Behind the Scenes at Umphreys Mcgee with Kevin Browning & Joel Cummins

Originally posted on by Chris Borchert. Chris combined his love of music with his background in new media to co-found Kickshuffle in the fall of 2011. He currently studies at the University of Connecticut School of Law, where he is pursuing a certificate in Intellectual Property. He regularly publishes articles relating to social media, technology and the law, and most recently was published in Bloomberg Law Reports and the New Jersey State Bar Association website and newsletter.


Kevin Browning heads up Strategy and Development for Umphrey’s McGee. Kevin has been involved in key aspects of the band’s business since the beginning and worked as the band’s front of house engineer & producer for over a dozen years. He transitioned to his current role at the beginning of 2011, where he oversees marketing and distribution, as well as other social and digital media efforts. You can follow him on Twitter – @soundcaresser

Joel Cummins is a founding member/keyboardist in Umphrey’s McGee. In addition to playing and touring extensively with UM, Joel has collaborated with such artists as Huey Lewis, Joshua Redman, Mavis Staples, Phil Lesh, Buddy Guy, Koko Taylor, Sinéad O’Connor, Bela Fleck,Victor Wooten, Warren Haynes, Bob Weir, Les Claypool, John Oates, Adrian Belew, Ray White & Lee Oskar. You can follow him on Twitter – @goldlikejoel

So you guys just wrapped up a 4 night run at the Tabernacle in Atlanta for New Year’s. How’d it go?

Kevin: Yup, our first 4 night NYE run to date. Incredible time. Great venue, awesome crowds, & inspiring energy.

And you live streamed each night on StageIt. Tell me a little bit about why you chose StageIt and what the benefits are for both the band and fans tuning in from home.

Kevin: I met Evan, their CEO, a few years back and tucked StageIt somewhere into the back of my mind. After Hurricane Sandy forced us to cancel the live cable broadcast of our All Night Wrong Halloween event on AXS.TV last year, we wanted to find a way to still share the event with our fans. So we did an impromptu stream with StageIt and donated all of the profits to hurricane relief efforts.

I thought the overall experience was a solid one for fans so when toying with streaming options for NYE, I wanted to kick the tires a bit further on their platform. They are very proactive and want to share unique musical experiences with their customers and that’s something very much in line with our thinking.

Plus, I like that fans can tip!

Do you guys do anything differently – whether in terms of setlist writing or playing – knowing a huge portion of the audience is enjoying the show remotely? For instance, do you tap resources like Twitter to get fans involved?

Joel: If I get a good request on Twitter, I might consider adding it to a set list, but for the most part I just use Twitter to take the temperature on a given song or subject rather than look for specific requests.

I would say we are always playing to whoever is *in* the room, so as far as live streaming, no, nothing is different. It’s more about giving the streamer a view into the show so that they can feel like they are there.

Kevin: We’ve webcast a bunch of past shows and festival performances, many with iClips, another quality streaming service. I’ve been spending some time as of late investigating ways to stream more and more live performances in a cost effective way, something that’s good for fans but can be executed consistently without breaking the bank, as video production can get very expensive.

Streaming the FOH static cam is an idea that has come from that line of thinking. We’re already recording it for our personal review.

Monday morning quarterbacking?

Kevin: Exactly. I can assure you we are our toughest critics. If we can share with the fans who appreciate being able to watch that perspective on a regular basis, we will. The lack of consistent internet is actually the biggest hurdle to pulling that off on a nightly basis. It’s amazing how many venues have internet that rivals my ’97 AOL dial up connection.

Whoa. Really?

Kevin: It feels thoroughly primitive to me. Quality high speed internet is essential at so many levels when putting on a real rock show.

So you were set to broadcast on AXS.TV last october?

Kevin: Correct. But the crew was unable to get into the area because of canceled flights, safety concerns with the video truck etc. That said, we are working to reschedule another event to bring live HD UM into your living room TV.

