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Meet the Narwhals! Ben Bowler (Aux) & Diana Gremore (RealCount)

Have we got a treat for you! We ran the Swimming with Narwhals Music Tech startup competition at the Music Tectonics conference back in October, and today, we have interviews with our two winners.

You will hear from judges' choice winner Ben Bowler about Aux, the music making platform, and especially their new offering, Aux Sounds, which lets you control AI to make beats and backing tracks. And you'll hear our interview with audience choice award winner Diana Gremore of RealCount, the platform that lets artists, managers, agents and more find out how ticket sales are actually doing, with time enough to make strategic decisions for your tours. Two very different companies that exemplify the incredible creativity and problem solving this year's Narwhal pitch competition contestants are addressing in the Music Tectonics community and music industry.

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Episode Transcript

Machine transcribed

0:00:10 - Dmitri

Welcome back to Music Tech Tonics, where we go beneath the surface of music and tech. I'm your host, Dmitri Vietze. I'm also the founder and CEO of Rock Paper Scissors, the music innovation PR firm. Hey, have I got a treat for you? We ran the Swimming with Narwhals Music Tech startup competition at the Music Tech Tonics conference back in October, and today I have interviews with our two winners. This is no Shark Tank. This is a startup friendly community and we're not only here looking for unicorns. Are they even real? Today you will hear from our judges choice winner Ben Bowler of AUX. That's AUX, the music making platform, and especially their new offering, aux Sounds, which lets you control AI to make beats and backing tracks, and you'll hear my interview with our audience. Choice award winner, Diana Gremore of Real Count, the platform that lets artists, managers, agents and more find out how ticket sales are actually doing, with time enough to make strategic decisions for your tours. Two very different companies that exemplify the incredible creativity and problem solving this year's Narwhal Contests are addressing in the Music Tech Tonics community and music industry. Let's get out to our three other finalists. Get Moments Covers, ai by Make and Offstage for making it a tough competition. Sharks are mean. Unicorns aren't real Narwhals. Let's go to my interview with Ben Bowler of AUX now. 

Ben Bowler is a serial entrepreneur and developer in the world of Music Tech, having worked for brands like AEI, vice and Universal Music. In 2014, he launched his startup, chutv, the live streaming platform for DJs and producers, growing it to half a million streamers from around the world before the company was acquired by BandLab. His new startup, aux. Aux gives musicians all of the tools they need to build their careers in a single subscription, from remote collaboration direct to fan monetization, mastering and distribution via their Mac and PC apps. Ben has cycled around the world. He's paraglided in the mountains in Georgia and the Himalayas and is just back from cycling through the mountains in Oman. And, ben, you won the judges' choice award at the Swimming with Narwhals Music Tech startup competition at the Music Tech Tonics conference this year. Congratulations. 

0:02:31 - Ben

Thanks so much. Yeah, it's been a fantastic few months, I have to say. 

0:02:36 - Dmitri

Yeah, you are nuts and you're definitely a narwhal. If you're doing all those things on paragliding and biking in mountains and so forth all over the world, you're a narwhal for sure. So how was your experience at the competition, applying the semifinals and then the final? 

0:02:50 - Ben

Yeah, it was a fantastic experience. I applied just kind of on a chance. I've been following the conference for a little while but, being based in London, I don't usually get a chance to kind of come across the pond for any reason. So I applied because I think we've got something really exciting that shows very, very well and that was really kind of came through because, after practicing the pitch over and over again here in my studio doing the digital pitch at the pre-conference, getting amazing responses just from that in terms of really interesting characters at various levels of the industry reaching out to talk about licensing samples for the model, to getting involved to try it out, to flying over for the conference and pitching on stage, which was again pretty wild with the time zone difference. But again the response was really really good from the conference and overall the conference experience was fantastic with such kind of thoughtful characters. Everyone I sat down with had an amazing conversation with and lots came off the back of it, regardless of the Nile Walls award as well. 

0:03:50 - Dmitri

Yeah, nice, awesome. And how's the response been since you won for yourself personally and from others? 

0:03:57 - Ben

Yeah, it just doubled down. Really, we got good response, kind of from the product side in terms of artists kind of reaching out to try the product, but also from the business side. Like I mentioned, we got some initial people reaching out from the pre-conference even to talk about licensing their samples for us to use to train the model, as well as partnerships from the other products that we provide the distribution part of the platform, the collaboration part of the platform, the mastering part of the platform. So, yeah, lots of useful business connections as well as a lot of artists, musicians, producers who wanted to really get their hands on what we're building. 

0:04:32 - Dmitri

So I gave a bit of an overview of OX in the intro, but which aspects of that description get people the most excited? What are people really using right now, and how are you different from others in the space as a result? 

