mardi 19 janvier 2010

Ralph Simon: Interview (English)

RS head shoulder Orange Aug 2007For those you don't know him yet, Ralph Simon is one of the key people in the field that crosses both the Music and New media Space. His background in the label space is just impressive and so is what he has done in the Internet area. Ralph has not only founded Zomba records but also was the Managing Director of Capitol Records and Blue Note REcords. In the Internet Space, Ralph has been one of the founder of Moviso, one of the very first ringtone companies in the Word, then he became Chairman for the Americas of the Mobile Entertainment Forum (MEF). Ralph is a low profile guy who would not say that he is closely advising U2 for their new media strategy and that is a a close friend to several world leader. Ralph will be one of the key attendees of the Midem 2010 in Cannes. Interview: 

Ralph, you are on so many project these days... Can you tell us on what you spend most of your time?
I spend the most of my time, developing new projects and initiatives in the area of mobile entertainment, new mobile platforms and guiding and advising artists, companies, media properties and well known brands on how to enhance their mobile strategy and audience growth and build truast and authenticity.  I find that the best way to keep in touch with the latest developments in mobile is to travel a lot around the world,  and keep a special eye on the so called “bleeding edge” markets – India, Finland, Israel and of course Hollywood.

Do you think that the overall music industry will continue to shrink or have we hit the bottom? Why?
The music industry is so very different to what it was a decade ago.  Aside from the fact that we have lost about 50% of the physical record stores in major countries in the past decade and have not yet made up in digital what this retail sales loss represents, this has been the most visible street evidence of the funbdamental change in the way people seek out and buy their music – if they buy it at all !    Now, nearly 10billion iTunes downloads later, young people and music fans have decisively voted to seek and consume music digitally and on the move.  Retail is still very important though, but there will indeed continue to be shrinkage in the traditional record business.  One of the casualties of this is the area of catalogue and catalogue music sales.  This area of back catalogue fuelled the revenues of major record companies for many many years.  However, the past 2 years has seen a really worrying reduction in catalog sales (digital or analog) and the industry has been surprised at the severity of this shrinkage.  However, all indications seem to suggest that we are moving towards the bottom of the bottom.  Digital sales continue to increase, and whilst they are not at the same frequency we saw 12 months ago, the big challenge for the major record labels and major indie labels, is how to increase the purchase of bundles of content and how to maximize YouTube views of an artists’ music and performance.  It remains to be seen whether 2010 will see a faster sales curve for digital – in a tight economy with no visible major music trend, there does seem to be a return to seeking authenticity in artists and their music.  People want to have trust in their artists and their music – the SuBo (Susan Boyle) phenomenon shows just that (Susan Boyle) - who would have thought that a spinster from Glasgow would become the biggest name of the 2009 sales seasons ?  Does this mean that somewhere in “middle” France there is a near 50 year old superstar yet to be found ?

What is the biggest challenge now for the traditional music players?
The biggest challenges facing traditional music companies, are  a) how to find new breakthrough talent b)  how to promote and break this new talent and music c) how to grow a YouTube and web audience for an artist that grows organically and by cumulative word of  mouth through social networks and how to make the web culture work to expose and grow your music’s appeal and following in your home country and around the world.  French musicians and artists face an extra challenge during these times, as French language artists are not easily embraced by the global audience.  The most significant challenge facing the major labels is how to quickly grow alternatives to iTunes.  Big investment and efforts have been directed to this, including the formation of the Vevo music video channel which is a venture owned by 3 of the 4 major record labels.

What would you do if you were an artist?
If I were an artist, I would ensure that I found the very best of the following highly creative and skilled professions: 1. Sound texture designer 2.   Search Engine Optimization specialist 3.  Great creative web designers    4.  Great sound engineers who understand the importance and significance of cross-platform content production and making 4.  Best of breed film-makers who understand how to make 2-4 minute mini-movies  5.  A manager who understands the relationship between new media, old media and good business.

What are the project that interests you the most in the internet world?
I am very interested in seeing the fast growing areas of ‘alternate reality’ - especially when  linked into music and artist development.  I’m interested in the next phase of Metadata – I always watch what Gracenote are doing – they are one of the world’s best in that key area.

What are your favorite websites?
I have many websites that are favorites depending upon my mood, the country I am in and what I want from that particular URL.  One of the sites I get a lot from is – Joel Comm is one of the sharpest minds in social networking and how the Twitter nation can help shape and grow your audience.  His company Infomedia in the USA does good work.

I will give you a few keywords and you will tell me if they are hot or tired (explanation welcome):
Hot and getting hotter when the Notebook is released
Hot and getting hotter.  Their US launch is going to be closely followed.  Great interface !
Getting warmer.  New smartphones promise enhanced UX (user experience)
Needs a kick to increase downloads of bundles
Hot.  Getting hotter.  China alone has 338,000,000 internet users that are streaming like crazy.
Dead and nearly buried.  Becoming invisible.
Hot.  You will be seeing faster and more agile communities that gather together around an  issue or a favorite, very very fast.  In the UK Christmas charts, a rebel community movement almost got Rage Against the Machine to beat Susan Boyle to the Christmas no. 1 in the charts.  Community purpose and speed saw the web come alive for Rage Against the Machine.
Growing hotter and hotter.  Everything will be on demand – its “access” that is key.  To satisfy your demand you will have to “access” the artist, or the social group or the event, etc.
Still there and not going away.  Slower global pick up than anticipated.  Trend might be to bundle the cost of the subscription into the data charge which prevents “bill shock”.
Its a way of life and of content.  Creative mash ups enhance the content and allow it to potentially cross over the genre wall.
Definition changing.  Fast majors are excellent.  Most majors are slow – not good.
Challenging times.  Talent always needs local nurturing and feeding of their creative spirit.  Not enough time and money is given to new and developing artists.  Every artist dreams of working with a great producer and a great A&R person.
Great opportunities for young creators and publishers if they understand the content zeitgeist.

Where do you envision yourself in five years?
I will be working hard trying to uncover great new artists, great new talent, great new apps and platforms and mobile technologies  and looking for them around the globe– its what I’ve always done or tried to do.    It is a really creative and interesting time to be in a critical stage of cross platform civilization.   !  I hope to be very involved in cross-platform music and content in the developing markets and countries and see interesting cross-platform opportunities for the next generation of smartphone UX  (user experiences).  With 4,000,000,000 people with phones in 2010, we will see rends moving faster than ever before – creativity will always be the colour of the future !

Ralph, so manu thanks for this comprehensive interview ! 

4 commentaires:

Anonyme a dit…

Great piece Ralph Simon. I be really glad to meeting you at Midem.
I work on a start up that deals with fingerprinting. I shall contact you via the midem network
Simond2 at

Anonyme a dit…

I would love to have you views on the frenchs trying to block P2P with Hadopi Mr. Simon...

Roland Saisonniere a dit…

I wish I can contact you at midem. how can you be reached?

Anonyme a dit…

awsome !

Enregistrer un commentaire