The Creative Passport is a blockchain startup founded by musician Imogen Heap and described on its website as a “personalised ID for music makers, where they can access, update and manage information about themselves and their works, and share it with others.”

We caught up with CEO Carlotta De Ninni to find out more about The Creative Passport, as well as how the pandemic has affected operations.

carlotta de ninni

Please describe your job: What do you do?

I run a not-for-profit tech startup. As we are a small team, my job requires a lot of flexibility to handle hands-on tasks that go beyond my job description.

My main duties include sourcing funding, setting business strategy, modelling company culture and values, developing partnerships, overseeing operations, marketing and financing, negotiating contracts, liaising with the Advisory board, public speaking and participating in industry related events.

However, depending on the day-to-day company needs, sometimes I need to be an alpha tester of the tech we are developing, do UX research to study what other platforms offer to music makers, or organise and run educational workshops with artists. Every day is a new adventure!

How has your typical day been impacted in the short term by the pandemic?

Due to the company structure it’s very rare to have a “typical working day”, as we are mostly a remote team. Before Covid-19 there were days where I was abroad attending events and other days where I was running around having back-to-back meetings or isolating myself with no emails to “get sh*t done”.

Right now, as all the team is working from home, it’s way easier for me to have a more regular working day with fixed hours (most of the time) and more regular online meetings! Cancelling all the travelling, from commuting to international travel, I now have much more time to focus on my daily working tasks.

I am glad that we have been operating as a remote team for a long time now, as what seemed to be pain points before, such as not being able to have fixed face-to-face catch ups, or an office space, have now turned out to be strengths! Including giving as much flexibility (therefore trust) to my team as possible… something very handy if you need to juggle between working and parenting!

What are your favourite tools and techniques to help you get your work done at the moment?

  • Slack for internal comms with the team
  • G-drive for shared working documents, spreadsheet and store files
  • Zoom to schedule international calls/video calls
  • Keynote or Canva to prepare nicely designed documents/decks
  • Notes, where I have had to-do lists since 2016
  • Notion, for an online open wiki about the product, technical documentation and development for internal and external use
  • If I need to schedule external calls, I either have them at the beginning or at the end of the day, so not to interrupt the focus and flow of my work.
  • I always aim for external phone calls to last between 30-60 mins, and internal catch ups or working sessions no more than 60 mins, always following up with written notes and CTAs.
  • I do a daily stand-up in our online working space in the morning where I recap my daily tasks and to-dos, a practice widely used for tech stand ups during sprints. My team can access it if they wonder “what is Carlotta planning to do today?”, but it is useful especially for myself as it forces me to have micro deadlines, to challenge myself to execute everything I envisioned, and to analyse any blockers
  • Last but not least… a computer. I like keys and I’m not a fan of tablets/touchscreens. And I have to admit my hand writing is so bad (and had always been!) that sometimes when I take notes in a rush I do not understand what I wrote afterwards!

Which companies have impressed you since the outbreak?

Bandcamp has really stepped up and provided real support to artists, waiving its fees on specific dates for online purchases to increase the artists pay-out. Wave, an extended reality platform, is also doing really well creating live broadcasted performances and concerts in VR with amazing visuals. 

What changes are you making to help your brand/clients connect with how people are feeling and experiencing the pandemic?

There are a couple of routes we are taking to ensure that we can support brands and artists during this period. The first is that we are trying to accelerate the development of the creative platform so that we can start sharing data and connections sooner. We are also using this time to solicit feedback from the industry so that we can fine tune our service, making sure it meets the needs of the industry. Secondly, we are trying to support and connect as many initiatives that we can that we believe will drive the industry forward in a positive way. We push them on our socials, we look for ways that our offering can help other companies –  maybe create new revenue opps for them or new content – and we keep the lines of communication wholly open.

What trends have you seen in the last few weeks in your sector?

The intersection between gaming and live concerts, with XR/VR experiences and the explosion of online live performances. It is very interesting to see how the gaming sector could offer diversified experiences, such as live concerts, to its tech-savvy audience, and how the live music sector could expand its international audience thanks to technology and gaming communities. Live performances have been increasingly interactive over the last few years, but the actual “gamification” of a concert, not in marketing terms, but literally having live performances in gaming environments is a trend built to last, even when the live music sector will be back to normal operations. Fortnite and Marshmello / Travis Scott is just the beginning…

What advice would you give a marketer right now?

Focusing on the gaming and XR/VR sectors, lots of digital assets are created and monetised: using always the example of Fortnite, the artists’ limited edition skins or accessories were sold to gamers after concerts. If you could imagine a similar trend, but in a VR gaming environment… What if fashion brands sold limited edition skins or outfits for your VR gaming avatar? The “gamification” of product placement?! Digital sectors are intersecting between themselves, creating amazing new opportunities for marketers… so what advice to give? The best market research is probably asking your colleagues’ (or your!) 13-year-old kids what they are playing nowadays.

Regarding music usage in advertising, we hope that a tool like the Creative Passport will help marketers in how music research is curated. Right now, in a scenario where an artist is not famous or considered an influencer, most music discovery starts at track level: the research starts identifying a music genre and listen to tracks first, and then discovers who the artist is afterwards.

What if a marketer could research the artists profile first, making sure that their artistic persona, interests, image and skills are in line with the brand with which they are working, and then explore the music catalogue after? The extent of the partnership with artists could be deeper than just using a nice track as part of the campaign.

What does long term planning and strategy look like now at your brand/clients?

We are still very much planning for the long term so, in that respect, not much has changed. What we are more focused on is adapting to the short and mid-term. Given that we are not able to predict the severity of this crisis and how long it will last, we have to ensure that we put mechanisms in place that will enable us to continue to build our business and deliver our offering whatever happens.

In many respects this has opened up opportunities for us as, in the absence of live music and face to face interaction, artists are spending more and more time online and are using digital as the ‘new norm’ for pushing music. Given this, the Creative Passport becomes a very valuable tool for connecting artists with other artists and brands. So, our priority is in making sure this happens as seamlessly as possible, in making sure that we have a stable platform and in delivering a solution that is able to flex with both the needs of our audience and with the economy.

How coronavirus is impacting the music industry