0:04:44 - Ben

Yeah, that's a good question. So we started about 18 months ago we launched the first kind of Aux beta version and the problem we started solving is remote music collaboration. So coming out of the COVID era, I suppose collaboration was a little bit different. People weren't getting together in studios as much as they were before and equally that opened up a lot of opportunities to work with artists, maybe on a different content, at another level than was maybe thought about before. So when we first launched the platform we figured we would create a way for artists to work in the DAW that they love already like FL Studio, ableton, logic, the list goes on but to back up those project files onto the cloud and then share those, upload their stems and be able to chat in real time and track and share versions between collaborators. So that was our entry to the market and we built the base of the platform with a lot of engaged artists trying and using that over the first year. But that was always a entry to this space. 

The branding Aux is fairly general. It's the idea that you can, it's the plug-in to your music-making system, it's that extra digital selection that makes your music-making process easier. So off the back of that the first product we started working on was actually mastering AI-based mastering which we're testing right now to release in the next couple of months, actually before we even get to the Aux sounds product that we mentioned and that we were pitching at the conference and demoing at the conference. So really, the collaboration side and the mastering side and the distribution side are the elements of the app that artists are using the most today. 

0:06:15 - Dmitri

And when you say distribution, you mean distribution out to the streaming services. 

0:06:18 - Ben

Yeah, we have distribution out to like 100, I think it's like 200 DSPs. So when you're making your music and collaborating on it in the Aux collaboration side of the app, when you're finished your track's already uploaded so you can just click the button, fill out the metadata and push that out to all the streaming services right from that. 

0:06:37 - Dmitri

So explain the Aux sounds. So this is the emerging piece, the emerging piece and the piece that you pitched at Tectonics. 

0:06:43 - Ben

Yeah, so alongside being an entrepreneur, I'm also originally a drummer and a DJ. I still do a dabble and I'm also an AI developer. So I've been studying for four years now computer science with artificial intelligence with Goldsmiths here in London, and so I've been interested in the technology. Before the current kind of buzz and again, you know, with the longer term vision for Aux, I was always looking for the most relevant ways that we can use this technology to help creators, because that's what I'm in it for. I'm not in it for replacing creators by creating AI that generates full songs. I'm really into like, how can we use this technology as creators, as musicians, as producers, as DJs, to make new and interesting and exciting stuff? And so, as I've been looking at how the technology is developing and it's really developing rapidly, just in the last year, the thing, one of the things that excited me most was generative AI, things like dance diffusion from harmon AI and then music, gen music, lm from from Google and Facebook and what really jumped out there for me is how quickly the technology is getting and developing really high quality sounds. And so for me, having played around with tools in the market like Splice, like Lume masters, I thought, hey, this technology is going to be really, really useful at creating high quality sounds like that that you can use in the base of your track, but they're not ones that anyone's ever heard before, which is kind of a limitation you get into with these other other sample services. You download a pack, but the you know they've got millions of packs together, but really the packs that you want are the ones that everyone else has used. So you end up with that situation where you create a track that you think sounds awesome, but then when you put it up you say, oh, I think I've heard that before and you know that sample's been used on 10 different tracks that have already been uploaded to, to sound card or whatever. 

So the, the the promise for this technology for me when I first looked at it was we can create sounds that you're doing your head. We can create those sounds you want for your music production, but they are unique to you and they you know they're. They're creator focused and you can use them to make your own music, not to replace you. So we started working on Orc sounds about six months ago and it developed a lot quicker than we expected. So we're currently in closed beta. So you have to kind of contact me and ask for an invite after this. But we've got thousands of artists kind of testing out the current version of model and doing some really interesting things with it. Already we're looking to launch properly around spring, maybe summertime next year, with the full kind of commercial version. There's a few kind of things in the back end that we're doing to license all the training data set that we need before we can put it out there to the to the world. But right now we're already seeing some great kind of results from artists trying it out. 

0:09:19 - Dmitri

So Ox Sounds is in beta, or beta as you say. How's traction for Ox overall? 

0:09:26 - Ben

Yeah, it's really good. Like I said, we launched 18 months ago with the collaboration products, so since then we've had 58,000 artists sign up and they're using the platform from kind of everywhere in the world. The US and the UK are kind of the biggest music markets that we've seen, but we have thousands of tracks uploaded every single day or synced through the platform every single day. We also have thousands of connections made on the site through the kind of social networking features on there and again thousands of messages sent a month between our collaboration users on the platform too. 

0:09:57 - Dmitri

Got it, got it, and so we'll wait and see what happens when you launch Ox Sounds and come out of beta there and start to see what the traction is there. But I definitely see what you're saying, that there is that issue. So on hand you have this kind of history in the electronic and hip hop genres where you might have familiar sounds because they're samples. But if you're not sampling a commercial track that already has its own sort of brand as a track or segment of a track or whatever, and then you find out you've kind of pulled something from a library and all of a sudden 20 other tracks are getting traction Using the same beats, you're sort of like, oh wait, I didn't mean to sound like so-and-so or whatever. 

