Creator Kit Episode 13: Supermassiv's Jenna Hannon on How to Get Paid as a Musician

Creator Kit
Creator Kit
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Cover Image for Creator Kit Episode 13: Supermassiv's Jenna Hannon on How to Get Paid as a Musician

In this week's episode, we talk with the co-founder of Supermassiv about the Autonomy Economy and the state of the music industry.

Each episode of Creator Kit is a deep dive on a particular tool or service that can help you take your creator business to the next level. Creator Kit is presented by HiBeam: we solve comment and DM overload for creators; follow HiBeam on Twitter and subscribe on YouTube for more great content.

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Jenna is the co-founder of Supermassiv, a one-link commerce hub for recording artists to sell NFT collectibles and other digital goods.

On today’s show we talk about a megatrend called the “Autonomy Economy”, and a crazy pandemic related entrepreneurial movement some are calling the “Great Formation”.

We also cover the state of the music industry in 2022 - and what it takes to earn a living as a musician in the age of streaming and Spotify. 

Here are some of our favorite takeaways from the conversation (lightly edited for clarity):

1. The Autonomy Economy is a through-line

The growth the Gig Economy and the Creator Economy are in some ways both a product of another macro trend: the Autonomy Economy, where individuals can both earn decent living AND control the time that they put into work.

"I was at Uber for four years starting in 2016. Uber was, as most people know, one of the biggest Gig Economy companies. And it was interesting; the trend that we saw in the Gig Economy is...the value prop is "you own your time." And so that was one of the biggest things for Uber drivers. When we asked them, "what is the benefit of driving for Uber?" [the answer was] it's that freedom and autonomy. Now you're seeing a trend, post-Covid, of that moving up market, which is really interesting. So you're seeing more professionals of all types of backgrounds that are choosing to go freelance and own their time. And that's the thing that they value more than the structure of the full time job or the comfort of the full time job and salary...and so that's the acceleration of what I refer to as the Autonomy Economy. Which is also part of the Creator Economy."

2. Direct-to-Fan as a sustainable revenue model

Jenna lays out the challenge, especially for smaller musicians, with an industry that revolves around streaming revenue from intermediary platforms like Spotify - and describes a future where selling directly to fans actually makes a whole lot of economic sense.

"If you look at the situation in music, there's just this massive long tail of artists. We're talking 20 million artists, who are creating music, who are now able to go online and find a global audience and build that global audience from scratch, which they never could before. But they may be in a subculture, or a smaller genre where they're never going to have the massive amount of streams that allow them to earn revenue through streaming. Our hypothesis was, well they have these super engaged if they sold directly to their fans, what would that look like?"

3. Better tools are emerging for artists to sell directly to their fans

While gatekeepers are fading, and distribution/promotion and monetization are uncoupled, artists still need better tools for selling directly to their fans.

"More artists are choosing to go independent. Previously, they had to go through a gatekeeper; when they were selling in the physical world, the record label was your distribution. Now artists can go direct, you're seeing more and more artists choosing to go independent, or work with a record label just strictly for promotion. I think the problem that we see is, even though artists are doing that, they're still struggling with monetization. And so even though there's tools like Linktree and they can send more fans from social media to their music, they're still struggling with: "okay how do we go and take those fans and actually convert them" for this to be a sustainable source of revenue and a way for artists to earn. That's kind of where we see the gap that we're filling, which is that artists don't really have great tools to go direct to their fans today."

4. Supermassiv is building for the Direct-to-Fan future

The DTC trend is now extending to music. Jenna and Supermassiv are building tools for this future.

"On the artist's side, we're essentially replacing the website and the LinkTree. An artist can join Supermassiv and create a profile; the profile will have all of those links, so if you want to link to your Spotify or your Twitch stream, that will all be on there like a Linktree. But then you're immediately dropped into commerce, and so an artist can upload music for sale, videos for sale (mainly digital content) and they can put behind a paywall and have their fans preview. On the fan side, I think the big difference that we see, that just doesn't exist today, is: if a fan purchases digital content, they need a place to easily find and consume that what we're building on the fan side is the concept of a wallet. Just like in the gaming world where you purchase digital goods, and it all goes in a wallet (or even the crypto world with your NFTs, you need one place that holds all of that digital content. And if you are a fan of multiple different artists and you purchase music, and videos and potentially NFT's down the road, it should all go into one place. That's what Supermassiv wallet is for the fan. It's a place that contains all of the digital goods that they've purchased, and the place that they can go and easily consume them in the way that they want to consume."

