10 September 2009

Big Sound Summit : Day 2

Hello my lovelies!

Well, day two of the Big Sound Music Industry Summit was a hoot. I love this conference and can definitely say I'm in for the next one. What an impressive and accessible lot of people in the know they've pulled in for the conference.

After last night's blog, I think I might attempt to be more succinct tonight - writing blogs at midnight is probably never a good idea - so I'll give it to you relatively short and sweet and you can leave comments if you have any questions, or ask me on Twitter. Okay? Okay.


Keynote Interview : Danny Goldberg

In a career spanning 40 years, Goldberg (Gold Village Entertainment, US) has held senior executive positions with a number of major and independent record companies (including Led Zep's Swan Song Records), managed artists from Nirvana to the Beastie Boys, worked in film and authored books.

Facilitator: Everett True (Freelance Journalist, AUS)

The part I loved the most about this interview was when Danny described how he signed Nirvana. Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore had recommended a band to Danny previously. Danny had knocked back the opportunity. The band was Dinosaur Jr. Danny vowed to never again ignore Thurston's recommendations. Thurston recommended Nirvana. Danny agreed to manage them. He described the first time he saw Nirvana perform, when Kurt Cobain's ability to make him feel 16 again through his inspiring live performance had him thinking "I've really lucked out here!".

Danny's career in music started out when he realised there was actually a function for someone without music ability within the music industry. Although he had low self-esteem when he was younger, he figured he could tolerate standing in the dark watching bands and expressing his opinion about them i.e. a music journalist. He said that it hasn't felt like 40 years in the industry because he's always kept the fan inside alive and is thankful he's never had to get what other people would call a 'real job'.

When he began his music management career, he decided to wear rose-coloured glasses where his bands were concerned. Pick a band you love, express that love to other people...makes sense. It comes across as genuine appreciation for someone's music, and people pay attention to that. Danny said it was important, as a band manager, to remove his critical faculties so he saw only the good in the bands he represented.

Over the past 10-15 years, Danny said the music industry has changed considerably, specifically regarding the decline in the quality of recorded masters and the decline in the number of record labels. Now, the band manager quite often does the band's publicity, manages their website, organises sync opportunities etc because the labels have too few staff to complete a wholistic overarching coordination function. These days, touring is a major earner for bands. Although recording costs have decreased, it's harder for artists to get heard.

Danny's recommendation for bands? "You've got to have a talent for having talent". Talent is pointless without intensity and focus on future success.


Online Marketing : Research Paper Launch

The internet has had an undeniable impact on the market for and marketing of recorded music. High-profile success stories and music industry commentators have contributed to a general consensus that the online space offers valuable new opportunities to recruit and engage fans...

Presenter: David Carter (Queensland Conservatorium - Griffith University, AUS)

As I'm a bit of a sociology boffin (it was journalism or sociology at uni, and I think I chose incorrectly doing a double major in journalism and minors in sociology) this particularly interested me from a mass communication analysis perspective and the development of online communities.


Smoke and Mirrors : What tricks should you use to get your music selling - online and off?

The internet has turned music marketing on its head. Or has it? What has changed in today's music marketing world and what are some great tips for artists looking to promote themselves?

Facilitator: Jakomi Matthews (The Music Void, UK)

Panel: Luke Bevans (Universal Music Australia, AUS), Simon Winkler (Triple R FM 102.7, AUS), Nick Findlay (Triple J, AUS), Elliot Aronow (Rcrdlbl.com, US), Erik Gilbert (Ioda, US), Ariel Hyatt (Cyber PR, US)

It has to be said that one of the aspects of the music management business that has impressed upon me at this conference is the global nature of its inhabitants. Luke is British, but works in Australia. Erik is I believe Australian, but works in the States. This has been found throughout the panel members across the conference...where music is concerned, people seem willing to uproot their lives for their jobs. Well, they do, after all, have jobs I'd love to do!

This was a lively panel! In particular, kudos to Elliot for telling bands to outright lie if it suits their marketing strategy a la White Stripes' brother / sister myth; of course this was met with outbursts from a couple of his panel associates regarding potential backlash to which Elliot responded "They should be so lucky to have backlash...more publicity!".

