Music and tech: how copyright fuels innovation

Wednesday, 26 Apr 2017

Each year on April 26, the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) celebrates World Intellectual Property Day to promote the role that IP rights like copyright play in encouraging innovation and creativity. Copyright is not only free, automatic and protects your rights as a music creator - it also rewards your creativity by allowing you to profit from your creative work.

This year’s theme for World IP Day is innovation. To get into the spirit, we spoke to key Australian tech businesses Vampr, Nightlife, Everywhere Roadie and Feed Music, whose innovative products have a strong focus on music or the music industry. They each gave us their take on innovation and how copyright supports it.

Join the conversation: #worldipday

Josh Simons, Co-Founder
The Vampr app helps artists discover, connect and collaborate with musicians, industry and music lovers alike.

How did you and co-founder Baz Palmer come together to create Vampr?

Baz and I met in 2011 when he signed my band Buchanan to his label Gigantically Small. We made an album together, Human Spring, which was a humble success on triple j, before he departed to dive into the world of tech with his first music start up SoundHalo. I moved to London to continue songwriting, before I found myself stuck in a position that I think most of us have found ourselves in at some point in our careers: how and where do I find the musicians and music industry types that I specifically need in order to take my career forward?

There was Craigslist and SoundCloud, but those platforms weren’t designed specifically for personnel introductions and discovery in the music industry. Plus in order to get a result you had to spend a lot of time drafting emails, doing mass reach out, and then trying to coordinate long rehearsal days and other people’s schedules in order to work out who might be a good fit (if any got back to you at all). That’s when I had the idea for Vampr. Remembering that Baz had some experience in starting up music technology ventures, I made a phone call which has now led us to here, and to a vibrant community of thousands of musicians in 84 countries, all with the common goal of advancing their careers and making new music together.

What role do you think Vampr will play in the future?

In order to sustain a career in music, one must collaborate. Regularly. This is often the stumbling block for an artist who is starting to build a following online or is supremely talented but doesn’t know how to take the next steps. As musicians, we all have a common goal: the generation of new original works that represent an artist, their views and taste. If Vampr can get more musicians talking, connecting and collaborating - more regularly and across borders - I think it will become an incredibly important to the future of music creation, and an important tool in every musician's creative arsenal. In the not too distant future, I’m looking forward to reading about the latest, hottest act having met on Vampr.

Nightlife: crowdDJ 
Phil Brown, GM Sales & Marketing
The crowdDJ app can be used in any participating venue to search through the music library and pick what will play, just like a jukebox.

How did you come up with the idea for crowdDJ? What role did existing technologies play in encouraging you to innovate?

Nightlife has been inviting customers to pick the music in venues for over 25 years. Starting with jukeboxes and evolving to licensed DJ platforms, we’re always waiting patiently for technology to catch up with our vision to allow every customer to play their chosen music in a venue. Our patience was rewarded with the advent of streaming services that finally bring all the worlds’ music to any device at the click of a button. The best and biggest of these is Spotify, so a natural partnership was quickly formed. Spotify’s forward thinking technology strategy, to open their platform to partners, allowed us to create a bridge between an in-home experience and a business service. And so crowdDJ® was born, which today allows thousands of consumers to play their favourite Spotify music in Australia’s premier music venues, all from the palm of their hand.

How important was protecting your intellectual property rights when you created the crowdDJ app technology?

Every successful technology business has to be equally focused on continual innovation and IP security to ensure that we can keep inventing while our unique concepts and brands are protected. For Nightlife the challenge is even greater as we have a responsibility to safeguard the music content entrusted to us from our licensed partners. We take this responsibility extremely seriously and have consistently invested in smart technologies that protect our servers and the content we deliver.

We are pleased that rights owners still enjoy the safety of our current copyright environment and are careful about how they license their content. Further, we don't think protection of IP inhibits innovation in our space, rather we think it encourages development.

Everywhere Roadie 
Kate Bradley, Founder & Managing Director
Everywhere Roadie is a music equipment and service sharing marketplace for musicians.

