Hazel Savage: Employee #25 at Shazam, Music Tech and Working Internationally - E122

· Start-up,Singapore,Music,Women

 The industry, the traditional industry model used to be different. It used to be that very few artists succeeded and those artists that did, made a lot of money, but the labels made even more money. We’ve definitely seen a more democratization of the industry. Now, artists can have more control over their own career. They probably wouldn’t sign deals like the 360 deals that used to exist where the label has the majority of the control.- Hazel Savage

With 15 years experience in the industry, Hazel is a music-tech lifer, guitarist and CEO/Co-Founder at Musiio. She started her music-tech journey as an early employee at Shazam and spent time understanding the pain points of the industry at Pandora, Universal and HMV before launching Musiio in 2018. 

Hazel travels the world speaking at conferences and educating catalogue owners about the value of artificial intelligence integration and digital transformation in the music industry. As a female CEO in the heavily male-dominated industries of music and tech, Hazel offers a breath of fresh air and insight, with interesting and humorous anecdotes, as well as easy-to-follow explanations and digestible use cases of artificial intelligence technology.


Jeremy Au: (00:30)

Hey, Hazel, good to have you on the show.

Hazel Savage: (00:31)

Thanks, Jeremy, good to be here. Thanks for having me.

Jeremy Au: (00:34)

Yeah, I’ve been excited to have you on the show because you were such a great panelists and speaker. At the Enterpreneurs First internal meetings and everything, and I really wanted to go deeper into your story for the benefit of not just the listeners but also myself.

Hazel Savage:  (00:50)

Oh, thank you so much. No, it’s an absolute pleasure. I’m always happy to make a new friend and speak publicly about my journey so far. 

Jeremy Au: (00:58)

So for those who don’t know yet, how would you introduce yourself professionally? 

Hazel Savage: (01:02)

Absolutely. So, for those who don’t know me, my name is Hazel Savage. I’m the CEO and Co. Founder of Musiio, an artificial intelligence startup for the music industry. My background, more specifically, I’ve been working in music tech for about 15 years, so my very first job, when I was in the UK, I used to work at HMV the record store, just working on a Saturday and Sunday whilst I was at university, earning a bit of beer money and after I left university I went full time at Shazam and I have since worked at Universal Music, Pandora, and then I started Musiio three years ago. So I’ve been in the music tech industry for a long time. I don’t think anyone else would have me now.

Jeremy Au: (01:44)

That’s amazing and I love the fact that you’re a founder in the music space and it’s such a breath of fresh air. Everyone’s tackling another e-commerce company and you’re fresh.

Hazel Savage: (01:54)

Yeah, you’re right. It’s not super common, and especially, I know we’re both based in Singapore, but it’s not super common for this part of the world as well. There are tech incubators in LA and London that’s just focused on music technology like Techstars Music or Abbey Road Red in London and so that you get real hubs of music tech startups in those locations. Certainly, when we started in Singapore, we were the only ones and I was even our chatting today with some of the guys I work with saying our lead investor is not a music tech investor. They invest in fintech, med-tech, biotech, fish-tech. There’s a lot of other great deep tech companies being built in Asia and Singapore specifically, but we might be the only music tech VC funded company. We were certainly the first. There might be some others by now. 

Jeremy Au: (02:45)

Well, we’ll definitely go into a little bit about why you’re tackling, for sure, at the start-up levels very soon. For me, I just gotta ask, how did you fall in love with music? 

Hazel Savage: (02:55)

Yeah, great question. I think I’ve always been a big fan of music, my parents both love music and listened to a lot of music. They’re both pretty rock and roll as well; I got rock and roll parents, which is always fun. This is kind of the story that got me the job of Pandora - when my dad was at University of Birmingham, the house band was Black Sabbath. So, my dad used to go down to the student union every sort of Friday or whatever day it was, and Black Sabbath used to play every Friday. So, my dad’s always been a big fan of rock and metal and my mom’s a huge music fan as well. So, I kind of grew up in a house surrounded by music fans, although not necessarily musicians. Then I got a guitar for my 13th birthday. I was just like “Oh, this sounds like a good idea” and I was not very good for a long time, but I really, really stuck at it and I still play guitar, although I’m still not very good. So, I have a real passion for playing. I have a real passion for performing live, I come from a family of people who all love music and so when I was kind of figuring out “What am I gonna do with my life, what am I gonna do for my career?” It made sense to focus on something and that I’ve dedicated nearly all my time to. I ended up doing loads of things tangentially related. I was playing in a band. I was managing other bands. I was running club nights. I was handing out flyers for other people’s club nights, running guest lists, and I just thought to take this and turn it into a career that’s kind of where it started at least. 

