A Muse's Muse Interview with the General Manager of Billboard Talent Net, Andreas Wuerfel
conducted by: Jodi Krangle
I was intrigued when Billboard Talent Net opened their "doors" a short while ago. Of course, everyone knows about Billboard Magazine. While I respected the magazine, I confess to being a little skeptical about another musician database hitting the web. So many had been introduced in such a short period of time. How would anyone be able to tell which service would work for them before spending a ton of money? Turns out, Billboard Talent Net might just be the long awaited answer. Take the time to read through this interview with the guy on top of the operation and I think you'll see what I mean. The idea certainly has potential - and seems to be constantly evolving - just like the rest of the net these days. Mr. Wuerfel himself is a well spoken and very interesting individual with a lot of industry savy behind him. Here's what he had to say about his own musical experiences and where he sees Billboard Talent Net heading in the future.
Question: When did you first start seeing indications that music was doing well on the internet? Is there a particular incident that illustrated that for you?
I first started paying attention at a point where CDNow and Music Boulevard opened up shop on the web. I was working for an independent record label at that time and the idea of being able to sell music over the internet seemed really exciting to us. But we also knew that it would created a real problem for our retailers. As an individual, I think N2k's release of a brand-new David Bowie single is noteworthy to me. From a label's perspective, the idea of selling direct - in this case via the internet - may be very exciting but not something that most label's distributors and music retailers are very fond of. It may cut into their own business,u nderstandably, and as a label you have to pay attention to your existing retail relationships.
Question: How do you think the internet has changed the way music publishers, managers, promoters, etc., do their business?
The internet presents immense benefit and temptation to music companies while it holds significant challenges at the same time. It really depends on who you are talking to and at what point in time. Music publishers are certainly concerned about their writers getting compensated for usage of copyright on the web. Others, such as artist managers and promoters understand the web to be primarily a powerful medium to help build an audience and the internet allows them to cut out the middle man, such as record companies, distributors or retail. Either way, everybody understands that the web presents opportunities and challenges at the same time. For instance, the moment music publishers are able to charge for online usage of a catalogue while legislation provides for the necessary control and copyright protection, I believe they will embrace the medium instantly. Managers and promoters may realize that all the money spent on setting up and maintaining striking artist webpages is only useful if effective positioning and marketing is in place to create the expected traffic.
At the end of the day, the internet is not going to make people go for music and artists that they otherwise wouldn't like in the first place but the internet does provide virtual unlimited access.
Question: How do you think the Billboard Talent Net specifically will help songwriters, recording artists, managers, promoters, etc.? What is the goal for the site?
Billboard Talent Net has set out to become the first meaningful gateway between those that actively offer and those that are looking to sign available music and copyrights. The fact that Billboard is such a unique and global brand - recognized by music companies, artists and music fans virtually everywhere - enables us to serve as a meaningful catalyst for unsigned and developing artists and their music. The goal is to give new artists the necessary exposure by way of a recognizable platform that enables them to present their talent to the music industry while building fan community online and offline at the same time.
Question: What would be your advice to musician/songwriters that want to spread the word about their songs through the internet?
To make sure that they are properly positioned. The world wide web is already too convoluted to expect to be seen and recognized just because you have a web page or you maintain your own web site. Make sure people can find you and know where to look. The analogy would be to assume that just because your cd is available at record stores people are going to buy it. Most likely, you or your record company will need to market and position you product so that it stands out from everything else and people can find it. I am naive enough to believe in the power and energy of a good song and good song writing, though. somehow, despite all the apparent need to hype and market music these days, there's something to be said about a great song and how it seems to travel from ear to ear and people simply fall in love with it - despite no one really pushing it. The same goes for good live music. While we are creating an interactive union between music and computers - the energy coming from interaction between a band and the audience during a live concert is still the real thing. The issue remains how to let fans know that you are playing somewhere and what type of music they can expect. Billboard Talent Net allows music fans to search for the type of music they like and check out the music and live date info online, at home. All they have to do is decide to show up at the gig that night.
Question: What in your opinion, makes a "great song"?
I am not sure that there's one magic formula that - once applied - guarantees a "great song". You know you hear a "great song" if it hits you in the right spots. But that can be very different things to different people. So, personally, I always try to find that particular something that I believe makes a song special for me.
Question: Have you noticed a difference between the expectations of the internet in Europe and elsewhere in the world and the expectations in North America? Is Billboard Talent Net able to cater to them all or does it have a specific geographical focus?
Most music starts out somewhere in a specific region or as part of a local scene. And if it's good, if it's the right stuff at the right time, it develops further. Given the immediate global reach provided by the internet, it is important for Billboard Talent Net to make sure that local and global strategies are in tandem. I hope to be able to introduce something like a Talent Tour, a series of live dates, to feature some of our site's artists in primary and secondary markets throughout the United States/Canada and Central Europe. We will be introducing local language versions of the site as well..
Question: What sort of response has Billboard Talent Net been receiving from artists, managers and the like so far?
We just recently asked all the artists currently featured on the site what type of feedback they had received from music companies and our general audience. The response, I must say, was overwhelming. Artists have been able to book gigs, get management and publishing deals and A&R departments are directly in touch with artists. Considering that we have only been up and running for 2 months (at the time of this interview) I think this is fantastic. Major signings are going to happen next. It's inevitable. In terms of the type of feedback we have been getting so far, it clearly shows that Billboard Talent Net is capable of providing the sought after exposure and actual access to the music industry
Question: What areas do you see the Billboard Talent Net expanding into in the future? You mentioned getting into things like a "talent tour" where Billboard would promote live performances. Did you have anything else in mind? And how could people get more involved in this?
We are just about to launch the first component of a virtual store front that provides music fans with an opportunity to purchase our artists' music. Artists' music sales will trigger a sales ranking which reflects actual consumer response.
How could people get more involved in this? We encourage everyone to listen to as much music and vote for as many artists as they feel like while visiting Billboard Talent Net. For artists that have their own webpages, we have started to make an interactive Billboard Talent Net logo link available for posting on their own site. That way music fans - having visited the artist's own site first - also learn about the artist being featured on Billboard Talent Net and can instantly vote for their favored artist (and purchase their music) while visiting us.
The "Talent Tour" is something that I believe is extremely important and we have started working on this. However, due to the nature and the scope of this particular project it will probably not come to fruition before sometime next year.