An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

“Know your limits” — Every new thing that you take on adds a certain level of stress to your life. It’s crucial to understand how much stress you can handle and how much stress you’re agreeing to take on. It’s fantastic to take on new challenges at work but you have to ensure it’s not going to push you over your limit which will cause you to fail and set you back. Knowing exactly when and how hard to push is probably the biggest lever you can have in growing your career.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mike, Mick, and Nic of BaseNote.

Music tech startup BaseNote has an ambitious goal: to redefine how musicians fund their work. Through the BaseNote app, fans can purchase investments in their favorite artists, directly funding the creation of new music. Unlike donation-based crowdfunding programs, like Kickstarter or Patreon, BaseNote allows investors to share in the upside by entitling them to a portion of the artists’ streaming royalties. This incentivizes fans to spread the word about the musicians they support, generating more royalties for both shareholders and artists.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

We are the three co-founders of BaseNote, Mike, Mick, and Nic. We are all life-long music fans, attending copious festivals and live music events, and we have had the intention for years to start a company in the music space to improve outcomes for artists. Mike and Mick met in grad school, where they worked in the same lab. Mike then went to work for Snapchat, and Mick followed shortly after. There, Mike worked on the Snapchat camera team, while Mick joined the hardware team working on Spectacles, Snapchat’s camera sunglasses product. Nic was an early Snapchat employee working on the Android app, and around this time he transferred to the same hardware team where he and Mick worked together for several years.

We each took varied career paths since that time, but we always kept sight of our intention to start an artist-focused company at the intersection of music and technology. Over the last several years, there’s been an acceleration in the market trends of plummeting costs of production and distribution, a shakeup in the traditional methods of breaking new acts and finding a fanbase, and fanbases waking up to some of the abuses in the industry and wanting to do something about it. These trends aligned to make it the right time to start our company, and in early 2021 we kicked off our journey to redefine the way music is funded.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Mick: For the past 100 years, the record deal has remained largely unchanged. The options available to artists to fund their careers are either to pay for everything themselves up-front, or to turn to a record label to provide funding. Label deals are heavily tilted in favor of the label, which is a relic of the days when the label had to physically produce and distribute records. Even today, many artists who sign a record deal will never see a cent of revenue from their share of the label deal beyond the initial advance. However, most artists don’t have the freedom to go it alone and are forced to take that deal.

Our path is to reimagine the way music is funded in the first place. While music is a capital-intensive business, there are a myriad of middlemen that you have to work with as an artist that make things much more expensive than it needs to be. We aim to disintermediate the process, and go directly to the fans to fund your art; ultimately, that’s where the money driving record profits for record labels is coming from anyway.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Mick: In our very early days, it was unclear which workstream was going to be on the critical path to launch and we placed a high priority on refining our brand identity. A friend of ours recommended that we contract with a design agency, but in the interest of time and money we instead decided to outsource the project to a competition-based online design platform. We quickly discovered that you get what you pay for, and the quality of candidate logos we received was underwhelming. As soon as we gave feedback to one designer, every other designer would copy that feedback in hopes of winning!

We subsequently engaged with a design studio out of Los Angeles, and they delivered us a thoughtful, exciting brand that we couldn’t be happier with. The lesson learned is that in some industries there is no substitute for working with the professionals. The funny part is that now that we are familiar with the competition-style of work product we notice it everywhere, out in the world and online!

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

Mick: I’ve been lucky to have a lot of mentors throughout my life but the one that stands out the most is my uncle who spent a lot of time on the phone with me when I first got started in tech. He mentored me through interviewing, evaluating job offers, and eventually through some big decisions at work. He would always have great insights and frameworks to guide me. For example, my wisdom on making decisions came from him. He focused on the framework and structure of decision making so that I would be better at that long term and not only focus on the here and now.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Mick: ‘Disruption’ has definitely become a buzzword, but I think a good definition is that it represents a rapid shift in the way things are done in an industry. Crucially, there’s no content in that definition that speaks to whether an industry should change, and how. So, when you think about disruption you really need to put it into the context of the industry, and whether there is a disconnect between the current needs of the industry and who the industry is serving.

A prime example of needed disruption is Uber. My personal opinions on their conduct aside, the reason they took off like they did was because they identified a very clear disconnect between what people wanted and what the market offered. Pre-Uber, calling a cab was a miserable experience for many, and Uber offered a solution. Those instances where the stakeholders of an industry aren’t having their needs met are when the term ‘ripe for disruption’ comes in, and that’s what we see in the music industry.

