Music Gateway Boss Jon Skinner
We recently caught up with CEO & Founder Jon Skinner who’s website Music Gateway recently launched in July 2013. We wanted to know more about the business platform and what is provides, so we pinned Jon down to some questions.
Hi Jon, please tell us… What is Music Gateway?
Music gateway is a business to business platform, which allows anyone making music to connect and work with other professionals or aspiring professionals. But it isn’t a social network at all. We are unique in that people get connected via project postings.
For example, if a producer needs a session musician a vocalist or a songwriter, they can define this in their project through the system in the targeted way, we then notify the relevant pros with those skills and there is a pitching process. There are different project types, standard for hiring people on a fixed fee basis or collaboration for co-writing and negotiating terms like publishing and royalty splits. We also have On Spec projects ideal for remixes and getting multiple people to supply work in advance and opportunity to the project workers.
They say a picture paints a thousand words, well we have four videos on our homepage, which explain the above really well.
Tell us, what’s your background & what make you come up with the concept?
I’ve been in the industry 26 years, starting out as a DJ in the late 80s when the US House scene really kicked off. This progressed into owning a record shop in 1991 and then producing records in’93 onwards. I released over 60 singles and a couple of albums, with a couple of cross over records, which I signed to Universal & Sony.
The last production I did was in 2005 for an artist Dina Vass, we worked together on an independent album. An opportunity rose to start a new venture in photography, which was for the nightclub leisure industry. This company grew into a nationwide supplier with over 350 photographers and 140 venues and this is where I cut my teeth in bespoke software and IT, as we developed our own systems to manage the workers.
As far as Music Gateway goes, I came up with the concept 4 years ago. It came to me one day over Xmas and within to days I wrote a 26 page document outlining the whole business model and plan. Having had that whole independent journey in the industry glad me the backbone of issues & problems people face in developing their career and issuing in getting to work with the right people.
These experiences gave me the ideal platform to develop a system to address these problems.
How did you get Music Gateway off the ground?
Having wrote the business plan, I actually parked the idea for about a year and a half, not because I didn’t want to do it, just having other priorities with the photography business & dealing with a lack of resource & investment I just couldn’t move at that time.
In January 2011 I drew a line in the sand , updated the business plan and started looking for angel investment. I was determined to get the project off the ground, so started the core development and investing myself in the business. Having unsuccessfully attended several angel investment presentations, I decided to continue with my personal investment, which was stretching into over three figures. I now do have a small private investor on board, but came about purely by chance.
The key with my business was to hit the ground running so I set about increasing my contacts in the industry through LinkedIn and other sources.
Content is also key, so I did some high level video interviews for my blog, which was great for traffic and helping spread the word. The other core promotion was some grass roots competitions which we held through the website in conjunction with several industry partners like 7digital, Notting Hill Music, Music Week, Steinberg etc, these all took me a good 4 months to plan and get on board.
What’s the main benefits to students starting their career in the industry?
It’s all about having control over who and what you work on, Music Gateway is very focused on all things business and creating music with a purpose to commercially release that music. Apart from being free to register and pitch for project work, there isn’t any cost until you receive some work or a benefit from a connection through the platform.
Collaboration is key, most people coming into the industry have little to no budgets for music development, so reaching out to collaborate with people is fundamental in learning new skills and refining what you have already learnt. Being just talented isn’t good enough these days, you have to be clued up on the business aspects of the industry, you are a small business as a musician whether you like it or not.
The other key element is opportunity, we generate these opportunities through the platform on a global scale, it’s all about being global these days.
You mention the Music Business, how do you feel it’s changed over the years?
There is no question the internet has changed the game completely. Some aspects are good, some are bad, overall I think it’s a good thing, as the relationship between artist & fan is not a direct link, not barred by distributors or record labels or the major labels which had a tight hold over the industry for some many years.
It’s all about being DIY (do it yourself) as there is a lack of funding and investment form the labels, don’t get me wrong, labels still play a big part in the industry, it’s just you can do so much more my yourself now. There’s also no excuses not to know everything about the business of music, it’s all online. When I started out, we didn’t have mobiles, let alone a resource as powerful as the internet. There’s way so many people made fundamental mistakes in their early careers, people with the knowledge took advantage of the artists, and only the smart ones looking after their affairs through good lawyers.
Streaming music is a hot topic and there’s a split in the camp, it’s going to be a balance between access and exposure to the public vs revenue and the return back to the artist for their publishing and master rights, maybe this topic can be discussed another time:
In summary, I believe that people these days who are serious about a career in the industry need to first treat it as a business with their eyes wide open, it’s very competitive and tough to succeed, those who do can earn great returns, but you have to not be shit for starters and then I say shit I mean not just playing or performing, I mean, having a good attitude, website, marketing plan, goals, self determination and the ability to stand up tall when your kicked in the teeth.
If you could give use a couple of top tips for the industry, what would they be?
Be unique! Define what it is you want to achieve in the industry, what are you goals? Without knowing this, you won’t get anywhere.
Keep control over your master rights and register with PPL if in the UK and PRS / ASCAP etc as without this you won’t receive royalties for any public performance or when your records are released through the various sources.
If you get offered a deal to be managed, signed or published, get a good solicitor and whilst they can be expensive, I believe they are worth every penny.
Write a hit record! Sounds easy, but if you want to fast track your career, this is the way to do it. If you want advice on how to do that, well, that’s another story.
Thanks for the interview Jon and we wish you the best of luck with the website