'We want to raise the bar even higher': Inside the return of MUSEXPO with founder Sat Bisla

'We want to raise the bar even higher': Inside the return of MUSEXPO with founder Sat Bisla

Renowned music biz conference MUSEXPO returns next week, boasting a new name, new venue. The MUSEXPO Creative Summit will now form part of California Entertainment Week and be held March 24-27, 2019, at the Castaway venue in Burbank, Los Angeles, a short hop from its usual Hollywood home.

Sat Bisla, president and founder of A&R Worldwide/MUSEXPO, has told Music Week about some of the key themes he expects to be explored this year.

“The music business is going through unprecedented evolution, both locally and globally,” Bisla told Music Week. “The fuel that drives so much of the digital, media, social, physical and experiential platforms is content. One of the key highlights of this year’s event is content development and creativity across the board.”

He continued: “Whether it’s the songwriting, production, A&R, publishing, distribution, streaming, brand integration, synchronisation (film, TV, videogames, movie trailers), radio, management, marketing or live experiences – creativity is key to ensuring unique engagement and interaction in a very noisy, fragmented and overly abundant choice-driven global music and entertainment market.”

A host of top names are set to appear across the week. Capitol UK’s co-presidents Nick Raphael and Jo Charrington will appear in a keynote and legendary Power 106 radio programmer Jimmy Steal will receive the 2019 International Music Person Of The Year award at a special lunch.

Music Week is a media partner of the event, and our editor Mark Sutherland will host the opening Global Keynote panel, which will feature the likes of Radio 1 controller Ben Cooper; Allison Kaye, president of SB Projects, which manages Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande; and Gao Xiaosong, chairman of Alibaba Entertainment Strategic Committee.

Other execs due to appear include: Sam Smith and Rag’N’Bone Man producer Steve Fitzmaurice; producer/songwriter Billy Mann; Sony/ATV’s Jennifer Knoepfle; BMG’s Fred Casimir; Warner Music’s Aton Ben-Horin; RCA co-president John Fleckenstein; Coca-Cola’s Tara Piper; Spotify’s head of songwriter relations Paul Adam and many more.

Here, Bisla speaks to Music Week about what we can expect from this year’s blockbuster event…

What do you think the big themes and talking points are likely to be this time? 

Content, creativity, innovation, access, distribution, engagement, monetisation, evolution, streaming, digital, mobilisation, ownership, licensing, technology, live, data, metrics, gut, emotion, metadata, A&R, media to name but a few. We’re excited to have many talented executives from across the globe participating that are helping sculpt the future of not only the music business, but pop culture itself – bringing unique perspectives and angles to a very complex and rapidly evolving business. We are looking forward to all the speakers contributing to the dialogue from their own unique perspectives, platforms and experiences.”

Why did you make so many changes - date, name, location - and has it paid off? 

“We wanted to create a unique experience in an overly crowded music conference market and timeline; something that is very unique and not able to be duplicated anywhere else in the world. In addition, a location such as Burbank is unique in the fact it has its own airport, multiple freeway access routes, train stations, it’s a very clean and safe city, as well as being a desirable living and working environment with very little traffic, congestion or overly-priced hospitality. It’s a hotbed of creativity for film, TV, animation, digital, production, music, radio, media and so much more; it’s a perfect recipe if you will! MUSEXPO has always prided itself for its quality, substantive and informative panels, unprecedented ease and access to great networking, quality showcases in a warm, manageable and welcoming environment; however, we wanted to raise the bar even higher! Therefore we decided to bring the event to a breathtaking ‘destination’ that is intimate and unique, but also has unparalleled views and an even more comfortable, engaging and qualitative environment. This is why we chose Castaway in Burbank – which overlooks downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood, San Fernando Valley, Santa Clarita Valley as well as a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean. It’s not only a birds-eye view to Los Angeles, which is the entertainment capital of the world, but also an unprecedented experience for everyone attending. Content is the lifeblood of the entire business and whilst many people visit Hollywood; most Hollywood content is created in Burbank, CA. It’s a leading global creative hub; hence, MUSEXPO Creative Summit was a fitting description. MUSEXPO will continue to evolve as we transition forward and bridge it with our Worldwide Radio Summit, as part of the inaugural California Entertainment Week. In 2020, we look forward to ‘clearly’ unveiling our full new ‘vision’ and introduce a more inclusive experience where artists, industry and fans unite! Ultimately, our attendees will determine the success of this year’s event and we look forward to their feedback.”


