The Hot Seat: Ford Englander

Published in The Music Network



TMN chats to the Sonicbids Executive Vice President (Promoter Network and International) about the growth of Sonicbids, Australian live scene and remaining competitive in the world of web 2.0.

What’s going wrong with the live scene in the US?
Ticket costs to go see the top-end bands and international acts have priced-out the casual fans. That’s where the drop-off has been. If you go to a local pub or club, you’ll still see the crowds. Here in Boston, the bread-and-butter touring venues are as healthy as they’ve ever been.

Everyone says live is super-healthy in Australia. What’s your view?
I agree. The festivals circuit you have down there tends to support some very large acts. And we’re seeing boutique festivals popping up, which are more accessible for the independent artists to get played. That’s a great sign of the health of the market.

More than 275,000 independent artists use Sonicbids, and you booked more than 71,000 gigs last year. What’s behind those numbers?
The only reason we’ve been able to grow is because the site works. We don’t discriminate based on genre and we make it open for promoters to widen their net to look for a particular type of band. We’re figuring out new broadcast opportunities, where bands can be heard on an airline channel or play before a movie at a cinema. The platform opens up a lot of possibilities for the independent artist who wants to hustle a little bit.

How does a band stand out among the crowd?
Having a little bit of a plan can go a long way. If you come to Sonicbids and submit blindly to every festival, club or licensing opportunity it won’t have much success. Also, be a marketer. Think about how you’re presenting yourself. You should have a marketing video to show a promoter your live show.

How does the acquisition of ArtistData change your business?
It was a natural fit for us, which now allows people to update their social networking sites through their Sonicbids page.

What other areas is the company moving into?
The bigger question is where don’t we want to move into? Brands and licensing are the two newest areas that we are branching out into.

How importance is the Australian market to Sonicbids?
It’s critical. We’ve been in Australia nearly six years now. We picked Australia as our first international market because it had a thriving rock market, which is where we came from. You’ve sought VC funding in recent years.

How has that changed the business?
I used to tell people it was like being an indie artist who signs a record deal — a potentially scary thing where you sign away your future. It’s been quite the opposite. It’s enabled us to grow, it’s allowed us to control our creative process, build our brands division and acquire companies like ArtistData.

How did the GFC impact?
A lot of musicians lost their day jobs so they’re giving art a try. In that way, it’s helped Sonicsbids a lot. There are many more people out there who are a lot more serious about making music on their own terms. The same artists have less dollars. It’s forced us to be smarter about our product and make sure we’re delivering the value we need to. We’ve started rolling out no-cost submissions.

How does Sonicbids remain relevant in this evolving Web 2.0?
If you’re not on the web as an artist you don’t exist. Web 2.0 is all about networks and inter-connectivity. We just want to have a simple way for artists to upload their information and put it out across their networks. We’re trying to figure out new ways to leverage what really is a new world on the Internet. If you’re not figuring out ways to make it easy for bands to connect with those networks, then you’re not helping the artists market their product.


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Click here for Lars Brandle’s “Bigsound” interview with Ford Englander.