The New Music Seminar, once the most important music gathering in the 1980’s, makes it’s fourth installment of the newly revamped conference at the New Yorker Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. The seminar brings together everybody in the record business; executives, producers, managers, artists, songwriters, media, and the consumers themselves.
The seminar officially kicked off Sunday, June 9th with a cocktail party and the start of the New York Musical Festival, but the real information and start to the seminar came Monday morning, with the State of The Industry keynote. The opening keynote featured a panel of executives including Rio Caraeff, the CEO of VEVO. The keynote, like most of the day at the New Music Seminar, had a continuing theme; a bunch males over the age of 40 giving their opinion on where they think the music industry is and headed toward.
Most of the opening keynote talked about maximizing each consumer’s revenue potential value in a world where the consumer wants to pay less or nothing at all. John Sykes (Clear Channel) and Frank Cooper (Pepsi) rounded out the opening panel, as the three men talked about the consumer at length, maximizing consumer experience, maximizing consumer value, blah blah blah. As a 24 year old, it seemed as if these three executives were just out of touch and a few steps behind their driving consumer age group of 14-30 years old, in an attempt to regain the industry’s old profit margins with an evolved consumer landscape.
It seemed fairly obvious where these executives assumed we were heading, internet radio and music subscription. However they failed to realize that the consumer is already there and has been there since Spotify launched about two years ago in the United States, or perhaps even earlier with YouTube and Pandora.
I next attended one of the saddest events of the day, the music subscription panel, where again, more middle aged men, as hip as they can dress, talked about music subscription and the future of retail music. Included in the panel were executives from Warner Brothers, Sony, Rhapsody, WIMP, Slacker, and Spotify. Spotify re-established in my eyes its status of the new heavyweight in music. Spotify’s representative (Sachin Doschi) emphasized that the music industry needs to embrace the idea of free music, using the free model as a springboard for a collection of services, restricting strategic features such as mobile access in order to entice the consumer to pay a small amount and supplement the remaining costs in advertisements, for example.
An interesting moment on the this panel, came when an audience member asked about Apple Radio, which was being announced in California while the New Music Seminar was in full swing. Almost immediately, the entire stage tensed up, it was like watching an over protective boyfriend get jealous when an attractive male walks past their girlfriend, holding on to dear life, hoping their girl doesn’t wise up and trade in for a better partner. Only this time around, the beautiful male happens to be the most profitable company on the planet, and their girlfriend represented their respected companies hoping to have a fraction of the staying power of Apple and their large fanbase. None of the panelists including executives from Sony and Warner Brothers wanted any part of the question. It’s also worth noting the two leaders in subscription music and streaming were not present in this panel, YouTube and Pandora.
Speaking of YouTube, they were up next with their “Changing the Music Game” Panel, complete with a 4 minute opening video. After listening to their two representatives Vivien Lewit and Brian Heenigan, its pretty clear that other than Apple, YouTube is biggest player in music. Although YouTube’s revenues and profit margin do not come close to Apple’s or their music retail powerhouse, the iTunes music store, YouTube dominates social relevance and cultural impact. As demonstrated in their opening video, YouTube has not only created internet celebrities from viral videos, they have also been responsible some of music’s biggest acts and singles including; the launch of Justin Bieber’s career, the rise of the “Harlem Shake”, and the global dominance of Psy’s “Gangnam Style”, to name a few. A lot of record companies fail to realize that YouTube has by far the largest userbase in the United States and possibly the world, with 1 billion users a month by some estimates. A service that is almost entirely free to it’s large userbase, which is a vital part of the company’s long history of success. YouTube has put the user first, and forced advertisers to adjust their campaigns and essentially pay the video – sharing site to keep 95% of their videos free, in exchange for access to the large audience.
To close out the day, “The Great Debate – Singles vs. Albums”, which included an all star panel of; legendary rock critic Robert Christgau, Yeasayer drummer Anand Wilder, revolutionary record executive Jay Frank, and producer Niles Hollowell-Dahr. The latter two taking the sides of singles. Once again, this debate echoed what had been brewing all day, the old model versus what’s actually taking place. The consumer has decided rather decisively that they prefer smaller albums (if any) and more singles, as evidenced by musicians such as Rhianna, Flo Rida, and Katy Perry, coupled with the overall trend of singles outselling records 11:1. Wilder and Christgau made the usual argument of art this and art that, but at times they were hilariously mocked by the moderator, Billboard’s Bill Werde, as well as the opposing side (to the audience’s pleasure) as being out of touch and holding onto the album as sacred.
Niles Hollowell-Dahr, the breakout star of the day, emerged as the voice of the audience and most of his oral offerings were met with cheers from the crowd, as well as another sip from his Tequila he was blatantly drinking throughout the panel. Niles’ main point; change with the times in order to reach a mass audience, which he argued was the true goal of art and the reason they were all there. Agreed.
A full schedule with names of the panelists can be found here: http://newmusicseminar.com/2013confschedule/