Interview with YouLicense CEO, Maor Ezer

by guitarkadia on December 19, 2008

in Interviews

Once upon a long ago, towards the end of 2006, Charbarred and RustyCat became two of my first friends on StumbleUpon. Maor is RustyCat. If you don’t believe friendship can grow from the Stumbles you share with each other, you are not understanding Web 2.0.

I’ve always wanted to interview the brothers, pick their brains to see how they work, work together, and are able to balance multiple ventures. The interview with Ohad (Charbarred) is coming up next week. I do have to apologize to both because I’ve been sending them questions since May, they have always been prompt in answering them, but I have been sitting on them. I’d initially intended to post them on my other blog but didn’t feel like they quite fit in that platform. When this blog launched, I knew no two people would be more perfect when it came to the web, new music, the evolving industry, and the use of social platforms to build brands.

Maor Ezer – Co-Founder and CEO of YouLicense [YouLicense] [Virv] [Linked In] [The Plugg]

G: How was your childhood? What did you grow up watching, reading, or listening?

ME: My childhood was the best. I had the privilege of spending a few years in the US, Boston to be exact. Lots of music from a very young age – I still remember quite distinctively Ohad, my brother, handing me the Beastie Boys License to Ill cassette. I guess I started with Bon Jovi and David Lee Roth and quickly moved on to heavy metal long haired bands. Didn’t do much reading, TV was always on, like today I’ll take any TV series that comes my way. I’m a HUGE TV and cinema buff, I even spent four years running a DVD store.

G: What was your first gig like?

ME: Well, seeing that I’m not a musician, I didn’t really have any gigs apart from tagging along with Ohad to most of his.

G: How would you describe your brother? How is he similar/different from you?

ME: Good question! I guess at the end of the day we were brought up on the same things and were influenced by the same icons/ideals. We’re different in each one’s unique view of the world and way of life although similar in thinking of how we debate and analyze things as they happen. We’ve got a good connection and I’m glad to be working on all these projects with him.

G: How many ventures are you currently involved in? How do you divide your time among them?

ME: At the thought of focusing and trying to manage my time better, I’ve dropped a few projects lately. My main project, some might call “my day job” is YouLicense.com which is and always has been my baby and probably the only one of the bunch where I put months if not years of thought and attention to create. Other projects I’m involved in are The Plugg which has become my favorite hobby, VIRV indie music tv which is basically realizing a vision and paying back my dues to pop culture and music as much as possible. I also had a local project in Israel www.1909.co.il which is a Tel Aviv focused (1909 is the year Tel Aviv was founded) culture portal offering  the best in news and events, I don’t work on it much there’s a team operating it now. I got another small blog project, www.thecoversproject.org which I play around with from time to time.

How do I manage my time? It’s been a struggle the past couple of years but we’re lucky in the sense to be working with amazing people and some of the projects are funded by different companies or people (VIRV, 1909, YouLicense) so we were able to hire these same amazing people to help and support and most importantly take some of the work load off of us. We’re a team of four partners on YouLicense – myself, Ohad, Tomer Kaplan and Asaf Cohen which also helped make this project possible. Today, YouLicense is growing and leaving it’s “garage” days and moving on to become a proper functioning company with staff and management.

G:  Tell me how The Plugg got it start. I understand you weren’t keen on the idea of blogging.

ME: Well, this is a question for Ohad, my side of the story was I convinced him for months that we should open a blog/digg clone that centralizes all the recommendations for music, TV and films he always sends me via email. He wasn’t too keen about it at first, he had his suspicions that it would be a real time consuming thing, which is right I guess, so I pushed him to agree and from an unsuccessful shot at being a digg clone (pligg platform) we quickly switched to a music and entertainment blog and grew the community of readers and writers to one of my favorite sites on the net and as I hope one of the most respected sources of entertainment out there.

G: How has the music and film business changed over the past 10 years? Are you worried or excited about the changes?

ME: Change is always welcome from where I stand. Innovation has driven these awkward industries and spun them in many different directions allowing endless new opportunities to present themselves. I’m excited about changes to come and revolutionizing both the music industry and the film industry by giving the average Joe user the power to monetize their music in a new profound manner and on the other side connect willing film makers with musicians from all over the world enabling them to do business with one another in an easy to use platform that won’t send them begging to their bank clerk at the end of the month because they needed a cool soundtrack for their film.

G: Why aren’t more artists taking control of their career? How would you advise a new artist to do so with the tools available these days?

ME: That’s a pretty big question and a huge debate people are talking about right now. Some believe the artists should sit back and make music while record companies/bookies/publishers and other agents run their business. I believe in the power of web 2.0 or better put – the long tail – the niches of the world – which take control of their product/intellectual property/agenda and deliver by themselves a self run business where they can actually monetize rather than chase down agents and labels.

How? By utilizing the amazing tools like YouLicense, MySpace, sellaband.com, amiestreet.com and thousands of other unique tools that enable the artists to promote themselves to an endless audience worldwide. If I were an artist I’d be hanging around YouTube recording new videos all day, finding fans on Imeem.com, chasing down playlists on Last.fm, and chatting up clubs on Second Life. It’s there, it’s free, take advantage.

The bottom line is nothing comes without hard work and all the projects I’ve worked on the internet taught me this – the HARD way, I see how artists promote themselves before a show or trying to find a record label – why not put the same efforts and resources to building your online presence and business – there are many amazing tools out there and many amazing people looking to help and connect artists with opportunities.

