Posted Mar 7, 2016 by Adam Cardew on Midem blog.

The music industry thrives on buzz-terms and on creating echo chambers filled with new phrases, often without considering what it would mean for artists both large and small. Yes, change in the digital space often needs to filter from the top down to have an impact, but we should educate our artists in advance of those changes reaching them, so that they’re best prepared when it arrives. Hence, the following thoughts on what “full stack” means to the little guy, and how artists benefit from its emergence.


Full Stack as a Concept

Ian Hogarth, CEO of Songkick, wrote this excellent article in which he applied the term ‘full stack’ to music – the idea being that previously separate aspects of the industry (radio, on-demand music, gig ticketing) could collectively be bundled within one service (I’m also adding merch as a value-add in this argument, as I think this is another relevant opportunity for smaller artists). Ian’s article grabbed my attention not just because as an industry we’re sitting on a wealth of data that no-one’s begun using to use to its full potential yet, but also because I’d previously witnessed the first glimpses of full stack music in action when Songkick initially partnered with Spotify in 2013.

After their first integration, suddenly I was getting notified about gigs being played by both artists I listened to regularly and music that I’d listened to in a playlist in passing. More than once I ended up purchasing gig tickets to an act I’d all since forgotten – because Spotify had the data that (at one point in time) I’d streamed a track of theirs. Due to their full stack partnership, Songkick were able to target me as a potential fan and successfully convert me into buying a ticket to a local show. At a time where many emerging artists are asking what streaming can do for them, this is a simple anecdote of a value-add from making music available on all platforms.

The above is just one instance of how seemingly disparate services can be integrated with one another to provide net benefit to the industry – and more recently Spotify and Songkick have extended their partnership. Not limited to this, there are a number of other full stack integrations/acquisitions that have taken place. Last month YouTube made their own significant full-stack move into merchandise by buying Bandpage. In late 2015 Pandora acquired Ticketfly. And if you note these three examples alone: all are moves by streaming platforms who have attracted criticism at some point for being part of the reason that emerging artists find it so difficult to build sustainable revenue streams. Their partnerships and acquisitions may come from self-motivated reasons, but the aforementioned have the ability to benefit the artist community at large.

(Mark Mulligan highlights the full extent of full stack partnerships in this piece.)


How Full Stack Can Benefit Artists

What this means for the artist is that they should be demanding that revenue-generating platforms work with one another to amplify complimentary offers. More money driven back into the music industry means more revenue going back to artists. And in the same way that radio has always been be the entry-point of fan acquisition for artists, in the future on-demand streaming will be the entry point of data-rich fan acquisition for artists.

(For the record, I’m definitely not advocating that artists shouldn’t pay attention to being paid fairly for on-demand streams of their music – but the proposition is much more valuable if streaming companies can demonstrate how they empower artists to connect with those most engaged with their music and move them along the value chain into higher-grossing items, such as merch and tickets.)

To artists and labels, the opportunities are endless once streaming services empower them to connect with those streaming their music. For instance, the ability to offer your top X% of streaming fans an exclusive tee shirt or gig ticket makes for more effective targeting. Although I’ve mentioned Spotify above, this isn’t limited to them as a service – when streaming hits the mainstream, streaming platforms across the board should have their own solutions in place to help artists to target those most engaged and benefit from ancillary revenue.

This kind of model rewards the fans who are most actively absorbed in your music at that moment, whilst providing labels the chance to be more dynamic in their marketing. I honestly feel this is a watershed moment for an industry guilty of churning-out the same marketing strategy for years – leveling the playing field for artists who are most creative with these new tools to benefit ahead of those who stick to the status quo.


How we Move Things Forward

As with any groundbreaking new features in tech, there are things we should be cautious of. The tools for tracking those streaming your music and offering upsells should be made available to the whole community – not just to those at the top of the chain. For the opportunity to reach its full potential there need to be systems put in place that protect the fan from being bombardedand puts the power to run these campaigns in the hand of the artist, rather than held by a select few. That’s part of the reason artists should be educated about the opportunity available to them – so that they can bang the drum for a move toward artist-centric full stack solutions, requesting service features that benefit the industry as a whole.

As always, musicians will come up with more creative ideas to apply full stack as a concept. The sooner we can get them on board to understand how they could see a model moving fans from casual to die-hard, the more the industry will gain.