Can you talk a little bit about how you arranged the event with AXS.TV?

Kevin: Our publicist put AXS.TV on our radar in the middle of last year. I then spoke with Evan Haiman (VP of Music Programming) and we began the dialogue. He had seen an episode of Jeff Waful +1 and really liked what we were doing with those (I am an associate producer on Jefferson’s show).

I told him about our pending Halloween date, explained to him the set of fan voted covers & we both agreed it would be a great, unique event for AXS.TV to shoot. They are very interested in all things social media and our close connection to the fans was something that they liked. The more interesting pieces an artist brings to the table, the more content a station like AXS.TV has to work with.

You can expect an event in 2013 with UM and AXS.TV.

Speaking of a close connection to the fans, what ways, if any, do you solicit feedback from fans?

Joel: I joined Twitter in the beginning of 2012 and it’s been an amazing way to interact with fans. I’ve got about 4,000 followers now and have interesting conversations with them a few days a week, discussing music, where we should play, food, politics, religion, you name it. So cool to have this sort of interaction where everyone can share their opinions with each other.

We also have some VIP events where we have meet and greets before or after the shows. These have also been great opportunities to casually shoot the shit with the fans.

One other way we’ve been interacting with people is by playing sets at – one afternoon we got our room up to about 600 people hangin out listening to what we were doing.

So let me ask you this – which do you think is the better platform for live concert streaming: TV or the Internet? This could be in the context of artist exposure, revenue for band/sponsors, ease of use for fans, etc.

Kevin: They both are/can be great. There are lots of different factors at play with both. People consume in more ways than ever and various strategies are needed to cast the widest net possible. The size of your audience directly impacts your ability to make money on either platform. If you can charge on a per stream basis and do solid numbers on a regular basis, that’s probably the most direct way for an artist to net additional revenue. But if you’re a big time stadium/arena act, you’ve got more options for sponsorship and the like, across multiple platforms.

I believe exposure to new eyes and ears is possible on both platforms, but you have to set your objectives properly. If you want new people to give your band a shot, stream a show for free or find a tv station that wants content and make a deal. I’m a firm believer that you’ve got to give folks a healthy dose of low barrier content (free) to get people to check you out these days. With so many options for people to choose from, you have to give them a taste.

It’s like dealing drugs, first one’s always free. If you’re good enough, they’ll come back. Quality trumps all. (That said, there is definitely some garbage that makes more money than we do. But I sleep better at night.)

So we can expect UM and AXS.TV in 2013. Anything else coming down the pipes in the new year?

Kevin: If you know UM, you know there is always works in progress. Look for more on the video release front to be sure.

From where I’m standing, it seems like a lot of people are really loving the video releases. Now instead of “download this show” it’s “watch this show.”

Kevin: Video is inherently a little more difficult to turn around in a rapid manner but we’re trying to take video releases toward the UMLive model, i.e. quick releases following shows. Fans want video, we want to give it to them.

As platforms evolve and technology becomes more ubiquitous, you will see UM striving to stay at the forefront of what’s possible to bring the best musical experiences to our fans. It’s an exciting time to create: if you can dream it, you can build it. As my father likes to say, “the harder I work, the luckier I get.”

What is the Top Selling Christmas Song?

Originally posted on

It’s a holiday tradition that’s as important as trying to untangle strands of knotted lights, scouring the internet for the hottest tech device and kissing under the mistletoe–changing our listening habits to a steady diet of holiday ditties gives us the perfect soundtrack to the season of giving.

With the season now in full swing, Nielsen took a deeper dive into Christmas music preferences and illustrated some fun facts about festive tunes. For instance, the pop/rock genre is the most popular in the digital realm. Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” is a steady streamer, and, if you’re listening to Bobby Helm’s “Jingle Bells Rock” while waiting in an endless checkout line, you’re probably not alone. That song has also been dominating the airwaves this season.