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Jesse Clemmens: Jenna thanks for coming on the show.

Jenna Hannon: Thanks for having me.

Jesse Clemmens: It's amazing to have you on the show, really excited to talk about, your company and your experience in the creator economy and a bunch of other stuff; the platform that we're going to be talking about is one of the first that we've had on the show that is, more narrowly focused on artists and specifically musicians. So I'm really, really interested in getting into a lot of the, , other solutions that we've talked to in the past have been, like more broadly targeted. And, it'll be fun to talk about how some of these, you know macro trends that are pushing the creator economy forward to rapidly.  manifest themselves in the, world of music, which I'm super excited about.

Jenna Hannon: Let's do it.

Jesse Clemmens: Let's do it, okay so, we met a couple months back and we chatted a couple times.  we were introduced by a mutual friend when I was thinking through some marketing ideas. And, it was- it was really fun chatting through a few- a few brief ideas on- on one of our calls. And I get to know a little about the product that you guys are building for musicians.  but I also became familiar with your work as a marketer and I understand that you've had a,  fairly, , fairly long and- and very exciting career as a marketer from, , Uber to a bunch of other stops along the way. And and now to your- your current start up.

 one thing that we had talked about in some of the prep for the call is this theme that has run through your career that's not necessarily marketing oriented but how the companies that you've chosen to, , spend your time at so far, and that is,  sort of empowerment of the individual and what you had referred to,  as the autonomy economy. Which is a new concept to me, and I thought was re- really, really cool as a, not necessarily replacement but kind of, , the next wave of,  some of the trends that have powered what many people are familiar with as the gig economy, which is obviously fairly tied to some of the work that you did at Uber.

Maybe that would be a good way to start can you tell us a little bit about the autonomy economy and that- that idea that has driven you into,  the various, , career moves you've made?

Jenna Hannon: Yeah absolutely. I mean as you mentioned I was at Uber, so I was at Uber for four years and starting in 2016.  as- as most people know one of the- the biggest gig economy, - gig economy companies,  and it was interesting- so the trends that we saw in the gig economy is more people choosing to go this route. Which is, they had more platforms available and through the gig economy, the- I would say the value pop is- is that you own your time. And so that was one of the biggest thing for- for Uber drivers. So when we talk to them, what is the benefit of driving for Uber? It's that freedom and autonomy. Now you're seeing a trend post covid of that moving up market, which is really interesting.

So you're seeing more professionals of all types of backgrounds that are choosing to go freelance and own their time. And that's the thing that they value more than the- the- the structure of the full time job or the comfort of- of the full time job and salary.  you're seeing the same trend in the creator economy.  so as the creator economy grows more people are figuring out how do we leverage these online platforms to- to generate content, find an audience and essentially own your time and own your business. And so that's the acceleration of what I refer to as the autonomy economy.  which- which is part of the creator economy.

Jesse Clemmens: Yeah it makes a lot of sense and it's,  obviously as with all things these days, we have to look at,  trends through the lens of- of covid. What came to mind when you're discussing autonomy is like another accelerant to that trend of,  autonomy and time ownership is like location,

Location fluidity, or like flexibility, I don't know what you want to call it but like you know so many people that were suddenly able to work from wherever they wanted, , that sort of you know- that major life change I think made a lot of people also reconsider how they use that time. Not just like where are they working from physically but also what are they working on? And comparing you know a- a- a future where they can choose to spend their time in a way that, , makes sense to them verse your traditional like 9:00 to 6:00 corporate job.

Jenna Hannon: Exactly, and a lot of that is timing too. Timing and tools, , so in the gig economy a lot of those companies had to build a platform to allow people to do that. , to allow them, they can make a living,  j- working on a platform, , that allows them to own that time- own their time and that potentially flexibility of location. After covid you saw the same thing with Zoom, which is an incredible tool that allowed this distributed remote work to- to actually work through covid. I think the same thing is happening in the- the creator economy.  which is, you need those tools or those platforms to exist to allow for this.  so timing is super important for- for this concept of- of the autonomy economy. Because without the- the tools to do it, it's very hard for people to- to make that transition.

