Billboard FutureSound Visionary Showcase: Bckstgr,, Rexly, ThingLink, Music Mastermind Show Off Their Wares

By Hisham Dahud and David Downs, San Francisco

The first day of Billboard’s FutureSound Conference featured the “Visionary Showcase”:  five demonstrations from new startup companies, as well as new technologies from existing companies, offering a peek forward at the services, models and technologies that define the digital music landscape of the future. Moderated by Karen Allen of TAG Strategic, a digital music consultant group for startups on licensing, the Visionary Showcase also addressed artists directly.


“Loyalty sucks,” said Justin Jarvinen, CEO of Bckstgr, yet consumers are a part of 18 loyalty programs on average.

Jarvinen proposed re-invigorating the loyalty-rewards space by uniting “big brands and big bands.” The founder of VerveLife said loyalty programs fail because the gifts stink, the rewards go to the one percent, there are too many programs, and they’re too heterogeneous. The average person has three to five rewards cards in their wallet.

Jarvinen also said loyalty programs are a $10 billion-a-year business and by 2015, there will be $200 billion in loyalty liabilities on corporate books.

Solving that problem, Bckstgr will launch “Fanpoints” in the first quarter of 2012, enabling people to earn points by engaging with a brand, then spend those points universally on hundreds of other brands.

“It’s a brand new revenue opportunity for music,” he said.

For example, Katy Perry fans can earn fan points by retweeting Katy’s tweets, then spend those Fanpoints on merch.

Phil McCarty, founder of startup, said bands spend too much time using email, FTP, and companies like Yousendit to transfer music files.

“We’re trying to set up a situation where musicians can focus on making music rather than sending it around,” he said.

The company bundles track-sending features like watermarking and streaming and makes them available via smartphone app. The company will position itself as a leak-stopper with its security features. He said bands liken a leak to seeing their surprise party on YouTube before it’s scheduled to happen. “No one wants to have their surprise party put on YouTube,” he said.

When asked how could take on similar services like SoundCloud or companies like Yousendit – which can tack on features for musicians — McCarty said his company consists of musicians, giving them anedge over less specialized companies.


The key to music discovery is recommending content to users without overwhelming them with choices – or at least that’s the philosophy of Rexly, a music service that provides social discovery andrecommendation by aggregating data across multiple platforms. Company CEO and co-founder Joel Resnicow spelled the concept out.

“Music is the ultimate paradox of choice,” Resnicow said. “Ninety percent of the time, people are listening to the same 10 percent of their music library.”

Nowadays people can listen to any song, any time, on any device. And though people tend to only trust a handful of their friends for recommendations, Resnicow said, most services connect users with many far people than necessary. To eliminate all that noise, Rexly only allows users six people whose taste they trust.

The service’s users can share theirlistening habits with as many people as they’d like, though: fromprivate feeds to a wide-open public viewing. And Rexly is presently looking to expand beyond just music, into film, books, television, and more.

“The next great disruption,” Resnicow said, is “a data problem, not an algorithm model.” And what’s most important, he stressed, is “getting good data.”


For his segment on the Visionary Showcase presentation, ThingLink CMO Neil Vineberg discussed how his company turns images into a platform for media. The more than 100 billion images floating around on the Web, he said, are a sort of untapped real estate.

Vineberg opened with an insightful observation about the evolution of record covers. “Album covers were once elaborate pieces of art,” he said.  “Now they’ve been shrunk down into something that needs to provide a lot of information, but not a lot of experience.”

To that end, ThingLink provides a wide range of interaction tools that effectively transform images such as cover art into navigationalsurfaces for search, commerce, and social connection. “ThingLink’s interactive images are viewable across all social and CMS platforms,” Vineberg explained, “and can be shared and embedded just about anywhere.”

The company’s tools are employed by brands, publishers and bloggers, to whom ThingLink uses its global click-through of more than 2.8% as a selling point. “We’re giving fans an opportunity to discover content on their own terms,” Vineberg said, and “to decide on how they want to interact with the content.”

Music Mastermind

Music Mastermind CEO and co-founder Matt Serletic unveiled a beta version of Zya, the company’s new cloud-based music creation and sharing platform, as part of the Visionary Showcase panel.

At first glance, Zya looks like a video game. But it actually functions more like a digital audio workstation, enabling users to create music hands-on. They can beatbox drum patterns with their voices,directly sing vocal melodies, or even simulate familiar hooks licensed frompublishers. Universal Music, Sony, EMI and others are already said to be onboard.

“Zya First Look” is presently available for all HP computers, netbooks and laptops sold in the United States.

Billboard article:

Posted by Ted • Friday, November 18, 2011 .