Jeremy Au: (04:27)

Amazing. I can imagine that consuming and enjoying music and playing music is very different from working in the music industry, right? which you very quickly discovered. I’d love to know more about it because you stayed in the music industry even after that discovery. So, tell us more. What’s the difference between consuming versus playing versus being in the music industry? 

Hazel Savage: (04:51)

It definitely is very different. I like both elements of the industry and, to me, the transition happened so smoothly and so gradually that I didn’t even possibly notice. But most people would say they’re a music fan and a lot of people, other startups, do come to me for advice and say “We’ve got an idea for a music startup” And I would say 99 out of 100 other startups I get pitched. It’s either an illegal use case of audio or there’s no demand or it’s been done before and it didn’t work. Sometimes, that doesn’t mean you can’t rework it, but just because you like to listen to music does not mean necessarily you understand enough to start a music tech company, but there is some crossover. If you start by loving music and you want to work in music, I think that’s a really admirable goal. I do think you need to be a little bit cautious because, as I say, it’s still work. A lot of people think maybe it’s going to be like hanging out at parties and meeting famous people and I don’t really get to meet any famous people. It’s work, it’s a job like any other, apart from, it’s in the music industry. So, I sort of became passionate about it over the years and I actually love the industry side of it as much as I love being a fan of music, but it is two different experiences. 

Jeremy Au: (06:18)

What are some myths and misconceptions about the music industry? 

Hazel Savage: (06:22)

Yeah, what’s a myth and what’s actually true? I think one of the myths would be that you would get to meet a lot of famous people. I feel like since I started Musiio three years ago, I don’t think me or anyone on the team has got to meet or interact with any sort of famous artists. Obviously, work on their catalogues by their labels and publishers, but there’s not a huge element of that to it. It’s also a misconception, although I would say the industry’s changed a lot. I have been working in music for the last 15 years, but I was specifically Universal, a major label ten years ago, but that was really at the end of the golden era. You know, so back in the 80s and 90s when the label sold everything on cassette and then they resold everything on CD and they were just making money hand over fist, they couldn’t stop making money. I’ve heard that it was all sort of cocaine and hookers back in those days, but I joined much later. I joined when there wasn’t a lot of money going around and digital was on the up and streaming was launching, so those misconceptions about what you might see in a music autobiography, like Motley Crew or what you might see in a film like Almost Famous, none of those perceptions are true anymore. It’s just, generally, a bunch of good people doing good work. Maybe back in the 80s and 90s, it was more of party, but now, it’s just a regular job. 

Jeremy Au: (07:56)

Regular job bunch of good people doing good work. Now that I think about it, the movies don’t really put the music industry in a good light, right? They’re always like the artist is always the hero, the music industry is always cheating them or bamboozling them, or taking advantage of them, or preventing their fantastic video from happening. 

Hazel Savage: (08:18)

Actually, yeah, you make a good point as well. The industry, the traditional industry model used to be different. It used to be that very few artists succeeded and those artists that did, made a lot of money, but the labels made even more money. We’ve definitely seen a more democratization of the industry. Now, artists can have more control over their own career. They probably wouldn’t sign deals like the 360 deals that used to exist where the label has the majority of the control. That’s their classic trope in the film, but it also reminds me of back when I was 15 and I was playing in a band in my hometown and one of the local promoters, I said I really wanna be on this this line up,  you’ve got this well-known band coming to town I want my band to support and he was like sure I’ll put you on the lineup, tell me which of the other two bands you want me to kick off and I’ll do it and I was like oh, I knew people in both of those other bands like it was a great score for them and I was like no, no, I’m not willing to do it if it means you have to kick someone else off. He said, you know, you’ll never get anywhere in this industry by being nice. I just said watch me. That was when I was 15, I’m 37 now. I pretty much spent the last X amount of years proving that that guy is wrong. Yes, there are a lot of awful people in every industry and there are a lot of people who think you do have to stand on other people to get to where you want to get to. I personally don’t believe that’s true. I believe that good people can do good things. Ever since I was 15 and I refuse to kick anyone off that lineup, not interested in destroying anyone or trampling over anyone to be successful and that’s kind of what I hope for the future of the industry as well. 