A counter-example, in my opinion, would be what’s happening in the crypto space. First with blockchain, and now with NFTs, solutions are being peddled that are certainly different ways of doing things, but it’s not clear that it’s going to meet the needs of key stakeholders in new ways, or that it’s the best way to meet those needs. In those cases, you end up with a solution in search of a problem, and I think the crypto space is still looking for that disconnect that they can uniquely solve to really achieve mainstream appeal.

Nic: Crypto is a really interesting example, especially in the music royalties space. I think in order to “successfully disrupt” something, you need to first have a deep understanding of how the existing system works, and the nature of its failings. It’s well known that tracking music royalties can be extremely complicated. There are companies out there that claim to solve these problems through technology (blockchain or otherwise). But the issue is that royalty tracking is hard because of legal and organizational constructs, not technical ones. There are different royalties coming in from different types of copyrights, and many different organizations that collect and administer these royalties. Copyright laws vary from country to country (royalty chains look different in the US vs the UK vs China, as examples). And you’ve got intermediaries like labels and distributors, who each do things slightly differently. So, if a company claims to solve this by tracking royalties on the blockchain, I feel that this betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the problem: the difficulty isn’t in keeping track of numbers, it’s the knowledge, logistical, and legal work needed to plug into all of these existing organizations.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Mick: “Put on your own oxygen mask first.” — I’ve always been the type to take on as much as I could handle, and then maybe one or two more things. Naturally, I didn’t tend to get as much sleep as I should or have or have the time to take care of myself than I should. That all came to a head for me in the last year or two; between the pandemic, having a baby, starting a company, my wife finishing her doctorate, and several interstate moves, I hit a point where there wasn’t enough coffee in the world to keep my productivity up. I had to do a bit of a reset, but now I try to make sure I build in the time and focus I need to keep myself on track. There’s always the temptation to push longer and harder to put out the fire of the day, but you have to tend to yourself before you tend to your responsibilities if you want to maintain a sustainable output.

Mike: “Know your limits” — Every new thing that you take on adds a certain level of stress to your life. It’s crucial to understand how much stress you can handle and how much stress you’re agreeing to take on. It’s fantastic to take on new challenges at work but you have to ensure it’s not going to push you over your limit which will cause you to fail and set you back. Knowing exactly when and how hard to push is probably the biggest lever you can have in growing your career.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

Nic: We’re really excited about the concept of investing as a vehicle for fan engagement and community. When the app goes live, the social features are going to be fairly lightweight, but we plan on rapidly introducing new ways for investors to engage with the artists they love (both in-app, and in the real world).

Mick: We’re starting with music, but we see this paradigm shift in how art is funded as being relevant for all creative media. We’d like to expand our offering to film, writing, stage, any medium where you can build a fanbase that believes in your art.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

Mick: I was given Voltaire’s Candide when I was in high school, and I re-read it every year or so. It has a lot to say about how we interpret a world full of chaos, misfortune, and injustice, and makes the case for focusing on doing what we can for the people in our lives.

Mike: Three or four years ago, I read “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman and “The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World” by Niall Ferguson, both of these books have been instrumental in forming my views around making investments. “Thinking, Fast and Slow” does a fantastic job of helping guide the decision maker through why they have certain intuition and when to be skeptical of them. For “The Ascent of Money”, it slowly builds from before money to current financial markets which is fundamental for being able to judge different investment strategies.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Mike: There is no such thing as a bad decision but people have a bad decision making process which makes them regret decisions down the line. Almost everyone can look at the pros and cons of a decision and pick the better decision. However, many people don’t invest enough time into finding the pros and cons of a choice and then later say “Oh, well I should have known about X and Y” which makes them think they made a bad decision.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Nic: If we look at the history of art, there’s a pattern that art financing has been controlled by a select few (royalty, aristocrats, churches, and, in the modern age, media executives). Unquestionably, this has produced many great works. But how many aspiring artists failed to reach their potential because their concepts were ahead of their time, and they failed to connect with the right patrons?

BaseNote is the democratization of art financing. When anyone can open up their phone and directly invest in an artist’s success, new genres of art can find their footing. We want to see a future where the creative class is expansive, financially independent, and empowered to champion bold new ideas. BaseNote is our first step towards that future.

How can our readers follow you online?

Instagram: @basenoteappofficial

Facebook: @BaseNoteApp

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Meet The Disruptors: BaseNote On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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