Metallica's James Hetfield recently stated that the band was in the final process…
- Posted on Jan 31st 2012 5:00PM by Brandon Deroche
Remember Lars Ulrich's anti-Napster commercials? He's since learned a thing or two about the web, yet somehow Coldplay still choose money over access. Isn't it a bit ironic that Daughtry was the first band to incorporate Spotify's API into their site, while the Black Keys withheld their new album from the service?
As I see it, if you don't embrace Spotify (or any streaming service for that matter), you're fighting the future. You're either ignorant or you're selfish, but you can't hold on. But as I'm no Bob Lefsetz, I'll get off my high horse and let you hear it from a guy who has had more success than most these days: Daniel Glass.
As the founder of Glassnote Records, Daniel has been responsible for artists such as Mumford and Sons, Phoenix, Temper Trap, Two Door Cinema Club, GIVERS and several others. His success is not a fluke, however. He gets it.
I had the chance to catch up with Daniel recently to get his thoughts on Spotify and pick his brain a bit about Glassnote's artist strategy. Take notes.
From a label perspective, what's your take is on Spotify so far?
I enjoy, appreciate and embrace anything that gets people to discover music. So I would say in the last 12 months, from the United States perspective, Spotify has been one of the most exciting places to discover music.
The traffic and the amount of action on Spotify is just fantastic. That's clear. The amount of people sharing music through their Facebook application on Spotify is great. The people who run Spotify -- Steve Savoca, Daniel Ek and Sean Parker -- were very sensitive to the North Americans, because they flushed out so many issues in Europe and the U.K. before it got to America. So, it's been really good what Spotify has done.
Do you see it being fruitful in the future, monetarily speaking?
Yes. I think that the beginnings are there for monetization. They're showing the right faith. We don't know yet how to monetize because it's so new. It's just morphing. What happened with Napster in the beginning was really, really sad and unfortunate -- that we didn't give it a chance to grow and to become something which could've been an interesting monetary process. Like iTunes, this is something that's seamless, that works really well. It's sexy. The apps are fantastic on Spotify. Traffic grows and grows and grows. We, as a record company, are getting so much feedback on discovery. The monetization is starting based on market share. I think we'll be sitting here in a year from now, though, discussing another level of monetization, and I think Facebook is going to have a lot to do with where that monetization comes from.
We're rolling with it, and we're embracing it for now, and we're optimistic. We need to be
optimistic, because people really enjoy it. We're into it.
I'm sure you're aware of artists like Adele, Black Keys, Coldplay etc. who chose to not make their most recent records available on Spotify when they were released. How has it impacted any of your artists?
We saw evidence with Childish Gambino, for example, that in two weeks, a million plays, 63,000 a day in the first few days of people hearing, streaming, sharing the music.
The two factors that I noticed in the first few days of Childish Gambino were the NPR stream and some of the Spotify statistics, which were extraordinary. I think that turned people on to the artist. It was really, really good for the artist, so I'm excited about it.
Other things that I've noticed about Spotify that I've liked is the integration of the apps and radio. For example, rollingstone.com is really cool through Spotify. I like the Pitchfork
The radio part of Spotify is going to be very powerful. I like the fact you can skip through songs, unlike other radio sites and apps. It's really, really easy to use and it's really growing. The people that I've met at Spotify, like Steve Savoca, who used to be at Domino Records, who is really a music guy, and Katie Schlosser, who we work with directly ... they really get what we do. They embrace the independent spirit of our business. I found it to be really musical-intensive, artist-sensitive, and I like it.
To be aggravated right now and to be obsessed with the monetization is the wrong place for us as a business to go. Every time we do that, we shut people down, and we stop something that could be good. We have the beginnings here of something that's really, really exciting.
How do Glassnote artists continue to break through the noise and not get lost in the "indie shuffle," so to speak?
Well, I think indie is a state of mind. What indie means is just autonomy and who finances your company and how you operate your business. It's your attitude and your environment. We don't at all feel inferior when we're looking at artists. We try to sign the best artists in the world, not "indie" artists. I don't even know what that means. And we hope our albums are amazing when they come out, fully great albums. We just finished an album, for example, by Oberhofer with the producer who did the Talking Heads, Dave Matthews and U2 -- Steve Lillywhite. So that's not a typical indie thing, but we think it's gonna be one of the best albums of 2012.
