Archive for May 13, 2011

Industry Tips & Advice: The Differences Between Songwriting in NYC & Nashville by Cliff Goldmacher

As a transplanted songwriter from Nashville to New York City, I’ve had the chance to observe, up close, the approaches to songwriting and the songwriting communities in both cities. While there are of course many similarities, there are also quite a few differences. By the way, I feel I should mention that the following observations are really more my impressions than hard facts.

Differences Within the Similarities

In this article, I’ll start with a similarity between New York and Nashville as it’s readily apparent and then explain how, within that similarity, one city differs from the other. One of the first similarities is that both cities have huge songwriting populations. The depth and breadth of talent in both places encompass many more genres that the obvious country music for Nashville and pop and rock music for New York. There are great pop writers in the suburbs of Nashville and extremely accomplished country songwriters living in Greenwich Village.

Finding the Songwriters

One difference between the two songwriting communities is how easy they are to locate. Because Nashville’s artistic community is predominantly made up of singers, songwriters and musicians, it’s much easier to find the music/songwriting community there. New York, on the other hand, has a wonderful songwriter population, but it’s mixed in with the countless other artists and creative types that live there and is thus less obvious. In other words, it takes a little more effort to find the songwriters in New York, but believe me, they’re there.

Before moving from Nashville to New York, I’d taken several writing trips a year up to New York and, by a process or trial and error, I found a core group of NYC songwriters that became my go to people on every trip. This way, when I eventually moved to New York, I felt like I was instantly part of the community even though I had to discover it little by little. I highly recommend this approach for anyone considering a move to New York as it eases the transition and makes the entire process much less overwhelming.


Although both New York and Nashville have large numbers of songwriters, co-writing is much more a part of the day to day routine in Nashville. It’s not unusual for a Nashville writer to have five co-writing appointments in a week where they meet with a different cowriter every day in a publishing company office on Music Row. This happens for several reasons. First of all, as a hired staff songwriter for a Nashville publishing company, you are given a yearly quota of songs that you need to fulfill. The more songs you write, the more quickly you’ll fulfill your quota. Publishers make a real effort to connect songwriters they think will work well together and go as far as to set up co-writing appointments for their writers. As a result, it’s fairly common in Nashville to be set up on a “blind date” cowrite. Secondly, even though you’re only credited with half a song for a cowrite, it’s easier to motivate yourself to write if you’ve got someone to collaborate with. The act of scheduling appointments and being expected to show up significantly eases the stress of having to create on a schedule. This approach seems odd to a lot of New York writers who are either artists themselves and used to writing with their own bands or are songwriters used to working with artists whose schedules are much less predictable.


Staying with the generality that you’re writing country in Nashville and pop or rock in New York, I’ve noticed that the rules of lyric-writing between these genres and cities differ significantly. In Nashville, the story is king. This means that the lyric has to make perfect sense, the images are concrete and the story has a logical flow from beginning to end. There’s not a lot of room for poetic, impressionistic lyrics that don’t have the arc of a story. New York, on the other hand, while it certainly has its share of great songwriter/storytellers, has a broader tolerance in its pop and rock genres for words that “feel” and “sound” good together. Please don’t misunderstand. It takes just as much skill to write a great pop lyric where the words convey the emotion of the song and carry the nuances of the melody as it does to write a great story in a country song, but it’s a different skill set. I’ve found that switching from one approach to the other can be creatively liberating and quite a bit of fun. Also, it’s interesting to see how one city’s lyrical approach can bleed into the other’s. In this way, you can end up with country lyrics where the words in the story sound good next to each other or pop lyrics with the arc of a story to them.


Speaking of artists, another similarity in the two cities is that they are both home to major record labels and their signed artists. This alone attracts a huge number of songwriters to both cities. The difference here is that country music artists are still largely dependent upon outside songs for their projects. In New York, bands tend to write their own material and it is less common for these artists to go looking for outside songs. Occasionally songwriters will be paired with these bands/artists in New York allowing the writers to end up with cuts on these acts. Of course, all of these distinctions are lessening as more country artists write and cowrite their albums as well.

