As part of their 12 month partnership with Bacardi, Groove Armada last week announced the release of a 4-track mini-album with Bacardi B-Live as well as a ‘creative new way for adult music fans to receive and share the new tracks, released through bliveshare.com. The details of which was announced at Midem, the world’s largest music industry event, on 20th January 2009 in Cannes, France. Prior to the announcement State spoke with Dan O’Neill, Groove Armada’s manager and by all accounts third member.
Dan, can you explain the announcement being made on Tuesday and the idea behind this music sharing mechanism?
At the beginning of last year myself and the boys (Groove Armada) were talking about the industry, what concerns a lot of musicians, changes in the industry like the move towards free music. By free, I mean giving stuff away and devaluing it. One of the things we wanted to do was to try and develop the concept of sharing. When you share you are passing on something with an emotional attachment, you’re giving someone something with love if you like.
So, the release is a collection of MP3s on your machine that you could share yourself, but the idea is to share from the site?
Yes. You go to the site, register and then you get your unique URL and then you share with your friends. Once you’ve shared 20 times, i.e. your network includes 20 people, you then unlock your second track. When you’ve shared with 200 people you unlock track 3. Then when you’ve shared with 2000 people on your network you’ll be able to unlock track 4. It’s a very simple mechanism, which is what we love. When we sat down with the developers we wanted this to be very simple, where people could go on and share something easily and simply with their friends. It’s literally one page, so it’s been very well designed in our opinion.
So are you confident that this model will work, its all built on your existing fan base?
I think too often in the past the industry has been based on one particular model. We sell little round bits of plastic and you go into retail outlets to buy them. But the world has changed so dramatically that I think we need to have different touch points into the market. Because people behave in different ways and they consume in different ways. I mean some people will always go to Limewire to download their music, some people will always go into HMV, some people will still buy vinyl and some people will go to iTunes or wherever its commercially released. We need to ensure these days is understand how people consume music and build that into our model or part of a mix of models, I don’t think there’s only one answer. But what this gives us the opportunity to communicate with our fans and to give something back to our fans. So in that sense the idea of the four track EP being shared and unlocking other tracks through the number of sharers you effectively bring into the picture is good for us. We start with a fan base and obviously that fan base will hopefully expand.
So what are the commercial benefits of this for Groove Armada?
Well if you think about the past, there’s band and there’s a label and there’s a series of retail outlets, all of which prevent the band communicating and interacting directly with the punter. Now that’s changed and this has given us the opportunity to start directly communicating and understanding what it is people into our music want.
And where to Bacardi come into this, what part do they play, is endorsement or financial backing?
Last year we came out of a major label deal with a series of objectives. I was approached by Bacardi, by their agency KLP, when we started talking it appeared as though there’s an appetite from them to try something new. As a brand they are realising they have some areas of expertise that are potentially relevant to areas like music, the marketing, making people aware of their products, you know these kind of areas that they wanted to start exploring, and we were in the right place at the right time and they wanted to do all the things we wanted to do with regards live music, DJ music and also recorded music and so we were able to strike an arrangement where by, Bacardi, B-Live as the label is called, were able to effectively replace what the label were doing in the sense of providing the funding to put a four track EP together.
So after April, do you have record deal, how will you release your records?
We financed the album ourselves, so we are currently exploring new ways in which we are looking to taking the album to market. What we’ll do is see how this sharing mechanic pans out and then we will be able to make the decision about how we wish to take this thing to market globally and who we wish to do it with. Because there are all types of partners we could do this with, there are publishers and there are other global brands. There are brands out there I sure that still want to be involved with music, there’s VC funds and there’s also labels and I think all of these different parties have a place in the new music world going forward, as to how music will get out to listeners.
So there’s the demise of the CD, walking into HMV and forking out for a Groove Armada CD and there’s a disassociation with a record label?
I think labels, just like everyone else in the market at the moment, are thinking about the ways in which they can add more value within the chain because obviously their traditional source of revenue is drying up. I don’t think the CD will die, it’ll plateaux, because I think there will always be people that will buy CDs. People with engrained behaviours and that said there are people who will only go to Limewire, different generations of people, and I think there are people now who are willing to share music and actually give it some sort of social currency. You know music is being consumed more that ever, its just the ways that the artist needs to earn a living and understand how its being consumed is becoming all the more important.
Could you see this model be applied to new acts with no record sales and a much smaller fan base?
I also look after some much smaller bands and they are as a generation, early 20’s, they are really open to the concept of working with brands that they find cool. So actually if those brands that they find cool have values that these young bands stand for they could help them get their music out there via some sort of advertising deal or sponsorship I think its got to be a good thing for the young band as well.
Do you see any risks with associating with a brand?
Yeah of course, you have to very up front with the brand and the brand have to be very up front with the artist about what the motives are because the days of an artist picking up the product and smiling cheesily at the camera and getting a shot taken for endorsement are over. I think that is not particularly something that is good for the artist. You have to make sure the two objectives are sort of lined up.
In that case we were very clear, we wanted this venture to give us more creative control and artistic integrity rather that less and that’s what it achieved because ultimately the Groove Armada have complete and utter control over what music was released on this E.P. In that sense it’s been a very liberating experience, but obviously as a manager you have to ensure that you are not putting the artist in a position where its seen as a sort of sellout because of all the associated collateral surrounding it makes it just look like that. In this sense having a four track E.P. that is being shared, giving our fans something effectively for free, is a really positive thing and it demonstrates how, if its managed correctly by both parties and the objectives are aligned, you have a win win for everybody. The listener, the band and the brand.