Five music industry entrepreneurs and investors assembled on Tuesday afternoon to discuss and dole out tips on how to succeed in launching your own music start-up. All of the speakers took their turns discussing their particular areas of insight, from what to do with an initial lightbulb idea up through how to staff your start-up and eventually make tons of money off of it.
Elias Roman, co-founder and CEO of playlist generator Songza Media, kicked off the panel by offering his essential tips on how to run a start-up: know where you’re going; aim to win small victories; collect data points; construct a business plan; crystallize your core idea in its simplest form so as to describe it to people in the clearest way possible; tackle tough problems as early as possible; put everything in writing; get comfortable with making tough decisions when there is not a lot of information available and don’t reconsider it until new data comes to light.
Investor Charlie O’Donnell of First Round Capital encouraged music start-ups to be friendly with other noncompetitive music start-ups, so as to form a supportive peer group with mutual benefits. He also recommended taking the time to meet a large number of investors before selecting an investor to work with, because that investor is someone you will wind up working with for years to come and it is important that you get along and work together well.
Billy Chasen, co-founder of Turntable.fm, advocated starting your company with a partner, preferably someone whose skills complement your own. This way, you can split problem-solving duties, with each partner tackling the problems that apply to his or her skill set. He also encouraged everyone to learn to code because, as he said, “Anybody can do it” and it’s ideal to “build it yourself” if you can.
Dan Kantor, CEO of the music discovery source Exfm, discussed a few strategies he found effective. The first was to know your target audience and the websites they frequent, then to go to those websites and find a way to lead them to your start-up. Kantor reiterated the invaluable influence of social media like Facebook and Twitter, saying that friend-to-friend sharing or word-of-mouth exchanges often beget more sharing and linking, which can result in blog posts and, consequently, more promotion and more traffic. He also mentioned that although his start-up initially agreed never to bombard users with e-mails, he found that as long as the e-mails are in fact useful and not simply for the sake of reinforcing your brand’s presence, they are effective.
The discussion culminated in the response of JJ Rosen, CEO of Indaba, a global social network exclusively for musicians. Rosen said that even if you have a great idea with a great business model, it is of the utmost importance to be ready to adapt to changes. Rosen, who has worked in a number of positions with a variety of major labels and corporate music entities, attributed a good deal of his prosperity to his success with adapting his business model and structure to fit new opportunities when they arise.