Jeremy Au: (10:06)

Amazing. Well, I feel like one of those two bands you probably know which one you would have, if you put a gun to your head. I feel like that person owes you a blood debt. I don’t know, maybe they’re super successful now or something? 

Hazel Savage: (10:18)

No, to be fair, the two bands I was told I could kick one of them off. One of them had a really close friend of mine in it and I would certainly never have done that to him. Then, on balance, I knew the other guys as well and, yeah, as soon as you start viewing it through a lens of who do I like and who do I want to judge, then you’re not being fair. I would hate to have to kick anyone off that show and I don’t have the gig right now, so I’m not losing anything whereas if I make someone else lose something so I can gain. That’s not a deal I would’ve made. That was not a deal I wanted to make at 15, and even now when it comes to business deals, I wouldn’t do a deal like that now. 

Jeremy Au: (10:56)

That’s interesting because, I think at that time, there was a scarcity of play time in that concert for the people in that room. There’s only space for them to hear those three bands play and nobody else and you just kind of shared a little bit about it. You talked about the democratization of that and about the digitalization of the music industry where everybody can listen and there is no longer that scarcity. I could fire up right now and put up a playlist of 12 different bands playing one song each which would never have happened in the past because the band would have to travel here, playing the whole set, and obviously, there’s no way we could have gotten 12 of those guys; different bands of those different types from across the world, into that room. 

Hazel Savage: (11:42)

Takes too long to change the equipment over. That’s why you have a limit on the number of bands, it would take too long. But, yeah, the industry has changed massively. Now we have streaming on top of live shows, merchandise, record deals, videos, celebrity endorsements, you name it an artist could put a career together out of more parts of the industry these days, seek licensing music for like advertising and film. But it was funny because back in the day and this is probably why I work in the industry. I used to love to play live, I would love to play a show but there’s a lot of the rest of it that I don’t get a huge kick out of. I don’t particularly love recording in the studio. I don’t particularly like that there’s so much waiting around when you’re in a band like my brother was in a more successful touring band and I would quite often go on tour with them in the merch stand and sell T-shirts. You’ll rock it up at venue at midday and then sitting around, waiting around for them to setup. Then they do a sound check. Then there’s like more waiting around for like 4 hours until the doors open then the first band’s on and then the second band then the third then the headliner and so you could be hanging around from midday till midnight, 12 hours in a venue for 30 to 45 minutes of actually playing. So, you’ve got to really want to do it because that waiting around is a little tedious.

Jeremy Au: (13:10)

That somehow doesn’t show up in the movie at all, the waiting. 

Hazel Savage: (13:14)

They don’t show the waiting around, that would be a terrible movie. It’s in real time, 12 hours of nothing and 45 minutes of playing, but yeah they don’t show that side of it. I’m a bit of a workaholic and a doer, so the concept of just standing around is not super appealing to me, but I do love to play live that bit’s fun. 

Jeremy Au: (13:39)

What’s interesting is that I felt like you’ve been part of that digital part of it from so early on. You were at Shazam all the way back in 2007 and I feel like 2007, Shazam was just getting started, honestly. I remember downloading Shazam for my phone and I was just mind blown that they could detect some songs. It had a feature where you could sing into it then find the song and I was just never in tune enough for it to discover any song, but it’s kind of crazy. 

Hazel Savage: (14:08)

Yes, so, actually, I don’t think Shazam actually ever had the sing feature. You probably mean Sound Hound, which was our biggest competitor. 

Jeremy Au: (14:15)

Aw, yes, I used both. 

Hazel Savage: (14:16)

