George Howard: Rachel Francine
Rachel Francine: Hi
RF: How are you George?
GH: Oh, the greatest single day of my life.
GH: Right here.
RF: Right now.
GH: Right at this moment. Yes.
GH: So I am very excited to talk to you. I love the work that you do with your company. I love the way your brain works with respect to sort of, the term futurist always bothers me. We can talk about that but the way that you talk about future studies makes a ton of sense to me. I love the fact that your work has a deep and profound musical component to it but not in a sort of traditional way maybe in which music is used. So I am excited to talk but before we sort of dive in, do you want to give your boilerplate bio. Okay great.
RF: Sure. So, my background is I have been working on the Internet since ‘96 and so I’ve been around for a while and sort of the technology and innovation space and what bothered me about it was that it always seem to be that you would start off with these grand ideas with technology that you were gonna change the world and the end of the day, you start to run out of money and you would start to go to some big sugar water company for money, for advertising right. And so, so eventually I went back to school and I got a degree in future studies and I think the thing that bothers you about futurist, which bothers me a lot too, is, sort of everybody takes that tag on. You know thinking that they know stuff about the future but they haven’t studied it the way, let’s say the way a historian studies history or doctor studies doctoring. So future studies is actually the academic discipline of studying the the future.
GH: Right. My super glib line is like, I wish futurist would just go to the future and stop bothering us here in the present.
GH: So, so I just, the music business, I always think of the music this is a canary in a coal mine. Like what happens in the music business also then later happens in other industries. Is then, is then the music industry ever studied as a leading edge in future studies or can you put a frame around, can you distill your degree into 30 seconds? Like what does it mean?
RF: Right. So in future studies, what you do, it’s the study of change, how things change, why they change. And for me, how to get them to change in the direction that you want to change them in. And, and sort of 15 seconds after that is it’s the study of the probable, possible, and preferable futures. The probable futures, future everybody thinks it’s gonna happen so right now maybe in the music industry everybody thinks oh you know it’s gonna implode right and, and all of the big sort of companies are gonna go away. And there’s going to be a disintermediation and maybe that’s the probable future but there’s always possible futures being born right that’s one possible future. Maybe the big companies get even bigger. Maybe they get even stronger and take more control. And, but then again for me the real trick to future studies is the preferable future.
GH: So probable that’s sort of like the conventional wisdom.
GH: Possible, who knows?!
RF: Who knows, because you study the social technological, environmental factors.
GH: Lots of different vectors coming together and then the key is this ‘preferable’.
RF: And for me that’s the key yes.
GH: I would think for everyone right?
GH: No? Alright so hang. I want to understand it but, but so I mean Music2020 our mission here then would be, would fall into the layer of the preferable.
GH: We’re focused on a better music industry for the, the plurality of stakeholders. Right? And, and so how should, and again we have no bias here we want, we want people to succeed right. We feel if other people succeed then we have succeeded. So how should we, as people trying to talk through what the future of music should be, by the year 2020? What’s the discipline around looking at that sort of desirable, preferable outcome?
RF: So the challenge, the challenge with, with future studies is that it’s not about, I know 2020 in this case is both about 2020 sort of optics, but it also plays on the year 2020. With future studies we tend to look about 10 years out at least, because you want to have time to change legislation. You want to have time to change culture, to really understand what technology is gonna change.
GH: That’s really interesting. I’m sorry to interrupt you. Everyone it’s gets annoyed with my interject but I get so excited. So like if we take it 10 years, so we got roughly 4 years to 2020. If rollback six years that would put us to 2010. I think, I think there is a change. I think a lot of very interesting things happened in that sort of 2010 realm that is really the dawn of a lot of the peer to peer becoming normalized. Since the Spotify and those types of things this sort of steep acceleration, deceleration of traditional sales so I think that maybe we’re in the middle of that. So I don’t think we are necessarily starting from scratch, we are just sort of documenting that. I’m sorry so go ahead.
RF: Yeah and so in the traditional to future studies kind of scenario what you would do is you would bring together the stakeholders. Right. And, and not necessarily only the stakeholders, that you’re sort of simpatico with.
GH: Right, because that is an echo chamber.
