Day two of MUSEXPO started with the big news of Music Week/A&R Worldwide’s launch of MUSEXPO Europe – and continued with a heavyweight panel line-up.
TV star Larry King kicked off the day’s programme with the State Of The Sonic Union panel, where panelists including Radio 1’s Chris Price and Chop Shop Music Supervision’s Alex Patsavas debated the current music business landscape, where the ways to access content are various and the way artists can connect with their audience seemingly endless.
Price, head of music for BBC Radio 1 & 1Xtra, stressed some of the ideas he talked about in his recent Music Week cover story, saying that the industry should rely on “passion first and data second".
Price said that radio and streaming are now on a “collision course”. “Streaming is parking its tanks on the lawns of radio,” he added. “But our strength is an intimate connection with the listener. There are multiple ways to have a hit these days but it is still difficult to have a significant hit without radio play."
Patsavas said she worried about “music and artist development”. “We are in a song-driven economy and we are going to miss out on the album's grace,” she said. “Artists like Neil Young took a long time to create music."
Bruce Flohr, chief strategy officer/EVP at Red Light Management and partner of GreenLight Media/ATO Records, who has been involved in the careers of the Dave Matthews Band and Foo Fighters, summed up the challenges faced today by artists and managers. "I used to work in the record business and we switched to the music business. The music business takes a holistic approach to artists."
Flohr said that this made the music matrix more complex but also provided more opportunities for artists. "I think the music business is healthy," said Flohr. "There is not a day that goes by when I don't have a conversation about music. The consumption, the passion for music is still there. It is our job to create experiences and find narratives that we can get people into."
He added, "Consolidation [in the music industry] got a lot of the charlatans out, and a lot of people who were there for the sex, drugs, and rock'n’roll left, and those who stayed are hard working people who try to find new ways to make it work for artists."
Chris Barton, co-founder of music recognition app Shazam, said that the market had evolved and was extremely fragmented, which made it difficult for artists. "There is a fragmentation of the number of sources to watch TV or how we get our radio," he said. "As there are more choices for different type of media experiences, it means that it is harder for artists to get exposure and reach real critical mass to become the next big artist."
"I like fragmentation because it offers a lot more opportunities for artists to find their way," countered Mike Caren, CCO of Warner Music Group and CEO of Artist Publishing & Partner Groups. He added that one of the signs that the industry was back in growth mode was that "a lot of people are reconsidering investing in the business. The business did not go away like Kodak. There has to be incubation and funding to grow the business."
One of the funniest exchanges took place when Caren said that some people must have passed on Adele before her gigantic success, to which King quipped back: "And where do they commit suicide?"
Price gave his own presentation after the panel, highlighting the continued importance of human expertise in music discovery.
“Data’s not going to discover the next David Bowie,” he said. “That’s always going to be the domain of passionate individuals."
The day’s management panel saw panelists debating the changing nature of the role. Revelation Management Group’s co-founder Jordan Berliant called for more windowing of new releases on free streaming services and said attitudes towards social media needed to change.
“No one watches TV for the commercials,” he said. “Artists who use social media most effectively don’t use it for promotion.”
But Sia manager Jonathan Daniel of Crush Management said that data was still useful “as an argument”, including when using streaming/Shazam stats to convince radio to play a song.
The day concluded with an amusing keynote Q&A with Korda Marshall, founder of Infectious and SVP at BMG UK. Marshall covered his early beginnings in the music business playing drums in a band ("like Ringo Starr but without the timing") and as an A&R scout paid £20 with RCA, where he went on to sign Take That based partly "on their complexion."
The heart of his discussion with Music Week editor Mark Sutherland focused on his label Infectious, a company he managed to launch, sell, and recreate at least three times. He first started the label after leaving RCA.
"I was always on the musician’s side of things which made me unemployable, so I said fuck it," was how he described his jump into the unknown, to great applause. "When it works it’s fantastic,” he said of the indie world, “When it doesn’t, you lose your house, so that forces you to focus when you have your own money [invested]."
Infectious ended up as part of Rupert Murdoch-owned Mushroom Records but enjoyed success with Ash, Muse, Garbage and Peter Andre, which Marshall quipping that he took "all of money earned by Peter Andre and spent it on Ash and Muse."
Eventually, the company was sold to Warner, which gave Marshall a new insight into the world of major companies. He took charge of Atlantic UK and later of Warner Bros. Records UK. He left in 2008 and initially planned to go sailing the world. But he discovered The Temper Trap at MUSEXPO London, and within weeks had signed three acts and relaunched Infectious. Last year, he sold the company again to BMG, and is clearly enjoying his current gig.
"It’s great to be 55, in a company that is hiring and signing and believes in music and is taking a long-term view," he said. "Their philosophy is different from the three bigger boys. They made clear they did not want to fire people from the company but rather have us growing the company for them."
His A&R philosophy is simple: a lot of hard work, a few successes and even more hard work.
"Labels are run by accountants and lawyers. They are not very good at signing acts," he said. "Clive Davis told me music should be coordinated by music people, and if you have hits, it keeps accountants and lawyers at bay. And that philosophy got me in trouble a few times."
MUSEXPO continues today. Stay tuned to musicweek.com and Music Week’s Twitter feed for updates.