You Can’t Lose

At the end of the day, both communities are great places to work and create. Ironically, after living in Nashville, working as a staff songwriter and writing for the country market for twelve years, my first cut was with a New York writer and was recorded by an Irish tenor on Universal Records named Ronan Tynan. In my opinion, it was the blend of our New York and Nashville songwriting sensibilities that came together to create that song. What I mean by this is that somewhere between the soaring melody more suited to pop and the lyric that had more of a country attention to detail, we came up with a classical crossover song. So, if you’re a Nashville writer thinking about working in New York (or vice versa) I’d highly recommend it. Sometimes it’s the differences that create the best art.



Article: Facebook App Helps Musicians Collect Unclaimed Royalties by Brenna Ehrlich

About $5.3 million in unclaimed royalties are floating around, just out of the grasp of deserving artists. RootMusic, maker of the Facebook app BandPage, teamed with performance rights non-profit SoundExchange to put that money in the right hands.

Musicians garner royalties whenever their music is streamed on the Internet or played on digital satellite radio or cable music channels. SoundExchange, an organization enlisted by Congress to distribute digital performance royalties, collects those royalties and distributes them to bands. However, bands have to be registered with SoundExchange in order to get the cash. Unfortunately, some of those bands are unaware of the money they’re making and don’t register.

To right that wrong, RootMusic gave SoundExchange a list of artists who have used its Facebook app, BandPage, so that the organization could connect with any artists with unclaimed royalties. How many bands were missing out on the dollars? 7,462 out of the 150,000 bands using BandPage. That’s a lot of Ramen and guitar picks.

A lot of apps like BandPage are cropping up, including MySpace’s new offering. This partnership definitely will make RootMusic more attractive to bands choosing which service to use.



VIDEO: Music Industry Changes: Out of the studio and onto YouTube

The SF Music Tech Summit was held on Monday in San Francisco, where traditional record labels such as Universal met with Internet startups like SoundCloud, who is disrupting the music industry and providing innovative platforms for artists to share their songs online. Will the record labels innovate fast enough to stay alive or will the Internet startups become the new labels?



Article: On Life Support: A Look at the Big Four Record Labels by Michael Melchor

Hi there and welcome back after a longer break than I intended to take. I didn’t intend to take one at all, actually, but … well, this isn’t the place to discuss it. Not that I even care to. Just know it was pretty serious to take me away from here for two weeks and to interrupt a two-parter. Feel free to familiarize yourself with part one on my look at the state of the few remaining major record labels left before I move on below.

All caught up? Good. Now that you are, I have to admit I screwed up. To his credit, a reader named Da Maya called me on it in the comments section:

“Contrary to your blog [post], Warner Bros. does not own Warner Music Group. Neither does Time-Warner. Warner Music Group has been an independent company since around 2005.

Warner Music has been signing more and more artists to “360 deals” where they take a percentage of the artists’ touring, merchandising, endorsement and other revenue. This is probably why so many people are interested in bidding for WMG. So basically I disagree with you because the business model has changed on the recording side, and that is far from a ‘nail in the coffin’.

WMG’s other business – publishing, is a money printing machine, by the way.”

He’s right, you know. I’m not about to make any excuses for it either. I made an assumption, didn’t check my facts, and was rightly called on it. For that, I apologize and also promise that it’s not a mistake that will happen again.

To wit: Warner Music Group has already been sold by Time-Warner (as of seven years ago). Edgar Bronfman Jr. led a group of investors in picking up the label in 2004, and it has been under his watch ever since. We see now where that “leadership” has led and how much it has cost them (which, again, was discussed in part one). We could certainly debate how much money they’re losing and the publishing business (which WMG has insisted be bought with the rest of the label, but that’s for another time).

And now, it’s a moot point. Just as I have this ready to go to press, word broke that Warner Music Group has a new owner. Access Industries’ billionaire owner Len Blavatnik is now the proud owner of the label courtesy of a $3.3 billion winning bid. Fascinating what changes in so little time. He might look at cutting it down to the “big three,” but we’ll touch on that in a minute.

