Ryan Farish is an electronic-music composer and producer, a pioneer of the EDM (Electronic Dance Music) genre which is surging in popularity, and a Grammy-nominated songwriter. He coined the defining sub-genre of his music as Positive Chillout, a category now in use by other musicians.
Farish will be featured onstage at RAIN Summit Indy, September 9 in Indianapolis, in a panel titled “EDM: Streaming a New Path to Success.” In anticipation, RAIN spoke with Ryan Farish by phone, asking about how his star career unfolded without the traditional leverage of broadcast radio or a major-label deal.
“It all started with MP3.com,” Farish told us, referring to Michael Robertson’s breakthrough service founded in 1997, which operated until 2003, changing ownership along the way. “Randomly, someone asked whether my music was on MP3.com. It wasn’t at the time, so I put it on there.”
Recognition came slowly for Farish’s music, but the more important part was an inner realization about musical integrity. “All of a sudden I realized that there were many derivatives of electronic music, and many artists around the world … and I didn’t have to fit my music to just my local radio. I could just do my thing.”
Farish’s popularity on MP3.com grew as his music received thousands of downloads each day, and at one point he landed at the number-11 spot on MP3.com’s global chart across al genres. His rising star attracted other outlets — one of them being The Weather Channel, which used music to soundtrack its segments.
“The Weather Channel started playing my music in regular rotation. There was probably a period of years when I was one of the most-played artists on The Weather Channel programming.” At about that time Farish created his own label, Rytone Entertainment. And then came YouTube.
“This was around 2008, when YouTube started, and was a source for people to discover music in a major way. I was fortunate that there were enthusiastic fans who made videos of my music. Some of those fan videos have 20- or 30-million plays. I think there are over 40,000 videos on YouTube using my music today.”
We were interested in digging into YouTube’s impact on Ryan Farish’s business, and asked which was the more important part: royalties from the videos, or exposure to power his live career. His answer was definitive and illuminating.
“It would definitely be the exposure. I wouldn’t even say that it powers my live career, because my recording career is much more significant. YouTube is very important for promoting your music. When I think of music promotion, it is putting up our own videos. But what YouTube is really doing, is allowing Ryan Farish fans to share their passion for the music with their circles and their followers on their channels. My own YouTube channel page has — I don’t know, 40 videos? That’s 40 out of 40,000 [other YouTube videos using Ryan Farish music]. The advertising revenue is minimal, but the promotional value and reach is very substantial.”
“It’s a wonderful time to be an artist, and make the music that really moves you.”
Ryan Farish had good words about YouTube’s Content ID service which identifies music uses for rights-holders, but for him it goes beyond the financial impact.
“Content ID really is fantastic. It’s not just the fact that there is advertising revenue, which could be considered somewhat of a substantial revenue stream. But that’s not the part that turns me on. It is all of a sudden tagging videos that had been put up by commercial and foreign entities. There are many companies through the years that have licensed my music in the proper way (Chevrolet, Audi, ads for Despicable Me 2). But ContentID revealed many uses of my music that were unauthorized. We treat them case-by-case. It’s not like, ‘Take them all down.’ Some give my music traction in interesting ways. So ContentID is a terrific tool for understanding how your music is being used.”
With streaming music eating into the music-download pie, we asked Ryan Farish how his recording income is balanced. He noted the trend, observing that it has taken hold in his balance sheet during the last year.
“If you take the 100-percent pie, and if you go back three years ago, it was iTunes as the biggest part of the pie, and performance revenue from BMI (The Weather Channel, TV shows, licensing). Now, in the last year, you’ve got Spotify and more streaming services in the mix in a big way. Three years ago, Spotify had just started for me when they came to the US. Spotify has now become a significant part of the pie for me. Music is becoming more consumed now by more and more streaming services, and in some instances is replacing some downloads, so we are now at a point to where streaming actually matters a lot more to an artist’s income than it used to a few years ago.”
“I get around 22-million plays a year on Pandora. So SoundExchange has become very important to the pie.”
Ryan Farish speaks most lyrically when he departs from his history and describes what it all means to him as an artist, and his general advice to emerging artists. In those moments, he ties in his career learning points into a musician’s ethos for navigating a media universe where music has become easily shareable bits and bytes.
“I get anywhere from four to a dozen Google alerts every day about new websites that are putting my entire catalog up for free. On one hand you think, I really wish they wouldn’t do that. On the other hand, it’s sort of like MP3.com. I gave away nearly two-million songs on MP3.com when I got started. You might think that’s terrible. But how much would it have cost a label or myself to have gotten my music out to that many people exposure wise? At the end of the day, if you’re really about the music, and sharing the music, there are enough people out there who understand the value of music and understand that it is crucial to support the artist.”
“As an artist, you need to show up every day, give it your best and strive to make the best music you can make. All of these tools we have now to help record music — one half of the people in the room are complaining that the music making process through technology is becoming easier. I’m in the other half of the room that says, this is actually pushing music forward. The new technology allows music that the world would have never heard before to happen. Everything is changing, and I’m all for technology that both brings the music to the people, and helps the artists make the music.”