Yeah, and actually, Sound Hound was more popular in Asia, bizarrely. So, when I moved here, everyone used Sound Hound as much as they used Shazam. But, say in the UK where I’m from, Shazam was definitely the predominant app. Interestingly, the Shazam technology could always do the sing into the phone and guess, but the accuracy is so low that Shazam made the decision that it’s a better product if you could only play it real music and it gets it right 99.9% of the time. They kind of made that product decision which is interesting. Also, funnily enough, like you say, 2007 is also the year the first iPhone was released, and I’ve probably been working at Shazam maybe sort of six to nine months before that happened, and so I worked for Shazam before smartphones existed. I think the phone I had at this time was like the Sony Ericsson and so they had a real keyboard, like little buttons. If you wanted to text you had to triple press to get like C or something? So, you’d have to press 1, 2, 3, 1, and then key whatever that is. That was texting back in the day. I haven’t done it for 10 years, but that’s how it used to work. So, if you wanted to use Shazam, it was UK only and you used to have to dial the four numbers down the middle of the phone which was 2, 5, 8, 0. So, when I started at Shazam, it was called Shazam 2580 and you’d dial the number, held up your phone for 30 seconds and you would get an SMS text back with the name of the song and the artist and title and then, of course, that was UK only. We had about 30,000 users and then as soon as the first iPhone come out and we launched an app that was live in the App Store, all of a sudden it went from small UK based startup to globally recognized music tech company and we went from the first office which was in this disused 50s hospital in Kensington in London and then after the iPhone come out, we were a global company, we moved into a proper office in Hammersmith in London, so that was nice. But, yeah being a part of that company from…I think I was about employee number 25 and then by the time I left, there was about 200 people, maybe a bit more. That was a really fun and exciting experience and I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed it right from when it was fairly small to all the success that they went on to have, and even now a lot of my ex-colleagues are now part of Apple and it’s great to see them there doing really well.

Jeremy Au: (16:42)

Amazing. What was it like joining shazam? You made a bet into this crazy startup back before joining startups were cool or in the movies as well. Why did you actually join this company? 

Hazel Savage: (16:53)

There was no Google startup or Silicon Valley TV show back when I joined but the way I like to think about risk taking, and this is true for everything, is I consider myself a calculated risk taker. What do I have to lose? What’s the potential upside and depending on who you speak to, my lead investors are more risk averse founders compared to a lot of other startup founders who are little bit more conservative in decision making. But then compared to, say, the average person from my hometown, I would be considered a huge risk taker. Look at me now. I live in Singapore. I live in Asia. I’ve got my own company. I do AI that’s insane for some people to think about. It really depends on the spectrum of risks but it also depends on within which context. If you put me in a room full of founders and risk takers, I seem like I’m not a risk taker. You put me in a room with a bunch of people from my home town, I probably do seem like a risk taker, so I always think about it like a calculated risk. 

When I got the job at Shazam, before that I was working full time in HMB, the record store and I just finished my degree and then I went full time at the store and I really loved working in the record store. It’s great fun. Got some friends for life from working there, but I didn’t want to stay in retail indefinitely, so I was just applying for all kinds of jobs. When Shazam came up and I interviewed and I got the offer, to me, that was a no brainer and I was young enough. I think I was 22 at the time. You don’t even think about the risk. You know, it’s like that’s a job. I got it. Let’s do it. I’m just very lucky that it ended up being one of the more successful startups. So, I made kind of a good calculated risk on that side. 

Jeremy Au: (18:38)

How did you run across Shazam as a company to work in. I know you were into music, you were already working in music, but how did you hear about it, did you hear from a friend or someone tell you about it? 

Hazel Savage: (18:49)

Great question and while I was working at HMV in London, I think I said before I applied for like 100 jobs over the course of a year and a half. The only one I actually heard back from was Shazam and got an interview. I knew if I could just get an interview, I could probably get the job, but, when your CV literally only has one job and you’ve worked in retail, how do you convince anyone else to take a chance on you? I actually saw the Shazam job advertised on “monster.co.uk”, which was the predominant job platform in the UK when I was job hunting. I have no idea if it even exists. Maybe it’s a massive global company these days, or, maybe it doesn’t exist anymore, but it was the place for jobs. All jobs were just posted on monster.co.uk and so I saw the job advertised - digital music encoder, it said full training would be provided, they just wanted someone with a music background. So, I just sent in a CV. Luckily, one of the guys reviewing the CVs had previously also worked at HMV and the record store was known for hiring a certain type of person (music lover, extroverted) and so he said he saw my CV and went, oh she’ll be good fun. So, I’m really grateful for Alan, my boss. Mr. Allen, who spotted my CV and then they called me in for an interview and I kind of thought if I could get an interview. I could show people that I could do it, but getting that first interview, that’s the hardest part for sure. 

Jeremy Au: (20:21)

Wow. A lot of gratitude to Alan for spotting you and it looks like you made the right call.

Hazel Savage: (20:26)

What a legend! Love Mr Alan. What a great guy. 