Jesse Clemmens: Yeah, yeah and like a lot- like a lot of the- , the availability of the tools and the way that,  companies like Shopify for example took things that felt like super,  intimidating for an individual, even like five six years ago, setting up a shop to sell something online made it…And then from a- like even from a services perspective, like what's been eye opening to me as a start up founder, you know needing to find,  you know needing to find part time help in certain, , certain areas is like, this extends now to hiring professionals. And that's sort of what you eluded to in going upstream. Like we're, it's December of 2021, and we're currently, looking to hire for a couple roles. One is like a community manager role, another is, , a part time social media/marketer role. And it's you know at the stage we're at it's out of the question to bring someone on full time.

 I know you have strong thoughts about this. , I- I see you tweeted recently about,  bringing on tractional, like location independent help.  so it's amazing that, you know not only can you you know now sign up for Uber and start working if you have a cell phone and a- and a decent vehicle, but you can you know do different- all different types of work, , all across you know with- with partners all across the world. It's- it's, , crazy cool.

Jenna Hannon: Yeah and I'm- I'd actually recommend that- that a lot of companies consider more freelance, , you know, a- a- autonomy professionals.  I actually before I started Supermassiv I was- I was a freelance, essentially CMO for hire, , for a startup.  and with that essentially I helped them with the strategy and a lot of the campaigns. And then I would ha- I had a network of freelancers that I would go and hire to help execute. And the thing about marketing is, marketing has a lot of specialists, so those roles that you're talking about, community management that's actually a specialty role. You actually need someone who really knows how to do that well and has experience in that specific background. The same as thing as [inaudible 00:08:11] you- for roles like copywriting or performance marketing,  those are specialists.

And so it's actually tough for a lot of early stage or even small companies to hire that in house. And if you look at cross functional roles, I think the same thing carries over. For example, we actually recently interviewed a- a firm that does freelance back office. So they have freelance CFO's, and accountants, that come in based on you know the specific time and thing that you need for that project. You may not need that full time.  I think most companies have not thought about this across the different professional functions. Most of them think, oh there's some roles you can hire contractors or freelancers. But actually a lot of different types of roles you can.  you can build out of house,  which- which is- as that transitions you're seeing more full time people who have those specialty skills thinking about owning their- owning their time and their flexibility and saying, okay I could do this out of house. And I could work with three different clients versus just one.

So I'm seeing this with, especially with community managers and performance marketers who have those very specialty skillsets,  that can hop in and work with the company at a very specific time for a very specific need. And then hop out and work for another company, and they can choose that-  the timing of that. They can choose to take on as much work or as little work as they would like.  depending on what they want to work on.  which is very different than when you're a salaried employee in house.  and I think we'll just see more and more roles that we previously would have never thought of companies outsourcing, going to freelancers.

Jesse Clemmens: For sure yeah, and as- when you were describing the like, the way that this is kind of rapidly changing, I was thinking through a chart that I saw. That, I think it might have been like- I think it was Fred Wilson's blog or something- yeah I think it was Fred Wilson's blog and it was basically like hey the- the trends that we're seeing in the labor force right now, a lot of people are calling it the great resignation because,  folks are you know stepping back from you know whatever their typical job was.

And- and it's been framed by many as like okay are people just kind of sitting on the sidelines to make sure they get fair value for their time? AKA, what- you know waiting for better offers? Are they you know doing something else with their time? And when you overlay the chart of  LLC and like you know independent company formation, it suddenly starts to look a lot more like the great formation. Meaning like tons of tiny companies, , you know usually individual sole proprietorship type deals getting created during this time period.  you know which all goes in line with the idea of flexibility and the ability to you know work when you want.

Jenna Hannon: Exactly, that's interesting, I think that's not being factored in to that current narrative that's being reported on. Which is, it- it seems like the climate is, a lot of people choosing to step away or retire, or maybe career change. But you're right, you're also seeing a direct correlation to- to people- s- exactly, LLC formation, people going freelance. I actually have a friend who runs a startup called Collectiv and this is exactly what they do, so they're a platform that allows you to form, they actually I think are escort structure. So if you are a freelancer and you want to start building your freelance business, they do all of the administration in a platform. And they are growing like crazy, and they are saying- when I asked them, , what type of people are joining their platform, a lot of it is different type of professionals. But also creators, which is interesting. They're seeing an uptick of creators who are finding more and more ways to- to earn online by- by creating content of value.

