How is Music Valued?

At minute 4:24 infamous DJ speaks clearly, “This is a beautiful thing, we all have love and unity… showing your flags, representing your country, WE ARE ONE!”  Music lies at the heart of human emotions and relationships, connecting us all regardless of what language we speak or country we come from. The epicenter of music is emotion and how and what it makes you feel; and that very primal power is where the real value of music lies.

We find ourselves in an up hill battle, where in 2015 music is less valued than ever before. There is a shift from sales to streaming and the dominance of social networks as the channels via which we consume media are diminishing the value of each of these platforms. Because of this downward spiral in revenue, major artist and labels are focusing on one thing, and one thing only, how to make money. Artist need to make a living and are absolutely deserving but I think with this new generation we should reconsider what is truly valued.

With the capabilities and the rapid growth in technology there is still a hope for music to be deeply appreciated both emotionally and financially: Artist-fan relationship, Live concert production, and great music. I am not at all saying these are the three and only three avenues to making money but this is a start. I believe that we should no longer treat an artist and its fan as a product to buy and sell, this is where music has lost its value, but we should treat this love for music as both our weakness and strength.

My first reaction to this was that it is wrong on varying levels. Firstly, the haunting effect of Tupac being back from the dead is absolutely terrifying. I do believe that carrying on a legacy is righteous and if we do so otherwise history could be lost; Eine Kleine Nachtmusikand and the works of Mozart would not have blessed present day society hundreds of years later if human kind did not carry on that legacy. But I do disagree that bringing Tupac back from the dead for his estate to make a profit is horrid. That being said, what if the industry used this technology for current living artist? The idea of a live performance no longer actually being live, sickens a generation such as my parents. They wouldn’t go to the show. But the generation that has grown up in a society where they see the world from behind a screen, may feel differently.
This is where our love and emotional attachment for music is valued differently in every individual. A fan of Tupac that was born a few years too late may have never had the opportunity to see him live in concert but now has that opportunity. A lover of EDM music may not be so concerned about what his favorite DJ is doing up on stage but rather goes to a festival for the pure experience of listening to great music and connecting with others that have similar interest. Music touches us individually and I truly believe there is a way to monetize that love without diminishing the value or reason we listen to music.

The Launch & Quick Tear Down of Aurous; The ‘Popcorn Time for Music’

This past Monday Aurous, known as the ‘Popcorn Time for Music’, launched Alpha. This streaming service, like many before it, offers a completely free, on-demand way to listen to music. The biggest attraction to this service is that not only is it ad-free but also allows the user to pull together playlist from multiple platforms whether that is off the internet, Spotify, or from the users own library of music. Creator Andrew Sampsons announces that Aurous has teamed up with ProTip, a tipping services that uses bitcoin’s blockchain technology to pay rights holders so that in this way, users will be able to compensate artists. What seems a bit unclear is whether or not users are forced to pay through listening to a song at a time or are given the option of paying per song.

aurous platform layout

See Aurous layout / interface above.

Essentially illegal to most label and artists a like, Sampson points out that there is a portal for rights holders to take their music off the service if they would like. The idea behind this is simple but is it legal?

According to reports this morning the RIAA has quickly cracked down on Aurous claiming that this service is not only pulling music from companies that to not negotiate with record labels to have their music played on but also with illegal websites that put up free music illegal such as MP3WithMe and VK. Published today on 20KHZ, the RIAA said quote, “This service is a flagrant example of a business model powered by copyright theft on a massive scale.” Sampson earlier mentioned that his intent was geared for users to take off of ad-supported services such as YouTube or paid streaming services.

Although this service seems like a great idea, there are still a clear amount of problems to figure out. Piracy is already a overwhelming problem enough. In my opinion the way in solving this is to make a portion of the website that detects when content is converted from an illegal source that way the company and the user don’t get in trouble pushing the user to legal means of service.

Future Business Models: Ryan Leslie wants to disrupt the music industry

Artists are creators by definition, but should their creativity end when the recording process is over? Harvard graduate and Grammy nominated singer/producer Ryan Leslie believes not! In an interview with, the somewhat narcissistic yet smart hit maker argues that “for a new artist to ascribe to an antiquated business model, really to me is the antithesis of creativity. If you are truly a creator, then are you looking to extend and push the boundaries of culture and artistic contributions of our generation. Then it is imperative that you adopt a model that empowers future creativity.”