RF: It’s an echo chamber but it’s also you need to bring together the big organizations that are maybe, you know sort of putting a blockade on what your preferable future is. So it’s not only you know the friends and family it’s…who’s….
GH: It’s not the fellow travelers.
RF: It’s not the fellow travelers. It’s who’s doing the roadblock because when you get right down to it a lot of times people really have the same ultimate goal. They are just expressing it differently. So, maybe the big publishing companies they still want to be able to make their cut of whatever’s going on, right?. And nobody saying, “Hey somebody who’s helping me, you know cut the royalty checks and track my money, shouldn’t get money, right?” You’re just saying we need to make it easier. We need to make it fairer.
GH: Well that’s a nice way of saying it. I mean and we have mutual friends like in the publishing realm who are very much future orientated. Right. Joe Conyers is thinking about, well, it do we have, I don’t want to put words in his mouth but my sense of it is. Do we have a defensible business model 10 years from now however many years if in fact, you don’t really need us to be your recordkeeper or to issue licenses because it can be done through technology, blockchain what have you. If not then what will our value proposition be and how can, and the problem with the music industry I think is maybe they have not had this sort of someone like you come and tell them about this. But they get it and maybe we all do to a certain degree…super defensive we were gonna cling to our current value proposition and just sort of you know hear no evil, see no evil just like put our heads in the sand. And that’s the generalization. A lot of record labels are trying to be more future orientated but they do have to come with a value proposition.
RF: Yeah, and you know a lot of this, there is a really brilliant futurist, Sohail Inayatullah, who talks about this thing ‘causal layered analysis’.
GH: I don’t know what that means.
RF: Nobody does right. It’s, it’s not something that is used widely. However you know, it’s these kinds of things are used to help with apartheid in South Africa and pulling that apart. But, but what Sohail talks about it is there’s different layers of problems that you need to get through when you talk about the future. So there’s the data layer. How many people are in this room. Right there’s the systems layer. How did we all get here? What kind of school did we all go to, to get here but, but the layer that he gets down to that most people don’t get to is really the myth and metaphor layer. What do we all believe? What is our story?
GH: Like archetypes or something different?
RF: Kind of like archetypes, exactly. And he deals with fairy tales and metaphors.
GH: Yes, so sort of like Judge of Campbell type stuff.
GH: Love that.
RF: And so within the music industry, the sort of larger music industry what are they, what are their myths and metaphors that they are dealing with? There really deep-seated beliefs.
GH: What about the artist right?
RF: And the artist, what are their deep-seated beliefs? And that’s the brilliant work that Sohail does that.
GH: That’s super interesting right? So the idea that artist have some sort of hero’s journey that’s different from the hero’s journey of the person that wants to be a manager or promoter but, but at some very archetypal level, they’re all just honoring this sort of internal purpose or something. Without even knowing it.
RF: Without knowing it and so once you can bring….
GH: And how do those not collide?
RF: Right, and so once you bring those to the surface and you can talk about, you know what those are and sort of get people on the same page, that’s the thing that most people don’t do. Is they don’t bring the adversary to quote unquote into the room when they’re having these discussions and, and so it just you know becomes as you said these sort of these echo chambers of you and I can sit around and say what we think the future of music would be.
GH: Right and were so compatible that there’s no…and truly that’s one of the goals of this entity of this Music2020, is like who’s left out so many of these conversations is the fans. You know and, and that’s something that they have a different needs set. They have a different hero’s journey. As to how it sort of connects with music. Okay so I could talk about this forever.
RF: Me too.
GH: Wildly interesting. I mean, I’m gonna ask a question but like in the back of your mind also be thinking, because I don’t want to sort of put you on the spot. Have you, and maybe you have the answer on the tip of your tongue. Have you thought about futurist studies, futurist studies that specifically, about the music business and has that impacted your current work, with your start up and maybe start by talking about what your and I don’t know if you call it start up, starting a mature but your, your, your business your enterprise.
RF: So I have a company called Musical Health Technologies and we make a product called SingFit and many people might know and some people might know about music therapy and so, and just to give a little bit history after World War II when they would bring soldiers home and they were wounded and they would put them in the hospital. What they found was if they played music for them they would get better faster. Right? And so over the next you know hundred and so years this became an academic discipline.