Jesse Clemmens: Yeah, awesome makes a lot of sense. Okay so,  we're going to wind our way slowly to the world of music and, , and the platform you're working on. One step in that direction is talking about,  ownership. And you know just as we're talking about flexibility in terms of work,  you know, , there's another- another kind of related trend is flexibility in, , housing. So like trends amongst- amongst,  you know millennials and Gen Z have been a lot more rental oriented.  with y- , at least the- at least kind of like the meme is that, , millennials and Gen Z value experiences a lot more than they value,  you know ownership of physical property.

And, , you had mentioned something really cool which was like, all right actually a different take on this is, millennials and Gen Z, , do fit- do still consider ownership really important but a lot of that ownership is actually digital ownership, not ownership of,  of physical stuff. , tell us a little bit more about that because I thought it was fascinating.

Jenna Hannon: Yeah this is actually a great segway to music 'cause you- the- the- you see the trend in music as well, and it's a great analogy for what's happening with how people feel about ownership when it comes to physical ownership of- of the things in the physical world and digital ownership. , so if you look at the- the way, , music was previously distributed and purchased, it was all physical. , so you as an artist would have to go through a label, and you would sell- you would sell- you would have to [inaudible 00:14:05] essentially get physical distribution. You as a fan would go and purchase the CD and that's how you listen to music.

Then there was this wave of Napster and, , Limewire where, , music went- started to go digital,  and there was a phase where music was stolen. And the belief amongst,  a lot of the older generations was the no one would ever pay for music.  and this is you know generations that are the- the- , you know the Boomers are very much used to the explosion of physical goods. A lot of out- outsourcing to,  to different countries where,  more goods got cheaper. And so ownership for the Boomer generation is really around like you know houses and cars, and things that you fill within your home.  then the next generation of millennials,  were you know it was more of a…you had all the companies come online that allowed you to rent, , for example I- I rent my furniture. I don't even own my furniture, you know millennials are less used to owning homes for example.

 and that generation, I think even the millennial generation doesn't,  see digital ownership in the same way as the Gen Z generation. And so the millennial generation was kind of that generation in music that was downloading music and stealing it.  and it was part of that generation that believed there's never going to be this world of ownership in the digital world. Now you're seeing a complete flip in Gen Z.  and you see it really happening in music which is that great analogy of like the physical world, to stealing digital content. Now streaming services are massive, and you have 415 million people globally who are paying for digital music. And they're not even paying for the ownership of the- that music. They are paying to rent that music.  when you look at Gen Z, they actually didn't grow up in a world where,  they actually grew up in a world where you walked around with a computer in your pocket. And most of the content that you are consuming is digital.

 and you see that transition, , to digital content across all different industries. So movie industry, similar trend, now people are paying to subscribe to Netflix. When it comes to news, you're seeing companies like Substack, , that- where people are paying for a specific author for a newsletter. This is something 10 years ago you could never convince those earlier generations that someone would be paying for a digital newsletter. That was all considered to be free, that was all online content,  that you didn't have to pay for. Now you're seeing even the extent of Gen Z's ownership model, where they're actually purchasing digital goods for purely the sake of ownership. And that's NFT's are a great example of that, NFT collectibles, , video games is an amazing industry that just shows the power of digital ownership.  and a lot of that is driven by Gen Z who see value in a digital good, in a game economy. Whereas if you talk to the generations before, it's- they- it's unconscionable to think of purchasing something that's not a physical good.  and that the definition of ownership probably doesn't encompass digital- digital goods.

Jesse Clemmens: Yeah, totally like the- it does feel- I- I never thought about it that way from a video game perspective. It does feel like vide- like gaming industry and digital goods with gaming industry was sort- , is a- a stepping stone to the you know current, more direct relationship between artists or creators, and their fans. And actually like bucketing the different ideas you mentioned, newsletter of Substack, that's very much like direct fan and,  you know artists, in this case writer, , producer, writer, , relationship. And in gaming f- like ow- ownership existed for sure, like I- you know- , you're- you're ver- you worked in this world.

So correct me if I'm off here, but like I remember…like- I forget which games this was prevalent in. But mining for gold was like a thing where you- you know you- you would spend real world dollars to get access to in world you know tokens or money to buy you know, , outfits for their character, weapons, or level up or whatever. But that money- my point is, that money always went into the pockets of the gaming company which was- it was always kind of like a cl- a closed ecosystem. And what you're describing in terms of NFT ownership and this trend of digital ownership is one step further which is not only the idea of owning something digital which- which is like sort of more compelling to the new generation but also owning it, having purchased it in many cases, directly from the person that's responsible for it's creation. So this feeling of in- intimacy and personal connection is also super powerful.

