Berklee today

JUN 2013

Berklee today is the official alumni publication of Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. It is a forum for contemporary music and musicians.

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Winning organizations are fast, agile, and tenacious. They are focused on what moves the needle. —The Lean Entrepreneur The Complete Solution No business plan survives frst contact with customers. —The Startup Owner's Manual, Steve Blank Nimbit is a direct-to fan commerce and marketing platform created in 2002 by Patrick Faucher '93 in a spare bedroom. Faucher had been through the frst dot-com boom-bust cycle as the director of engineering at Stumpworld Systems, where he built websites for such artists as Aerosmith, Phish, and the Rolling Stones. "Rather than do this as a boutique business for the big guys," Faucher says, "I wanted to make a platform for everybody. I wanted a place where you could build your website, have a fan mailing list, do all the stuff you needed to do. That was the idea behind Nimbit back then, and it still is to a large extent today." A mile down the road from Faucher's house, Phil Antoniades '88 a drummer and serial entrepreneur, was growing his own company, Artist Development Associates, which provided fulfllment and management services to touring bands and musicians. In 2004 the two companies merged and became the Nimbit of today. As they have gained a deeper understanding of artists' real needs, the company has iterated its platform many times and is currently rebuilding from the ground up. Nimbit offers artists a fexible, transportable storefront designed for creating unique, personalized experiences for the artist's audience. This could include selling music, promoting shows, crowd funding, and special fan packages. The platform is designed with the fexibility to manage these campaigns on an ongoing basis. "I worked with singer/songwriters in the '90s and discovered that there was this world under the radar," Antoniades says. "I learned that if you know your fans and you work with them, you can make a real business out of it. Most people have X amount of time devoted to furthering their career. They need to know what to do, how to do it effciently, and what the results are. I'm a believer in the complete solution. We are working on turning Nimbit from a set of direct-tofan tools into something that motivates an artist and keeps them engaged. We ask our artists to engage their fans, and we have to engage our artists." Responding to customers' needs, Nimbit developed a powerful promotional tool that integrates seamlessly into customers' platforms. "It's amazing how giving away a free track and following it up with an offer for something else will get a response as opposed to giving away a free track and just watching it go into the ether," Antoniades says. "So we built a tool that automatically follows up with a promo. Whenever you promote something, it has this extra followup that gives that subset of fans—which is pretty large— another level on which to engage. A lot of artists think, 'That's asking for money. That's begging.' But it's really not. The psychology is that you're engaging your fan. Music is still one of the very few things that your customer gets an emotional attachment to, and that's valuable!" As with CD Baby, Nimbit artists retain information about its customers. "When you put your music on iTunes," Antoniades says, "you never know who bought your stuff. You get no relationship. Artists need that contact information. They need to know the buying habits of their fans." "Artists generally fall into two camps," Faucher says. "Some are into it for the art and want success, but see the artistic and the entrepreneurial processes as incompatible. They want to get with a label and have them deal with all of that. The other camp, generally younger, understands how the entrepreneurial and artistic processes serve each other. You make your art. You don't tailor it to your market, tailor your business model to where that market lies—these are your fans. You aren't going to hand those relationships over to a label or a retailer. This second group of artists has a much better chance for sustainable careers. We are looking to support that model with our platform. "The majority of label deals today are partnerships, which is how it should be. Now artists have some bargaining power, especially if they show up with a complete market already in tow and they own the customer list. I think the next generation of artists will understand that on an intrinsic level. The most successful artists [have always been] equal amounts artist and entrepreneur: Ray Charles, Madonna, Prince, Lady Gaga—they're moguls." In 2012 Nimbit was acquired by PreSonus in what both principals say is a fantastic partnership. The frst thing PreSonus did was build a connection between Nimbit and PreSonus's Digital Audio Workstation. Among other things, this enables artists recording a live show to immediately make tracks available to their fans. Derek Sivers '91 Patrick Faucher '93 Whitney Blythe Jones CD Baby quickly became a trusted partner for musicians. By putting them frst, Sivers built a loyal, passionate customer base. Soon the company was home to the largest online community of independent recording artists. Sivers grew his business with a personal touch. Musicians still talk about the amusing e-mail messages they receive when their music sells on the site. In 2004, after being approached by Steve Jobs, CD Baby became a digital music distributor. Sivers sold the company to Disc Makers in 2008 for $22 million, and placed his interest in a trust for music education—not bad for a business started by accident. These days, Sivers is "in the shed, head down, and programming a bunch of new services that I hope are useful to musicians, and normal people too." His advice for musicians managing their careers: "Forget everything and remember that it's just real people. There's no such thing as a crowd. It's just individuals. Talk to them. Treat them as unique individuals. Treat them as your friend, not your customer. Find out what they want and like. Speak with them exactly like you speak with your best friend. There should be no difference." On creating value, Sivers says, "Follow the money. Do what pays you! We put a lot of cultural baggage on money. But really, it's quite a neutral indicator that you're adding value to people's lives. Go for the paying gigs. Aim to make money from the things you create. By constantly focusing on this, you're focusing on being valuable. "The defnition of the starving artist is someone who's creating things that are very valuable to him, but not valuable to others. Focus on being valuable to others and on making money with music." Phil Antoniades '88 Summer2013 19

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