0:10:39 - Ben

Yeah, it'll be brilliant. It's interesting speaking to artists because you know we've got those 58,000 artists that are using the existing platform, so that actually makes it a lot easier to develop a product like this, because I can go out and speak to a huge list of people and I thank all the artists that we've worked with so far, kind of on a weekly basis, to develop this. But I didn't even think about some of the things that have come up from those conversations, like artists that I've spoken to quite regularly that use samples from these bigger providers or these existing providers. Do you get copyright claims, like content ID claims when they release their tracks on YouTube or sometimes the streaming services as well, because you know, those content ID systems use just detect well, actually are good enough to detect that this sample is shared between the two, but they're not set up to just kind of distinguish between, you know, using that portion of a track or sampling it in your track versus a royalty-free sample that's been shared between the two. So, yeah, the idea of AUX is really to you can still kind of get that sound that you want, but it's never been heard before. 

But interestingly, also one of the other aspects that surprised me is that, especially in these early versions, the sort of alpha version, before we got to where we are, we hadn't, you know, got a complete training set of different genres that worked and covered maybe what people were searching for. 

So it meant that the model would give sometimes give quite random, like weird sounds to it and for me, with my developer hat on, my AI hat on, I was thinking, oh no, this is like a bug, we need to kind of figure out how to get this full coverage. But playing around with artists with this tool, they kind of quite like that. They got these quite weird round of sounds and thought, hey, that's something, that's a cool sound. I've never heard that before. Like I'm going to drag that out into my door and play around with it and create something new. So, interestingly for me, I suppose what would be called hallucinations in something like GIGPT are actually quite useful in a creative tool like this. It's like actually that randomness, that weirdness, that melding of what makes the different genres that go into training like this are actually what creates the kind of it almost makes the model creative in its own right and the output that it gives you to build the tracks that you build with it. 

0:12:42 - Dmitri

Got to have a little bit of randomness in there to spice things up Absolutely and make it sound different. I mean, you know, I've always said it with genres like, some people are like, oh, I like all music and you're like, ah, you don't really like all my. And then there's other people who are like I hate all country music or I hate all rap, and you're like well, you know, there's, there's certain things that make a genre a genre and and you have to know what they are to appreciate the genre. But then there's certain things that make the individual artist unique within that genre. So first they they, they learn the rules of the genre and then they have to say, well, where can I break those rules? And you're saying this model could potentially break the rules on all the right moments in time. You know, if an artist is kind of controlling and curating and selecting which pieces, which is super cool, yeah, yeah, and that's the aspect to it that's important, I think, is that it is creative control. 

0:13:31 - Ben

So I think, as much as you know, there is an AI element to the creativity there. It is the creator, the artist that's, you know, prompt engineering it. That that has the input there, and the other aspects we have is the kind of humming and tapping conditioning as well. So the kind of the most common use case we've seen is you type in a to a high hat loop or something and it gives you a version of that that you can refresh forever, but also the way the model is structured. You can also hum an idea. 

If you have a melodic idea or like for me, I'm a as a drummer, I I'm always beatboxing and tapping everything in around my house pots and pans and whatever. So if I have an idea like that, I can actually go ahead and do that, record it on my iPhone, chuck it into the app and say, okay, I want this, this beatbox pattern or this like pots and pans pattern In the style of a a to a, like I said before, or maybe like a rock kit on a stadium stage or a type jazz like funk kit, and it like creates that, it recreates that structure, but in the sound of the prompt that you've given it, which is again super powerful. 

0:14:33 - Dmitri

Amazing. There's no wonder that the judges gave you this the swimming with narwhals judges choice award this time. Hey, but I want to get a little broader with you before we let you go. Even before this explosion of AI music tools, everyone at music tectonics has been tracking the explosion of music creation and the tools that help that happen pre AI. What the hell is going on? Why is there such an explosion of music creation right now, and how do you see ox fitting into this? 

0:14:59 - Ben

Yeah, for me. I see it as a music is so kind of fundamental. I think you almost get forced out of music creator creation as you grow older. Almost a lot of people I think most young people are super kind of creative and making noise, making beats, making music, and so I think there's something fundamental there to kind of all human beings in in wanting to create music and being able to create music and making connections to creating music. So I think what I've seen not just me, but what a lot of people have seen in the music space is that as technology allows everyone, through democratization, through affordable, incredible music hardware or even you know that that hardware expensive, super expensive hardware becoming like a software package for a small subscription and then tools helping people create music who don't necessarily have formal training. 

I think you're seeing people that maybe were pushed out making music when they grew up quote unquote are now actually able to kind of make music and I think what's interesting there is actually kind of figuring out what form that takes. There was a few conversations during the conference about kind of these apps now that may let out kind of amateur people create music super easy using AI, using all these tools, and then release it to streaming services. So you're kind of getting like music creation on this massive scale and that maybe affects how the traditional music industry, where it was a much smaller kind of red rope community of artists signed to labels, maybe how it affects how they make money and things like that. But for me I see it as a positive thing. I see it as a way of kind of giving technology is giving all of us a chance to make music and be creative and communicate through music, like we we wanted to and like we did when we were younger, to a much higher and, you know, much higher production level than we were able to before. 