Luke discussed a Universal band, Short Stack's, career trajectory. As a band, they initially set up a YouTube channel and focussed their attention on that as their main fan engagement tool. Their appearance got lots of teenage girls interested "in their music" (yeah right) and they moved this popularity into the MySpace arena. Radio play didn't happen for this band, the street press dislike them, but they found their niche and are selling records. Another artist who found the online engagement tool that works for her is Sarah Blasko, who writes on a Word Press blog about her personal life, allowing her fans a peek into who she is.

Ariel pointed musicians to videos she's done for her YouTube channel to assist them in understanding the ins and outs of online marketing. She said that, while she's a huge fan of Twitter, you have to feed the fans what they want to eat. Just being on Twitter is not enough. She said something I agree with totally, coming from a day job of working in communications: so many musicians have forgotten the importance of a strong marketing strategy on paper before they throw themselves into the online fray. It's really important to focus your energies where they'll count otherwise you're just flailing and working it out as you go, which is no way to plan your career. Ariel recommended some ideas for marketing that are basic but which so many musicians forget to do: sell merchandise, build email lists, etc. She also recommended using Ping to manage all of your websites with the one password and, if you want people to hear your music, upload some songs to Music Pod Show, which gives podcasters permission to play your music in their podcasts, expanding your potential fan base.

There was a debate about whether traditional media plays a part in music promotion anymore, with half of the panel saying yes and half no. I think the question which was overlooked here was how the panelists think any independent musician is going to get a look-in where the traditional music media is involved. From my experience as a reviewer for music websites, I am sent albums to review which are mostly from bands signed to labels. These bands will be promoted by their label to all online and street press, as well as to magazines like Rolling Stone. If you're an unsigned band, and you don't have any rungs on the ladder, how are you meant to excite the media about reviewing your work, or promoting your gigs? That's why I started this blog in the first place, to help musicians whose work I really love get some quotes they can use in publicity material to get traditional media (i.e. people actually paid to write about music) excited about their music.

Ariel made another valid point. "People are sitting on iTunes and Amazon with their credit cards out ready to buy". If you want to get yourself in harm's way of buyers, get your music on iTunes, put links to your iTunes on all your websites. She also advised that musicians consider the following:
  • listen to your audience and what they want
  • get involved with your audience, engage your fans
  • lurk online before you leap, work out where you go to find out about bands you like within your genre...it's likely other people go there too and will see your music if it's in those spaces
  • create authentic two way relationships between yourself and your fans, and
  • have a story to tell; remember, you are very interesting to your fans and they always want to know something more about you.

Ariel has written many articles on musicthinktank.com which, if you're in the music business or a musician, you would undoubtedly find stimulating reading.

Sites the panel members said they trawl for info on music are:
  • Gorilla versus Bear
  • Hype Bot
  • The Hype Machine
  • Prefix Mag
  • Who the bloody hell are they?
  • Brooklyn Vegan 
  • Resident Advisor 
  • Awesome tapes from Africa 
  • Drowned in Sound

Export Case Study : Winterman & Goldstein

The directors of one of Australia's most successful management companies discuss their management company, their label Ivy League, and their extraordinary export successes with artists like Jet, The Vines, and Empire of the Sun.

Facilitator: Christie Eliezer (Freelance Journalist, AUS)

Interviewees: Andy Cassell and Andy Kelly

This was a largely anecdotal panel which didn't provide much advice, just outlined the success the Andys have had with the bands they manage.


Around the World with the IMMF

Management is the new hotbed sector of the music industry with the spotlight and the pressure on managers to direct artists' careers. In this panel, managers from all corners of the globe come together to discuss the issues of the industry from the managers' perspective.

Facilitator: Michael McMartin (Melody Management, AUS)

Panel: Frank Stroebele (Eye Sound, DEU), Tim Prior (Rightsman, UK), Petri Lunden (Hagenburg, SWE), Teresa Patterson (CRS Management, NZ), Jacco van Lanen (The Alternative Management Group, NLD), Brian Hetherman (Curve Music / Cerberus Artist Management, CAN), Kari Karjalainen (Attorneys at Law Karjalainen Ltd, FIN), Mark Kates (Fenway Recordings, US), Leon Retief (Southern Pulse, Sth Africa)

I must say, the language used in this panel discussion was filthy but highly amusing! These are the kind of guys you'd love to have a night out on the town with. The things I learned about stuffing lycra leggings with broccoli...

Tim kicked off the discussion by saying that the IMMF has the responsibility to create the new path forward in music management, considering the changes to the landscape in the past 10 years.

"I've never experienced a more exciting time than this in the music industry", he said, adding that developments on the internet mean it has become a friend to management and bands as a way to exploit the band's music internationally.