With all of that now done, let’s continue our look at the state of the music industry as it pertains to the major labels in existence. In the interest of disclosure, I’m not doing just a review of numbers. They’ll be there when pertinent, but otherwise this will read like a quarterly financial report, and we all know how boring those are. We’ll stick with facts, and start with a label aside from WMG that has already changed hands.

EMI Music was picked up by Terra Firma Capital Partners in 2007 for £4.2 billion after EMI had lost financial ground to the tune of £260 million between 2006 and 2007. Upon the takeover, many artists, including Radiohead and Paul McCartney, left the label. Pink Floyd sued it over royalties. Not a good time to be EMI, but Terra Firma wasn’t doing itself any favors.

Immediately, it laid off 1,500-2,000 employees to try and cut costs, but more artists were still unhappy with it. Then, many more artists were affected when EMI pulled out of the Southeast Asia market altogether. Its plan to recoup losses (other than layoffs)? Completely withhold selling CDs to independent album retailers, among other brilliant moves.

EMI kept sinking under Terra Firma, reporting a pre-tax loss of £1.75 billion for the year 2009. With 2010 not faring any better, EMI was not bought out, it was reposessed. Citigroup, who EMI had a huge debt toward, stepped and agreed to cut down the debt by 65% (£2.2 billion) upon the condition that it simply take control of the label. And that’s exactly what happened three months ago. Now that Access Industries and Len Blavatnik have bought WMG, talk around the water cooler is that Blavatnik may be eyeing EMI as his next acquisition. Couldn’t think of a better time to do it, really.

The real irony here? Five years ago, EMI attempted to buy Warner Music Group. WMG responded with a counter offer to buy EMI instead, and the whole thing was dropped. Imagine how much worse off WMG would be right now had it accepted a buyout then.

Sony Music hasn’t seen days nearly as bad as EMI. However, it is not faring quite that well, either. In terms of numbers, Sony Music, which is owned by Sony Corporation of America-a natural assumption that, alas, couldn’t be made about Warner Music-reportedly had a loss of 11% ($1.33 billion) in 2009. Not much was found after that time, but it would be easy to believe that, while consumer behavior changes and Internet availability (whether legal or not) has affected it as much as the others, Sony also has an ace in its sleeve: the Michael Jackson catalog.

Sony’s woes could both also come from the acquisitions and personnel changes. Keeping track of all of these has been dizzying, but I’ll try to simplify them as best I can. Since 1987, Sony has acquired or merged with BMG Records (bringing the “big five” down to the “big four” labels), CBS, Arista, and Columbia Records. In addition, the company is installing a new CEO as Doug Morris-former head of Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group, ironically enough-is set to take over operations of Sony Music effective July 1, 2011. In return, Barry Weiss left his position as RCA/Jive Records CEO to lead Island Def Jam & Universal Motown Republic, both of which are part of Universal Music Group.

UMG (owned by French media monster Vivendi) is the biggest of the big. Maybe because of sheer size and amount of holdings, UMG was the only label I came across that showed any signs of a recent profit. Of course, that was back in 2007 when it posted gains of $6.1 billion. That was after the famous payola scandal in 2006 and since that time, Universal Music Group has been one of the only companies to really embrace online content delivery. Sure, there was Imeem-and we know how well that eventually played out. However, it also developed Vevo, enemy of many a YouTube user everywhere but still a great asset for UMG.

That, of course, came after it was accused of abusing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act not once, but twice in the same year it turned the above reported profit. Once, it was reportedly to scare away some poor girl criticizing Akon online-and, really, who can find fault in criticism like that?-and another involved yaking a 30-second video of kids dancing to Prince.

On the other side of that coin, UMG was the first label to reach one billion YouTube views and the fourth channel to nab one million subscribers. So, all in all, UMG can be a little overbearing, just like any other label freaking out over the prospect of the people having control of what they get and how. But it has turned itself around to embrace change better than the other three have.

All in all, the “big four” labels have seen better days by a damn sight. One was reposessed, one is about to be sold off, one can’t find its way past inner turmoil, and the last one is doing okay for itself but has shown signs of paranoia. Strange times for some of the biggest companies in the world, indeed.