0:16:46 - Dmitri

So what do you say to the traditional recording industry, artists that have, like, worked on their craft for a decade or more and they've gotten really good at curating their equipment and fine tuning their equipment and then also the mastery of their musicianship and so forth, who are sort of like wait now, everything I've worked for is this a robot's going to take over? How do you help them see it differently? 

0:17:13 - Ben

For me, I think that I see a lot of that kind of worry about you know, ai is going to make music and become, you know, and that's going to replace, like, artists, but for me that kind of underestimates what an artist is. 

I think there's a lot more than just if an artist was just someone that made like incredibly well produced music, I think the industry wouldn't kind of be structured how it is, like an artist is trying to say something with what they're creating, right, and without that reason, to kind of say something with your creativity. You know, a machine can maybe make the exact same sounds that you've made, the exact same quality, the exact same noise, floor, that kind of stuff. A machine is not going to say something by itself. So for me, I think that these technologies are just ways to boost anyone that wants to be creative. Yes, it will continue to democratize music creation for maybe the masses, for a larger audience, but for those that are dedicated their life to this incredible industry of professional music production, again, I think these tools can just help expand what you're already doing and what you're already trying to kind of say with your productions and your music. 

0:18:31 - Dmitri

Well, I put you on the spot there. 

But I really think you hit it really clearly that there's this separation between the mastery of the technical production and the creative expression, and that what I'm hearing you say is that that creative expression component has not been fully unlocked for a larger group of people. There were so many barriers to entry, whether it's buying equipment, getting trained on musical theory or just finding your own voice and perfecting your own voice, mastering your own, whether it's your singing voice or your otherwise musical voice or your lyrical, you know, all those things take time. But what I really hear you saying is people have ideas. They just don't have necessarily all the tools to put them into place. So it's really helping people manifest the creative side of the ideas without some of those other barriers, which I think is a great way to think about, and I think you know that means A there's people who've never been musical in a public sort of way before can finally express themselves. But then also the musicians that do have all that mastery, they're probably going to use it at a whole other level as well. 

0:19:37 - Ben

Yeah, absolutely, and I think that's the same specifically for the OrcSounds product that we have. I feel like you, I think it does open up the ability for, you know, amateurs, people that aren't professional musicians to piece together a track from just the ideas they have in their head. And I think we're working, we're going to work over time on the interface to OrcSounds so that you can maybe have like a miniature door experience where, instead of actually having to find the music externally and drag it into a door, you can, you know you have a. Instead, the way you make music is you type kind of what the sounds you want to make and it fits together as you build. But for those that are more professional or that are professional musicians, that is their career I still think the tool is super valuable for creating those like the sounds, unique, new and unique sounds that you've never heard before. 

In the productions you're trying to make and we're also looking again through the way the technology works we have the ability to actually fine tune the model based on your own sound. So if you are a professional music producer and you've built over your entire career your sound that is exclusively yours and you're recognized for, you can actually build on top of the model and in my mind that's kind of almost your property the fine tune layer on top of our model, which is custom to you, and then the OrcSounds model can create more sounds in the vein of the music that you already create. So I think there's so many levels to what we're doing here and what music AI is doing, you know, to the industry as a whole. 

0:21:01 - Dmitri

Amazing. So just in 20 minutes I feel like we've really dive deep into where things are in this emerging space of music creativity. It's so great to have you before. I let you grab a couple quick questions for you One we like to expand the network on tech tonics. What are some specific music tech companies or people that you'd like to shout out and make our audience aware of? 

0:21:21 - Ben

Yeah. So for me, I've obviously been looking around at who's doing really interesting stuff in the music AI space. So in terms of the sort of groups and companies to look out for, I think there's three that come to mind. One is a kind of AI collective AI group called Harman AI. Their most well known music AI product is called Dance Diffusion, which is it doesn't create maybe quite as high quality samples as what we're able to create now, but is very accessible. You can dive in there and you can play around with it, and they're working on some really interesting stuff Similar to that. 

There's a company called, or an organization called, refusion R-I-F-F-U-S-I-O-N, which again is just like a really interesting way to get playful song ideas from AI and as well as creating music ideas musical ideas you can also help. It'll also help you create lyrical ideas and then it'll use, like lyric AI to generate the basically a first song, you know, a melody, some rhythm and whatever vocals you put in over the top, which I think is a really playful way, or the way they've designed it is a very playful way to make kind of song ideas. You might not take them in that form into your door, but I think it's a really interesting way to kind of play around with what they're doing. Finally, on a bit of a side, kind of a side step, I really appreciate this company called VoiceSwap. It's a very simple name voice-swapai and actually what I appreciate them for is actually less of what they're doing, which is very clever. You can sing and then transpose your voice into one of their several artists that they're working with. 

