A New Age of Art: SF Music Tech Founder Brian Zisk

Future of Music Coalition has long advocated for policies that help artists reach potential audiences without the bottlenecks and gatekeepers so common to the original music industry.

Since the invention of the MP3, the landscape of how music and money are in these times made have been drastically altered. Record companies that were unconquerable giants faded into the past like dinosaurs. It seems like each month now there is a new digital tool that makes music creation, distribution and video more dynamic. But its also more confusing. Brain Zisk founded SF Music Tech to help tech people, artists and industry folks stay alive and in the know. I spoke to him recently, and this is what he told me.


Adisa Banjoko: What motivated you to do the SF MusicTech Summit conferences and what are objectives of the events?

Brian Zisk: There was a clear
need for this event. The music industry is changing rapidly, and the
best innovation was originating from entrepreneurs and developers from
the Bay Area, the region which leads the world in the development of new
technologies. Yet, we were all traveling to places like Austin (SXSW)
and France (MIDEM) just to have meetings with each other. When I
launched the SF MusicTech Summit, where the world could instead come to
us, it was an instant hit. The objectives of the event are to bring
together the thoughts leaders from the entire music industry ecosystem,
to exchange ideas, present new technologies, and network in a conducive
to dealmaking environment. It is truly heartwarming to hear of all the
SF MusicTech Summit attendees that found jobs, launched new businesses,
obtained funding, or formed joint ventures at our show. That’s what
we’re all about.

What can we expect at the usual SF Music Tech event?


Brian Zisk: We
have 75+ speakers, 3 sessions simultaneously all day, and an expo area.
Sessions includes new product and technology demonstrations, elevator
pitch workshops, panel discussions, and conversations with thought
leaders. And of course, a couple of parties! The music industry is
large, and encompasses everyone from venture capitalists, to major label
reps, to electronic music artists. There’s something for everyone.
Topics this time include Artist Revenue Streams, Mergers &
Acquisitions, Digital Sheet Music, Music Discovery & Recommendation
Services, Lyrics, The Future of Music Publishing, Musical Instruments,
Video, Tools for Your Band, and many more.

You’ve been able to secure some pretty high powered innovators
and thought leaders at your events. What were some of the biggest
breakthroughs at the previous panels that you recall?

are major breakthroughs at all of our Summits. Some of the biggest
that come to mind include Google doing deals for their music service at
one Summit, and then rolling it out at the next one, and Pandora
announcing new partnerships for rolling out their service in cars. It is
always awesome when featured rock star speakers talk about what they’re
working on rolling out, folks such as like Ben Folds, Stephan Jenkins
(Third Eye Blind), Del the Funky Homosapien, Jack Conte (Pomplamoose),
Michael Tilson Thomas (SF Symphony), Jerry Harrison (Talking Heads),
Narada Michael Walden (Whitney Houston/Aretha Franklin), and more.


What are your thoughts on the pros and cons of net neutrality and how that affects the future of music?

Future of Music Coalition, a non-profit I co-founded, is in favor of
net neutrality and is actively advocating for Internet freedom and
equality for all musicians. We launched “Rock The Net” Campaign, a
nationwide coalition of musicians and labels that support an
open Internet, with founding artists with founding artists R.E.M., Pearl
Jam, Kronos Quartet, Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, Boots Riley, OK Go.
Future of Music Coalition has long advocated for policies that help
artists reach potential audiences without the bottlenecks and
gatekeepers so common to the original music industry. Our support of the
open Internet reflects an ongoing commitment to a legitimate digital
music marketplace where artists have access and fans can find the music
they want. For more info visit:

What panels are you most excited about with the next SF MusicTech Summit event?


Brian Zisk: I’m
always most excited about the Elevator Pitch Session. I’m the host,
and any and all attendees are welcome to come up to the mic and present
an up to 1 minute elevator pitch about their company, project, or idea
to connect with others who may want to work with them. I get to learn
about the fascinating people and projects in our audience, and I also
get to help connect folks, which I love to do.

While there are various mainstream discussions on music and
technology, what aspects of the topic do you think people should be
trying to learn more about?

Brian Zisk: While
the music industry is long established, it is the individual
entrepreneurs and developers who are creating better and move valuable
listening experiences and who are the driving forces towards a better
musical future. While many of the rights holders have been insisting on
absolute control, this has precluded lots of opportunities. As the
rights holds move forward with loosening their control, these
entrepreneurs will be more able to move the entire music industry


Any final words?

Our next SF MusicTech Summit is May 9, 2011 at the Hotel Kabuki in see you there!

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About the author

Adisa Banjoko is a writer and speaker based out of Northern California. He has written extensively on technology and youth culture trends


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