New Music Seminar Highlights, Part 1
Earlier this week, the New Music Seminar descended on New York City's Webster Hall, bringing together top players in every facet of the industry to discuss how the music industry will adapt and move forward into the digital era.
Adaptability was a major theme throughout the seminar. During his opening remarks on Monday, Michael Huppe, president of SoundExchange, quoted Charles Darwin: "It's not the strongest species that survives, but the most adaptable." Huppe continued, "if we adapt to what's in our way, we'll take the industry to newer and higher levels."
Read on for my top Seminar highlights, and stay tuned for Jason Rezvan's report tomorrow.
Lyor Cohen vs. Bob Pittman
One of my favorite moments occurred early in the seminar, when Lyor Cohen, Chairman and CEO of Recorded Music at Warner Music Group, challenged Clear Channel CEO Bob Pittman during the Q&A portion of his keynote speech. "There used to be a time when a DJ's sole purpose was to break and discover new artists," Cohen addressed Pittman, "how is local radio organized today?"
I've been wondering the same thing myself -- it seems that most terrestrial radio DJs are there to press play on pre-selected music while providing entertaining banter in between songs, when they should, as they once were, be curators and tastemakers.
Pittman's response? "Everybody has to be focused on the next hit... We have to work constantly to find the next star, that's the integral part of what we do. It's our lifeblood."
A less than satisfying answer, in my opinion. And I'm not the only one. Wait till you hear what Chuck D (of Public Enemy) had to say about Clear Channel at the Artists Movement...
Music Blogs Panel
Another Monday highlight was the Music Blogs panel, in which representatives from Hypemachine, Okayplayer, Fluxblog, and Pitchfork gathered to discuss the role of music blogs in today's digital world. Christopher Kaskie, president of Pitchfork, pointed out that the amount of music being made right now is unparalleled: "with all of the clutter and noise, people need trusted voices to help them filter through it and guide their discovery." The challenge, according to Daniel Petruzzi, president of Okayplayer, is that "it takes a lot of time and work to get people to choose you as the destination for their source."
Many of the publications on the panel are heavily involved with the music festival scene; Okayplayer has The Roots Picnic in Philladelphia, Pitchfork has festivals in Chicago and Paris, and Hypemachine hosted the Hype Hotel at SXSW this year.
During the Q&A, I asked the panel how and why they made the transition from online to offline. For Pitchfork's Kaskie, it was a way for them to create a real-world tangible experience, one that a segment of their community could be part of. That, and it "sounds like fun."
Hypemachine CEO Anthony Volodkin echoed Kaskie's reasoning -- by hosting an event, they were able to create a physical experience for music fans. They started by hosting unofficial events at South by Southwest. As their team and relationships grew, they were able to partner with Taco Bell to create a five-day event with sixty bands.
For The Roots, it was a logical point in their lives to lighten their tour load and present up and coming artists. On a personal note, Public Enemy's Performance at the Roots Picnic in 2009 is still one of my all-time favorite live music moments -- relive it HERE.
Lessons from Hippy Fiasco
Andy Gadiel, CEO and Founder of JamBase, presented the story of singer-songwriter Nathan Moore. Moore's journey started when a festival failed to pay him for his set -- it was literally a hippy fiasco. Instead of heading home with his tail between his legs, Moore spontaneously launched the Hippy Fiasco tour, in order to to try to make up the money he lost. Fans rallied behind him, showing more support than he had ever gotten over the course of his career. Last summer, he decided to go on another four-month tour, webcasting the journey 24/7 on hippyfiasco.com. The catch? He would only play where he was invited. The results of his experiment were staggering -- he has since logged 33,992 hours of viewer time, from nearly 150,000 unique visitors.
The real kicker came at the end of the presentation, where Gadiel paid a live visit to hippyfiasco.com, and gave us a look at Moore in action. Through UStream's live chat feature, Gadiel got in touch with Moore, who greeted the audience and proceeded to play us a song. All in all, it was an inspiring story of a man that used his resources to create an innovative and exciting way to connect with his fans.
The Artist Movement, which featured Wyclef Jean, Andrew W.K., Tommy Ramone, Chuck D, JD Sampson, Hoodie Allen, Garland Jeffreys, was an entertaining and informative way to close out the seminar.
Chuck D was clearly in full support of the New Music Seminar. "It's not about the New Music Seminar as it happens, it's the aftershock, the aftereffects, that matter." He stressed the importance of building a new music industry, as opposed to a record industry, and that many of todays artists are fixated on selling a million records, when it's a one-on-one industry. "You don't get to a million before you get to one," he said, "that's what's really lost in this industry."
An audience member asked a question about the effect of internet radio on independent artists, to which Chuck D said that internet radio is great, as long as iHeartRadio (Clear Channel's latest initiative) doesn't take it over. He didn't hold back, and said, point blank, "Clear Channel ruined radio."
When asked whether they think doing commercials = selling out, Andrew W.K., who has done a commercial for baked beans, jumped in said that he wouldn't have done the commercial if he didn't like baked beans. "I like commercialism. I like baked beans. There's an aesthetic to commercialism -- you don't have to be Andrew Warhol to appreciate it.
The panel also extensively discussed the role of social media, and whether or not it is necessary for an artist to partake. When one audience member expressed aversion to social media channels, Wyclef countered by saying, "It's not about being a Facebook whore or Twitter whore; it's called adaptability. You've got to adapt to the times."