Jeremy Au: (20:30)

So, what was that like? Must’ve been quite a ride because over those 4-5 years you saw the company grow 10X, which is a very classic story of startups on hyper growth stage. So, what was that like? 

Hazel Savage: (20:42)

It was great and the things I remember most are that it was a good time. I love that saying which was - you don’t remember what someone said, you don’t remember what someone did, but you remember how they made you feel. I just have a general feeling of happiness from that time. I was playing in bands, still. I was more of an artist than I was on the biz side and so I was sometimes playing four or five shows a week. I was managing a couple of artists in London as well which was really fun. I remember stuff every Friday. Shazam used to have free bagel breakfast and it was just a bag of 5 New York Bagels. You go in the kitchen, toast it yourself and spread the butter and jam on it and it was like free breakfast on Fridays! I remember that being just a really nice memory and I remember at the end of every month, we’d have drinks. There used to be a guy who would mix cocktails and they were so strong they would knock your head off and it was like “Oh, careful, if so and so is making the cocktails…ooo, it’s a bit strong” and he was very generous with his portions of vodka and gin. And then I remember we used to have a Nintendo Wii and we always used to play Wii Tennis and Wii Bowling at the end of month drinks and there’s a really lovely photo and in this photo, it’s me and the CEO which is Andrew Fisher playing Guitar Hero against each other and in the background is Katie McMahon, who went on to become the general manager of Sound Hound, and Mr. Allen is in the back of the photo. So, it’s a real kind of a who’s who but way back in the day, and I think even Thomas is in the back of the photo and he now is the director of engineering at Facebook, so I love that a lot of the people I’ve worked with have gone on to do great things, but more than anything I just remember that we had a lot of really good times and that, to me, was the highlight there. The people, of course. 

Jeremy Au: (22:38)

I got to ask…who won Guitar Hero?

Hazel Savage: (22:42)

I think I did, but I think that’s a little bit cheating because I’m rubbish at computer games. But I actually played a real guitar and playing a real guitar gives you the coordination between both hands that you also need to play Guitar Hero. So, I think I had a little bit of an unfair advantage, and now you’ve asked that question, I’m looking back and I’m like, oh, I should have probably lost on purpose. I was playing the CEO, I should have thrown the match. Maybe he looks back at the same memory and he’s like that Hazel, not cool. 

Jeremy Au: (23:19)

Nah, he probably thinks that you’re cooler for beating him. It’s always nice to have someone who has the guts to not throw the game, right? It’s not like a dictatorship basketball game. 

Hazel Savage: (23:30)

I’m gonna message him after this. I’m gonna see. Bet he won’t even remember, probably, but that’s fine. 

Jeremy Au: (23:36)

Ok, so that you are, it’s four wonderful years. You’ve seen a company grow 10X. That is effectively a startup and then you go on to do a bunch of stints like Universal Music Group, which is going back to the big guys, which is interesting. I’m sure you must have learned something there. Then you went into Pandora, which was another startup as well. I’d love to hear about that story, what you learnt from going back into the big music and then going back to Pandora? What was that like? 

Hazel Savage: (24:02)

Yeah. Obviously my first proper full-time job after leaving HMV was Shazam and I was there for four years, I got very into the way that you work within a music tech company that you have developers on site, you use planning products like Jira, that everyone is doing their best job and nobody is trying to be cool or being famous people. That said, I really love the Shazam work environment. When I moved to Universal and I took the job because I’d always wanted to work for a major label. That was a dream job, but I realized very quickly, and this isn’t necessarily true now, this was 10 years ago, but they were not working in a modernized way. It was very much more old school. I remember we were still mailing out CD’s for promo and I remember once I was trying to find a photo of Lady Gaga to update the website and there was no central repository of images which, for the biggest label in the world, is ridiculous. Why do we have no version control? There was a lot of uphill struggles and a lot of uphill battles, but that was because the industry was right in the middle of the time of change, and so even though I did thoroughly enjoy it, and when I look back, I do have some good friends from the year that I worked in Universal, I did only stay a year and I did realize very much that the major label side of the industry was not the part of the industry that excited me or that I was interested in. So of course, then when I started at Pandora, which, again, is a streaming service based in the US but very much a tech form of company, I instantly felt straight at home again. That’s exactly the kind of company I love to work for. Smart people. Lots of musicians, passionate people, and so I really obviously I have no regrets. It’s great to have done a major label for a year, but it definitely made me realize as well that I am a little bit more on the tech first side of things when it comes to music tech. So yeah. So that’s kind of how it got there and then after Pandora I did work for BandLab Technologies in Singapore as well, and, again, they had multiple brands at the time all under one sort of blanket company and at the time I worked there that was physical guitar retail as well as the BandLab app. I enjoyed working on the app most because that’s the area that I love. Of course, I played guitars. Yeah, I like guitars, and we had guitar retails, but when it comes to work, I like the tech side of things; the android app, the IOS app, the web experience that’s the part of the industry that I’m particularly passionate about. 

