Interview: Musicians For Music 2.0 Founder Charlie McEnerney – We All Make Music

Interview: Musicians For Music 2.0 Founder Charlie McEnerney

Last week, we ran a post about the Musicians for Music 2.0 Venture Fund, the brainchild of Charlie McEnerney. An amateur musician, long-time marketer in radio and entertainment, and host on Well-Rounded Radio, McEnerney not only believes that the reinvention of the music business should be headed by musicians: he believes musicians should fund it.

In about a month, McEnerney will send several dozen financially successful musicians (a list of suggested candidates is available here) a proposal asking them to help fund the technologies, websites, platforms, and outlets that will enable the next 50 years of music discovery.

I had a quick chat with McEnerney on Monday about why he’s hitting up musicians, where the money will go, and why he believes in the blogosphere, and here’s what happened:

I want to begin by asking why you decided to reach out to musicians to get the funding for this project. Isn’t this a bit like asking successful companies to put money into funding competitors?

I’ve been viewing it like angel investors. Living in Boston, and up there, and I’m sure in New York there are groups of people who are usually entrepreneurs who decide that they love helping people start companies, so they get together as groups of Angel investors. In Boston, there’s one, Common Angels, and I mean, these groups are out there.

And as this project has been evolving, I’ve been thinking a bit like that, that you would go to a handful of successful musicians and ask them to be those Angel investors for the tastemaker websites of the future. And I don’t think of it as competition as much as kind of giving back to an art form and an industry that’s clearly changed…

And that they’ve had their whole lives in as well…

Yeah. I often talk to people about it, and they say, “Well, would musicians really just give away their money?” And my response to that is well, we know that people probably come up to them left and right all the time for donations and all sorts of things, right? I’m not sure how often it’s about music. I mean it’s probably often about the environment, or political causes or whatnot, but I’m not sure how often it’s specifically about the music community and, you know, sort of helping figure out what the ecosystem looks like going forward.

I wouldn’t go after somebody who didn’t make a lot of money, I would go to the people who had really successful careers, and look at it as sort of a just move. This whole industry is in flux, but there’s a really great chance now to monetize and right some of the tastemaker culture is out there, some of which people are doing on their own as a passion, but they’re not making a living off it.

I think people are just sort of assuming, “Well, they can just do it, and it’s a passion.” But why is that acceptable? Why is that okay that a lot of people’s livelihood is relying on people just doing it because they care about the form? That wouldn’t happen in a lot of industries. If the film industry or the fashion industry or the publishing industry had that kind of struggle, I think they would try to figure out, “Well, how do you make it more sustainable and healthier?”

Will the donors get a say in where their money goes? Or once they hand it off, is it in the hands of MfM’s committee?

It’s a good question, and I think it’s going to depend upon the level of desire to be involved. A band on my radar to ask is REM. REM has always been really good to bands coming up, and they’ve always been really supportive and have helped dozens of bands make their way up through the food chain, and I think a band like that would actually probably want to be involved, to a degree. I don’t think they’re going to want to be on the front line every day. It’s kind of what the Angel investor model is…they all are sort of aware of what’s going on, on each of the investments, but they don’t weigh in on every single thing. They might, you know, pick and choose where they focus, and I think that would be great. You know, if somebody had an iPhone app that they wanted to launch, and it was a killer idea, it would be great to have the investors being really connected to the idea and getting it out there and being part of the marketing and the PR and whatever it is. I’m sure there are people who would like to be involved in the PR, and they don’t want to have to do anything after that, you know, and that’s fine too, but it’s gonna depend upon the person.

One last thing, getting back to the issue of blogs. As you point out, there’s this assumption across the music business that the blogosphere will constantly replenish itself with new fans, but you think it could be more than that. Do you see blogs maybe replacing the role that magazines used to fill?

Obviously, these new technologies are, a lot of the time, a bit of the hybrid. I think the one I would point to is Pitchfork, and I think the reason why they’ve taken off and have so much authority already is that they’re constantly updating, they’re constantly adding to the site. It’s not about, you know, you post one thing a week. It’s about the total, the fresh updating, and I think that if somebody is that engaged and becomes that much of an authority and a tastemaker, then they’re kinda serving all those roles of what people were doing before, they’re just doing it with a different medium…

To me, you want to have something where the person has the time to focus on it and really dedicate a lot of time to it. And the idea is that all these organizations that would get funded would be cross-promoting each other, be part of an advertising network so that they don’t have to deal with every aspect of the business, so they can focus on the editorial, the same way you do with a magazine, right? I think it’s about the quantity and the quality, and everybody will find their outlet that they really respect. They don’t all have to be as big as Pitchfork, they can just have a really devoted audience.