Top Selling Christmas Song

Interview with Shazam EVP of Marketing David Jones

Originally posted on by Chris Borchert. Chris combined his love of music with his background in new media to co-found Kickshuffle in the fall of 2011. He currently studies at the University of Connecticut School of Law, where he is pursuing a certificate in Intellectual Property. He regularly publishes articles relating to social media, technology and the law, and most recently was published in Bloomberg Law Reports and the New Jersey State Bar Association website and newsletter.

David Jones ShazamDavid Jones, EVP of Marketing for Shazam, has over 20 years experience in marketing, business development, and product and business strategy. Prior to joining Shazam, David held Vice President of Global Marketing and Global Product roles at Friendster. Previously, David was also the director of eBay’s media and entertainment businesses in North America and also held several marketing and general management roles at eBay Inc, including roles focused on scaling the number of active members of the eBay community. At Shazam, he is responsible for consumer marketing, user growth and business intelligence.

Shazam has come a long way since its launch in 2002, when users received song IDs via SMS text messages. Today, Shazam “connects more than 250 million people, in more than 200 countries in 33 languages” and is one of the top 10 most downloaded apps in the iTunes App Store. In what ways has Shazam diversified its business model over the last decade and what is the strategy for the next few years ahead?

Our business model generates revenues from a number of sources:

  • We will drive more than $300 million in music sales this year via our digital storefront partners like iTunes and Amazon, so we receive affiliate revenue from this, which ads up given that we sell over 500,000 songs per day.
  • As you know, we have a freemium model, with both a free version of the Shazam App that is ad-supported, as well as our premium version, Shazam Encore. When we went unlimited tagging in our free iOS and Android apps last year, we intentionally de-emphasized this revenue stream in a strategic decision to enable people to use Shazam free and unlimited for not just music, but now TV shows and television advertising. Yet, there are still many people that want Shazam Encore either because it does not have ads, or for some of the special features, or simply because some people prefer to pay just a little for the best paid apps in the iTunes App Store or Google Play.
  • Advertising in the app to reach our massive mobile user base remains a healthy and growing revenue stream.
  • And, finally, our newest and fastest growing revenue stream. Shazam for TV Advertising is our fastest growing source of revenue for the company. To date, we have Shazam-enabled more than 200 ad campaigns in the US, Europe and Australia, and that number continues to grow. Our strategy in the years ahead is to continue to develop this offering as well as the Shazam for TV service with programming because we believe it has tremendous opportunity for growth.

More and more television shows and commercials are incorporating Shazam on-air prompts. How did Shazam first enter this market, and where does television advertising rank on Shazam’s list of priorities?

One of the things that we have noticed since the launch of our service is that people have always used Shazam to identify the music featured in ads and television shows, so, to us, it has seemed like a natural extension of the service. In 2010 and 2011, we piloted some new features for making both TV advertisements and TV shows interactive, and because those pilots went so well, we expanded our Shazam for TV offerings to now include all TV shows in the US and select television ads around the world (those ads from the brands that work with Shazam to make their TV commercials Shazam-enabled).

So, now, when people use Shazam with television, in addition to identifying the music in the broadcast, they can also get additional information about the product featured in the TV ad, and experience more for any TV program, such as cast details, gossip, tweets about the show and actors, and trivia, plus additional information. As stated earlier, this is a very important focus for the company.

As I understand it, Shazam maintains a central database of music by collecting content directly from record labels. Can unsigned artists contribute to the central database? If so, how?

Yes – in fact, we receive music this way all the time, from the artists directly or through their managers. They can email the music team at

Beyond what we receive from the major and independent labels, direct from artists and managers, and from some important music catalogs around the world, our Music Team is also constantly adding new tracks to our database that they discover before they become popular, or before radio airplay. This could be from some of the tastemaker Djs around the country and world playing new music for the first time. It could be from music supervisors for TV shows and ad campaigns, so that anything on TV is in our database. And, they scour the world’s music blogs looking for everything that might be tagged by Shazam users anywhere in the world, to make sure it’s in our database, now 25 million tracks and growing. These are just some of the techniques they use to make sure anything that could be tagged by our users will be identified for them.