The big issue is real artist development. We’re living in a time where so many people focus on moments and not movements

Sat Bisla,


How has MUSEXPO adapted to stay relevant to the evolving music industry in the streaming era? And does it help the conference that we're back to growth with lots of opportunities?

“MUSEXPO has always prided itself as being ahead of the curve. The event is organised by A&R Worldwide, which is in the daily nucleus of the international music, media and technology business, as it has been for two decades via its various incarnations and is engaging, interacting and helping contribute to the evolution of the music business. A&R Worldwide is in regular discussion with leaders of every angle of the business, as well as the creatives – having that front row seat with a hand on the steering wheel gives MUSEXPO incredible insights and access. For example, whilst the hot topic of conversation in recent weeks has been about the growth opportunities in India – MUSEXPO back in 2007 shared a deep dive into the future potential of markets such as India and China with participation of key executives from those markets. In addition, MUSEXPO 2006 presented the co-founder of YouTube Chad Hurley and talked about audio and video streaming and how it would impact the future of the music business – this is back when YouTube had just a few dozens of thousands of users – 13 years later YouTube is now the world’s most viewed and streamed online platform.”

Are there any music industry issues being under-reported that you think MUSEXPO can help provide insight on this time? 

“The big issue is real artist development. We’re living in a time where so many people focus on a 'moment/s' (short-term) and not 'movements' (long-term). Zillennials (an A&R Worldwide term for Generation Z and Millennials) account for audiences 28 and under that are being overserved; however, there’s a bigger and broader audience over 28 that are being underserved. Zillennials tastes are very now, what’s popular and trending, in the moment and disposable. Whilst older audiences tend to be brand loyal, more long-term focused, emotional and broader experience oriented. In the age of streaming, the focus is on the song, not as much on the artist and their ability to constantly create great content, multi-platform fan engagement and incredible experiences albeit in a pop cultural way.”

What concerns arise from that?

“My concern is that we’re not seeing the next crop of long-term generational defining and inspiring artists who can deliver constant quality, primarily write their own songs, deliver a stellar live performance. Look at the Pollstar annual biggest concert ticket-sellers of 2018 – it’s still primarily heritage rock and pop acts, or undeniable experiences (such as Disney On Ice, World Wrestling Entertainment, U2, Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars, Imagine Dragons, Depeche Mode, Roger Waters, Journey, Def Leppard, etc. who can sell-out stadiums and arenas around the world.”

What are the latest international ambitions for the conference? 

“Act local, think global!

As a Brit, how significant do you think the UK business is as global player and leader in music and business innovation? 

“Even though I was born and raised in England, in a strange way I feel like my career was made in America with British parts. As a smaller country, the UK has always had to trade and engage with the world, so it’s naturally had a global understanding for many centuries. Inevitably, global engagement has been a part of the DNA of the UK market. The UK market itself is quite insular in the fact that its very localised outside of supporting the mainstream American or breakthrough global acts. In addition, the UK market has tended to be very fashion-driven – meaning it follows and supports what’s cool and trendy at the moment. UK executives are global players and leaders as evidenced by who are running the top three biggest music companies in the world – Sony Music, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group. I have tremendous respect for the leadership and innovation these British executives have instilled within their organisations and the industry as a whole; however, they are also surrounded by a great team that represent very smart and talented people from all parts of the world that have enabled and executed their vision to precision. Ironically, all three of top three major label executives who are all British have a primary residence in the US. So as a whole yes, the UK business and those running it are leaders and global players; however, I see more innovation coming out of other markets in particular the US as it's still the most innovative, creative and influential developer and marketer of global pop culture, technology and beyond!”

You can read key takeaways from MUSEXPO 2018 here.

Be sure to check the Music Week website throughout next week for regular updates.

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