Jake Beaumont-Nesbitt (IMMF): “Music is a great ‘product’ for innovators to build around”

Jake Beaumont-Nesbitt advises The International Music Managers Forum (IMMF) on copyright and new business models. IMMF is an organization that brings together artist and artist representative associations from 50 countries, for networking, sharing, and discussion of trading terms and opportunities for artists. 

Jake focuses on industry structural concerns including metadata issues, usage data opportunities, and B2B innovation. He has a background in financial markets, and has managed chart topping Dutch artists and signed a UK band to a US indie label. He currently manages a UK Grammy nominated composer and works as a business adviser to artists including rappers and singers. At Acme Rights Jake works as an IP adviser for a selection of artists and music copyrights, and is working on digital innovation projects to improve digital offers for artists. 

You can meet him and talk to him these days in Bucharest, at Mastering the Music Business 2019.

 interview by Romanita Oprea


You are policy advisor for The International Music Managers Forum. What were the main programs and activities you developed in the last two years and how do you see they changed the industry you are working in?

Since 1999 when Napster arrived the old (Anglo-American business) model has been changing. In 2016 streaming got the recording industry back to a positive level, with growth ahead.

In 2018 the US led major record labels (Sony, Universal, Warner) pushed ahead with their support for artists across a wider range of digital audience development than just putting tracks on streaming services. The main activity of IMMF in the last two years has been to connect artists and their representatives from 50+ countries to share innovative business models, and opportunity across an informal network. There isn’t enough capacity at the major labels for all the talent and creativity from across Europe, so DIY needs to become professionalized , not a stepping stone to a major deal, but a pathway to a global audience active across digital (audio, audiovisual, brands, etc), live and offline brand activations. In building the network IMMF has surfaced innovative artists, representatives, and services from across the globe (i.e Japan, India, Romania, Nigeria, Colombia) and through workshops and conferences used their insights as a basis for education and training (professionalization) of the wider community. Digital has empowered artists from all markets to enter the global market. It’s very competitive.

What do you believe to be music business industry’s main challenges and problems these days?

The data gap: the poor quality of metadata (information attached to digital products), the failure to capture, share, leverage (subject to consumer privacy) usage data, at a time when all other industries are doing great things with far less data than artists audiences generate.

What would you change and why?

The industry adds a layer of complexity each time new technology arrives, each layer brings new services, and new interpretations of intellectual property rights creating fragmentation. Recombine the fragments around the artists, and it will be easier for investors to identify the opportunity, and they will have a greater understanding (less concerns) of ‘music’. At the other end of the value chain, the loss of revenue to friction, opacity, and intermediaries will improve earnings for artists and consumer facing services.

What role plays networking in the music business nowadays and how has that changed through the years in your experience?

There was a fashion around ten years ago for people evangelizing digital networking (“let’s make a Facebook group”) as a great way of having a business network, and cutting travel costs. Deals are still made based on personal relationships, the more fluent people have become with digitally staying-in-touch, the more they have valued face-to-face connections. Networking has not changed in how it’s done (other than a temporary detour into Facebook as a magic bullet), it had changed in how huge and specialized it has become. Glocal, selling music globally, but needing local insights for marketing and revenues, has driven the importance of networking and expansion of the number of participants.

What is the most important piece of advice you believe every musician should receive, but doesn’t usually?

Every other artists cares about their music, caring is not enough. Everyone with a job is busy. Your talent alone is not enough to make them stop working. Therefore each artist has to commit to building their career from playing in their bedroom all the way up to a stadium level, without relying on busy people to do it for them (the artist). If the artist can work hard, then throughout their journey busy people will get involved, but the lead comes from the artist, not the industry.

How hard it is to innovate in music today and how is digital changing the game?

It’s easy to create innovative user experiences because digital music is mass market, high volume and very much part of the mobile economy. Music is a great ‘product’ for innovators to build around. Since 2016 the major labels have been better about licensing music to innovators, and independent artists have always found innovation engaging. But the Byzantine structures around other rights clearances and acquisition are a road block for going from innovation to market.

In terms of music innovation, India and Africa are coming up fast behind the huge success of Latin music, artists need to think about localization, and stories, relevance, and values, if they want to get listeners attention. For music lovers there has never been a better time.

You are also a business adviser for artists. What are the main challenges of this position?

Artist managers are often afraid of making a business mistake, as the artist may then drop them, and management is a service, it’s not recognized as an investment in an (artists) brand. The main challenge is to think like an entrepreneur, and take risks, not to try and push the responsibility for market success for a great record to third parties like a label, a playlist curator, a magazine review etc. The main challenge is to be confident, to take responsibility, and to act as if you have great security if contract, when actually… you don’t.

Are today`s artists more open to seeking advice or not?

They are because it’s so competitive (digital lowered barriers) that they won’t get anywhere if they don’t understand how their industry works. It’s a crowded market and small insights can be advantageous.

Do you believe that music is more business than passion these days?

No. Digital by lowering barriers has allowed people who were once just the strange outlier in their communities to connect with wider communities of other weirdoes, freaks, and passionate evangelists for a niche. The best music comes from there. Hip-Hop came from a small community in New York, who had passion for their community, who didn’t have access to global markets.

What pieces of advice would you give to artists from Romania that want to make it to the international music scene?

  • Attend MMB network the hell out of it
  • Follow up on your networking
  • Research the people you meet. What are they interested in?
  • Think of it as a job; don’t just expect people to connect to your music based on being sent to.
  • Use digital to find artists that you relate to, who are at your commercial level or slightly above, build a relationship online. See if you can find creative connections. If you do, you may start to reach their audience, and they yours. Think of it as a Wiki.