As musicians who were tired of paying a fortune to hire gear when touring, you saw a need for Everywhere Roadie. What role did existing technologies play in its creation?

I have a background in working with collaborative and social technologies so I felt I had a bit of an idea of what functionality we would need to deliver the service. While the idea came easily, delivering it was a whole other challenge. We really wanted to test the idea and because we've been completely self-funded, we couldn't go out and just build a platform from scratch. So I did some research and found a base marketplace solution that we could customise. It needed to have basic functionality that supported and enabled: user generated content; member profiles; lending and borrowing; reviews and ratings; and sharing. It also needed to be mobile responsive. It needed to be light enough to switch on and just start working.

As APRA AMCOS members, you’re aware of the importance of protecting and being paid for what you create. How does that translate to protecting the IP of Everywhere Roadie?

Intellectual property is of course hugely important to us. We have trademarked the brand of Everywhere Roadie locally and internationally. On the other hand, patenting is a really complicated worm-farm. Marketplaces have been around for some time so we haven't gone down that path. Different countries have different approaches to it. What is important to us is our brand, our service and getting the best deals for our members.

You recently showcased Everywhere Roadie at SXSW. Tell us about that experience.

SXSW is an incredible experience. I was initially a bit overwhelmed about going because it's a HUGE conference and festival. While it's a huge honour being selected for the showcase, you have to do a lot of work. We spent hours scheduling what events we would attend and planning how we would present the service.

Our entire 10 days was spent networking, attending meetings, going to see bands and generating more members. You have to promote through every angle possible. In the end, our showcase was really well attended. We spoke with investors, other music supplier businesses and with actual musicians too. We were also supported by Sounds Australia who linked us up with some great networking opportunities. We have since established connections with people who will help us continue to grow the business internationally and also businesses that will boost our member deals.

Feed Music 
Pixie Weyand, Founder
Feed Music is a not for profit app that enables touring bands and musicians to sign up, log in and use their location while touring to pinpoint participating cafes and restaurants and eat for free.

How did you come up with the idea of Feed Music?

I have a background in hospitality and music - mid last year I took over The Zoo, a live venue in Brisbane, and up until recently I owned a café called Lost Boys. Owning a café and understanding the financial pressures musicians face when pursuing a career in the industry gave me unique perspective. Ultimately, musicians and bands need financial support, especially when they’re touring, and I was able to offer that in a way through my café in the form of food.

I approached a few bands and offered a free meal in exchange for cross promotion via social media. For an ultimately small cost to the business, I was supporting musicians and bands in a big way. We had many artists walk through our doors from all levels including Rufus, Meg Mac, The Bennies, Jose Gonzalez and Of Monsters & Men to name a few. The flow on effect from this was great - some bands paid, a lot of the bigger bands simply came to support the cause. It opened up my own business to new marketing opportunities through a diverse range of audiences. I like to think of it as marketing with integrity, and the idea for the Feed Music app stemmed from this – I saw an opportunity to grow my idea and implement it on a large scale using app technology.

I think technology can be seen as somewhat of a hindrance for artists to profit from their music, but Feed Music aims to leverage technology to support our musicians and prolong their touring careers.

What role do you think Feed Music will play in the future?

Feed Music’s goal is simple: to keep music alive. We can do this by partnering with a number of hospitality businesses across Australia and the globe to revolutionise the way bands approach a tour. This will allow much needed funds to be channelled back into their art, ensuring more music creation, more touring and ultimately a prolonged career doing what they’re passionate about.

When will Feed Music be launched and how can our members get access?

It can be launched right now! We just need cafes and restaurants to jump on board and be part of Feed Music. In saying that, we are still in the early days of rolling it out on a big scale. It was trialled for two years at Lost Boys with much success, so naturally the next step is to open it up to a bigger audience - it’s now about getting the word out there! We’re also planning on developing merch and throwing some big parties across Australia to generate funds. Our team is growing and we’re doing whatever we can to bring Feed Music to life.

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