After having his big international break in 2006 with Cassie’s hit single Me & U, which he wrote and produced, Leslie went down the traditional route releasing two relatively successful solo albums with Casablanca Records (Universal). But in 2010, when Universal tried to reshape four-albums contract into a 360-type deal, Leslie decided to break the contract and try a different, independent approach.

In 2012, bypassing the traditional intermediaries, he independently released Les is More on his own music and media company NextSelection Lifestyle Group, partnering with RED Distribution (Sony). It was sold as a audiovisual album on his website and later released on iTunes as well. However, this would be his last affiliation with any major company. Leveraging the web technology, the entreprenartist, decided to adopt a fully direct-to-consumer model from then on.

His last album Black Mozart was released through his #Renegades fan club exclusively in digital form. The first big advantage is that the money goes directly in his pocket, avoiding a 30% fee by iTunes or an even bigger cut from a record label. Fans have to pay a fee to become members of his #Renegades club in order to obtain a free download of the album. This allows Leslie to know the details (including email address and phone number) of every single person who purchased his album. THIS is key to his new business model. The subscription also allows fans to engage directly with Ryan Leslie and his team via email or text message, with the artist claiming to manage his email account himself. The man therefore proudly declares himself to be in the data game, and it seems to be a fruitful approach.

Diminishing the importance of sales numbers, the model focuses on capitalising on the core and faithful fan base by establishing a strong relationship with them. Excessively active on social media, Leslie constantly shares his thoughts and activities with his followers, often encouraging them to come meet him at certain places. By engaging so personally with his fans, he gains their trust and respect which allows him to monetise his activities through more than just album sales. Rather expensive merchandise supposedly strongly contributes to his income, along with priced meet-and-greets, concert tickets (sold directly on his website, with VIP options) and special parties (the artist celebrates New Years in Vienna with his most faithful fans, with tickets options ranging from $220 to $1,700!)

Artists such as 50 Cent, Talib Kweli and Raphael Saadiq followed his advice and have released studios albums through their own music membership clubs and Leslie himself is set to release his new album on new years via his #Renegades club. Now, with his new management platform Disruptive Multimedia, the multi-talented musician aspires transform the industry by sharing his approach with other artists, established or not, educating them on how to earn a living out of music by keeping a strong bond with their audience and thus being able to make them pay for a variety of products, activities and exclusive experiences. Think of it as an ongoing Kickstarter campaign.

So is Leslie a visionary on the brink of revolutionising the industry? Where are the limits and weaknesses of this model? Personally, I’ll be keeping a close eye on it to see how it works on the long run. Let me know what you think in the comments!

Thinkband 5: A story to sell.

In ancient times when a plebeian tried to approach the king to ask for something he had to make an offering. This offerings could be slaves, state of the art weapons, land, or just gold. Despite that the plebeian had the opportunity to talk with the king, nothing was taken for granted, it was just a right to talk to the majesty.












Although it’d be interesting to have some lands for my own negotiation purposes, I’d prefer to talk about a similar story that might interest you as possible band managers: two weeks ago a couple of colleagues and me went to a venue we targeted to show the managers/owners a new startup band that we are promoting called Puerto Argento. We felt more than confident since this band has three conservatory members with undoubtedly quality in terms of musicianship, performance and charisma. I had a well prepared speech to talk about how good they are, the possible negotiation to set up the show, the benefits for the venue and even some small talk to break the ice. What could go wrong?

After waiting for 20 minutes we finally approached to this guy and start talking about business, I spent a few minutes introducing myself and my colleagues, describing the band and talking about how this band could be beneficial for both sides. Although he was paying attention and making eye contact, some problems appeared just when I was starting to describe the band’s musical style. His cellphone rings 3 times in a row, he answers them all, one of the waiters rush to give him a document and two people interrupt my speech with effusive smiles and handshakes. At the end of the conversation he had no idea how the band looked and sounded like, therefore no negotiation could be done.










One week later we had our first EPK ready for Puerto Argento so we grabbed an iPad and approached to a similar venue and showed it to the owner. In just seconds he turned off the cellphone ring, called their 2 waitress and said “hey guys, check this out”, then 30 seconds later he whispers to himself “look at the singer, she has a beautiful voice”. He shown immediate interest in booking the band gave me his business card for the follow up coordinations. Now we are closing the deal with really good benefits for this promising band in the long term.