How significant of a component is music discovery to the current Shazam experience?

Music discovery is what Shazam is primarily known for and it is what helps drive more than ten million tags each and every day.

We’ve added TV into the mix as a major extension or initiative for the business, but this is in addition to the core music side of our business, which we continue to invest heavily in. Shazam for TV does not represent a departure or change in our direction away from music, it’s in addition to our great music business.

The “About” section on Shazam’s website includes a list of U.S. and International patents that cover Shazam’s services and products. Can you talk a little bit about the state of IP in the social media/tech industry – and specifically the challenges involved in protecting your IP?

Shazam invented the technology over a decade ago and has been adding to its considerable patent portfolio since then. People in the industry sometimes forget that a decade ago, music identification technology like Shazam simply didn’t exist. Now it does, thanks to Avery Wang, the other co-founders, and other early inventors at Shazam. Now, there are more players in this space and audio content recognition (ACR) is better understood, but Shazam continues to innovate in this area with more patent filings and patents granted.

We don’t comment on IP generally in this space. Our patent portfolio is a developing asset of the company that we do invest time and energy in growing, but we at Shazam are primarily focused on building a global consumer brand and a wildly successful company and business.

Can you talk a little bit about (SHAZAM) RED? Where did the initiative come from and who else is involved?

Shazam works with the (RED) organization by donating a portion of the profits from our (Shazam) RED App to The Global Fund. We are proud to support this worthy organization and its goal of fighting AIDS and delivering the first AIDS-free generation by 2015. We’ve been working with the (RED) organization for several years now.

What advice do you have for today’s music/tech entrepreneurs?

Find a problem — a big problem that people are struggling with on a regular basis — and find a simple and elegant solution to it. Use technology as a means to an end, but not an end unto itself. Build a great product. Put it out there early and iterate until you get it right. And, make it easy for your fans to spread the word, ideally building viral and social components into it where it makes sense. Don’t be discouraged if the technology doesn’t exist today — chances are it can be developed with the right people involved, or it’s not that far away from becoming available.

Finally, there are many great products and services out there that people simply don’t know about. Great product is necessary, but not sufficient — discovery and user acquisition is the second act. when the time comes, be prepared to invest in marketing and user acquisition. Hopefully, you will have built a way to monetize the users of your app, which can help fund this user acquisition.

Sounds straightforward, I know. But, the art and the science is in the specific problem you are solving for, your approach, and a series of important decisions you’ll make along the way.

How Powerful is Justin Bieber’s Twitter Account?

Good publicity takes a lot of time and a lot of money… At least it is supposed to. It is supposed to require skilled publicists and promoters pounding the phones and bombarding the inboxes of every blog, radio station, magazine, newspaper and talk show to cobble together enough exposure to successfully launch a new artist’s first single, elevating them above the noise, breaking them into the competitive fold of popular culture’s elite. In most cases that’s what it takes, but in Carly Rae Jepsen’s case it took one tweet.

Justin Bieber Call Me Maybe Carly Rae Jepsen Twitter“Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepson is possibly the catchiest song I’ve ever heard lol” Justin Bieber tweeted one day before New Year’s Eve, December 30th, 2011 and soon his followers retweeted the message 15,931 times, providing the initial inertia to get Carly Rae Jepsen’s career in the United States rolling along. Then with the support of traditional media and later radio airplay “Call Me Maybe” built up enough momentum to reach the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 and took up residency there through the summer.

Like boulders, music careers all begin at rest and require a tremendous force to move. Once rolling, the force needed to accelerate the boulder is less than the force needed to move it initially. Normally, that initial force requires exposure in many media outlets and a lot of money but Bieber applied that kind of force in the time it takes to compose a 140 character message and for free.