GH: Was that really the dawn of it? I mean, people have been using music to sort of soothe the savage beast for a long time.
RF: I should, I should qualify Western, Western music therapy right because you’re a hundred percent right. In sort of a larger cultural context music is used for healing all the time but in Western context.
GH: So this was how it began to become structured institutionalized was,what war?
RF: World War I
GH: World War I, soldiers coming home, hey let’s play some and people made the observation that we can create a discipline around it.
RF: Discipline around it. Yeah, so but, but you’re a hundred percent right in that music is really the first healthcare tool and the, there’s a great Chinese symbol that shows that the, the Chinese symbol for music and the Chinese symbol for healing are almost exactly same.
GH: Oh, really. Isn’t that cool.
GH: Back to our sort of origin stories right.
RF: Exactly and so, and so music therapy became an academic discipline. And they’ve had amazing success over the past hundred you know hundred and 25 years with really having success in areas where other kinds of medical interventions have not worked. So for example with autism, with traumatic brain injury, with dementia. Things that, that there’s really no solution for in traditional medicine. For example the really wonderful example Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords received left hemisphere brain trauma.
GH: Yes. For people who may not know, she was the one who was shot.
RF: Exactly, exactly. So she was shot, left hemisphere, which is where speech takes place. So typically this, this wipes out your ability to speak. The amazing thing about singing is that it actually happens in your entire brain. So if you…
GH: All of your synapses light.
RH: Every every single thing lights up like the Las Vegas strip. Right? And what they found out about neurology in the past 10-15 years, is it used to be that, okay, there’s damage to your brain, you’re just done, right? That’s it. But there’s actually this thing called neuroplasticity.
GH: I was just going to say, “There’s plasticity.” Where they can….
RH: Where they can do it. And so what they found is that singing can actually rewire where in your brain speech takes place. So you start singing and it starts this sort of process in your brain where it’s like, “Oh wait, this part’s not activating quite right so let me do that over here and then actually retrains the brain where speech takes place.”
GH: Which is so true because we here with the impact of you know staring at screens all the time and the sort of dopamine, or whatever hit’s that we’re getting from Facebook and the phrase is, “You’re rewiring your brain.” That’s the connotation there is very negative and what you’re suggesting is that this is a more positive way to sort of rewire the brain. I love that. So then the discipline goes from World War I to…
RH: To, to and now it’s an academic…in the 50’s it became an academic discipline, it’s a four-year college degree that you can get undergrad, you can get masters, you get a PhD in it.
GH: Berklee has a wonderful program.
RF: Berklee, I hear, in Boston, has a wonderful program. And the, and the challenge has been with it, is that there hasn’t been the underlying clinical evidence and data and science that’s supporting it.
GH: It’s been too soft.
RF: It’s been too soft up and part of that is just due to music therapists, you know, they’re musicians, they’re therapists, they’re not always the most sort of…
GH: Data driven.
RF: …data driven kind of people. So there’s a lot of reasons why music therapy hasn’t grown. But my background is in technology and my partner is the music therapist and what we, what we really thought was why can’t… why does music therapy have to be the complete domain of music therapists, right? So there’s, there’s certain ways music therapist if you’re talking about somebody who’s fragile, somebody’s with post traumatic stress syndrome and traumatic brain injury you want somebody who is knowledgeable, disciplined, degreed to work with that person. But there are other ways to use music as medicine in a way where you can have technology help To disintermediate to disrupt to to, to basically scale the ‘music is medicine movement’ and that’s what Musical Health Technology is set out to do.
GH: I don’t it’s consist with this idea of music sort of being this leading edge. I made a thesis statement that music would be the leading edge for Internet of things. To take it from Wonkie land where nerds like I connect my hue lights to my thermostat or whatever and nobody else can use it. To people walking into our house and saying, “Hey, Alexa play Paul Desmond”. That is an Internet of things reaction. It’s much more natural. Music leads that and once you figure that out. You go, oh, I can also make it change the thermostat. So it’s this leading edge. And maybe what you’re saying is that music is changing the way that people think about therapy generally. Right, and it becomes this leading edge, more data driven. So how does this then play out in terms of, the music business generally? Like is there a connection because the goal here of this organization, is how do we make things better for the stakeholders. And how are you guys doing that?