And especially, I think what they're innovating in the space above a lot of companies is actually the licensing model. So it's run by oh, I think it was launched by DJ Fresh and a team around DJ Fresh, but they went out explicitly and worked with the artists that you can voice-swap into to build a revenue share model. So for every song you release that uses those vocals, a proportion of that commission is properly licensed back to the singers that you're using the voice of. So I think companies that are actually innovating on the licensing side and helping the creators that are being used for training or preparation of these models are compensated for their involvement in the model. It's not just the model and the model creator making money from that. Creativity, I think, is super important. So that's why I would check out what they're doing as well, as well as the creative side. Nice. 

0:23:49 - Dmitri

Nice. Great shout out to appreciate that and for Final Worlds. What are you looking for right now? How can our audience help aux get close to your vision and be successful? 

0:23:58 - Ben

So, as I mentioned, we're in kind of beta testing right now. So the best way to do that is to or to get involved with that is to go to auxapp, download the app for Mac or PC or login on web, whatever you want to do, whatever platform you're on right now, and there's a button there in the aux sounds tab where you can join the waiting list. If you want early access to that, you can message me, dm me somewhere, instagram X, anywhere, at I'm, at Ben bowler, on all those platforms, or at orc dot app and, like I say, we'll be launching in spring, summer next year. But if you, if you give me a message, I can get your, your listeners in early to to test it. And that's super valuable for us right now is getting feedback on on the direction to take, how the model works, but also how you want to use it in your productions as well. 

0:24:43 - Dmitri

Amazing Ben Bowler with AUX. Congrats on being the judges choice award at the Swimming with Narwhals music tech startup competition at the music tectonics conference and thank you so much for being part of the community. You make us better. You brought us some great ideas on today's conversation as well as at the conference, and I'm excited to continue seeing what you do. Thanks so much, ben. 

0:25:01 - Ben

Amazing Cheers, dimitri. It's been fantastic to be a part of it, looking forward to next year already, woohoo. 

0:25:07 - Tristra

Oh, my god, this is Tristra from Rock Paper Scissors and I have been wanting to let everybody know this fun little secret. We have the date set for the 2024 music tectonics conference. That's right. We're all gonna get together, all of us music tech nerds and innovators and crazy fun music, cool people will all get together October 22nd through the 24th of 2024. We're heading back to Santa Monica, California, to the beautiful beachside places we loved in 2023. That's right, including the Santa Monica Pier carousel and the Annenberg beach house. 

Now, please, people, think ahead, think, think ahead. Come and join us in the pool. It's a beautiful, warm pool after the conference. Dive right in. Okay, enough for that. Alright, so if you want to know more details, the programming, all of the cool stuff we have planned, just stay tuned to this podcast and to the music tectonics newsletter and you'll find out all the cool little surprises we have planned for 2024. We can't wait to tell you. However, if you're not getting our newsletter, it's okay. Just go right now to music tectonicscom and sign up. Alright, enough from me. Enough of this, get back to your regularly scheduled podcast. 

0:26:23 - Dmitri

Now let's jump into my interview with Diana Gremor of RealCount. Next up is the winner of our audience choice award at the Swimming with Narwhals Music Tech startup competition. Diana Grimor has a decade of experience across a promoter and agency background and, after working in booking for many years, switched to leading data and analytics efforts at Paradigm Talent Agency and then Wasserman Music. She recently served as events director of the music tech community Water and Music and with them, created the Wavelengths Summit and WNM Academy. She has taught data and analytics in the music business at Berkeley College of Music and as regular guest lecturer at universities like NYU. She currently serves on the board for the New York chapter of women in music and, prior to the pandemic, co-founded a local nonprofit concert series in Brooklyn focused on breaking emerging acts and fundraising for youth arts. 

Diana is the founder of RealCount, our winner of the audience choice award. They are an analytics platform for the most important data in live tickets sold In translation. She and RealCount are committed to modernizing ticket counts and treating them as the valuable data they are. Alright, this is great, diana. I'm so excited to have you on the podcast. You won the audience choice award at the Swimming with Narwhals Music Tech startup competition at the Music Tech Tonics conference this year. Congratulations. 

0:27:48 - Diana

Thank you so much. Yeah, it was a big surprise and we were very excited about it and very happy to be here. 

0:27:57 - Dmitri

Yeah, that was. It was super great. So happy to have your, your pitch there throughout the semifinal, the final, and you know we should shout out your co founder, jc. Is it Liang Liang? Yes, as well, because he was there with you and I'm sure he's there with you all along the way. How was your experience at the Swimming with Narwhals competition Applying, the semifinals, the final, how to go for you? 