Justin Bieber Twitter Call Me Maybe Carly Rae JepsenThe Bieb’s Twitter following soon became a news story. Articles in periodicals like The New York Times and New Yorker magazine featured quotes by top publicity gurus all confirming that the reach of Bieber’s Twitter account is remarkable. When Barry Lowenthal, who’s company Media Kitchen worked with Justin to release his perfume Girlfriend was asked about Bieber’s social media reach he replied, “Can you imagine what it would cost to reach more than 40 million people in mass media today? Ten million dollars, if that audience were reached through three commercials on the season finale of American Idol.” The 40 million number refers to Justin’s reach across multiple social media platforms but the point remains the same; Justin Bieber’s social media reach is a force to be reckoned with.

With most of us having only a few hundred Facebook friends, the power of Bieber’s Twitter account boasting 30,951,150 followers (as of 12/02/2012) is difficult to fully comprehend however, when compared to the Arbitron ratings, Nielsen ratings and subscription numbers used to analyze traditional media its power becomes clearer.

An appearance on a late night talk show is one of the most coveted opportunities for musicians. Landing one is difficult and requires the expertise and network of a highly skilled, highly paid publicist. The most popular of these shows is the Tonight Show with Jay Leno averaging approximately 3.6 million viewers each night. The second most popular is the Late Show with David Letterman averaging 3.2 million viewers per night. Jimmy Kimmel averages 1.8 million, The Daily Show averages 1.4 million and Conan O’Brien averages 1 million viewers. All of these shows air simultaneously and if an artist were to appear on all of them in the same night, the artist would reach a total audience of 11 million viewers or roughly 36% the number of people who follow Justin Bieber on Twitter.

Radio continues to be the most popular way people discover new music. “Call Me Maybe” didn’t become a number one song until terrestrial radio stations began spinning it but still, even if a song was played once on every radio station in the largest radio market in the United States (including the talk & sports stations) it would only reach an audience a fraction of Bieber’s Twitter following. That radio market, the New York metropolitan area, contains 15.8 million listens above the age of twelve. Los Angeles being the second largest contains 11 million. Radio listeners don’t surpass Bieber’s Twitter following until Chicago, the third largest, is combined with L.A. and New York for a total of 34.6 million listeners. Even Rush Limbaugh’s talk show which has a stronghold on the most listened to syndicated radio show only has a listenership of half of Bieb’s twitter following with 15 million listeners.

The picture doesn’t change much with print media in the United States. An artist would need to be in The Wall Street Journal (2.1 million subscribers), USA Today (1.8 million), The New York Times (1.6 million), Rolling Stone Magazine (1.5 million), People Magazine (3.6 million), Time Magazine (3.3 million), Cosmopolitan (3 million), Maxim (2.5 million), O, The Oprah Magazine (2.4 million), Seventeen (2 million), Us Weekly (2 million), Entertainment Weekly (1.8 million), Newsweek (1.5 million – though soon shutting down their print edition), and The New Yorker (1 million) to have a reach of over 30 million readers. The only periodical that has a circulation comparable to Bieber’s Twitter following is the AARP Magazine which boasts a circulation of 22.5 million and their core demographics are at complete opposite ends of the age spectrum. These numbers represent the physical circulation of each periodical and don’t factor in views of their websites.

Maybe the song would not have spent nine weeks at number one if it were not expertly composed, produced, performed, mixed and mastered. Maybe a twitter following is not perfectly equivalent to a magazine or newspaper review, radio spin or live performance on a late night talk show. And maybe the Bieber tweet was just one large dot in the connect the dots puzzle that became the picture of “Call Me Maybe”‘s success but never the less, Justin Bieber, who isn’t even old enough to down a Miller Lite in the United States, has the ability to reach nearly one-tenth of the country from his mobile phone while eating breakfast and it doesn’t cost him a dime. I call that – maybe – a game changer.