RF: So, so I have two answers. I have many answers to that question. But I’ll start with this, which is, which is one that, there’s more things for music to do, then and I do not want to, I don’t want to sort of put aside the importance of music as entertainment. Right because we all self-medicate with music right already. So we self-medicate with music. We use it to entertain ourselves. But basically, one of my theories is and this is actually not my theory it’s Dan it’s Dr. Daniel Levitan’s theory.
GH: We’re all standing on the shoulders of giants right.
RF: Giants right. And, and he is a wonderful book called the world in six songs.
GH: Nice. What are the six songs?
RF: You know I don’t…
GH: Give me one of them.
RF: I, I don’t remember.
GH: I got to read the book.
RF: You got to read the book. And, but essentially you know, part of his thesis is that music has been around forever. It’s been around since before the spoken word. So some of the first, I mean the written word. Excuse me. So, so some of the first writings is about music.
GH: Well like Homer. I mean he was singing these things right.
RF: He was singing these things.
GH: That was the idea yeah.
RF: Exactly and so and music used to be way more intertwined in our lives then it is now.
RF: Yes, because before.
GH: It feels pretty intertwined these days.
RF: It feel, well let me let me clarify. The making of music. Right so we all listen to music, but before technology….
GH: I see what your saying. We gather and sing around the Piano.
RF: We gather and sing around the piano. We would you know what did you do when you were sitting in a tribe in Africa at night? You sat around the fire and you told stories and you sang songs. When you went to war, how did they, how did they get the troops to sort of get in line? You sing songs. And the active art of singing and music making and rhythm used to be part of our lives really on a daily basis especially when you think about how it was intertwined with religion.
GH: I was just going to say that. Churches and, and religion generally was part of the…
RF: It was part of it. And so when we were sort of more regularly religious, assertive culture; all cultures, you were singing on a regular basis.
RF: It was hymns and, and Buddhist chants.
GH: And well in fact. I mean, a lot of people don’t know it but when people sing a cappella that literally translates “from the chapel”.
GH: Right and you know that’s because in many religious sort of disciplines instruments were you know not of this, the devil’s workers. Right so you just had to sing with the voice right.
GH: So a cappella, this whole idea that we’re always singing is.
RF: Yeah. And so part of what happens when you sing together, when you sing in general but when you sing together in particular is there’s a neurochemical reaction. yes so when you saying you release dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, melatonin. These are all the same things that we try to get antidepressants and antianxiety drugs and all of these things to, to kind of you know, regulate our nervous minds right and so if you if you kind of take a step back and think about we, we have extracted that from technology once you know the industrial revolution happened. It used to be if you wanted music in 1722 right and you were a family you, somebody in your family learned how to play the piano and the rest of you stood around singing. And you didn’t watch TV and sit there and watch TV or shoot people in a videogame. You sang and part of that was releasing these neurochemicals that actually bonded you to…
RF: Communally that made you happier that, that bonded you together.
GH: Which imagine you know consciously or otherwise was part of this sort of why that is so baked into religion. We are here together singing, that binds us together around the, that’s very interesting to me. And then fast-forward to me about the work that you’re doing.
RF: Right and so what we do is, is what we’re trying to do is sort of reintroduce especially active music making as a healthcare token on a large scale that can be distributed at the same scale, cost, and efficacy as pharmaceutical drugs.
GH: Perfect. So let me unpack that. So right now somebody suffering from dementia there are various pharmacological remedies, that in fact can be mirrored without the side effects, negative side effects through music and you’re trying to take on the challenge of well, it’s easy to scale a pill you make more of them it’s harder to scale the interaction and you should talk about your process exactly it’s harder to scale this process.
RF: And I’ll talk about the process in a second. You see how fascinated I am by the future stuff.
RF: And I get to my business second but…
GH: I think they are intertwined.
RF: But they’re intertwined but, but the idea is that actually in the 140 years so, so dementia was discovered as kind of a disease state a 140 years ago and there has not been one single drug in that time that either has been proven to prevent or treat the disease. Now there are two drugs on the market that they say maybe slow them down right but there’s nothing that can help you know restore the memories of somebody with dementia there’s nobody who can sort of help really delay that disease. And so, there’s just nothing there. And, and from the FDA perspective less than half a percent of drugs that are specific to dementia clear FDA approval. So less than half a percent.