Jeremy Au: (26:43)

Amazing. So what was it like at Pandora? It was still pretty early at that time as well. I mean, they had already gotten some success around that time. I still remember it was almost pre-Spotify to me in my brain. 

Hazel Savage: (26:59)

It depends on which country you are in. In the US when I joined Pandora, it was already the biggest streaming service in America. It might not be anymore. Certainly, Spotify was around but Pandora was the number one that most people had heard of there like 80 million daily active users, which is an insane amount, but it is a big country. When I joined Pandora, the US office had about 400 people, but by the time I left 2 ½ years later than about 800 so they did go through a huge growth cycle, but instead of the Shazam small to big, they went through big to bigger, that kind of story. But because I was one of the teams that joined to help them launch in Australia and New Zealand, we were a team of three originally, so I was one of the first employees trying to help with the global expansion, which was great because it meant that when I went over to the Auckland office I got to go out for lunch with Tim Westergren and the founder, and I’m like I’m a huge fan of his. I love his story, his background, I love his approach to the industry and he certainly, as a figurehead for music streaming, took a lot of flak because he came from the artist side and he was trying to promote obviously a new business model and a new way of doing things. Even streaming to this day, not everyone is on board with it, I mean, those people are wrong, but not everyone is on board with it. So, to do what he did, I think, is just absolutely phenomenal. 

Now I’m a founder myself, one of the things I also understand and love about Tim’s story is when he first started as one of the founders of Pandora, he started as the founder, then he became the CEO, but then by the time I joined, they had brought in this other CEO guy called Joe Kennedy and Tim moved into like a Chairman role and I was thinking at the time why would he want to give up being the CEO...why wouldn’t he want to be the top jaw? Now I’m a CEO, I totally would like to bring someone else in to manage it because CEO is short for head of sales and head of investor relations and if you can bring in a top finance guy to do that for you. That’s a good idea. I mean, it’s just a title. I would be happy to have someone else come in and be the CEO if I could just do all the music stuff and all the industry relations. I remember thinking at the time, oh that’s weird that he gave that up, but now I’m a founder, totally get it. 

Jeremy Au: (29:30)

What was your impression of him during those lunches in Sydney and Australia?

Hazel Savage: (29:35)

I’m just such a huge fan. I’m a huge Tim Westergren fan and I just remember it was so funny as well, it’s hard not to be a little bit starstruck by one of the massively successful music tech startup founders, even obviously there with jokes about the TV show Silicon Valley, the guy, the double comma guy, I guess the guy who’s a billionaire and he’s always like what’s ROI? And the guys like “return on investment”. He’s like “wrong, radio on Internet” and he’s like I’ve invented ROI, that’s the joke. But Tim Westergren did invent radio on internet so it’s kind of I’m working with the radio on Internet guy and shows like Silicon Valley are not directly name checking Tim, but the archetype is there. He’s the guy that brought this to the public. I remember when I went over to Pandora to do the training for a week, he would walk in and speak to everyone who joined that week and they were onboarding huge amounts of people like 50 people would sit in on the session a month and a lot of other people would stop him for photographs, for autographs, just to shake his hand. He definitely had that celebrity vibe, but he was also just generally very lovely and cool about it. So yeah, what can I say? I was and am a big fan. 

Jeremy Au: (30:58)

Amazing. I think this is an interesting part. You’ve been transitioning between the UK and Sydney and you decided to make the move to Singapore to join BandLab which makes sense, again, you’re just joining for the jobs, opportunity to work on another startup and growth side, and then even more of a senior executive leadership role. Then at some point you’re like. I want to be a founder, right? And I’m gonna join Entrepreneur First. That’s an interesting choice that you made. So why is that? 