Kari's advice to music managers is that you have to know your band well, because if they think they can manage themselves while you're trying to manage them, it won't work. It also won't work if you're trying to develop an international career for a band, planning their tour, then find out that the lead singer refuses to fly.

Teresa recommended that, when a band first forms, they should sign a band agreement with each other to be clear about the IP of the band name, to arrange song split remuneration, whether departing band members get a portion of the money back from group expenditure on equipment, etc.

Jacco learned the hard way that you should always triple check touring visa requirements. He had one experience where he'd asked twice whether his band needed a visa to tour Canada. He was told no. The band arrived and they were not allowed through customs because they didn't have the right visa. Hours later, another older customs officer comes on duty and lets the band straight through, admitting the younger customs officer was a bit gung-ho. The lesson? Doesn't matter how much you plan if you get a prick in customs.

He also recommended ensuring you have enough merch to sell and that you ensure you get permits to sell merch at gigs. One band he managed was a particularly vibrant live band, and he knew from experience that they sold thousands of CDs at their live shows. So he told the record label to ensure there were a lot of CDs at each of the venues for sale. They didn't believe him and ended up having 200 CDs available, which all sold at the first gig. The band then missed out on thousands of dollars in potential sales.

Tim said there's no excuse anymore for managers and bands to not know who their fans are because you can see and gather the stats from your social networking sites. He said Radiohead had a brilliant concept for In Rainbows, where they offered the song to fans for however much they wanted to buy it for. This happened after Radiohead had ended a long term label contract. Radiohead made more money from In Rainbows than ever before, because the fans felt the desire to pay the band for the music they so love. That the fans had to sign up (enter their email details) to obtain the music also means Radiohead now has a fresh email marketing database which they can use any time they like to have a direct relationship with their fans. This also gives them new information which they can use to determine where their biggest numbers of fans are, which they can use to plan tours.

Mark and Brian highlighted the importance of band to band relationships i.e. a well known band choosing an indie band to support them on a tour. This provides invaluable assistance to the indie band in building a fan base in another country or region. Band to band relationships also exist between indie bands; if an indie band in Sweden lets an indie band in Canada support them on a Swedish tour, it helps the Canadian band form new contacts, and get exposure in a region they're looking to expand into. And vice versa.

When Petri was organising a revival tour for the band Europe, he utilised international fan clubs - organised via the internet - to hype the upcoming tour and got these fans to sign up to the band's new website to find out more info about the tour as it was confirmed. Unfortunately, after he was hired as their new manager, he was told by the original guitarist to sack the second guitarist because he couldn't stand him. Of course, said Petri, this makes the manager look bad, and you just have to wear the hatred that the fired member feels for you. Comme ce, comme ca. The life of a manager.


Hypothetically Speaking

In what is sure to be one of Big Sound's most entertaining panels, John Watson will take a panel of Australia's finest on a journey through the evolution of a rock band.

Facilitator: John Watson (John Watson Management & Eleven: a music company, AUS)

Panel: Glenn Wheatley (Talentworks, AUS), David Vodicka (Rubber Records / Media Arts Lawyers, AUS), Luke Bevans (Universal Music Australia, AUS), Brett Murrihy (Harbour Agency, AUS), Dan Bessant (Channel V / Max / V2, AUS)

Frankly, despite the hype in the programme, this was a bit of a yawn. Major learnings:

Glenn pissed John Farnham off by criticising his "pretty" vocals on You're the Voice. Farnham went straight into the studio, mad as hell (he'd been mixing it for three days), and re-recorded the vocals - for the version that made it to radio and on the album - in one hit. With a bit of bite in the vocals...c/o Glenn.

If you're sending a demo to Luke, he likes:
  • CD in cardboard slip, not plastic
  • good artwork, but not too professional looking
  • no more than four songs
  • best song is the first song on the demo, and
  • MySpace link and one para bio on the back cover.
The panel members also agreed on the three email rule: if you email a label three times about your music, and they still haven't responded, they probably don't like it.


That's the gist of day two at Big Sound Summit. I hope you're finding these blogs useful and that you apply the information you're gleaning from my brain to your own music careers. As always, any questions, Twitter me.

Yours in music

Amanda xx

PS: See anything wrong with the poster at top left in this photo? Hmm. Would be sacking whoever organised this poster: can't read band name font and they can't spell days of the week. Bad form!

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