Powering Up

by Denis Semchenko
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While music engines that allow users to stream music for free while charging for subscription continue to rise, Salad Social has stumbled upon THE HOLDING PATTERN – a homegrown alternative to international models like Rdio, Spotify and MOG that allows artists to sell their music directly and pays a fair share back. We chat to the Sydney-based founder NICK ARNOLD about his invention.

Please tell us a little about yourself, Nick.

I’ve been playing music since I was a little kid – I wrote my first song on my mum’s electric organ when I was 11 and I’ve been in love with music ever since. I’ve been a professional musician for 15 years and in bands for 10, signed to EMI Publishing in LA. As a composer, I’ve written music for film, TV and theatre and I still play live – either solo or with my “dirty country” outfit called The Likely Few.

Music is my lifeline and always will be. I’m very passionate about music and making sure we don’t become complacent about how we search, find and support artists that inspire us on a daily basis.

Nick Arnold of The Holding Pattern

When did you come up with the idea for The Holding Pattern?

Three years ago. I had a back catalogue that was hours and hours’ worth of music that was just sitting there from different musical projects, films, theatre and solo stuff; I didn’t want all that hard work to go to waste, so I thought to myself “how do fans find new music they know nothing about? If I’m one musician that has this back catalogue, there must be thousands of others still working or just sitting there on the shelf becoming dead music.”

I started working on a platform that is free to use, not cluttered with ads, supports independent and undiscovered musicians and allows fans to search, explore and discover music they haven’t heard before. After working with producers and writing music for projects, I realised that there wasn’t a platform that is stupidly easy to use for quickly and efficiently sourcing tracks for public broadcast. Production companies want three things – price, quality and speed – and we can provide that. We have an automatic license that allows production companies and creatives to easily source fantastic independent and undiscovered music for public broadcast. This will revolutionise how an artist gains much needed exposure to boost their profile and create more sales and revenue in a completely different way, thereby sustaining their work to continue creating and inspiring us. Educating fans through public broadcast is a strong way of creating a following as well.

What do you think sets THP apart from other music engines?

We are an independent platform created by musicians for musicians. Our sole purpose is to give power back to the artist and their fans and allow people to explore and discover music they’ve never had the opportunity to listen to before by creating a marketplace governed by artists who decide the price they wish to sell their tracks for and still retain total control of their copyrights. We’re completely transparent to artists and fans, so they know where their music and money are going.

The Holding Pattern is also a marketplace that has been created for purchasing music for both personal and commercial levels of use. We’ve provided a completely free platform for artists to upload their music and control the price they wish to sell their works for, of which 80% of sales for personal use goes to the artist. We also enable purchasing for commercial use, providing a platform and access to a diverse and comprehensive library of music from leading independent artists from around the world to use in commercial projects. Our intelligent, quick and innovative commercial platform offers immediate access to automatic licensing and provides the opportunity of earning real cash for artists and exposure through commercial sales – of which 80% also goes to the artist.

The HP website incorporates the Visualiser feature – can you tell us what it is and how it works?

I believe that the drive to search and discover new music has been lost. We’ve become lazy and reliant on current music sites and search engines, the music industry is failing to inspire us and we’re consistently being spoonfed a medium of music governed by the labels… and let’s not forget the radio as well. That is why our Visualiser has been created – to educate the user by displaying all categories of music in an innovative floating 3D musical DNA.

This unique visual search is interactive and allows the user to listen and purchase while exploring the vast musical world. It also allows more artists the opportunity to be discovered, listened to and hopefully sustain their talents from real sales – and it’s fun to use. I want to bring back the fun in search, like when we used to go to a record store and spend hours sifting through music and listening to tracks through crappy headphones, reading the lyrics and marvelling at the artwork. We are losing the art of search – and some might say the importance of music.

What’s your take on high-profile engines like Rdio and Spotify – which were both recently launched in Australia – and their integration in the local music market?

I am not against subscription-based music as an idea. It’s a great idea, but it must be geared toward the artist in a transparent way to justify the low rates artists receive at the moment.

Spotify has entered the market as a hero and a saviour. Consolidating music libraries all over the world in a convenient manner: sounds like a good idea, and allowing fans to search this music is fine when you’re a top performing artist, but the other 90% of artists still struggle to gain any income from their tracks. I think that people value music less when they get it so cheaply, and I believe the artists should decide what price they should sell their music for because they know how much it’s worth and how much they want to sell it for.

I’m working on a subscription-based model with our tech team – I want to introduce it to the independent community and ask them “hey, if I brought out a subscription-based model, what would you like to receive as payment that you think is fair?”  As well as having more bang for your buck as a user, your subscription gives you more access to be interactive within THP – not just a library of music to listen to.

You also run a blog on THP and one of the recent entries deals with the oft-heard “music has become unimportant these days” thought. What do you think is the real issue at hand? 

I think the real issue here comes from labels and current platforms that have dominated the industry and homogenised the music search and how we listen to and purchase music. We’ve become used to transacting in a certain way – it has put music into bubblegum production lines that seem to regurgitate a lot of mediocrity. There is an abundance of information out there, no doubt about that, but music as the lifeline has suffered from this – particularly independent music. People are so used to not paying for music they expect to get it for free or rip it off a friend’s computer.

Many bedroom artists have made their music available through the introduction of great music software, which I think is great. There is so much music out there; the cream will always rise to the top and THP wants to be the platform that hosts and helps the next innovators continue to inspire and change the industry.

Do you think up-and-coming Australian artists will benefit from exposure on Rdio, Spotify and MOG?

Any exposure is good exposure when you’re an up-and-coming artist, and Spotify, Rdio or MOG are great places to host their music – why not?  Just don’t expect to see the cash roll in. This is why we incorporated the commercial side to THP, so production companies and creatives can have access to our growing library of amazing independent music to source for public broadcast. This is where the real exposure comes from: film, TV, radio, documentaries and so on.

Artists should put their music into as many platforms as they can that will support them – and be proactive about it, too. Don’t just sit there and wait for people to find you – pick the right platform that connects with you and self-promote.

What are your creative plans for the rest of 2012?

We’ve got a massive six months ahead of us. We’ve just signed a deal with MGM Distribution to host their content, which will make us the independent platform in Australia – it’s huge for us, as we want to be able to give the independent artists their day in the sun and not get lost in other platforms out there. And the international intake of the finest yet-unknowns in music won’t end there! Many other labels and distribution companies are scrambling to follow MGM’s lead and support THP – which is set to become the stage for independent artists around the world.

We also have some really cool functionality plugins as well as our newly-launched mobile site – you can search, discover and listen to music straight from your phone for free. We’re looking to create a community within THP by allowing more access to communicate as a member or fan and as an artist – we’re creating a platform where music becomes the currency to communicate with, not just a product for an end transaction. We’re also expanding our technical/build team and partnering with some creative brains to continually think outside the box and provide a platform that is embraced by everyone. It’s a slow process, but one that’s very much worth it.

Thanks Nick!

by Denis Semchenko
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