Nate Auerbach, The Collective

If I worked at a record label, the professional in me would hate the music fan. As a manager, I use widespread downloading habits as a basis on which I can be proactive for my artists. It’s not about stopping the fan; it’s about feeding them.

I download an average of 8 new records and 7 new tracks per week, all for free. I’m not going to find the bands I like on the radio, or even on MySpace anymore thanks to the priorities of the major labels. Blogs are my conduit for discovery. If I like a band then I’ll go to their show. If I like the album, then I’ll buy their CD at Amoeba. For a music fan, consumption does not start and stop with the download of an album. Instead of fighting the consumer, artists and labels need to focus on the follow-up. What would be more valuable to me than the pocket change that may or may not trickle from my label is the data. If we can find out who is downloading, from where and how often, then we can better market our artists and figure out how to monetize the download in a way that does not offend or discourage the fan. Rather than looking for an immediate medial payoff, we can use this data to create more opportunity for our artists and build fans for life.

Like the labels’ Y2K reaction to Napster, collective licensing at the ISP level fails to foresee the direction of both the internet and music industries. Internet is free in cafes, schools, hotels, and other public places. Do we then bill those providers and further the struggle of libraries and Starbucks? How do we treat the college dorm resident, our most desirable and fickle fan? Once ISPs collect the money, how do they treat the bands that aren’t on labels, the ones who depend on the internet for discovery? The majors will hoard their share off the table. Unsigned artists and unconsolidated indies are put at a disadvantage because they won’t have a label to claim their shares. In this age, we should be encouraging and rewarding the do-it-yourself solution.

In addition to the baby bands and the indies, many high profile acts are graduating from their deals and remaining label-free. My company represents one such artist. We don’t want to discourage the spreading of his music, and we also don’t want the labels to place tollbooths in front of the traffic that he generates. They have no right to collect on his behalf. But we’d be forced to hire a label as a collection agency just to make sure that no one else claims his share of what the ISPs are pirating from our fans.

Here comes the common sense. “We can’t get enough fans to pay for subscription models on Rhapsody. So instead, let’s result to the scare tactic and charge them to turn on their computers. Once AT&T gets involved, they’ll have to pay us. That’s a great way to build an artist-to-fan relationship. Fans will pay for our music to keep the cops from coming to their doors. And they’ll resent us for it.”

The last thing we want is for fans to stop wanting music. The second-to-last thing we want is to ruin the relationship between artists and their fans. ISP licensing does both. It’s like airlines forcing travelers to pay to check their bags when they’ve done so for free for decades. The common airport emotions are now resentment, detest and discouragement. This is not how we want to treat music fans, allowing labels to temporarily plug leaks with pennies that don’t even improve the consumer experience.

Nate Auerbach specializes in digital marketing and strategy for The Collective’s thriving roster of music talent. He helps to oversee its social networking communities that bring in over 35 million users daily, and directs some of the largest artist networks in the world. In addition to marketing, Nate works closely with the clients to broaden their digital presence as the role of “manager” changes within the industry. He facilitates the artist-to-fan relationship that new media encourages, recognizing that communication with the audience in real time is essential. Nate spent three years at MySpace and MySpace Music, where he established a strong foothold in event sponsorship while developing and marketing MySpace original programs. These programs include Rock for Darfur, MySpace Music’s only annual worldwide program which, under Nate’s direction in 2007, had 46 benefit shows taking place across five continents in one night. He is best known for being part of the small team that conceived, built and executed such tentpole franchises as MySpace Secret Shows,Artist on Artist and MySpace Transmissions, as well as Hey, Play This. . . !, an all-request live stream in which bands took requests from their fans in real time via MySpaceIM.

Nate has worked deeply with all of the major and independent labels in designing digital strategies for their artists. While at MySpace he expanded the company across the border to start MySpace Canada. In eight months, he established a unique brand infused with local flavor and built Canadian-centric programming that immediately impacted the country’s small music community. Nate later brokered a partnership with SPIN in the US that established MySpace as the exclusive distributer for their digital magazine. He wrote the marketing plan that distributed the Pennywise album, Reason to Believe, for free to more than 500,000 users, courtesy of a sponsor. Nate also oversaw MySpace Music’s advertising during his tenure at the company.

Nate got his start in the industry as a tour manager while he was finishing college at Syracuse University. Traveling the world for two years with multi-Grammy Award winning artist Ozomatli, he quickly picked up on the intricacies of the business from deep inside its trenches.

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