Jenna Hannon: Big time, yeah to your point I- so previously I worked at a video game company, and that was actually my deep dive into, I would say the creator economy. Which is, when we were acquiring users for the game, gamers don't really respond to traditional marketing and so the way that we market our games was through creators, through influencers. So we were working with Twitch influencers,  and YouTube influencers.  and this is where I'm spending a lot of my time as- as a marketer just talking to these creators, understanding how they worked, understanding how they think about their work and their business. And ended up down the rabbit hole of the creator economy. , but one thing that was interesting in the campaigns that we did with this video game company, is that we would partner with these influencers to create digital goods within the game.

 and so we- what we'd do is, we'd have an influencer create a good within the game that they think their fans would specifically want in the game.

Jesse Clemmens: Yeah.

Jenna Hannon: And then we would do- we would run a campaign with them,  where we would essentially be doing a rev share,  and what we saw, it was actually super interesting. There was this whole,  segment of these mid sized influencers that had these super engaged audiences.

And so the- when they would create a digital good, , within the game and market to their fans, they just had a much higher conversion rate than I would say even the big influencers, because they had spent the time building that community.  and I thought that- I was fascinated by this concept of their ability to go and sell a digital good that was truly meaningful for their fans. And the- and we're actually- we're a single player game, so this wasn't actually- we weren't even selling a digital good that had like direct,  utility in the game. Like, , some of the games if you're, for example you- your example of mining for gold,  some digital goods have a utility. Some of them are purely,  for like delight and enjoyment in the game. Like for example, if you are buying a- a- a skin, or outfit for your character within the game.

We had a single player game and so people were purchasing digital goods,  one to support that creator,  just purely like thank you for you know what- what- you know the content that you create. We are willing- as a fan of yours willing- we're willing to purchase this good, and two as a collector. And so, for our super engaged fans who were playing the game regularly, they can have a wallet of all of the- the goods that they had purchased, , from the different influencers that they follow. And even though only they get to experience that- that good, they have this- this piece of ownership.

Jesse Clemmens: Yeah.

Jenna Hannon:  and actually a lot of games are starting to think through building this economy of trade from that collectible. And I think that's sort of what you're pointing to, is like there's- there's one- this direct, , relationship between purchasing that digital good from the creator and then, two I think another thing that NFT's are bringing online,  is this concept of collectibles in trading. Which in some way you know building a system that in some way gives back to the creator. So when you go and purchase a good, and then you go and trade that good,  that there's an incentive for the creator to keep creating those goods. Which [inaudible 00:22:44] never doesn't exist really in the physical world.

Jesse Clemmens: Yeah, that's so fascinating. And the- so I th- , one of the things that I think you're describing is very- is, like,  how digital goods can represent identity which is really interesting. And like ident- identity and association for an individual, which are like a big- a big part of- of like, you know, your personal identity.

Jenna Hannon: Yeah it's such a great call out 'cause that goes back to the- you know, the past generations with physical goods. A lot of your identity, I mean clothing was a big piece of your identity, right? Still I- I mean still is in many ways, like the brand of clothing your wearing. Do you have the- you know, the designer purse, or the cool new pair of- of sneakers.

Jesse Clemmens: Right.

Jenna Hannon: In the gaming world that actually exists digitally.

And so what you- there's ownership of what you have chosen to purchase in the digital world and what you are showing, and what's now being referred to as- as the metaverse. , but there's also some identity in the content that you consume.  so the- the choice of the Substack newsletters that you choose to read, or in the music that you're- the playlist that you're creating on Spotify.  those are actually becoming a larger piece of identity than just you know the clothing you're wearing, or the car you're driving.

Jesse Clemmens: Totally, totally yeah. I guess- I guess,  and- and more like more visible in the digital world. Like- like this, you know last week it's- you know as I said it's December so we just all got our Spotify wrapped, -

Jenna Hannon: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Jesse Clemmens: ... for the year, and like wow, what a- what an incredible way for people to like sort of show the, you know values that they have or the things that they're interested in. Or who they identify with from a music perspective, it's just like, music continues to be one of the number one ways that people, you know show what they're all about. And now podcasts too of course, that are like in the mix there.  what's interesting is- is like a- , especially Spotify. It's sort of a one way thing, like more about consumption. Like, , if I were to post my Spotify wrapped playlist, it would be mostly about like what I'm enjoying and what that says about me probably. Maybe there some [crosstalk 00:25:07].

