Turntable.fm recently “pivoted” from online DJ booths to some sort of live event platform for musicians, which sounds more like an entirely new business (and one I don’t understand since if I want to see an artist live I’ll go to a gig, or watch one of the numerous existing live music channels).
Sadly, it’s over for the DJ biz as licensing costs and a difficult to monetize product collided:
As much as we all love turntable.fm, we have decided to shut it down to fully concentrate on the Live experience. It was a tough decision to make because we love this community so much, but the cost of running a music service has been too expensive and we can’t outpace it with our efforts to monetize it and cut costs. If we also want to give Turntable Live a real shot, we need to fully focus on it.
— turntable blog
Turntable.fm (here’s the pivot to Turntable Live) isn’t alone in hitting the wall and joins a long list of music focused tech startups that have done the same. With that in mind I hope Spotify can put it’s new $250mm war chest to good use improving subscriber numbers to the point where they have a viable business too.
Anyhow, this is what to expect when engaging with the music business: they’ll stab you in the front and if you don’t bleed to death then you’re alright, at which point it’ll be hugs all round.
Doesn’t matter whether it’s recorded music, publishing, live/touring, etc, it’s an in-your-face, no holds barred business “where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs” (to misquote Hunter S. Thompson). For every music biz type offended by this characterization there’s another high fiving a buddy in agreement.
So if the wasteland of failed music tech startups doesn’t make it clear enough and if you’re crazy enough to pursue that dream: you probably need licenses cleared, you should have the discussion up front, it’ll cost a lot of coin, and expect to lose a serious chunk of equity.*
* There are always outliers such as YouTube, but the game has changed significantly in the last few years and the industry has gotten a lot better at defeating “fair use” claims. // Negotiations aren’t necessarily as binary as I suggest. // If you have a great music tech startup, the first person I’d contact is Ted Cohen at TAG Strategic.