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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ExpErt tEstimony Given by BFM Digital CEO and cofounder Steven Corn '84 to Mark Small Digital Realities Steven Corn Steven Corn '84 is the CEO and cofounder of BFM Digital, a California-based digital music distributor. The company represents hundreds of independent artists, labels, publishers, and other content creators to a network of more than 250 music services, including iTunes, Napster, Spotify, Zune,, and eMusic, to name a few. Prior to establishing BFM Digital, Corn majored in flm scoring at Berklee and wrote music for various productions before getting into music supervision and media licensing and consulting for major international entertainment enterprises. His years of experience in the creative and business-related sides of the contemporary music industry enable Corn and BFM Digital to serve the needs of both music creators and media services. and the artist needs to be active. We are in a position to tell your story and can also help craft the story. It's frustrating to have an artist make a great album and then hand it to us saying, "Make me famous." That's the job of a manager or a record label. The best scenario is when an artist comes to us saying, "Here is our EP or catalog, video blog, and tour schedule, and these are the videos we plan to make." Then we can design a marketing plan for them and have an active partnership. Does having more music in the marketplace reduce the perceived value of music? I actually don't think that the quantity of music out there affects the perceived value. It's the ease of access—the ubiquity of music—that often affects the perceived value. It's harder to fnd the music you like if there are 30 million tracks in the iTunes store rather than 10 million. The bigger question is, are people willing to pay for the music that they consume? I think that's been affected more by access to "free" music— not just P2P [peer to peer], but YouTube videos, Pandora, and Web radio. There is a clogged highway of content out there, and that makes it harder to do genre-based searches. Even artist-based searches are harder because of the number of artists with similar names. That frustrates users and may, to some degree, affect their willingness to pay. People have to fnd the music frst. Does BFM Digital help to make artists easier to fnd in the search process? We are able to share our brain trust—usually for free—to help with an artist's discoverability. As a distributor, one of our main functions is to help pitch artists to the digital stores for features, promotions, and editorial reviews. An artist's album being featured among the new albums on iTunes for a week helps with discoverability. An artist should consider their digital distributor as their spokesperson to the digital stores, but there has to be a story to tell. First, the music has to be compelling, 28 Berklee today During the 1960s, the music marketplace was driven by singles and only later became album oriented. Now we're back to a singles market. Do you think future listeners will seek out albums? I agree that we have moved more to a singles market, but the album is not dead. I think fans still want an album experience and want to hear the songs in the sequence the artists wanted. [Today] iTunes is still known for not letting artists stipulate that their music be sold only as a whole album. Other services allow album-only purchases in an effort to protect the album experience. Some styles—electronic dance music, reggae, and hip-hop— do best in a singles market. But for others, an album provides the opportunity to add bonus material and booklets. So I wouldn't advise most artists to only produce singles. Albums are still important. The beauty of the digital marketplace is that you can create a variety of retail SKUs. It used to be that an artist planned a single, then dropped the album, and a few months later released another single. Now you can mix it up anyway you want. Releasing an album after a few singles is still a good goal. The singles are part of the discoverability factor and then the album gives another retail opportunity. Do you think more listeners accept the idea that music is something that they need to pay for? The conversion from "freemiums" to subscriptions is a never-ending problem. But it's more a marketing problem than anything else. I don't know why it should be hard for a music fan to go with a $5 monthly Spotify subscription. I can understand people not wanting to spend thousands of dollars a year, but $5 per month is $60 a year for access to a lot of music. My kids use YouTube like a radio station. So I see that the idea of owning music has changed. People used to

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