... interesting funny surprises in there, which is part of the- part of the whole game.  but it doesn't really today speak about my relationship with that artist on any deep level.

Jenna Hannon: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Jesse Clemmens: , I was doing some research on, , how Spotify works and some of the- you know in- in prep for this call. S- how the pay- how payouts work to artists and one,  interesting thing that I came across is like, payouts for streams are shockingly low, they're somewhere in the,  third of a cent range for one stream. Meaning that,  and this is for the audience because I'm, , sure you can correct me where I'm wrong here. And know much more about it than me, but,  250 streams usually equates to a- a dollar roughly for an artist. And,  they're- they're directly distributed in many cases. Or most of the major platforms don't directly distribute. Meaning like, if I pay 10 bucks for my Spotify plan, and I only listen to J. Cole who I'm a huge fan of, or I only listen to Magic City Hippies, which is another, , band I listen to. It- they are getting paid out not on my- on my- on their share of my 10 bucks, , but rather their like- just their stream count overall.

And some of these companies are talking more about like doing the math differently and distributing payouts, , from an individual subscriber, in certain ways it seems a little complicated to me.  where is all this stuff going? Are the- are the- are the big players in the music space moving towards more you know, , a better concepts of digital ownership that match the consumer with artist more directly or is it like- are they still far from it? And how does what you guys are building fit into all this?

Jenna Hannon: This is awesome that you- you've gone into the weeds of, , what's happening in music specifically.  'cause I- I actually ended up there. So I- I- I started my career in the music industry at Universal.

Jesse Clemmens: Okay.

Jenna Hannon: And then through this experience,  at the- , working with this video game company and working with creators, I became fascinated with creator monetization.  and I remember thinking back to my experience in music,  and my thought was, well artists are really the original online creators. They've been making their- their product has always been a digital content.  so they're not new in the world of- of creators in- in what's become the popular definition. Yet if you talk to many artists, they probably don't think of themselves in- as creators in- in that definition. , but artists actually exist in a very similar environment than, a- as online creators because of what you're talking about with streaming revenue.

Which is, if you look at a YouTuber, the way that a YouTuber earns is very similar. They actually need a massive audience in order to monetize their content. And so in order to make YouTube work, you have to go and find a broad audience. You can't be a niche, - it's- it's hard to be a niche,  a niche creator with kind of like a sub culture or smaller community. Even if that community is more engaged. The same thing exists for artists. So the way that Spotify revenue works to your point is, one you just need a massive number of streams in order to make that revenue stream meaningful. And two, the way that Spotify structures their payouts is, they do it through one giant bucket.

So you and I are considered the same as listeners our monthly, , payment to Spotify goes into one bucket.

Jesse Clemmens: Mm-hmm.

Jenna Hannon: And then Spotify goes down the list of their artists, and says okay what percent of share did those artists have of the streams? And then they payout- they payout in that way, one large bucket. Versus say, okay Jesse Clemmens listens to J. Cole so his subscription- his subscription payment is going to go to J. Cole or the [inaudible 00:29:08] to J. Cole.  Jenna's listening to Diplo and therefor Jenna's payment is going to Diplo. It doesn't work like that, and so when you actually look at the payouts, most of the money on Spotify is going to your top 100 artists. And so I'm- I- I looked at the numbers fairly recently, it- something like eight million artists on Spotify,  and the number is I think 14,000 who are earning,  , a living from Spotify revenue.

Jesse Clemmens: Wow, wow.

Jenna Hannon: Yeah so it's ver- it's a very small portion of artists, and part of is through that structure. , but it actually looks very similar on- on YouTube. Yet when I- an insight, really interesting insight that I have from working with this video game company is, we work with these,  called the mid market streamers who had these super engaged niche audiences. And that's where, when they were selling digital goods directly to their fans, the conversion rate was much higher. And so that's' where we started to have this hypothesis that, okay if you look at the situation in music, and you- there's just this massive long tail of artists, we're talking 20 million artists who are creating music. And who are now able to go online and find, , a global audience and build that global audience from scratch, which they never could before. But they may be- they may be in a sub culture or- or a smaller genre where they're never going to have the mass amount of streams that allow them to earn revenues through streaming.

 and what would be a way, , our hypothesis was, well they have these super engaged communities. So if they sold directly to their fans, what would that look like? And what we saw in the gaming world is that these smaller, , we'd call them mid market influencers just performed better when going direct to their fans. And so our hypothesis is that the same thing exists in music, and that there is a huge segment of these mid market artists that have super engaged fan bases,  and communities that truly follow them. But they just have no way to go and directly monetize those fan bases. And if you look at the ret- the way that artists earn, they actually- it's today- it's touring, going on tour which was tough in covid.  and then streaming revenue.