GH: Less than half a percent.
RF: Actually get through.
GH: Another words ninety-nine point five I guess have tried to get FDA approval and failed.
RF: And failed.
GH: Wow. That’s a lot and in, in the mark, the message to the market there eventually becomes don’t try.
RF: Don’t try right. And it actually there’s a lot less money that goes to dementia funding than other things.
GH: Sure if you’re never gonna, it’s expensive to develop a drug.
RF: And so there’s that and so there’s that problem in that they really haven’t come up with an intervention but music therapists have been having success with a lot of different problems around dementia. So there’s several problems around dementia. One is getting it in the first place right. So the only thing that the doctors and the physicians in the clinic and the clinical researchers have come up with a recently is the one thing that can delay the onset of dementia is this full brain active workout.
GH: You know you hear that like I’m inveterate, crossword puzzle person and so I think as I am doing my Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle, well I’m staving off dementia but I haven’t heard that’s sort of anecdotal. Maybe it does help. Maybe it doesn’t. I mean how do you know?
RF: And so, there’s some really good research out of UCLA and it’s not a singular thing that’s the problem with dementia.
GH: Sure you can’t just do the crossword puzzle.
RF: You can just, because there’s other factors there’s diet…
GH: I was going to say food.
RF: Nutrition has a huge, so there’s a lot of different factors that go into whether or not it will work right but it is the one thing that they found that, hey, if you really keep your brain active it’s not a cure all, it’s not definitely, you’re not definitely gonna, not get dementia.
GH: But it’s beyond, sort of, you know cause and effect. It’s a causal relationship.
RF: There’s a cause and effect. Because the brain is an electric system. Right, so keeping that going. So, so there’s the part of what we do, and I’ll go into what it is, that’s about staving off dementia. But then the problems with dementia are around agitation, right? It’s around when you have dementia a lot of times there’s wandering. There’s these sort of neurochemical imbalances that happened. So what we do with music is we come up with an actual prescribed solution to dementia. So what we did is we digitized that exact protocol that Gabrielle Gifford’s music therapist used to help her.
GH: Oh that’s so interesting. Was that like open-sourced or was that proprietary or…?
RF: Well the funny thing is, my dad actually had the idea. So music therapists have been using this lyric prompting. So if I was using lyric prompting with you and I was your music therapist, I sit here with the guitar, piano, I found out what your favorite music is. I’d say, “Okay. It’s Tom Petty, right?” So I start playing, “American Girl” and I would feed you the words of the song right before you would need to sing them.
GH: I’m envisioning my future right now.
RF: And so then I would… then you would start singing even though you can’t speak because the speech takes place in the entire brain.
GH: Something snaps in my brain.
RF: And you start singing. So we essentially put that process into an app.
GH: Got it.
RH: So there’s a track that has the music on it there’s, the traffic at the prompter on it.
GH: This addresses the scaleable issue.
RF: Right. And so now what we do… what we wanted to do as a company is we knew that the idea of music as medicine as really effective precision medicine that could get clinical results was very vapory for people.
GH: Not enough data.
RF: Not enough data around it. And so as a young company, we wanted to create a product that would prove our thesis that this could work. And we decided for many reasons but one is that just this, you know, 140 years of no pharmaceutical intervention, we wanted to pick a place where there was a real problem and that we could actually create a solution that would help people and, just from a business point of view, that had customers. RIght? So customers like senior living communities and all these kinds of places.
GH: So you go out to the senior living communities, you bring your technology your app, and I’ve seen the video, we can link to it, the results of these people that have just been, you know, I will use the wrong phrases, but some sort of near catatonic state will start to emerge from it.
RF: Exactly. And so what we do in this state, because obviously someone with dementia is not just going to be there, you know, on their iPad kinda like running through the app. Is in this particular state, we go in we not only have the app with with the appropriate music from the appropriate eras, which we use the publishing companies to publish through. Then we also create protocol. So we say, “Okay, what is the evidence-based protocol that a music therapist would use?” And then we create programming around that, almost like scripts, that we then can give to the activities directors, the other clinicians at this place.
GH: Teaching tools.