Hazel Savage: (31:27)

Yeah, although it didn’t totally go like that. I was working at BandLab and previous to Musiio, I was always a marketer, like a head of marketing or from people’s social media, the press, the ads stand, all very much on the marketing side of all of the companies I’ve worked for and that’s the work I really love and enjoy. When I resigned from BandLab, I just so happen to get a call. Would I like to go in and have a coffee with these guys at Entrepreneur First? I thought oh, one day I’ll start company, but I’m waiting to have an idea first. One day it’ll come to me and I’ll be like boom, let’s start company. Turns out, it doesn’t really work like that. So, I went to meet EF for a coffee and they were like, oh, you’re just such a perfect candidate. You’ve got huge domain expertise in one particular vertical you could easily be one of our founders and I was like, oh great, let’s do it. Let’s give it a go. Turns out, you could workshop your way to an idea. You don’t need to have a fully formed idea come to you in a dream. You can research the parts of the industry that you know, you can workshop ideas based on the challenges that you know exists within an industry, and then you can start to build something and see if there’s any interest in it. So, I’m kind of glad that I met the EF team because I wouldn’t have come up with a random idea like this, just out of nowhere. I met my co-founder and we were able to get workshopping together, so, I’m glad they came along when they did. But, also, I always thought maybe I’d start a company one day, but I still don’t think of myself as a traditional entrepreneur in that sense. I’ve a friend who runs a great company in Singapore called Super Bass. It's like an open-source file-based solution and this is his third start up. The previous one, he was the CTO of cleaning company, previous before that, he was in logistics and delivery and I'm like wow this guy’s done 3 startups, they're all completely different and I consider him a true entrepreneur because he just sees the opportunity and he builds in that space, and I’m like that’s usually what entrepreneurs do. They see an opportunity and they build on it. I don’t consider myself a true entrepreneur because I will only ever be interested in doing stuff in music tech. I wouldn’t care how big an opportunity was. If it’s not in this industry, it’s probably not the thing that I wanna do, so I’m slightly different to your average founder or entrepreneur in that sense. But I am still very glad that I met the team from EF when I did because it was perfect timing. 

Jeremy Au: (34:01)

Basically, you know you’ve always had this long and deep passion for music and being comfortable with the industry and you being tempted with cookies, that’s a joy on the founder’s side. Also, the truth is, you’ve been at three music startups before this as an early employee or as a market launcher. You very much always had that facetime with founders so you kind of knew what you were going for anyway. 

Hazel Savage: (34:26)

Yeah, I think you’re right. I don’t think I’d be a great corporate marketer like I’m a very good zero to one. You got nothing but you want something; you got no budget, I could do something. But I don’t know that I would be that passionate about being the head of marketing for a 200-person team for a massively established business. I’m sure I could, but the part I’m passionate about is the doing something with nothing. 

Jeremy Au: (34:51)

Tell us about what the problem is that you’re solving in Musiio that you founded.

Hazel Savage: (34:56)

Yeah sure, it kind of starts with the core idea and I found my notebook from EF and on the very first page I’d written “Computer. Listen to music” that was my initial premise and then I met up with my co-founder who went “Yes, technically it can”, and then it was like, well, if you could scale something like that? How can you actually use it? What can you do? And I would always refer back to when I was working at HMV and I was working on a shift on a Sunday and I would put the CD’s on the shelf ready for sale on Monday because that’s when all new music was released on a busy week or an average week, they’d be like 5 CD singles. That’s a very manageable amount of music. Now, we have streaming services saying they have 60,000 new tracks a day. So how do we go from there’s now more music being released every single day than used to come out in a whole year. Therefore, we need better ways to automate that data when you better ways to understand the tracks that we have and the various things we might want to do with them so, at its very core, we’re a data processing company. It just so happens that the data that we process is music. 

Jeremy Au: (36:04)

Amazing. What was it like founding it from zero to 1? Now you’re on the other side table, right? You’ve been hanging out with all these founders this multiple times, and now you’re the founder. Was it like getting it up from zero to 1? 

Hazel Savage: (36:19)

That’s the part of it that I enjoy. I like having nothing and then making something happen. Because of my background in the industry, I was able to set up calls within the first week where a lot of my friends at the labels are one of my friends at various different music companies and the first thing you’re doing is you’re just sounding out. Hey, I’m going to build this. What do you think? Hopefully you’ve done enough favors for that person in the past, have been a good enough person that A they want to take your call and B, they’ll give you some honest feedback. They’ll give you some honest take on it and you don’t need to be building in music tech. You don’t need to be have as much industry experience as I do, but you gotta be willing to get on that phone and find out if the thing that you’re building is of interest because what you don’t wanna do is build in isolation. I do give this advice to new founders as well. A lot of people are building stuff where there’s no demand and product market fit, I think, is the number one killer of all businesses. It’s either product market fit founder relations that are top two. I forget which way around it is. So, you need to be able to get on with your founder so, again, try to be a good person and then secondly you need to be selling something that people want. So regardless of which industry you’re in or what you’re building, if you’re not focused on those two things then you will struggle with success. 

