MUSEXPO Day 2: Disruption, Disney and DSPs

MUSEXPO 2019

Leading execs went deep on industry issues on Day 2 of the MUSEXPO conference in California.

If Day 1 had looked at the big picture, the follow-up zoomed in on the topics that are pre-occupying the business day-to-day.

The day began with the ‘Disruptibution’ panel, hosted by Music Week editor Mark Sutherland, looking at the disruption caused to the music industry’s distribution model by the advent of streaming.

“We don't own the relationship with the consumers, the DSPs do,” said Amy Dietz, EVP and general manager of the Ingrooves Music Group. “The challenge for all of us is that we depend on them for marketing and to get on playlists. We don't want to depend on that. So we have to make sure we cultivate a relationship with consumers out of that.”

The rise of DIY culture, and the ability for anyone to upload their songs to many DSPs, has led some in the business to question the continued need for distributors. But Entertainment One’s global president, music, Chris Taylor dismissed the idea of a torrent of successful DIY artists as something of a “myth”.

“If it was that easy, we would have 100 Chance The Rappers,” he said. “So where are the other 99?”

Direct licensing to the likes of Spotify raised concerns for some of the panel, although Taylor was diplomatic (“I’d rather they not do that,” was all he would say) and all stressed the need for on-going good relations with the streaming platforms. But Mathew Daniel, VP international at Chinese streaming service NetEase Cloud Music, said the big DSPs were in danger of becoming the very gatekeepers they were supposed to replace.

“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss,” he quipped. “There are four people controlling the playlists. On NetEase, we have 800 million playlists that have been user-generated so, ironically, in China we have a very democratic platform!”

The panel agreed that the globalisation of music offered a myriad of opportunities but said rights-holders still needed to be aware of local challenges.

“The world is flat and options can come from everywhere,” said Mandar Thakur, COO of leading Indian label/publisher Times Music, who stars in the current issue of Music Week. “India has 1.3 billion people but most of them are concerned about their next meal, not music.”

First Access Entertainment boss Sarah Stennett pulled out of her scheduled appearance, which removed some of the day’s stardust, not to mention a rare keynote by a female executive. In her absence, legendary former Sire boss Seymour Stein stepped in and trotted out many of his well-worn stories about Madonna and The Ramones, as well as paying homage to UK executives.

“There’s a reason why the three majors are all run by Brits,” he said. “Americans only care about America, and maybe Canada. But the English always looked at the world.”

When it was suggested he had helped Lyor Cohen in his career, however, Stein quipped: “I wasn’t a mentor to Lyor Cohen! He wouldn’t have a mentor. He wouldn’t need one…”

Meanwhile a Disney panel painted a compelling picture of a company which might not have music as its primary concern, but offers opportunities for artists right across its huge range of properties, from films and TV to radio, records and theme parks.

Talent ranging from Miley Cyrus to Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears and the Jonas Brothers started their careers within the Disney empire, but VP of music strategy Phil Guerini said that “was not down to having a better crystal ball than anyone else, we just supported them when they were younger in their careers”.

Elsewhere, US radio exec Jimmy Steal picked up the International Music Person Of The Year award at a gala luncheon, attended by many top execs including Glassnote’s Daniel Glass and Maverick’s Greg Thompson. Steal, now VP of brand and content at 101.9 The Mix WTMX Chicago, may be relatively low-profile in the UK, but his pioneering work on hip-hop station The Power 106 has made him a legend in the US radio biz.

Rick Cummings, president of radio programming at The Power’s parent company Emmis Communications paid tribute, saying the station had become “a venerable brand thanks to Jimmy Steal”.

In his keynote, Steal recalled once allowing the station to play a Kanye West track non-stop for three hours, saying: “Eff convention, follow your heart. If the world’s not talking about anything, try to create something.”

The MUSEXPO convention, meanwhile, winds down Wednesday morning with a final meet the speakers session. To check out our Day One coverage, click here.

By Mark Sutherland and Emmanuel Legrand

You can read a summary of Day One at MUSEXPO here.

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