RF: Teaching tools. And then we train them.
GH: I love it.
RF: And, go ahead.
GH: That’s the product.
RF: That’s the product.
GH: And I love it. And I just I want to bring us back to how this, I mean, the important thing is this clearly the work that you’re doing for these people that are suffering as well as, candidly, their kids, who are now caregivers for this and trying to help mom and dad. And, you know, there’s a multiplicity of other things it could do. And one of things I know we’ve talked about is like kids suffering from asthma. Similar treatment can relax them, open up there sort of bronchial tubes, or what have you. So tons of ways that this could address it. I love it. How does this benefit musicians?
RF: Right. Well part of the way it benefits musicians is, just last week, before I came to Boston, I’m signing checks to publishing companies. Right? So just from a financial point of view, this is another revenue stream. So if we can create, you know, part of our goal, my goal with SingFit and Musical Health Technologies is to create an industry. Like, yes I want to build a wonderful business around our particular product but our particular product is not the only music as medicine product. So from the music industry, publishing industry, especially point of view supporting the idea of music as medicine, gives them a whole new revenue stream. And, to me, one of the things that it does because, you know, I was around when, you know, Napster blew up and all this sort of devaluation of music and people stopping to pay for music started, that this starts to really revalue it. Because if can say, “Look, Mr. Pharmaceutical Company, you’re charging somebody four dollars for a pill and I can have the same or better effect, isn’t that music, isn’t that song worth four dollars?” Right? At least. Right?
GH: At least. Because it has net positive benefits where that pill’s going to have net negative side effects.
RF: Exactly, exactly. And so part of how it benefits the music industry overall is we’re just on a short term basis creating another revenue stream for the you know writers and publishers whose music we’re using but in a larger sense, we’re building an industry that is going to revalue, because you can put a monetary value on getting somebody out of the hospital faster.
GH: I love that.
RF: On, you know, helping somebody not go to an emergency room.
GH: And so just sort of sum this up, like can you connect some threads here between your orientation as a futurist and this product? I mean, where does this… a big part of Music2020 is created in a more sort of open, egalitarian playing field where people can contribute and music can be untapped whether through blockchain or what have you, to be used in many different ways. How does this all start to converge, in your vision, in the next several, I don’t know, 10 years, 5 years, whatever?
RF: 10 years. Yeah. So I would say it’s this way. I would say that, sort of, going back to that idea of during the Industrial Revolution things changed from, if you wanted music, you had to make music. To once we had record players and radios, and now downloads. That when it was records there was a very narrow class of people who actually got to make music, right? Because it was expensive. Now that you got your ProTools rig on your hundred dollar laptop, anybody can make music.
GH: That’s what I call the first era of disintermediation.
RF: Exactly. So it’s getting to the point where more people are making music.
RF: But what I would say is the connection between my futures work and the work that I’m doing for SingFit and Musical Health Technologies, is how do we reintegrate music on a much, much, much, larger scale back into society?
GH: That’s great!
RF: Why aren’t we teaching music in schools in a bigger way? Why is music always the first thing that gets cut? Why is it that, you know, we were just at Berklee and the thing that I liked about Berklee School of Music is they’re not… it’s not just a performance school. Right? You’re not just trying to pump out the next Christian McBride or great, you know, jazz player. They’re also looking at music business in different ways. And for me the idea for that is; what are all of these different ways? Why is it that the way that I pay for music is I go to a concert? Why isn’t the way that I pay for music that I go take music lessons and play in a little quartet, that’s the way that I interact with music? That, to sort of pull it out a little bit of this of this entertainment, entertainment solely focused industry…
GH: Like this siloed thing.
RF: A siloed thing, and make it what it used to be, which is part of integrated everyday life.
GH: Integrate it and then make it transactional but not necessarily from a pecuniary or monetary sense, the transaction can be health, the transaction can be joy. There certainly can be a monetary transaction but it unlocks all these different types of asset classes that people just haven’t really been thinking about. And as I try to orient myself towards the future, that’s got to be it, right?
RF: Right. Yeah.
GH: Well with the work you’re doing is so, so crucial both from the health side of things but also orientating and helping all orientate towards the future. Thank you so much.
RF: Thank you. It was really a pleasure.
GH: Yeah. It really was.