And when you look into streaming, it's exactly the- the environment you're talking about, which is most artists are just not generating almost any revenue through streaming.

Jesse Clemmens: So interesting, interesting yeah and, , I guess another thing that has changed in the last few years is the ability for- and you touched on this, you described it as community, I- I'd describe it as audience probably. It's like, they've like, mo- if you are- are an artist or a musician with a fan base,  your fans know where to reach you directly. And you have full control over what you put in front of them. , whether that's the content you post.

Jenna Hannon: Mm-hmm.

Jesse Clemmens: Or whether that's,  you know a- a product you're selling.  you know b- , putting aside the question of algorithmic distribution, what you're seeing now is a lot of, , folks who are- you know who have a super engaged audience using,  you know their own mini websites, link in bio tools. Things like that to route people to, , products that they're selling, or ways that can be supported and kind of like taking even more control,  verse you know, working through a third party to do that. I guess my- I guess- I guess like historically that would be like depending on your record label to like promote you and stuff like that. But now fans are coming directly to artists. What is that [inaudible 00:33:06] and- and how are you guys capitalizing on that, on behalf of artists,  specifically?

Jenna Hannon: Yeah so that's a- it's an interesting trend we're seeing, where more artists are choosing to go independent. And that's because they now are able to go and reach their fans directly through social media. They can distribute their music through, , a lot of great services like DistroKid or TuneCore where they can get their music out there. Previously they had to go through a gatekeeper which, so record labels in the physic- when they, , when they were selling in the physical world, the record label was the- was your distribution. Now artists can go direct,  which is so- you're seeing more and more artists choosing to- to go independent, or work with a record label just strictly for promotion. They're helping with, , helping to get their music out there, whether it's, they have relationships with Spotify if your cu- for curated playlists, or relationships.

 for broader promotion across radio, , but more artists are saying, hey I can go and build this fan base. I think the problem that we see is, even though artists are doing that, they're still struggling with monetization. And so even though there's tools like Linktree and they can send more fans from social media,  to their music, they're still struggling with, okay how do we go and take those fans and actually convert them.  to help this- to- for this to be a sustainable way, or sustainable source of- of revenue and a way for artists to- to earn.  and that's kind of where we see the gap that we're filling. Which is, artists don't really have great tools to go direct to their fans today.

Jenna Hannon:  so we actually- when we see things like Linktree, we actually think in- in many ways it's somewhat backwards. Which is an artist is spending all this time building this- building a- a fan base, and engaging with their fans on social media. And then they have a link in their bio that sends their fans to just a list of links, mostly sending them to Spotify. Which helps- a lot of those fans have probably already heard their music and- or maybe they're getting a few listens on- and plays on play- on Spotify, but that doesn't help them earn in any way.

Jesse Clemmens: Hmm.

Jenna Hannon: Whereas previously, artists used to have websites, , which sucks to maintain. Building a website as an artist sucks in maintaining that website. It's not what you want to be doing. , and the website used to be, , your commerce, and so your fans would go to your website, they may purchase some merch, they may purchase your music directly.  and so that's where we- we think the link in bio needs to go back to your commerce. And we need to restore that- that flow,  which was a way for artists to get their fans to- to convert.  and that- that flow just is not happening right now.  and artists are not going direct to their fans because there's just limited ways to do that.

Jesse Clemmens: Yeah I guess,  one word I was using to describe, , link in bio type tools is, as a router. And your point is like, it is a router and it's routing people to other platforms that are owned by larger companies, you know not, , not often to the artist owned stuff. So what would it look like for a artist using your platform ha- what- what- what- what- like maybe from a- maybe the best way to describe it would be from a user experience. If I'm a super fan.

And an artist I love is using your platform, what would the experience be like and what could I do that would be different than the run of the mile routing experience?