The speculation will continue as to whether or not any of them will survive in the long haul. Most are wont to say “no,” including, apparently, those running the label system itself. It’s good to have hard facts in a debate like this instead of speculation, however. Now, we have some of that when it comes time to argue the inevitable-yeah, I said it-demise of the industry standard of the major label system, giving way to something else.

Thanks for checking back, and I will see you again next week.



Industry Tips & Advice: Social Media Marketing for Your Music Business by Japheth

The new digital landscape has caused an apparent tsunami in the music industry. With the rather constant barrage of reports and claims indicating that digital music downloads (both legal and illegal) are financially bringing down the industry, one might assume that digital technology is the enemy. Although a pessimistic attitude is somewhat appropriate for those businesses tied to their old-world models of manufacturing and distribution, the opposite is true for those willing to embrace digital technology and marketing for their music business. In the same way that digital music for artists has allowed for selling to more fans than previously possible with selling CDs alone, digital marketing provides opportunities and solutions to reach more potential fans than the artist could by merely connecting with people at music venues. Internet marketing, specifically social media marketing, allows an artist to target not only the local scene, but a truly international base of fans.

The New Music Ecosystem

Bas Grasmayer posted an article on Hypebot.com entitled The Ecosystem Approach: Introducing Non-Linear Music Marketing for the Digital Age. He talks about how the Internet and digital mediums have brought a new non-linear ecosystem to the world of music marketing. This means that the interaction among a group of consumers plays a larger role today in music business. The direct connections and control of the music industry now take a back-seat to the driving force of community influence.

Today, retention or keeping fans requires “stimulating the non-linear communication.” In the new ecosystem, you must facilitate consumers or fans building relationships with each other. Your product will still be the central point of the activity, but the customers interacting among themselves will propel and cause viral marketing for your product. Grasmayer explains it with a party analogy:

Treat every listener as a guest to your house party. If you don’t introduce them to others, you’ll be the center of attention all the time, but you can’t talk to everyone at the same time, so people are likely to get bored and leave. The key to a successful party is connecting the strangers, so they can have fun together. You’re still the center of the ecosystem, but you’re not the only person to communicate to. The communication becomes non-linear!

Besides the interpersonal communication among the fan base, you must also personally build a direct connection with each consumer or fan using such tools as social media networking. When you connect with fans and give them a reason to buy, you will ultimately make money. Nurture the connection by being authentic and consistent, always being able to admit when things go wrong and fixing the issues.

Finally, listen to the ecosystem. Make sure your marketing plans are fluid and evolve according to the feedback from your digital community of fans and customers. This could be called social media optimization. The key to success is giving people what they want.

Engage with Purpose

Brian Solis, globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in new media and author of the book Engage!, was recently interviewed on the subject of engaging with a purpose. He states that no matter the business or size, “every company should start with learning.” This ties back into listening to the ecosystem. One must intentionally monitor the conversations and activities of the community to know how to effectively engage that community. Solis states: “Social media didn’t invent conversations and opinions, but it allows us to have access to what people think and share—right now.”

The interviewer asked the question: “How much time should a company allocate to social media engagement?” Solis says, “The answer lies in what you see and also the position you want to take in social.” The time spent correlates to the success of the marketing. In other words, it takes a “significant commitment” to have productive efforts. Solis suggests testing with pilot programs and evaluating the outcomes as you go.

If you are like me, you’ll discover that social networks can become a black hole on your time. To avoid the time-sucking properties of social media, set goals and objectives. This is really where engaging with purpose comes into play. Know your purpose and develop a plan. By sticking to the plan and engaging your fans with a purpose, you will find yourself not only spending the right amount of time on your efforts, but find each connection supporting your overall goals.

Practical Tips

You’re probably saying, “That’s all great in theory, but what about a practical application?” Luckily I’ve been involved professionally in web development and marketing since 1996. Part of my focus over the years has been in developing artist-to-fan relationships using the Internet. Here are some practical solutions that I’ve implemented with success using social media marketing:

Although probably not the main source of discovery of new fans, the website for an artist or band is the foundation for an Internet marketing strategy. At the recent SXSW Music Conference, a panel discussion was held on the topic, You’ve Built a Social Network, Now What? Here was the main theme: “The artist web site is critical to a band’s success in the world of social networking. Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace – proliferate in number, grow audiences, and some even eventually die off.”

