Making Beautiful Music With Tech: An Interview With SF Music Tech Summit’s Brian Zisk

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Though a big fan and appreciator of music, when it comes to figuring out an intelligent take on music through a social media lens I’m not the best source.

Good news is that I know someone who is.

In addition to being a friend and long time colleague, Brian Zisk produces what has become the penultimate gathering for anyone and everyone looking at how technology shapes the music industry. The San Francisco Music Tech Summit brings together players from all parts of the music industry ecosystem for a single day of always informational and interesting discussion.

The following is an edited version of a very brief interview from my blog.

You are steeped in music and technology, how have you seen, specifically with regards to social media, the music industry evolve?

Traditionally, the biggest problem that the record industry has had is that they haven’t connected very well with the fans … and the connection between the artist and the fan is the main thing (for success). Social media has made that so much easier, better and more effective because there’s no bottleneck. It used to be that if you wanted to be popular (as a musician) you had to get on late night TV or you had to get on a major radio station. Now you can go out there and one by one connect directly with the folks who will support you and it is making, I think, for a healthier music ecosystem. It might be a smaller music ecosystem…

Let’s talk about that because the phenomenon you’re talking about also results in a splintering (of the music industry) which makes the act of (music) discovery more challenging for consumers. There are lots of tools that have come out. What are some you’ve seen?

That’s an interesting question because it drills into what causes people to like music and truthfully in most cases it’s not solely the notes and tone and melody, it’s the social context. It’s what your friends like. It’s what your social group likes. LaLa was doing this pretty well. Spotify is doing it well, though not in the US, companies like Rdio – they make it very easy to see what’s popular with your friends. There are plenty of automated technologies ranging from EchoNest to Pandora and all of those that will say “Oh, if you like X … you may like Y” but what’s much more powerful is if all of a sudden you find out that you trust these five friends and they’re all listening to this new band. It’s these social filters that drive people to the music that they are likely to enjoy on a social basis.

The San Francisco Music Tech Summit is now in its 6th year?

It is the 7th iteration of the show. It is the fourth year we’ve done the show. There have been years (like 2010) where we do two. The next one is December 6 and we’ve confirmed some amazing people already!

About The Author

What began for me as a career telling other people’s stories has evolved into a journey of helping others tell their stories for themselves. I'm a “classically trained” Journalist whose passion for communications began with my first job ripping wire copy in 1982 and has evolved to encompass nearly every platform and aspect of media – from reporting and editing to broadcast management, talent casting and guest booking. I've also curated content for several of the tech industry’s leading conferences. It was after finding myself engaged as an activist for LGBT equal rights that I began to explore the way in which personal stories inform and influence people’s everyday lives and I began using my tech background to teach people to make these connections of personal stories, using new technologies as the medium. Presently I run my own consulting firm in San Francisco, working with companies and individuals helping them navigate the crowded waterways of new technologies with the express purpose of leveraging these rapidly evolving platforms to tell their stories. Through workshops, seminars and strategic consulting services, I walk clients through the story-telling process and towards the kind of deep engagement that comes from truly authentic communication.

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