On Friday, August 20th I attended the second day of the Bandwidth music / technology conference in San Francisco. The conference was held at the beautiful Bentley Reserve (included in the National Register of Historic Places).
Instead of the usual large panels at the front of room, each Bandwidth session took place in small conference rooms with all participants sitting around the table and engaging with each other. The hardest part of the day was deciding which of three panels to attend each hour. I kept thinking I picked the wrong one..
At 10 AM I hit the “Direct to Consumer: How Involved Should a Label Be?” panel led by Tricia Rice (Director of Digital Media, Welk Music Group / Vanguard Records / Sugar Hill Records). Her presentation style was informal and directed most questions at the group. My take aways:
- There is no album cycle anymore. In many labels artists mix it up and will maybe do one “top line” record, then a four song pack just for iTunes, then a mixed-tape, then an EP and then might cycle back to another “top line” or more traditional CD release.
- When partnering with third parties – make sure that partners are incentivized to help on all channels (not just for example iTunes or just Facebook, etc.). You need partners that will support you selling music everywhere music is sold.
- Associate with other artists as a way to “rise the tide” for everyone. Example Tricia gave was a free holiday download put together across labels. They helped the artists compile 15 tracks from 15 different artists and then made all the tracks available for free to all of the artists’ fans (through a Topspin email for media widget). Each artist gained a significant amount of new fans/emails to market future projects. This is an example of a label using their resources to help do something that has no direct financial gain but probably has future financial potential.
- Labels need to focus on the bigger picture. In the past reactions might have been, why do we help an artist build channels/fanbase when we don’t share in the benefit (directly) – but the bigger picture is if you DON’T do that = nothing happens.
- Another perspective is that many labels feel their teams can run these channels (social networking, artist website, etc.) better than the third parties an artist might hire to do that – so they do it for free at first in the hopes that artists will allow the label to get more involved in those areas.
At 11 AM it was time for the keynote conversation with Jac Holzman (founder, CEO and Creative Head of Elektra Records and Nonesuch Records). Jac’s talk was a highlight of the day as he talked story and dropped gem after gem of industry knowledge. Here are the ones I picked up:
- Everything informs your life – good or bad.
- Most every great songwriter writes children’s songs as well.
- As a record label I would get a lot of shots, but in most cases the artist usually only gets one.
- There is a lot of stuff happening on the sides – we are so focused on moving straight ahead that we tend to miss the stuff on the sides.
- It tends to be the little things that change your life.
- Have respect for every aspect of the recording process.
- Many times it just “didn’t work” and the process was to see if you could fix it. If I couldn’t fix it, I would give the masters back to the artists and let them work on it.
- An album is context and content and a lightning bolt.
- In the beginning, price it low enough so people can get used to it. Experiment with pricing.
- Think about everything from the standpoint of the consumer.
- If you are going to be an independent music producer, you need to be kind of insane.
- A great album is touched by fairy dust at some point.
- His style was always to be so well honed that you have room for a miracle to happen. You are always looking to bring out that extra element that works. The moment where you say “this is why we do this”.
- Put yourself in the shoes of the artist, it is us with them, not us against them.
- There is no single way to do anything.
- An attitude of someone who runs a record company is let the chaos happen. Keep your own head straight, but let the chaos happen.
- The fact that you can make a record, doesn’t mean it should be released.
- I am firm believer in good first filters. There is a lot of room today for first filters.
- We are not a music industry, we are music rights industry.
- Keep it lean.
Following up Jac was a brown bag lunch session with Ted Cohen (managing partner, TAG strategic).
At 1:00 PM I picked the “In The News: A discussion of the topics, trends and technologies currently impacting the industry” led by Kelli Richards (President & CEO of The All Access Group).
The discussion revolved around:
- Monetizing before, during and after live shows, including new technologies that allow fans to have an immediate live take away, etc.
- Embracing “game changing” technologies
- How to best harness the direct to consumer market
- The idea of music and an “identity” and giving the market ways to give the “gift of music”
At 2:00 PM I picked the “Your Social Media Network: Creating Passionate Advocates” led by Larry Weintraub (CEO of Fanscape, Inc.).
Discussion centered around the value of a social relationship:
- Question - How to value a fan who engages with a brand within the social media fold
- Answer – It depends on the goals of the business
- Give customers content that: relates to them, drives them to take an action, and keeps them interested.
- Actively engaging w/customers = increase in profit from each customer