Interview: Jed Carlson of ReverbNation (Part One)


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Kyle Bylin, Associate Editor

As many of you may know, Jed Carlson is the COO of ReverbNation.  He and I had a conversation awhile back that left me fueled with questions about his thoughts on the music industry.  Although it would be  impossible (and quite possibly not as interesting) to share our whole conversation, I put together the key questions that came to mind, and Jed followed up with insightful and in-depth answers.  Enjoy.

Bylin:  2009 begins ReverbNation's third full year serving musicians.  On that note, Music Industry, ReverbNation, or otherwise...

Q:  What excites you the most going into the new year?

Jed Carlson:  As a technology company, we are measured by how well we anticipate where the market is going, not just where it has been.   Sometimes that means...

that we build technology that doesn't yet have a market, in anticipation (or hope) of a paradigm shift.  Our initial analysis suggested that Fan Relationship Management (FRM) was going to be of utmost importance to the music industry, so we moved to that place early on in an effort to help Artists, Labels, Managers, and even Venues deal with that future reality. Now, as the industry is coming to adopt FRM, we are in a position to support them with technology that is relevant and scalable.  I can't think of anything more exciting than that. 

Q:  As Chief Operating Officer of ReverbNation, what are some of the day-to-day challenges you face leading a tribe of artists?

Jed Carlson:  The advent of the Internet has created a myriad of opportunities for Artists, and those that orbit them.  Our challenge is to teach them how to take advantage of that.  We think about Artists, big and small, as businesses and brands.  It's our mission to educate them on how to take advantage of the Internet, and outfit them with the tools they need to become better - equipping them with the skills, and tools, they need to succeed in the new environment.

An example is the way in which they are approaching the social networks.  We have watched as Artists spend countless hours plugging away at their MySpace page, treating it as the 'destination' for their business activities.  We are training Artists to take a different approach.  Social networks should be viewed as 'lead generation' sources - giant, FREE, billboards on a super highway of music fans.  The strategy for social nets should be to turn as many heads as possible to see your billboard, offer good content and engagement, but also to provide a way for those fans to 'pull over' to a place where the experience can be better controlled, the relationship can be 'owned', and the fan can be more easily converted into a 'customer'. 

Artists need to realize that their fan relationships are their definitive 'pipeline' of value.  They shouldn't be renting the pipeline from the social nets. 

Bylin:  In Seth Godin's Tribes, Senator Bill Brady's definition of a movement has three elements.  The most important ones states, “A narrative that tells a story about who you are and the future you're trying to build."

Q:  How do you keep ReverbNation's narrative relevant to artists and how does your story help them understand the future you're trying to build?

Jed Carlson: We are founded on helping EVERY artist succeed, no matter their current place in the music pecking order.  This goes beyond offering DIY tools.  We provide tools to the support people and organizations that serve them (labels, managers, marketing companies, distributors, venues/clubs etc), because every Artist is different, and has different needs at each stage of their career.  We try to help them go from point A to point B, wherever those points start and stop for them.  I think that our focus on the entire music apparatus from top to bottom has served us well when it comes to telling our story.  Other companies speak of the demise of record labels or managers and paint a future that only has DIY services.  We tend to be more pragmatic and inclusive in our approach.  It often (but not always) takes a team working together to make an artist successful.  While the roles and responsibilities of each player are going to change over time (and some may end up fading away), we have always believed in serving a wider audience than just the artist, because doing so will ultimately help the artists. This is a story that resonates across the board and includes all of the current and future stakeholders.


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