Republic Records’ co-founders Monte and Avery Lipman took centre stage at Day 3 of the MUSEXPO conference in Los Angeles.
The brothers closed the day’s programme with an entertaining keynote interview, recounting their journey from smalltime indie label to becoming America’s market share champ.
Monte Lipman said that success was down to he and his brother’s ability to be objective about music.
“We’re not in the business of saying music is good or bad,” he said. “We listen and decide whether we can make a difference.”
They’ve successfully made a difference to artists as varied as the Bloodhound Gang and Ariana Grande over the years, but Monte claimed: “We never think about signing an artist, it’s about creating a strategic alliance”.
The pair praised radio, with Avery saying it was still hugely important, despite the rise of streaming. “None of the new platforms have yet figured out how to push music culture like he radio,” he said.
But they also noted the impact of streaming, saying it was impacting on the way artists released music, with single tracks, EPs and playlists becoming as important as albums.
“More is more in the streaming space,” said Monte. “There’s an insatiable appetite for music right now and we’ve got to keep up with that.”
Also trying to keep up with changes to the market was the morning’s digital panel, which saw BBC Radio 1/1Xtra’s Chris Price take a starring role.
“2016 was a fallow year for breaking new UK artists,” said Price. “There’s no one-size-fits all approach anymore.”
“There are no overnight successes anymore,” concurred Pandora’s Mike Fink. “You don’t just throw songs out there now, you work them for 9-12 months.”
Fortunately, Radio 1 is here to help with breaking those songs and artists.
“We’re very conscious that the BBC is an intervention in the market,” Price added. “If we’re not adding value to the wider music industry, we’re not doing our job.”
Elsewhere, live business executives engaged in fiery debate around secondary ticketing in a panel hosted by Music Week editor Mark Sutherland.
“Personally I think secondary ticketing is just wrong,” said X-ray Touring’s Steve Strange. “It’s terrible, it’s just robbery. I can’t justify what they do.”
Others were more sanguine.
“It’s part of the business that probably won’t go away ever,” said BottleRock Napa Valley festival booker Tom Hoppa. “You see people out there scalping tickets for 400% of the value of the ticket and I don’t like that, but I don’t think it will go away.”
“We live in a capitalistic society,” added UTA’s Jbeau Lewis. “It’s not going to go anywhere unfortunately, so we may as well figure out how to best work with them and get as much of that money into our artists’ pockets as possible.”
There was also some Fyre-y debate as the panel discussed what went wrong with the recent disastrous Fyre Festival in the Bahamas.
“It comes down to under-estimating how much effort and the team you need in place to plan an event,” said Hoppa. “You have to make sure your location is capable of delivering the promises that you’ve made publicly. It’s not so easy to build a dream.”
“This happens with this business more than any other,” said Strange. “They probably had the best intentions, but you’d never get anyone saying, I’ve taken a crash course in brain surgery, do you mind if I operate on you?”
Atlantic Records Group chairman & CEO Craig Kallman also gave a keynote, paying tribute to the UK’s current biggest artist Ed Sheeran.
“He really does check every box,” Kallman said. “He’s a remarkable songwriter, a great story-teller with incredible melodies, he’s an amazing performer that can command a stadium by himself and his work ethic is second to none.”
Kallman – who spoke of his enormous record collection, started because he feared the arrival of the CD would stop him hearing music as it was meant to be heard on vinyl – also endorsed hi-res audio formats such as MQA.
“We’re the only industry that’s allowed 30 years of degradation of its product, from vinyl to CD to MP3 to streaming,” he said. “But there’s great hope now that we can enjoy true studio master recordings in the streaming world.”