greatly expanded, unique opportunities for the entire music ecosystem. VNUE serves artists, bands, venues, festivals, producers, ticketing agencies, and all of the players even record labels to reap new revenue streams based upon our experiential content production capabilities, particularly in the light of lost revenues from 2020.
P&S: A few years back you acquired Soundstr, a device which connects to the sound system in a store. What’s the latest with this very cool music identification technology?
Zach Bair: Soundstr listens to music being played in businesses and identifies the song, title, artist, and other information, which can help businesses lower fees paid to performing rights organizations (PROs), and importantly, can help stakeholders like songwriters track where there music is being used so they can be properly compensated. Soundstr is now being tested in commercial settings, including brick-and-mortar restaurants, radio stations, and with digital streams from several different DSPs, including Apple Music. So far, we have near 100% accuracy across the board, and true 100% accuracy with our streaming tests.
We have also tested the capability of our Soundstr Pulse devices — the component that actually lives in the business and connect to the sound system — to deliver content, such as curated playlists. These tests have also proven to be successful. All in all, things are going well, and we are in discussion with several large organizations.
P&S: I’ll also ask about Set.fm. Any new developments?
Zach Bair: Our product set.fm has been a mainstay for tours, and obviously, like everybody else touring at this moment in time, we are coming off the Pandemic and ramping up for live concerts again. But even during the Pandemic, we have utilized Set.fm to plug into a streaming chain, to offer artists the ability to easily implement set.fm and take advantage of the audio from the streaming shows — something that has not really be exploited to the full potential.
Our key audiences for set.fm are compelling and include millennials, boomers, and Gen X. It’s important to know that baby boomers represent 75 percent of the population and 70 percent of all adult disposable income.
So, set.fm is an excellent solution for these audiences since they can click on their phones right at the concert and take the music home with them. It is the only “instant live” app where fans actually have the capability of doing this.
For set.fm, the experiential is everything and includes a large menu of options for music fans.
P&S: Triton Funds recently invested in the company. How will the new source of capital affect your plans with current solutions, new ideas?
Zach Bair: Our VNUE ecosystem is expanding and VNUE product suite as of today includes Soundstr, set.fm, and our exclusive partner DiscLive.
We recently launched VNUE Radio, in conjunction with NEWHD Media, and we expect this to be a catalyst for the company. And we announced that we launched an artist services division, signing country artist Carissa Biele, due to our world-class record label team.
This new funding will have us very focused on Soundstr and getting this technology fully in the market. Therefore, the capital we receive from this injection will help us accelerate further development, create more infrastructure around the company, and create key partnerships that will help us better leverage the technology.
We also have big plans for more music tech and a stronger presence within our niche audiences, including people of all ages, plus alliances with music industry players.
We plan to grow VNUE with as many emerging tech opportunities as possible and keep our eyes on adding new revenue streams constantly.
P&S: What’s next for VNUE as we hit the midpoint of 2021 and look ahead to 2022?
Zach Bair: Looking ahead to 2022, we are poised to further define Soundstr as a product suite, and expand our client base for our “instant live” business and audience by alliances with record labels, bands, promoters, musicians, and more. We are positioned to be a global source for the music tech industry, and in fact, have already operated globally.
A music company is not just about the music anymore. Think about it: your audio music is one branch of the music-tech tree. Then you have AI tech, VR, social media, immersive guest experience at a concert or even online gaming, and right over the horizon is virtual reality, which will be another seismic shift in our industry.
There will be new changes in our industry again and again. Our team at VNUE is poised to lead the way.
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