A host of top of execs have weighed in with ideas on how the biz can plan for the future at the inaugural Music Week Tech Summit.
The panel – christened Strategies for 2020: Investment, Organisation and Talent Prospecting – drew together Sammy Andrews (CEO, Deviate Digital), Andy Varley (founder & CEO - Insanity Group) and Mike Jbara, (CEO, MQA) who offered key insight into what companies can do to prepare themselves for upcoming shifts in technology.
One of the most pressing things the panelists wanted to address was how closely aligned tech innovation is with personnel.
“One of most important things for incumbents in the digital space is retention of talent that works for company,” said Andy Varley. “Insanity has been established for 21 years this year and that’s one of the biggest challenges. When you look at employment priorities for millennials and Gen Z, you need to be prepared for the fact that a lot of people will try and poach them from you. It’s about how you can have the flexibility to create a working environment that works for them.”
Sammy Andrews agreed, stressing the importance not only of flexible hours but also equal pay to a round of applause.
“Millennials and anyone younger don’t want to be fucking commuting every day. Tech has opened up ways to communicate - there’s a million and one ways that our lives have been made easier to communicate with ourselves and our clients. It doesn’t necessarily mean someone needs to be in the office every day. Millennials are expecting a lot more - and, just as a women, we expect to be paid the same in case anyone was wondering…”
When the subject changed to whether the music industry is doing enough to nurture start-ups, Mike Jbara suggested that while its intentions are good, there is more work to be done.
“The intent of the industry is absolutely to be supportive, but I don’t think we’re organised to do it very well,” said Jbara. “I don’t think any of the players in the ecosystem today are wrong, but we’re missing pieces. From my perspective, there’s not an engine in the centre of the business architecture that regularly generates new ideas or innovations that are easy for the rights-holders to say yes to. It’s dependent on people who are looking from their core business, that ties into whatever the commercial models are of today to lean into things. We get incremental change, but we don’t incubate disruptive things from within – the disruptive stuff still comes from the outside."
He continued: "My views is if we’re able to bring a bit more of that consumer-centred and creator-centred view, and put it in the architecture where we have an understanding of what all the stakeholders’ objectives were, we’d probably put [out] more ideas and say yes to things more quickly, whether that’s just accelerating incremental stuff, or evolution rather than innovation. Film and game and other lifestyle categories still out-innovate music, that’s a fear I have for our industry.”
Elsewhere Varley stressed that while the amount of data you can mine from DSPs is significant, it shouldn’t undermine the process of creativity.
“[Artists] might be racking up millions of streams but that doesn’t mean they have artist identity,” said Varley. “For me, the foundation of what we do as a company is the music. But really the bricks and mortar is in the live touring, branding and social media. That’s what we place a real emphasis on.”
While the general consensus was that the music business’ adoption of technology was progressing positively, Mike Jbara did offer a warning: “Let’s hope we don’t get complacent,” he said. “And that we don’t start patting our backs too soon.”
Sammy Andrews highlighted some of the lurking problems, pointing to the “silo” effect of companies not sharing data and stifling innovation and also the music biz’s insular, inward-looking nature.
“We have a horrible habit of only looking at our industry,” said Andrews. “[We need to be] looking to other industries, and to global shifts in tech, to see what’s coming.”
For our pick of the panels, click here. For a full interview with Sammy Andrews, see this week’s print edition of Music Week or click here. To read preview interviews with other key panellists, click here. And to subscribe and never miss a vital music biz story, click here.