0:28:19 - Diana

Yeah, well, it was a great experience. So I first attended Music Tech Tonics last year, 2022, and I went to a lot of the startup programming, including the. The workshop over at was a inner scope or universal last year Definitely learned a lot, got to meet a lot of other startups, so it was. It was really cool to see the process and the pitch competition as well. Last year and then this year, of course, with the progression of real count, we were really excited to apply and participate. I don't even think we got through to the semifinals on the first round, but eventually we ended up there and it was. 

It was really great doing the virtual pitch, we got a lot of great feedback. It was so nice that people from around the world could attend that. And then, of course, at the actual competition at the actual event. I am a bit of a nervous public speaker, so to find that I was able to, you know, win over the audience and an audience pitch for something as a, as a, something like ticket counts which we'll get into a little bit later is it's just a really fun, exciting thing for for both myself personally and then also, of course, for real count as a you did not seem nervous, you did. 

0:29:48 - Dmitri

You did great, great pitch and yeah, I love that we have this audience choice award because it is a good barometer for what people are excited about and interested in a broader scale. Obviously we have our investor panels and and obviously, getting through the semifinal, you were also real count was reviewed by investors too. In fact, tracey Maddox was one of the judges and he specifically mentioned how impressed he was that you were doing an initial angel raise or something like that during the semi final and six weeks later you had already achieved it yeah, that was. 

0:30:22 - Diana

That was a really lovely surprise, not without a lot of hard ground work being laid over the past year or so. So to get from one point to another in such a short period of time, for being at the semifinals to raising, to being able to share that we had just closed was a big thrill and have you not done a lot of pitches? 

0:30:46 - Dmitri

you said you're a nervous pitcher, but you were so good you know, I've done a lot of public speak. 

0:30:51 - Diana

I've done my fair share of public speaking, and every time I still get like the same butterflies, even more if I'm gonna be judged so. But practice makes perfect, and so I'll keep practicing, probably until the day I die fully. 

0:31:08 - Dmitri

We all will. So what's what's been the response to winning for yourself? What have you heard from others? How's that been? 

0:31:15 - Diana

yeah, well, when it happened, definitely a big surprise, but got so much support and positive feedback from the fellow startups, the, the community at the event, a lot of wonderful small conversations that came out of that, so so the response has been really positive for me personally. It kind of helped me gain a little confidence. I have a bucket list item where I need to do like a five minute stand-up routine and I was like, all right, 2024, it's gonna be the year like I think I can manage it now. So so, both on a professional and personal level, I'd say the response has been really good maybe we need to do music tectonic stand-up routines next year. 

That'd be cool you know, I will say I have a friend, peter Evans, in San Francisco, who hosted I'm not sure if he's still currently doing this, but along with a group a startup pitch competition roast where they invite investors who are, you know, funny or comedians, to come in and roast people, startups, startup pitches, and it's was a huge success your startup is so sturdy up, be that. 

0:32:33 - Dmitri

I mean, that's like the opposite of narwhals. Anyway, if anyone's been asleep, let's get the overview on real-count. 

0:32:40 - Diana

Yeah, yeah, so real account. We are a B2B data analytics platform for the most important data in live entertainment, which is tickets sold. So basically we focus on automation and aggregation, collecting sales figures from wherever tickets are sold. So our current customers and users are primarily artists and their representation, their teams so primarily talent agencies, as well as artists who are booking themselves independently or with their managers. 

0:33:15 - Dmitri

And why? Why do they use real account? What's the need here? 

0:33:18 - Diana

Yeah, absolutely. So this gets into a little bit of the background of why we built real account, but I've been working in live music or live music adjacent for over a decade at this point. Started out on the promoter side when I was in college and a big portion of my internship was sending ticket counts. So if you don't know what a ticket count is, it's basically the way that sales figures are communicated between talent buyers and the artists and their representation, the talent sellers. So somebody working with an artist will reach out to the promoter or venue and say how many tickets are sold and they'll just collect that figure any from the on sale until after the performance is done. So that means on the promoter side a few days a week. 

My task was to send an email in response to an agent team member saying, hey, how many tickets are sold. And then I moved over to the talent agency side, working with AM only initially and a lot of DJs on that roster at the time, and a huge portion of my job very early on was reaching out to those promoters and venues saying, hey, how many tickets are sold, and doing that anywhere from one to three times a week and it's just this very annoying task, that pretty much everybody, like the majority of folks working in the live music industry, have done this at one point or another, whether it's an internship, assistant coordinator or for their own roster. It's this big industry chore that a lot of people have forgotten about or they just weren't aware it existed if they weren't deeply entrenched in that area of the industry. 

0:35:12 - Dmitri

Ruling and really tedious. 

0:35:15 - Diana


But it's a really important figure to know because, hey, if you're an artist, you're going out on a 30-date tour, your name and likeness is attached to the selling of those tickets more often than not and you want those rooms to be full just as much as those talent buyers and venues do. 

