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From the big chair: Nathan Sedlander

The StarMaker CEO on why collaborations and curations are the future of streaming, and why the pace of change wakes him in a cold sweat.
September 10, 2015

The view from the top can look mighty different depending on who you’re chatting with. But StreamDaily has you covered. We’re kicking off a new series, chatting with top digital streaming executives from around the world to get their take from the chairs where decisions are made that can make, or break, a brand.

First up, we chatted with Nathan Sedlander, president and co-founder of StarMaker, which helps wannabe musicians from around the world get discovered. StarMaker has an app that lets people video themselves singing, helps them navigate the dicey world of IP (so newbies can sing their favorite covers). The San Francisco-based digital company also curates its own content creator network, making it a UGC social platform, content creation tool and MCN. Sedlander is one busy man. Find out more about what’s keeping him awake at night, where he sees the biggest opportunities in digital streaming and what’s coming next for his company.

Where do you see the biggest opportunity in the digital streaming space right now?

As we’ve seen a huge influx of content, I think the end user is increasingly relying on tastemakers to curate content they would consume and enjoy.

Certainly we’ve seen a significant shift in how content is accessed – mostly a shift from (a) search approach to (a) social web approach, where much of the content consumed now is sourced from friends and social networks. At the same time, I think (as a result of) the increase of content being published, we’ll see a class of curators and tastemakers (who) will hold so much legitimacy that they’ll be able to monetize that curation service in a way we haven’t seen.

So what’s keeping you awake at night?

The movement of the social web, mobile and all the new platforms that are continuing to create more value in the marketplace also create challenges for content creators and publishers to figure out how to create better and better content that’s relevant for the consumer.

One of the biggest things I wake up in a cold sweat about is how fast, in terms of the type of content (and) distribution of content, it’s changing. We at StarMaker are a technology-driven media company with a real focus on music. We develop mobile apps that allow content creation and publishing. We navigate a difficult and complex state of intellectual property rights so our users can monetize their music-based video content. And if I look at what’s happening in social and how content moves around, not to mention mobile space, I think it’s all changing quite fast.

How are you trying to deal with that pace of change?

I think on the music rights’ side, it’s a complex, arcane system where we’re constantly having to work closely with the music publishers to make sure they understand where consumers are consuming content, and make sure (rights holders) understand the value of getting their content out there. So (we keep) a tight communication loop between IP owners, platforms, and distribution and publishing.

We’re really trying to stay on top of formats people want to create content in, whether it’s a 10-second hook you want to create, someone lip-syncing to a song or a full music video where we can bring in photos and video.

An important aspect of the StarMaker strategy – our vertically integrated strategy — is that we have our own platform. (We) specifically enable our talent, users and content creators from content creation and rights perspectives, to publish their content (horizontally), across as many platforms as possible so they can raise their own profile. But, at the same time, we recognize we have an opportunity to have those creators interact on a much more intimate basis and a much more specific (platform).

The vision of StarMaker is to let creators showcase their talent, but at the same time to create a hub, a place, a platform, where viewers can come and have a compelling, engaging experience that is specific to finding the next star and participating in when the star was born.

I think the next generation is really looking to grab onto content, move it around the web and be able to participate in the discovery of stars. (So we need to figure out how) we innovate, how we position our network and our content in such a way that has an engaging format to it. So (we need to make it) fun, interesting and participatory.

What do you think will have the biggest impact on your business over the next few months?

The thing that’s interesting for us is the idea of collaboration. I think what’s happening with technology these days — bringing together different creative entities with a single release output — is a pretty interesting movement.

If you look at combining a songwriter with a set of musicians fronted by a fantastic voice, combined with a video director, behind-the-scenes biographer, a great DP and you put that together with some fantastic marketers, you certainly have the ability to really key off the best of the best of all aspects of how content is created and delivered.

(There is an opportunity to create) more meeting places where that talent can come together – we’re really going to see an amazing elevation of the type of content that’s created.

For the most part, where StarMaker has been focusing is enabling singing talent to showcase their abilities. And we have focused on bringing in original writers on a case-by-case basis. But what we’re going to look to do at some point is open up the content creation platform into more of a marketplace where our users have the tools to not only create their content but also connect with disparate groups of talent to be able to come together and create something compelling. Right now, you have to start with making content creation as easy as possible. But as particular talent starts to rise, they want to collaborate with other talent and we’re going to build more and more tools across the platform to enable that to happen.

What’s the view like from the big chair? 

The pace of change in media and music today is just extraordinary…it’s fun, it’s scary and it definitely keeps you on your toes. From where I get to sit, I have a unique vantage to see the nuance of how consumers are engaging in content, how both established players and innovative pioneers are positioning for growth, and how every single person has – truly for the first time – a chance to get their talent noticed. This is an incredibly exciting time for every party involved and I wake up each morning wide-eyed and thrilled to be a part of it.

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