One never knows what social media tools will exist in the future. So it is imperative that your website become the center of your marketing efforts as a familiar, stable home that fans can return to. That’s why Paul Sinclair of Atlantic Records says that an artist’s website is the first component they work on when developing a social media strategy. According to Michael Fiebach, digital marketing strategist and artist manager at Famehouse, “Bands are simply ‘renting their fans to social networks’ if they do not build their own web site.”

I believe that Myspace is still a viable resource for music marketing. When searching for a band or artist on Google, Myspace Music profiles rank at the top of the search results. It many times is still the best place to find and stream the music of an artist or band for free. There are some teenage sub-cultures that are very active on Myspace, even more than on other networks such as Facebook. If your music is of a genre associated with one of these sects, then Myspace is potentially the perfect solution for attracting new fans.

When building your Myspace Music profile, be sure to include the names of similar bands and describe your musical style. This serves as a list of keywords that help with the discovery of your profile in search results.

When building your fan base, stay away from services that claim to add friends or fans to your list. Many of these so-called fans will actually be fake profiles or even real people who you will never be able to convert into a true fan. Start by adding a small number of fans from similar artists that realistically would appreciate your music. Connect or engage with that group to solicit feedback concerning your music, profile, and marketing efforts. This is similar to the pilot program that Brian Solis speaks of. Use the gained knowledge to decide on continuing your efforts with the same types of users or whether to look at other types of users for connecting.

To be truly successful, a band or artist must use Facebook as a tool. Create a Facebook Page as an artist or band. Do not use a personal profile. Once your Page has acquired 25 fans, you will be able to use a custom Facebook URL. You will also want to set up a custom landing page instead the default wall for your Page. Non-fans visiting your Page will initially see the landing page you specify. I use iLike to create this landing page, but I have seen several others that use ReverbNation for theirs.

I have found that the most successful way to build a fan base on Facebook is with Facebook Ads. You can target these text-based ads at users who have indicated they like a particular artist or band that is similar to you. Because you only pay-per-click, you can gain great exposure with the impressions.

I ran a Facebook Ad campaign for a music artist Page. I spent a total of $99.96. The ad received a total of 497,804 impressions. That’s about 2% of a penny for each impression. Those impressions resulted in 321 clicks. That’s about 31 cents per click. Of those clicks, 191 people actually clicked the Like button and decided to become a “fan” of the Page. That means it cost about 52 cents to gain a new fan. If only 1 in 10 decides to become a customer and buy a digital album on iTunes at a price of $9.90, the artist would actually make a profit. This is because an artist receives roughly 70% of the iTunes revenue and the one buying customer came at a cost of roughly $5.23.

Last.fm and PureVolume
Place your focus on your website, Myspace profile, and Facebook Page. Only if you find extra time, look at the additional music networking sites of Last.fm and PureVolume. I’ve used both as part of my marketing strategy, using some of the same principles suggested for Myspace. Last.fm also has advertising campaigns called Powerplay that allow you to target Internet radio listeners with guaranteed plays of your music.

Engage with HootSuite
To make the most use of your time and effectively engage with your fan base, use a social media tool such as HootSuite. This application allows you to simultaneously post status updates across social networks such as Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter. These status updates are not the engagement, but offer opportunities for engagement. HootSuite allows for following both the public and private conversations on your social network profiles and allows for you to interact. Use this to your full advantage to quickly engage your fans across social platforms.

Later this month, we will take a look at some case studies of music businesses and artists that are successfully using social media and integrating social media into their marketing efforts. Until then, go forth learning, testing, and engaging.



Article: Two suspects booked in slaying of MTV music coordinator by Richard Winton and Andrew Blankstein

Jabaar Vincent Thomas, 26, and Destiny Young, 29, were initially arrested in connection with a string of robberies in which the attackers were armed with a shotgun, the same type of weapon used in the killing of Gabriel Aron Ben-Meir, according to the LAPD.