So it's a really important thing for teams to know so that they can adjust marketing, they can make booking adjustments if necessary. So it's just really the impetus of real count is to save teams time. Everybody working in live music has so much to do and this is just a huge admin task that is so key. So we really are coming in hoping to save teams a lot of times and that's just like our initial offering. But we really feel like there's so much valuable data hiding in the way that tickets are moving in the market that gets stripped away. It's such a rich and robust data but the fact is, because it's such a manual effort to collect and historically has been up until today that a lot of the data that's hidden in there is just like completely missing because it's just going into an Excel or a Google sheet. 

0:36:36 - Dmitri

Right, yeah, so you have this manual process of people calling each other to find out what the ticket accounts are you have to trust that they're right and then anything lost in translation you lose a little bit of data there and then the ability to sort of integrate what you learn from market to market or from tour to tour. Probably you lose insights there, but I mean it's a basic business function to be able to know, like, where do you stand, and so each concert is almost like its own little business. In a sense, it's like you can't run a budget or a profit and loss without knowing how many tickets are sold for an individual event. Or, like you said, no wind to pull different levels for levers, for marketing or maybe even cutting a tour day. You know you might be taking a huge loss or something that I mean. I'm sure there's a lot of people in the live industry that don't want to talk about that, but sometimes it's makes you know you actually save money by doing that. 

0:37:28 - Diana

Yeah, absolutely. I think something we see a lot is the concept of a one plus one, where you go on sale with one date but you have another date, perhaps the day after, on hold and then everybody on on the on sales closely monitoring demands and sales and seeing if they want to go up with that second day or if they're going to just hold off and sell out that first date. 

0:37:55 - Dmitri

Right, that's, that's probably an important decision. Well, cool, okay, so we got real count a little bit. Basically, I mean, the live industry and ticketing situation kind of seems to be in a bit of turmoil and we haven't even talked about this. You're just talking about like a kind of like a decades long challenge of just touring, but revenue and sales seem to be great and performance and touring has long been a significant source of income for artists at a certain level. Obviously, the pandemic was a whole different thing, but we don't have to go there. But between, even now, ticket scalpers, ticketing fees, it feels like something's wrong and I'm curious, just briefly, what is wrong and how can it be fixed to benefit artists and fans and the industry. 

0:38:37 - Diana

Let me solve the ticketing problem right now. No, I couldn't. I couldn't ever just tackle that alone. And you know it's so interesting coming from the artist representation side, the agency side, and really focusing on data, this process of starting real count, I've learned so much more about ticketing than I ever, you know, really thought, and I've learned a lot of how complicated it is. So I won't aim to solve it here, but one thing I will say that I feel there's a disconnect between ticketing and the rest of the industry, including fans, but especially artists, is just the lack of data that is available to artists. 

The whole impetus of real count is just at first was to let artists know how many tickets they've sold for their performances. That figure alone is enough of an uphill battle to get if you are doing a tour outside of one major ticketing company. So for most artists playing from the small to mid even to a lot of the larger clubs out there, there are a lot of different ticketing companies that are selling tickets for a tour. So artists just knowing some simple figure as how many tickets they're selling on each platform is hard enough and what those ticket prices are going for, including fees, and that's not even like including the secondary market. Knowing what's going on on the secondary market is just like it's a big mystery to a lot of people. 

I remember attending a MIVA conference this summer National Independent Venue Association. 

For those who are unaware, and of course, like the question you just brought up, the scalper problem and just what's going on in ticketing is definitely at the front of everybody's minds. One of the panelists brought up this like very popular secondary data ticketing data website. Of course I hadn't heard of it and I would say about 98% of the room had not heard of it outside of a handful of people who are really really dialed in to what's going on. So just the fact that all of the scalpers are using these resources that are so, so in depth, just like really tracking the secondary market and what's going on, and the fact that so many people in that room weren't aware there's definitely a disconnect just between the level of data that's available from ticketing companies and the secondary market to what's actually getting into the hands of the venue owners, the talent buyers, the artists themselves. So what we're excited about at Real Count is at least helping close that gap a little bit and making it easier for people to track where those tickets are actually being sold. 

0:41:45 - Dmitri

Right. Some transparency around that, some insights around that will be sure to make a difference. At least you know where you stand. Even if you're not sure what to do next, at least you know where you stand. So how is traction for Real Count? 

0:41:58 - Diana

It's going pretty well. We are gearing up to do one of our first marketing campaigns that I'm excited about, but so far it's really been word of mouth. What's wonderful is this right now we're focused primarily on talent agencies, which is kind of a small market at the end of the day, but a lot of the conversation so far and traction has come from word of mouth assistants and coordinators talking to each other, independent agencies talking to each other about how much time this is saving them. But we're really excited to do our first marketing campaign, again very much targeted at, just like the kind of nuisance that this is. So maybe a few folks who are in that portion of the industry will have seen it by the time this podcast episode comes out. But it's going well so far. We're excited to in 2024, start to expand our customer verticals into promoters and venues as well, which we already have so many of them interacting with the platform already. So it's going well so far. We're very excited. 