The two things that Glassnote has done in the last four or five years is try and sign the best artists who are just amazing live and stand behind them for long, long, patient periods of time. We'd have a hard time signing a record. We've turned down hit records. That's not our DNA of finding the next hit song or hit record. It's really artists that we want to be around for two, three, four, five album-and-touring cycles, which is how the great independent labels used to be. It's not a get-rich-quick scheme.
Our artists cut through, and we also embrace other forms of media, like radio, which still really move the needle. We're not cynical about it. We're not angry about it. We love radio. Those are some old media that we think are still very, very important. That is, I think, why Glassnote cuts through. We're excited about the next albums coming from the artists, not what we don't have. It's paying attention. Batting average is more important than volume in my world.
How does that philosophy carry over into the touring?
The most important part of our company, besides giving artists the tools and environment to create great albums, is the tour. That's what we're obsessed about; it's the touring. Supporting your artists when they play in a small club, or whether they're playing Bonnaroo or Coachella.
So, if you look at GIVERS, it's all about the touring. Yes, we have a nice license on the Amazon Kindle commercial. Yes, they have amazing AAA and non-commercial radio play, but it's about getting people to see them live, and every time they play, we convert another 50 people. So looking back where we were in April of this year to now, it's just starting. For most records companies, after eight months, they're done, and we haven't started yet. In equivalent to baseball, we're like just about to hit first base with GIVERS.
Two Door Cinema Club might be the best trajectory of Glassnote, if you look at it. I love everything we have, but that particular career growth is really beautiful. Never had a big week, just steadily, steadily built. They're not ubiquitous, but they just got good. Playing and playing and playing. They became a band. Two years of slow, slow, slow, patience. And next summer, new record comes, and then year and a half, two years, and then the next record comes. By the third album there's a repertoire, there's a legacy. That, to me, is what we should be doing as a business -- just slowly nurturing because groups aren't ready.
As a company, we're touring intensive, but we're also looking to embrace who's online and perpetuating lots of traffic, which is why Spotify has been so exciting to us. Let's think about the money later. I don't obsess about that. People who obsess about money are bankers, and I'm not a banker. We'll make a little less money. It's OK. Our groups are in to it. They'll make more live. They'll be happy. They'll make better records. We have to think about that as a business. It's the next form of technology, but would you rather be at a place where it's controlled, that you're getting a big piece of the action but you're selling very few? It's like the idiots who were not embracing what Steve Jobs was all about. Now it's a big part of our business. We have the number two selling digital album of all time with Mumford & Sons, and we're thrilled with it.
One of the issues that we face, and [what] we don't know -- none of us know -- is how will Spotify, as rules, affect album sales. Who knows? I think if we make great albums, people will buy albums. That's what we think as a company. I don't dwell on the dilution of it. I dwell on, "Let's make better records," and then they'll buy it.
Lastly, what advice would you give to a new band who is struggling to navigate the music business of today?
I'd give the advice to a new band to be true to yourself, to work on the road as long as you can and as hard as you can. If you see encouraging results by a few more people coming or a few more people buying your CD, or your T-shirt, then you're going the right direction. There are bands who have to face the facts. They may not be that talented. They may not be good enough. It's very hard.
The bond with your audience is the key. You used to need to wait three months to get into a magazine where people will hear about you, do an interview or someone puts up a story about you in a fanzine. Today, it gets done that night if you're good. It gets picked up on YouTube. It gets picked up on Spotify or whatever. You have an edge today, I think, as an artist. My advice is to keep playing, keep writing. My favorite artists are the ones that, as soon as I say, "We have enough songs for the album," the next day, they bring me two more songs. And then while they're recording, they'll say, "We have one more."
Pay attention to your sites. Each artist communicates differently online. But if you're gonna do it, do it well and pay attention. Keep it up to date. If you don't pay attention to it, why should your fans? Give people access to you.
Make great records, mix your records well and then master your records well. Don't take shortcuts because the great ones all sound alike. They all have that thing. And no shortcuts in making the record. That's what turns the engine. It's your album. It's your music. It's your songs, and then the rest of it comes together.