Jenna Hannon: Yeah so like I can- I can explain both sides. So on the artist's side, we think- we- we essentially are replacing the website and the Linktree. And so an artist can join and create a profile. The profile will have all of those links, so if you want to link to your Spotify or your- or,  or your Twitch stream, that will all be on there like a Linktree. But then you're immediately dropped into commerce, and so an artist can upload music for sale, videos for sale.  all do- main- mainly digital content,  that they can put behind a paywall and have their fans preview.

On the fan side, I think the big difference that we see,  that just doesn't exist today is, if a fan purchases digital content, they need a place for- to go and find- easily find and consume that content.

And we actually think that experience really sucks with some of the other platforms like Patreon for example. And so if you are fan and you want to go and support an artist that you really love, you subscribe to them and then you get this scrolling feed of content that you have to hope to leave open in your browser,  to go back to and consume.  the fan experience just really sucks.  and so what we're building on the fan side is, , the concept of a wallet. And so it just like in the game world where you purchase digital goods, and it all goes in the- in a wallet or in a- even the crypto world with your NFT's, you need one place that holds all of that digital content. And so if you are a fan of multiple different artists and you purchase music, and videos and potentially NFT's down the road, it should all go into one place.

And so that's . What the wallet is for the fan. It's a place that contains all of the digital goods that they've purchased and then a place that they can go and easily consume that when- and in the way that they want to consume. So there's a universal player in there,  there's really easy, , features too if you want to for example stream to your, , Chromecast and watch those videos with your friends on your- your monitor. Really easy to go and do that. And that just doesn't exist today in any of these,  platforms that are- that are building specifically for artists, but also for creators in general.

Jesse Clemmens: Cool yeah it's- I- I hear yeah. It- it makes a lot of sense for- in that way because a- a lot of what I've seen out there in terms of like, today's tools that exist are- it- it is- they're very much like support ba- like supporting, supporting your artist right. And [crosstalk 00:39:27].

Jenna Hannon: Mm-hmm.

Jesse Clemmens: Almost as if it's swung to like,  it swung far enough in that direction as the t- as like the software itself has been built that the consumption and the enjoyment of, , materials, music, whatever it is that you're, you know paying to access in the form of supporting an artist takes second stage. And what I'm hearing from you is like, no actually there's- there's space for something that will put, , consumption front and center. And allow you to support as a kind of a best of both worlds type situation.

Jenna Hannon: Exactly, it's- it's such a good point. Yeah and so I think consumption and then going back to that- that ownership piece that we were talking about earlier.  but I- I- I agree, I think the platforms today are- are structured for this concept of- of supporting an artist. And we looked at that, and- and we were like, but actually artists are creating content of value that people will pay for. It's- if you're a fan, you're just not- you're not just willing to support, you're actually willing to purchase. You're purchasing a ticket to go their show for experience. You're purchasing their music because you want to listen to it. You're purchasing merch, , because that's- that's how much you love this artist.  and the tools have strayed away from that, to your point, which is this concept of, oh you're just supporting an artist.

But actually when we talk to artists,  a lot of them are like, you know in some ways it's- it's actually a little bit demeaning in that, the only way our fans- the only options for digital content are for our fans strictly to say, okay well we'll donate to the artist. Versus, they're actually producing content of value that fans are willing to pay for.

Jesse Clemmens: Right.

Jenna Hannon: There's just not a good system for fans to go and purchase that directly.

Jesse Clemmens: Got it, got it. Cool, I am so excited to, , to- to, , see what you guys are building. I know you're in like a beta stage right now. Sort of closed wait list phase.

Jenna Hannon: We are, yeah so we have a beta list of artists that we're starting to work with and we are launching January with a limited run of the platform.  which is just music to start and then we're adding on more digital goods for artists to sell.

Jesse Clemmens: Amazing, all right we will be sure to to link out to the site in all of our show notes et cetera. If people are looking to get in touch with you, what's the easiest way?

Jenna Hannon: To find us on our website it would be the best way there's- so we actually have a sign up form on our website that artists can go to and sign up.  and then as soon as we launch, there will be a place for fans to- to go and actually sear- e- e- , our homepage will feature all of the artists on the platform. So they can go and search by artist or they can go and explore and browse.

Jesse Clemmens: Amazing, super excited to check it out..been amazing talking to you today. I guess this is what is officially called a wide ranging conversation because we covered a lot of- a lot of ground.  I had a lot of fun with you today, thanks for coming on the show Jenna.

Jenna Hannon: Me too, thanks Jesse for having me.

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