0:43:14 - Dmitri

I mean it must be interesting for you, having worked as a promoter, worked at agencies, either made those phone calls or at least collected that data and tried to gather insights, to kind of watch and then being at Water and Music where you saw a lot of startups kind of engaged in that community, to now be in the process sort of seeing it from the outside of what is this, how does a startup actually pull this off? And now you're like now you know the pace of it, now you feel where those community members were feeling some pressure around it and things like that. So I could see it being simultaneously fulfilling and also, I don't know, creating a sense of urgency and impatience, like all right, come on, let's go, but also like let's make sure everything's in place to make it work when they show up. 

0:43:58 - Diana

Yeah, yeah, exactly. It's definitely been a wild ride and we've got a long way to go, but I will tell you at the end of the day, I am just so happy to hear from our customers whether they're former colleagues or, you know, new customers that I haven't met that like our product of saving them time. They're really enjoying the user experience. At the end of the day, whatever trials and tribulations and tech bubbles that pop up and everything happen, they can all be a little bit distracting and exciting, but there's nothing like, you know, helping a customer out at the end of the day with the problem that you set out to solve. 

0:44:40 - Dmitri

Nice. Well, we like to help out our audience to the music tectonics audience, and you're now starting to be an embedded member of the music tectonics community. You've been twice now. Now you've won the audience choice award at the swimming with narwhals competition and, as you got the sense of the community at the conference the last couple of years, we love to help each other, network and meet each other. I'm curious in your work at water and music or at tectonics at the event, or just in your work with real count, what are some specific music tech companies or thought leaders that you'd like to shout out and make sure our audience is aware of? 

0:45:15 - Diana

Yeah, of course. Well, as far as music tech companies, I'm a big like live music data girl, which is what you'll count more or less is at the end of the day. But I always like to shout out chart metric and roster. I was a very early user of both of those companies over at paradigm or Wasserman and, and I think they're great and I hope you know real count gets to be as ubiquitous of a name as they are, as in this, this niche of the live music industry. But beyond that, definitely want to shout out Sherry, who founder of water and music I had the pleasure of working with her and a small wonderful team and that community. It's definitely another music tech group that has done a lot of really cool innovative research. I also want to shout out Christine Osazuwa, phenomenal human, who started measure of music, a virtual data music conference that's usually held in February. I'm actually meeting her in person for the first time this coming week, very excited about that. 

A few others are Rutger Rosenberg, also formerly at chart metric. He has a wonderful newsletter now that he started, called the forest, I believe, and bill word, he's full rate. No cap is also. Yeah, I mean, I am like love to swim in this stuff. So those are some of a few favorites that I'm talking about. Well done a plus. 

0:47:02 - Dmitri

And then those shout outs Thank you. All right, so we're going to wrap up here, but for final words, what are you looking for right now? How can our music tech topics, audience help real count, get close to your vision and be successful? 

0:47:14 - Diana

Well, you've already helped so much and but in the meantime I am we are always looking to talk to ticketing companies to partner with, as well as talent agencies and promoters as well, whether you're independent or major. So if you're just an artist or a manager that's touring, if that's a big part of your revenue, we'd love to talk to you. We can, chances are, we can help out, and and if we can't help out, we'd love to learn how we can. So I think, if any of those, but also if you just want to say hi, if you love data and live music, drop me a line, drop real count a line. Yeah, looking forward to hearing from a few folks. 

0:48:03 - Dmitri

Awesome, Diana, again congratulations. Winner of our audience choice award at the swimming with narwhals music tech startup competition at the music tech Thomas conference, and now a solid member of our community. Thanks for joining us, thanks for bringing your energy and look forward to seeing you again soon. 

0:48:20 - Diana

Thank you to me and three thanks everybody. 

0:48:23 - Dmitri

Thanks for listening to music tech tonics. If you like what you hear, please subscribe on your favorite podcast app. We have new episodes for you every week. Did you know we do free monthly online events that you are lovely podcast listeners can join? Find out more at and, while you're there, look for the latest about our annual conference and sign up for our newsletter to get updates. Everything we do explores the seismic shifts that shake up music and technology, the way the earth's tectonic plates cause quakes and make mountains. Connect with music tectonics on Twitter, instagram and LinkedIn. That's my favorite platform. Connect with me. Dmitri Vietze, if you can spell it, we'll be back again next week, if not sooner.

Music Tectonics at NAMM 2023

Let us know what you think! Tweet @MusicTectonics, find us on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram, or connect with podcast host Dmitri Vietze on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

The Music Tectonics podcast goes beneath the surface of the music industry to explore how technology is changing the way business gets done. Weekly episodes include interviews with music tech movers & shakers, deep dives into seismic shifts, and more.


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