Zoe Keating, “I want to be paid in data.”

Over two years ago, I wrote a post about Zoe Keating and why she was an artist that other artists (particularly filmmakers) could learn from.  Then she was a leader in using the Internet to distribute and make money from her art-in her case, her music.

Zoe continues to be a leader. She recently posted a piece entitled, What I want from Internet radio, where she says the following.

“I want my data and in 2012 I see absolutely no reason why I shouldn’t own it. It seems like everyone has it, and exploits it…everyone but the creators providing the content that services are built on. I wish I could make this demand: stream my music, but in exchange give me my listener data. But the law doesn’t give me that power. The law only demands I be paid in money, which at this point in my career is not as valuable as information. I’d rather be paid in data.

For the first 6 months of 2012, I calculate I had more than 1.5 million listens on Pandora, for which I received $1652.74.  That seems great on the surface and I’m grateful for the extra money, but I want to know:  Do these listeners also own my music?  How many of these listens are on Zoë Keating stations? What other user stations do I pop up in, and sandwiched between what other artists? How many listeners gave me a “thumbs up”? How do I reach them? Do they know I’m performing nearby next month? How can I tell them I have a new album coming out?

The new model says that in the future I’m not supposed to sell music: I’m supposed to sell concert tickets and tshirts. Ok fine, so put me in touch with the people who will buy concert tickets and tshirts (p.s. I’d like the same from on-demand services like Spotify too).

In short, I think I’m solving my obscurity problem…”

If you read tech related blogs, you are constantly bombarded with pronouncements about “Big Data” and how it will play a a big role in the future of big brands and how they market to the consumer.

Zoe shows how individual artists need to also think about how they can wrestle with Big Data as well. Pandora and Spotify collect huge amounts of data from their listeners.  As Zoe points out this data tracks the behavior and location of her fans.  Access to that data is literally gold for Zoe and any other artist as it allows them to create an ongoing connection with their fans that can be monetized in a variety of ways-as she indicates.

What Zoe says about music services is also applicable to every other form of artistic expression and the digital services that sell them- be they films, tv series, web series, audio books, ebooks-the list goes on.  These services have something in addition to money to give artists.  They have the real data about their fans that artists can use to create sustainable businesses over time that support their art.

This is also why every artist needs a central place to interact with their fans that they own and control-be that a blog, a website, a twitter feed, or a facebook page.  If they have this central place they can deal directly with their fans and gather their own Big Data, while also letting their fans know how to find them on iTunes, Amazon, Netflix or Pandora.

At the same time, as Zoe indicates, these third party digital stores need to provide greater value to the artists whose work they sell by providing them with the data they collect while selling their music, films, web series or ebooks.

To repeat, this is a two fold process:

1.  Gather your own data on your own social media/web properties and

2. Get the data collected by others who sell your art.

As Zoe says, this is how you can solve the greatest problem each individual artist has-the problem of obscurity.

About Chris Dorr

I consult with companies on digital media strategy and business development. Clients include Samsung, MTV Networks, Tribeca Film Festival, Shaw Media and Canadian Film Center. I created the Future of Film blog for Tribeca. I have worked in the movie business for Disney Studios, Universal Pictures, Scott Free and in the digital media business for Intertainer, Sony and Nokia. Contact me at [email protected] or follow me at @chrisdorr
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