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Speaker Profile Q&A: Tracy Maddux, CEO, CD Baby

Tracy Maddux joined CD Baby in 2010 as COO, and became CEO in May 2012. He has led the company during a period of rapid growth, focusing on rolling out new services that enable artists to self-manage their music careers; make money from their music and communicate directly with their fans. The company now works for more than 500,000 artists across a catalogue of 7m songs, handling physical distribution, downloads and streams through to social-media promotion tools. Artists using CD Baby have earned more than $500m since the company was founded. Tracy will be speaking on the The Future of Ad-Supported Streaming panel at NY:LON Connect on 23 January.

:: What’s been the most exciting digital music trend or technology for you in 2017?
From my perspective, the data analytics tools that the streaming services are providing to artists are still the most exciting and dynamic development in the industry.

What Spotify or Apple or YouTube/Google or Pandora share with artists about where their fans are, who their fans are and how successful their content is helps artists make intelligent decisions about how to spend their most valuable resource: their time.

:: What music startups have caught your eye in 2017?
Two big ones come to mind, one US based and one Global. Dot Blockchain is founded by some of the smartest guys in the industry. I’m not sure what the future of blockchain is or how it will change the industry, but I would trust Benji, Ken and Allen to figure it out.

The other one is Revelator out of Israel. They helped us build our own little startup Soundrop and I’ve been extremely impressed with their team.

There are a number of others looking at data and matching and standardizing sound recording and composition metadata that I like a lot including SongSpace, Cosynd, Tune Registry and R.ai.

I also think OpenPlay is the biggest startup no one is talking about today that they will be soon. Same for Exactuals on the payment processing side. It’s hard to call these last two ‘startups’ give the big and meaningful work they are already doing in the industry.

:: What do you think the biggest digital challenge will be for our industry in 2018?
Metadata, metadata and metadata. More precisely, making sure that we’re all doing our part to make sure that composition metadata is complete and that all rights holders are getting appropriate attribution and payment.

I’ve written about this before – I don’t think the legal process is the most efficient one to help us sort this out. It’s going to take firms from different parts of the industry – labels and publishers, aggregators and PROs - working together sharing data and solving problem, not threatening each other and shaking each other down.

We’ve created a publishing administration company that will cross 1 million songs represented in 2018 that we’ll orient as a force for good and change.

:: Which trends and technologies are worth keeping an eye out for in 2018?
Blockchain might end up eliminating the need for aggregators. If the DSPs adopt technology that allows artists and labels to release directly to the Blockchain, it could absolutely disrupt and improve our industry. But it can’t happen unless the DSPs say, yes, we understand this technology and adopt it.

And yes, that means we’ll have to change our business model and we’re prepared for that. Creative destruction in the industry – the next wave – will be more about empowering artists directly with data, metadata and the means of production. It could be a huge revolution.

I think the other big trend will be people finally working together to share data and solve our composition-sound recording metadata match issues. It won’t happen all at once, but it is starting to happen.

There are a bunch of startups working the issue as well as the PROs and even some of the DSPs are taking the issue seriously. As a publisher and an aggregator, we’ll do everything we can to give this issue attention as well.

:: Which question/topic would you most like to see debated at NY:LON Connect?
I don’t believe there is a value gap. I also believe that streaming rates should always move higher. These two thoughts are not dissonant. YouTube is empowering new models of creation and direct fan-creator connection.

I think the ‘value-gap’ argument was created by major labels to improve their negotiating position with a major industry payer that has a playing field tilted to the Indies. Let the debate begin…