A man and a woman have been booked on suspicion of the execution-style slaying of an MTV music coordinator whose body lay on a Mid-Wilshire street for five hours before it was discovered, authorities said Thursday.

Jabaar Vincent Thomas, 26, and Destiny Young, 29, both of Los Angeles, were initially arrested Wednesday in connection with a string of robberies in which the attackers were armed with a shotgun, the same type of weapon used in the killing of Gabriel Aron Ben-Meir, 30, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

Police said they were able to link the pair to the Ben-Meir case from witness statements and other evidence. Thomas was also booked on suspicion of killing a 35-year-old man in the Pico-Union area last month.

Ben-Meir, who hailed from a Los Angeles entertainment family and aspired to continue his career in music, was shot at least once in the back of the head early Sunday just steps from his front door. The killing shocked family members, colleagues at MTV and neighbors in the tranquil neighborhood lined with shady trees and manicured frontyards just a short drive from the Miracle Mile.

According to a law enforcement source, Thomas is a reputed gang member who was released from state prison in December after serving a sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Thomas has several felony convictions, including possession of cocaine, said the source, who asked not be named because the case was ongoing. Young did not appear to have a criminal history.

Thomas and Young are suspected of committing at least nine armed robberies in the last two weeks in the Mid-City, Wilshire and Southwest Los Angeles areas, LAPD Capt. Matt Blake said. The pair were arrested in connection with the robberies Wednesday, along with San Fernando Valley resident Richard Edward Anderson, 33. Police said Anderson has not been linked to Ben-Meir’s slaying.

Anderson, who has half a dozen convictions dating from at least 1998, was on parole for being in possession of a controlled substance, according to authorities. Most of his convictions involved offenses related to drug possession and corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant.

Thomas was also booked on suspicion of killing Marcelo Aragon, who was struck by a shotgun blast and robbed as he walked through a residential area in the 2700 block of West 12th Street about 3:45 a.m. April 30, LAPD Officer Sara Faden said.

Thomas was being held in lieu of $2-million bail, police said, and Young was being held on $1-million bail.

The two were arrested as they rode in a Crown Victoria in Pico-Union, according to an LAPD source. The vehicle was stopped, the source said, because it matched a description of a car used in one of the robberies.

Detectives obtained search warrants for the vehicle and a home in South Los Angeles, which yielded evidence that connected Thomas and Young to the robberies and Ben-Meir’s slaying, according to the LAPD source.

Ben-Meir had just parked his BMW when he was killed on Packard Street between Stanley and Spaulding avenues, according to police. Authorities have declined to say whether he was robbed.

Residents told investigators that they heard what sounded like a gunshot about 1:30 a.m. but that they did not call police. A man walking his dog came across the body about 6:30 a.m.



Article: Ice-T Declares Contemporary Music As “Delusional” by Steven J. Horowitz

The gangsta rap veteran reflects on the state of today’s hip-hop scene.

Ice-T has made his views on today’s popular music known, most recently blasting Soulja Boy for “single handedly killing hip-hop.” Now, he’s taking a less dynamic approach, explaining that contemporary rap doesn’t accurately reflect the state of the world.

The rapper-turned-actor explained that it’s an evenhanded exchange between fans and artists. “I just think that right now, you have so many blogs, you have so much news… There’s so much news that’s being pumped at you through the internet and stuff. People just want to hear music that doesn’t have anything to do with reality,” he told CNN. “They’d rather just listen to music about ‘party, party, party.’ We don’t want to deal with the issues because they’re dealing with the issues daily, all day.”

He continued by stating that the music suffers because of this oversaturation of news. “The music doesn’t reflect it. We’re in a war, got a black president, we got lots of things going on. We got economic problems, you got the Wall Street situation,” he said. “You’re not going to find any of those in any of the music. It’s not being reflected. People are trying to run from the truth because music is very delusional.”