Jeremy Au: (37:36)

Thanks for that. OK, last question here before I begin the summary would be - could you share with us a time where you’ve had to be brave and overcome obstacles?

Hazel Savage: (37:45)

Yeah, absolutely. I was thinking about this one when you let me know about this question. I think, again, I would put it on a spectrum the way we were talking about risk as a spectrum. I think being brave is, as well, because I remember when I was working at Shazam, I got offered the job with Universal Music and it was in Australia but I was living in London at the time. And I was like, OK, Universal has offered me a job, it’s in Australia. They’re gonna relocate me and I’ve never been to Australia. But I was like, how bad could it be? Everyone speaks English. It should be fine. I speak English too and lots of people go there on holiday and for gap years. So, I figured it’ll be fine, and worst-case scenario, I really hate it, I could just come back. No move is really permanent, so I said yeah, I’ve been offered the job in Australia, I’m gonna go and I remember a lot of people’s first reaction is - that’s very brave. I suppose it is, but it didn’t really feel like that big a deal to me. So, a lot of people said that was a very brave thing to do. Take a job with a bunch of people you’ve never met in a country you’ve never been and just uproot your whole life to go and do it. I mean, I was only 26. Twenty-six-year-olds can be brave if they want to be, but to me that just didn’t seem like a thing I had to be brave for because I just knew I could walk it back, but I needed to. I feel like to some people that might be a brave thing to do. If there’s some people who would never consider it. But then I thought of an actual brave thing that I think I did. When I was nine years old, I used to be really into horse riding and I was riding a horse one day in a horse-riding lesson in my hometown and the horse went crazy ran off threw me off so I fell off the horse. It kind of bucked and threw me right off and I landed right on a traffic cone with my arms protecting me and I snapped my arm, right in half and I broke my arm, but I didn’t know I had broken it and the teacher did not know I’d broken it so she was like get back on the horse you can’t let this horse control you, you’ve gotta take charge. So, trying to hide the fact that I can’t move my arm, I got back on the horse and I finished the lesson. What happened? I was nine, so I think that was very brave also maybe a little bit stupid, but that would be my favorite example of being brave. Just pushing through just get on with it, broken arm, back on the horse, done. 

Jeremy Au: (40:06)

I love this story so much. Wow, thank you so much. This is to summarize and paraphrase the 3 big themes that came up for me. I think the parts I really enjoyed was obviously the whole trajectory of how you discovered music in your family, growing up as a child, as a family member, as a working professional, and how you transition to the music industry and shared about the personal experiences of not just being a consumer or artist of music, but also someone who’s working in the music industry, and I’m glad we got to clean up some of the myths and misconceptions based on your personal discovery of the differences from those different angles. 

I think the second one, of course, is that I really enjoyed. I think the piece around differentiating between the music as a start-up, having your experience at Pandora, Shazam, and Bandlab, all of which are brand names in the music industry is really amazing because it’s a great way to get that front view seat of companies growing quickly and innovating on something that we take for granted and it is nice to remember what’s it like to enter as employee number 25 and leave as employee 250. What’s it like to hangout founders? What’s it like to have pop culture or friends as founders and seeing that mentality as well? There’s a lot of great stories there.

The third thing that I really enjoyed was actually the bravery that you talked about. The one handed 9 year old girl on a horse, finishing her lesson with a broken arm. Loved that because that’s personal, intrinsic motivation to just throw your head up into what we now consider crazy companies that we also know are now household brand names. But, at the time, just pushing on and throwing your hat into the next tier or thing that people don’t really understand or get. And you’re still doing it as a market launcher or as an early employee, so that’s really amazing, and I think so many people would just get a lot from it to just be brave and pursue their passion in the music industry and to be a great founder one day. So, thank you so much, Hazel, for sharing all this. 

Hazel Savage: (42:17)

Thanks for having me, Jeremy, it’s been a fun chat.