NNew York — “What is this, a school for ants?” Ben Stiller’s question from Zoolander would have been fitting as I trudged through the canyons formed by the towering skyscrapers, feeling like an insect in a tunnel, or a fish in a massive reef.
I was on my way to the New Music Seminar, and the sheer magnitude of the city seemed a fitting metaphor for the modern music industry: a million ants, all trying to climb to the top. Many artists, myself included, find this overwhelming and discouraging at times.
Thankfully, there’s people working to change that, like a fellow with a pleasantly booming voice and towering stature named Michel. Good natured and quick-witted, he jokes that the juxtaposition of himself and his name (pronounced “Michelle”) often surprises people when he shows up for meetings. He founded Muzicol, a company designed to fix the music industry, and offer little guys like me a shot at bigger things. I sat down to chat with him in the media room that Tuesday morning, and here’s what happened (edited a bit for space considerations):
Michel started with a story of how he was at a late dinner with a famous Canadian songwriter, who suddenly exclaimed that the music industry was broken, the labels had ceased to function properly, and that it was imperative for someone to do something. The talent scouts seemed to have fallen by the wayside, the numbers guys often missed the point, and the independent artists fresh on the scene couldn’t gain any traction because they needed a massive following for gatekeepers to deem them talented. This lead to the creation of Muzicol, a platform to address this problem and others.
“So that’s why we created Muzicol: To help millions of artists who want to make a living off music while following their dreams. We want to attract the labels who will say “Hey, look at you, you sound great! We see that you have some value. Now we can take you into our portfolio.” The artist will then decide to do it or not based on what they feel is best for them. But at least we will give them a chance and a platform to develop the interest from labels. I consider Muzicol as the bedroom for an artist to start to dream. I love this. It’s a new concept. Muzicol is the bedroom for artists starting to dream.”
The Playing Field
The current platform, launched in January of 2015, sounds both intriguing and diverse. It’s a one-stop shopping experience for fans, artists, and the industry side, a ReverbNation on steroids, or, as we discussed later “a grocery store for musicians” (and industry people.) From artists showcasing their work, to studios selling discounted blocks of time in creative deals, the platform opens up many possibilities by leveraging the power of the community. On new sources of revenue, Michel elaborated:
“We know that less people are buying music now. And independent artists have less radio exposure, or will need to be streamed on Spotify a million times in order to make money. So how do they get the cash they need to live? It will come from different sources. Crowdfunding is one of the sources we have available on Muzicol. Another is live streaming. I’m a big fan of having a guy playing piano or a band going to a beautiful space where there’s no way for most people to go… And they do an event, a 1 or 2-hour concert. They sell tickets and stream the event throughout the world online. And then you have a concert in a beautiful place. Bam!”
With a platform like this, Michel pointed out, it’s all about the community, and all about the network, even leveraging those indirectly involved with the industry, such as actors or dancers for music videos.
The example of a “musical supermarket” was used, and he made the point that while many of these services already exist, the goal of Muzicol is to gather them all in one place, with an emphasis on convenience and democracy for the artist.
The idea that caught my attention the most, however, was the one of the mobile wallet.
Changing the Game Through Numbers
Michel’s first business was a mobile wallet service, an alternative to a bank, not just a mobile payment like Google Wallet. He makes the excellent point: If vast numbers of people in developing markets don’t have a bank account, how will they buy what the artist is selling? He’s offering a payment solution with Muzicol, and in doing so, unlocking entire markets for artists. “In Latin America, 70% of the population does not have a bank account.” One can see the possibility in such an idea!
Not Just for The Indies
Another interesting point: by being open to everyone, not just emerging artists, the platform can pick up legacy artists who might not have flexible distribution options anymore. Michel mentioned that he’s been contacted by representatives from bands such as The Moody Blues, and he’s excited at the possibilities for other classic rock bands to leverage the platform to re-engage their fanbase.
Going with the all-in-one theme, the company is planning on MuzicolTV, and MuzicolRadio, and getting into the educational side of things with MuzicolAcademy and MuzicolInstitute, two non-profit organizations in affiliation with the parent company. These would provide low-income children with the opportunity to discover the joy of music.
New York City
“I feel that if the youth of today learn how to play music together, when they become adults, there will be less fighting, less discrimination and fewer wars. Do you see the people at concerts look at race or religion? No. You have a bunch of guys, 200,000 people completely in love with the artist.. There’s no fighting, there’s no discrimination, there’s just a passion for the music. So it’s the same. Know how to play music together. Maybe they will keep this in mind.”
Check out Muzicol.com for more information, and thanks to Michel for his time explaining this emerging platform at the New Music Seminar in New York City.
Josh Urban is a writer, musician, and entrepreneur living near Washington, DC. Say hello on Twitter @DontJoshMe