MUSEXPO 2017 Day 2: Streaming, fast bucks and the sub-continent

MUSEXPO

While the UK music biz celebrated a Bank Holiday day off, Day 2 of MUSEXPO 2017 in Los Angeles saw a series of heavyweight music business debates, as a series of senior executives discussed the future of the business.

The day began with the star-studded Global Keynote: The State Of The Sonic Union panel, moderated by Music Week editor Mark Sutherland.

The panel celebrated the industry’s recent return to growth but also went deep on the difficulties in breaking new artists in the streaming age, with Universal Music Group’s EVP of marketing, Andrew Kronfeld saying the business was “like 1956 all over again”, with a focus on single tracks rather than albums.

“It’s very hard to get people to truly care about artists,” he said. “Everything is moving towards song-based consumption. We have entered a new era and the old model that was created in the early ‘70s and carried through for 40 years is done. We have to look at a much more holistic, big picture and look at audience, engagement and revenue.”

David Massey, president and CEO of Island Records in the US, said there were still plenty of ways for new acts to succeed.

“Last year was a transition year where people started to understand that the big acts were going to dominate the charts because of the streaming component,” he said. “We have to move with that and be creative about making sure we do break new artists. The opportunity to create global superstars is greater than ever but, with the volume of releases, we need to find ways for artists to differentiate themselves.”

“There’s never been a worst time in the history of the music business to be pretty good, because pretty good has zero value today,” pointed out BMG’s president, repertoire & marketing, Zach Katz. “The marketing aspect is key to differentiating them, but the best way to market music is with incredible music.”

Meanwhile, the artist management panel saw a line-up of top managers also discuss how to break new artists in the current landscape.

“If you’re asking for the formula, there is no formula,” quipped Haim manager Jon Lieberberg at one point, but Twenty One Pilots manager Chris Woltman said the long game should always triumph over short-termism, with his charges making 17 visits to the UK, starting at the Barfly and ending up headlining two nights at Alexandra Palace.

“With Twenty One Pilots, we’re so protective of the brand,” he said. “We’ve only done one alliance outside of what we do. The idea that, This is a moment, we’d better leverage this for everything it’s worth, doesn’t work. I want to make smart decisions that will have the guys around in 10 years. Too much can be too much, you don’t have to have it all today.”

Similar caution was urged by the executives on the Spotlight On India panel, who warned western artists and businesses that, despite India’s large population and exploding digital consumer base, it was still a developing market.

“Despite all the numbers, the international music community has to see this as a country that is storing opportunity,” said Viacom’s Saugato Bhowmik. “If an artist is expecting to look at India like a [quick] payday, it’s not going to happen.”

Despite this, Times Music’s Mandar Thakur – who earlier had given a keynote address – noted: “The business infrastructure is now in place in India and there’s a lot of development happening.”

And Sony’s Shridhar Subramanium said smartphones had transformed the music market.

“India has always consumed vast quantities of music but before it was 99% piracy,” he said. “Now, for the first time, people are coming to the legitimate market.”

And on a lively branding panel, executives explained that brands and TV shows were now looking beyond big names for music to use.

“We’re not fighting over the same songs anymore,” said Fox’s Mamie Coleman. “We’re a great platform for indie artists.”

“We’ve always been in the business of finding the new next,” agreed MTV’s Amani Duncan. “There are plenty of touch points [for unknown artists] to get into our programming.”

And Coca-Cola’s Joe Belliotti urged artists and managers to use the personal touch to attract brands’ attention.

“We use music because it’s the best way to make an emotional connection,” he said. “You have to build relationships, you’ve got to make people fall in love with you as an artist.”

MUSEXPO continues tomorrow. Stay tuned to musicweek.com and our Twitter feed for further updates. To catch up on Day 1, click here

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