Here’s the EPK we used as today’s plebeians:

Countdown Top 9 Hip Hop Entrepreneurs of 2012: #8 NICKI MINAJ

The purpose of this blog is to inform the class of America’s “Top 9 Hip Hop Entrepreneurs of 2012” and the various business ventures in different industries that contributed to their individual successes.

Countdown Top 9 Hip Hop Entrepreneurs of 2012: #8 NICKI MINAJ

Name: Onika Tanya Maraj

Stage Name: Nicki Minaj

Age: 28

Forbes Hip Hop’s Top Earners List: #8 of 9

How Much??? $15.5 MILLION


So am I.

Don’t get me wrong, musically she is arguably the best female Hip Hop artist of all time. She has definitely earned her stripes in the game by being the first female solo artist (under Cash Money Records) to have seven singles on Billboard Hot 100 at the same time plus six BET Awards, two American Music Awards, two MTV Music Awards, and Billboard’s 2011 Rising Star Awards … all in just two years – kudos to her.

But come on, Nicki Minaj as the 8th most successful Hip Hop Entrepreneur of 2012?

I had to check for myself, and here’s what I found:

1. Fashion Industry: She signed a multi-million dollar endorsement with ADIDAS for their Fall/Winter 2012 marketing campaign, in collaboration with Jeremy Scott.


2. Cosmetic Industry: Nicki is also endorsed by MAC Cosmetics, with her own MAC Lip Stick line (which made over $250,000,000!!!)


3. Beverage Industry: She signed a SEVEN-FIGURE endorsement with Pepsi to market and launch their new Pepsi product, POP.


4. Cosmetic Industry: OPI Nail Polish endorsed Nicki’s launch of her first nail polish collection.


5. Toy Industry: She has her own Barbie Doll made by MATTEL (though only for charity, still a big accomplishment for her brand)


On top of all that, Nicki Minaj also has her new clothing line coming out soon and will also serve as a judge on the 12th season of American Idol starting this January.

Wow, who woulda thunk?…

So after doing a little bit of research, I was sold – coming in with $15.5 Million, our “Hip Hop Barbie” Nicki Minaj has automatically earned her spot as the 8th most successful and influential hip hop entrepreneur of 2012.

(In a couple days, I will post up #7! So please stay tuned! Let’s count down to #1 together!)

By: Aaron Kim (Duke)

Other sources:

(awards source: wiki)

Countdown Top 9 Hip Hop Entrepreneurs of 2012: #9 EMINEM

Image(Picture source:

The purpose of this blog is to inform the class of America’s “Top 9 Hip Hop Entrepreneurs of 2012” and the various business ventures in different industries that contributed to their individual successes.

Countdown Top 9 Hip Hop Entrepreneurs of 2012: #9 EMINEM

Name: Marshall Bruce Mathers III

Stage Name: EMINEM

Age: 39

Forbes Celebrity List: #71 out of 100

Forbes Hip Hop’s Top Earners List: #9 of 9

How Much??? $15 MILLION

What more could you ask for from a guy who sold over 32 million copies in his music career and has 13 Grammy’s under his belt? Nothing.

But Eminem decided to add to his already impressive resume by starting his own record company in 1999 called Shady Records and signing big-time acts such as D12, 50 Cent, Royce Da 5’9, Joe Budden, Slaughterhouse, and Joell Ortiz (just to name a few). In 2002, he took the film industry by storm, playing a leading role in a feature film called 8 Mile. The film grossed over $242,875,078 and won an Academy Award for “Best Original Song.” In 2003, Eminem made a huge splash in the fashion industry with his brand and clothing line, Shady Ltd., making an instant impact on urbanwear. (Shady Ltd. was eventually acquired by Rocawear, Jay-Z’s clothing line.) He also created his own radio channel, Shade 45, which first aired on Sirius XM Radio in 2004, featuring different hip hop artists and DJs while giving a platform for Eminem to connect with his fans all around the world. The popularity of his channel has been growing ever since.

Today, although he is not as active as before in front of the camera, he has been working fervently behind the scenes on many different projects as a music producer. He also announced in July 2012 that he was currently working on his 8th studio album that will be released sometime in 2013. He has made special cameo appearances in different films and television series such as Funny People and The Entourage.

From music, to movies, to TV and fashion, Eminem has made his an everlasting mark in the entertainment industry – easily placing him as the 9th most successful and influential hip hop entrepreneur in the year of 2012 with $15 Million.

(In a couple days, I will post up #8! So please stay tuned! Let’s count down to #1 together!)

By: Aaron Kim (Duke)