G: What do you see emerging as the business model for the music industry?

ME: Tough one. I guess we won’t be able to avoid the music tax/ISP charges coming our way. They will be subtle and I know in some countries already when you subscribe to an ISP (internet service provider) you pay a little extra for the “VIP” plan and receive unlimited access to bucket loads of music. I really don’t know the answer to this question, I can make up models and argue with myself for another 2000 words here but the thing I’m sure of is that change will come from the users side this time around rather than the corporations and industry leaders. We’re just pawns in the users game – isn’t that what the internet and web 2.0 are all about -giving users tools and having them decide what is the best model?

I followed up with Maor few weeks ago, this time focusing on YouLicense, which has, since our last exchange evolved quite a bit.

youlicenseG: What led you to the idea of establishing YouLicense? Did it come out of frustration from – what?

ME:  I had a small label locally in Israel and had heard about licensing and really wanted to pursue getting the music I represented on famous TV shows and basically had no idea where to being with. So one thing led to the other and I had envisioned an open for all online music licensing marketplace – I called Ohad, my brother and told him the raw idea which was in the beginning a place where artists can sell copyrights (publishing) completely or partially – he loved it and we started researching the market. Also, at the time, both myself and Ohad were very active internet users on blogs and social networks – so I guess that helped us shape the product as well both from a marketing point of view and from a UI point of view.

G: Who is this service for? How does YouLicense work for: a) Someone offering music and b) Someone buying music?

ME: The seller side of YouLicense is for independent musicians, record labels, publishers, production music companies and aggregators alike looking to further expand their licensing business – as YouLicense is non-exclusive and open to ALL to register we find many different types of sellers from around the world. Adding their music whether they are well known tracks or indie is just furthering the reach and attracting more attention to their catalog for probably what is the most lucrative side of the music industry. Currently you can find on YouLicense artists like The Stone Roses and Thievery Corporation aside thousands of independent artists.

On the side are the buyers, the licensees. Originally we planned to attract tier 1 buyers from the TV, films and advertising industries that generate large deals but carefully pick and choose the content they use. As time passed since our public launch last August, we’ve been seeing many deals happening from a new breed of buyers – the long tail. These are the guys licensing music for slideshows (many photographers on YouLicense), websites, flash intros, flash games, presentation, tutorial DVDs, compilations and so many other unique uses I’m still amazed every day. We also do bigger deals, I recently placed a few songs on MTV’s road rules, the hills and some others.

Just for fun, here’s an interesting example of a new model made available to both the buyer and the seller only through a platform like YouLicense: look at the opportunity Beatpick are offering – they’re basically paying $7 per song for a year to play it in a large chain store in Italy. Now, this might sound cheap but lets look at it from another angle – current models for in-store licensing are made by the PRO’s (BMI, ASCAP, etc.) they charge royalties per song paid (couple of cents for a play I would guess), they usually will charge the store a “blanket” license and just play what they want. Here come Beatpick and offer a better deal (I’m assuming) for the stores and the artists – $7 a song times say 20 songs per artist and guaranteed exposure in stores. That sound like a good deal – usually artists would love to have their music played on a radio for promotional purposes…

I’m sorry for the ramblings, but I wanted to show you an example of an interesting model that can only exist over the internet.

G: How has the service changed since the launch? What’s your favorite part of this service?

ME: The idea pretty much stayed true to its core – although we get many feedback emails from artists and meet many industry professionals and after hearing all their recommendations we did add many features like playlists, MP3 sales, quick license for pre-cleared content (the artist can choose a pricing package to license his music at a click of a button) and have also built a unique private label solution where we create fully branded stores on company’s domains (see example here)

My favorite part of the service is that the marketplace is connecting seller and buyer directly – like eBay. This model doesn’t exist anywhere else for music (or photo I think) licensing, We do not represent the content and resell – they connect DIRECTLY with one another through the system.

G: At the moment what aspect of YouLicense are you seeing an increasing interest in?

ME: Because we’re fairly new I guess all aspects of the marketplace including the private label solution are growing equally – fastest growing is the content part of the business – we’re seeing many new exciting catalog coming in from labels and aggregators, for example very soon we will have the biggest Chinese catalog in the world available for licensing worldwide.

G: What has surprised you most about how YouLicense is being used by licensers and licensees? How many have signed up from both sides?

ME: I guess I pretty much answered this one before with beatpick example. But what is further fascinating to find out was how artists didn’t know they can generate deals on their own and by linking to their online stores and placing the widget on their MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, etc. they are bringing in a lot of business for themselves. No one believed they had potential licensees in their day to day client base and it turns out they did.

G: What’s next? What’s being added to the service in the next few months?

ME: So much is going on – our main focus is the private label solution as the open marketplace is pretty much ready and working. We’re adding some nifty features for the artists and buyers including a focus on the search engine.

G: Since this is a guitar-driven blog, what 5 musicians/bands who’ve joined YouLicense are you excited about?

ME: Tough one, there are many, here’s a nice playlist with rock tracks – you can also grab it as a widget (let me know if you have problems with it).  If you want to grab it go to my myspace and hit embed.

[UPDATE] Maor has just written a great post on his favorite picks of 2008 with music examples. Must read.

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