OK, a day or so after my panel at the fantastic Future of Music Policy Summit, and I want to try and toss out a few thoughts.
First off, while I’m typically not real big on conferences, I can enthusiastically recommend this one. The values of the conference and the caliber of speakers/workshops makes this – in my mind – the go-to conference. Get yourself registered for 2010 asap.
So, my panel was entitled New Musician’s Toolbox. I moderated, and the panelists were: Duncan Freeman, founder, Band Metrics; Charlie McEnerney, Host + Producer, Well-Rounded Radio/Musicians for Music 2.0; and Alexis Rodich, Director of Marketing and Partner Relations, BandsinTown. Excellent panelists all, and certainly people/companies committed to adding value. I urge you to check out each of these companies.
I think what really hit me about the conference was that it’s the first time where I felt like the expectations of the attendees wasn’t completely whacked. I’ve been doing these conferences for longer than I care to remember, and, in fact, it was after a conference where I spoke, in which, simply because I had the suffix “A&R” attached to my name, that my panel was over-crowded with a teeming mass of demo-wielding aspirants attempting to fast track themselves to a record deal, that I decided to write my first book telling people that foisting a demo on a fatigued record label executive in the hopes that this would somehow further your career may not be the very best strategy.
None of that at this panel.
Instead, rather than perceived access being the factor that motivated people to come to the panel, it appeared to me that information was what was being sought. And, again, not information for how to get signed to a label, but rather information that they (the panel attendees) could use in order to further their own ventures.
This is a pretty seismic shift.
I’ve seen it coming for some time, but â€” like the lake being over taken by algae that doubles in size every day â€” it seems like the progress is now inexorable and exponential. Artists realize there’s no looking back, and – importantly – there is beginning to emerge some principles and best practices for the way forward. While these principles and pieces are still formative, you can kind of feel people assembling the disparate elements in a manner that makes sense given their individual situations; building on the wisdom of others and customizing.
On my panel we had many of the important pieces: Band Metrics represents the crucial analytic piece that bands must familiarize themselves with (if you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist (yes, that’s what she said)). I believe each of us on the panel said something along the lines of, “You must familiarize yourselves with SEO and analytics.” Band Metrics makes this easy and useful; they’re on to something.
BandsinTown brings the element of live performance. In this era of all things online, too often bands sort of downplay the importance of playing live. I’ve written ad nauseam on the importance of balancing (Straddling) your off line world with your online world. BandsinTown offers important solutions. (I kind of think Band Metrics and BandsinTown may want to collaborate.)
Well Rounded Radio represents the continued importance of media, even as it evolves from a teeny group of gatekeepers at magazines/radio/etc. to a more bottoms-up decentralized-but-connected trusted sources with voices. Charlie made some important points about how you must think in terms of psychographic affiliations rather than just assuming you’re marketing to people who like music that is similar to yours, and thus they will like yours too.
This idea was best summed up by the excellent artist, Vienna Teng who, from the audience, told of the fact that her music was being used with some frequency in some sort of anime mash up; and that this occurred without her really having anything to do with it. However, measuring this impact, and discerning the sources of interest (via analytics) allows you to then react with some form of plan to maximize these elements of light.
Terms popping around the panel:
1000 True Fans
If there was anything I felt lacking in our panel (and, I would guess, it was covered in others) was that essential to an artist’s tool box is the ability to sell directly from their own site and capture information from this process. I, naturally, gave a shout to Topspin and CASH for this particular breed of functionality.
Additionally, something related to this that must be in the artist’s toolbox is some way to develop (source), manufacture, and sell merch. This is a decidedly non-trivial issue as the music business, more and more, becomes the merch business. Shout out here to PAID.
Once these elements coalesce a bit more systems are going to emerge. The inspiring thing to me is that we no longer really have to pound the fist on the table and command (beg) artists to not worry about getting signed to a label. Artists – at least at this conference – didn’t seem the least bit concerned/interested in this. Rather, the interest seemed to be about strategic partnerships and best practices.
Here’s to the dawn of a new era, here’s to the Future of Music Policy Summit, and, yeah, raise a toast to St. Joe Strummer.