Ice-T most recently released his autobiography Ice: A Memoir of Gangster Life and Redemption—From South Central to Hollywood, addressing reviews that it’s an “easy read.” “It’s exactly meant to feel like that. It’s meant to feel like you’re dealing in a conversation with me,” he said. “You get the full vibe of me, I wasn’t pulling any punches. When people say it’s a fast read, I say is that a good thing? But I’m doing a lot of press and they’re like, that’s a great thing. You want to keep the pages turning.”



Article: Investor Roger McNamee sees a new dawn for the music industry by Alex Pham

Roger McNamee, who heads the private equity firm Elevation Partners, said there’s at least promise for investors in the music business. ‘We’re going to get another chance to change the rules,’ he says.

With Warner Music Group being bought for $3.3 billion in cash and Pandora Media Inc. on the verge of an initial public offering of its stock, could the music business be attracting investors once again?

Roger McNamee, managing director of the Silicon Valley private equity firm Elevation Partners, said there’s at least promise. While Elevation does not have an investment in any music start-ups, McNamee does know a thing or two about the music business and how it intersects with technology. When he’s not touring 100 nights a year with his band, an indie folk rock group called Moonalice that he helped found four years ago, McNamee works closely with Elevation’s other co-founder, U2′s Bono.

McNamee, who is delivering the keynote speech Thursday morning at the National Assn. of Recording Merchandisers’ annual conference in Los Angeles, said the music business is headed for an “Arab Spring,” referring to the grass-roots uprisings in Egypt, Libya and other Middle Eastern countries this year.

And when there is chaos, there is opportunity.

The Times recently spoke with the 55-year-old technology investor — whose firm has invested in Facebook, Yelp and Forbes — about the digital music landscape and whether he sees any sweet deals hiding in the rubble of a music industry ravaged by piracy. An edited transcript follows:

Since peer-to-peer file sharing took off in the late 1990s, the music business for the last decade has been written off by investors as a wasteland of piracy. Is that starting to change?

It’s actually a really good time to look for things to invest in. We’re in the midst of a new dawn when we’re going to get another chance to change the rules in the music business. For the first time in 16 years, you can look forward to a world that’s very exciting. And everything that’s exciting about it is going to be favorable to those who create content.

What’s so different now?

Over the last 10 years, we have gone from just listening to music to making music. The tools of production are so cheap now. You can get Garage Band for free when you buy a Mac. It’s an eight-channel pro mixer. The original Beatles stuff was mixed on two-track mixers, equipment that was much less sophisticated than what you can get now for free.

At one time, there were 8 million bands represented on MySpace. That means Silicon Valley has finally made a hero out of Karl Marx because the means of production are now in the hands of the proletariat. The recorded music business has shrunk dramatically. But people’s interest in music is higher than ever. We’re going to have an Arab Spring in technology that will liberate the people who create content from the influence of guys who have dominated them for a long time.

Great news for the masses. But what does it mean for capitalists?

If you’re asking me when you can start selling $18 albums again, I can’t help you. Where the venture guys like me will matter a ton is in supporting the infrastructure. Think Amazon’s EC2 cloud service. The venture guys will aim at the infrastructure. The creative stuff will come from the people, broadly defined.

So start-ups that sell the proverbial picks and shovels to artists who want to use digital tools to create and distribute their music will have a crack at making money. What else?

There’s an old saying in the business: Sometimes when the world changes, you can see the bodies lying on the tracks a lot sooner than you can tell who’s driving the train. In the technology world, that’s Google and Microsoft lying across the tracks. Those guys will have to abandon their ecosystems to survive. What comes after is not as clear.

By day, you are a successful capitalist. By night, you are a traveling minstrel with your band, Moonalice. How’s that life working out for you?

I’m the only one in my band with a non-musical day job. But I’ve been a professional musician since I was 17. It hasn’t always gone as well as it’s going now. We play four shows a week in small theaters and clubs when we’re touring. I don’t have children, and my wife is in the band. So it works out.

I’m also the tech guy for the band, setting up the Facebook fan page, tweeting and setting up the live webcasts for all of our shows. We’re out communicating with our fans 10 times a day. If you’re an investor, you have to know how all this stuff works. We’re like the canary in the digital coal mine, seeing what works. It’s fun stuff.