From Iceland — Power To The Artists!

Power To The Artists!

Published August 5, 2009

Power To The Artists!

Some time ago, rumours started going around town that a nifty new company was preparing to unleash the dawn of a new era in Internet based music distribution. A pack of idealists from the local music scene had, allegedly, clustered together with the aim of abolishing the money-thirsty atmosphere currently prevailing in the notorious distribution perimeters. The rumours were founded, and thus a beta version of the peculiarly named gogoyoko (note that we are familiar with basic rules of grammar – gogoyoko demand their name be written in lowercase) was launched a few weeks ago, after months of hard work and struggle.
 When Grapevine caught up with one half of gogoyoko’s duo of founders, Haukur D. Magnússon, he elaborated on gogoyoko’s central concept and told us how it all started: “The idea itself materialized on a typical day in late September 2007, when an old pal of mine, Pétur Jóhann, brought up the subject of starting a music label. When we started tossing around thoughts on the idea, one thing lead to another, eventually leading to the general idea behind gogoyoko. We were basically ordinary guys who’d been involved to a limited degree in the music business for quite a while, and we’d been using several Internet based features with our music. Over time, we had also gotten to know quite a bit of the bureaucratic aspect of the business; we’d signed a lot of contracts and made up a few ourselves. So we let ourselves stand by at the end of the day, think things over a bit and contemplate what innovative phenomenon we could introduce. And so we decided to scale up somewhat from the original label idea, to do something more radical.”
David vs. Goliath, sorta
The odd couple had no previous experience in the world of programming and computers, but they do have an impressive background in music: “Pétur has since adolescence been involved in various music groups, the most famed one is probably Pornopop. I wasn’t really the band type, more of a DJ,” explains Haukur.
The deficit the would-be visionaries intend to remedy is the absurdly small amount of the retail price of a track set aside for artists by the big on-line distribution corporations, who pocket most of the income themselves. At gogoyoko, a notably smaller amount ends up in big brother’s pocket. “Both of us had experience in selling thousands of CDs, where we discovered you only receive a ludicrously meagre amount of the actual retail price. Every participant in the procedure takes its toll, and in the end the revenue seems really skewed. For example it’s a known fact that The Beatles only received around 3% of the revenue generated by their music. This amounts to a really shitty business if you ask me – there must be a way to do things better.”
One might reckon the phenomenon isn’t so entrepreneurial, for several similar outlets do exist, e.g. the iTunes music store. Haukur says that fundamental elements differ between gogoyoko and other similar businesses, and that difference is exactly what they’re going for rather than inventing a brand new technology.
“Don’t get me wrong; we didn’t get into this biz because of some frustration towards the big shots controlling the web market. Our aim is to shorten the procedure in whole, to decrease the number of the agents that claim a cut of the sales revenue. On a larger scale, especially when we’re speaking of digital copies, there should be an option to basically skip the mediator, which you have to contract to distribute online. At gogoyoko you can reach your audience straight up. If you’re selling maybe a thousand units a year, it matters a great deal whether you’re getting 15 or 50 cents per copy.
Different times, different values
gogoyoko has been evolving, like most up-and-coming companies, in the two years it has existed, and their staff has been multiplying in numbers. By now they’re up to around 30 employees. Haukur explains that this developing process has taught them to be patient,  patience is crucial when you’re dying to reveal your work for two years but you simply can’t: “You always want to have the best product up for grabs, but you have to make sure it’s as good as it gets. Now we’ve launched the beta and we’re really content with what we’re running at the moment. Of course it’s always a work in progress, so there are dozens of new features expected and the structure is becoming more and more dynamic.”
gogoyoko has been rather lucky in terms of the effects of the recent financial crisis: “We were lucky to have financed the company appropriately before the catastrophe but we’ve suffered a bit in some ways. On the other hand, people have begun to appreciate our enterprise. When we started out in 2007 people didn’t quite get where we were going. Everybody was raking in stacks of money and software like ours seemed irrelevant. In those days everybody was trying to get rich by selling money – gambling in the financial markets – and didn’t quite grasp our game. This has definitely changed.”
A certain entrepreneurship-hype surfaced subsequently to the crisis, where people started laying more emphasis on innovation than before. This benefited gogoyoko. “The hype started right away when everything collapsed and our company was definitely one of those that received attention. It’s a nice thing irrespective of any financial situation.”
Becoming mainstream:
Vinyl and .wav

The first thing gogoyoko plans to achieve is to make their artists keen on their system. “We’ve always said, in a serious rather than a comic manner, that our phenomenon won’t work unless the ideology becomes mainstream. If we accomplish that, this might really work.” gogoyoko signifies in some ways the digital evolution, and there are certain anti-mp3 music buffs that aren’t completely content. “We’re thinking of ways to please them. Both by using a format such as .wav but we’ve also got something more exciting in the pipes: offering our artists the opportunity to produce vinyl copies through gogoyoko. We have some connections to vinyl producers that we could use. We’ve always considered the compact disc inferior, so gogoyoko won’t take part in any CD affairs ever. It’s really the digital and vinyl format that have been gaining strength over the last years, and if we could take use of both it would be marvellous.”

Support The Reykjavík Grapevine!
Buy subscriptions, t-shirts and more from our shop right here!

Show Me More!