By Mark Sutherland and Emmanuel Legrand
during a lively conference programme on Day 3 of MUSEXPO.
The Los Angeles conference also honoured its International Music Person Of The Year, with veteran KROQ programmer Kevin Weatherly giving a keynote and receiving the award from US chat show host Jimmy Kimmel.
Weatherly is credited with putting grunge on the radio map and breaking dozens of alternative artists.
"Radio still has a huge influence in breaking artists and pushing them to the next level," he said. "And it is still a good business. New things [like streaming] are flavour of the month but we've been here for a while so we need to tell our story better.”
Weatherly stressed the importance of the human connection between DJ and audience for keeping radio alive.
“Streaming services are great, but they’re a little sterile,” he said.
In a joke-heavy speech, Kimmel said Weatherly saved him from a career as a real estate agent by giving him a job in radio.
“However good things were, Kevin always believed they could be better,” he said, before quipping: “He’s a very unreasonable person.”
Earlier, Eurosonic Noorderslag founder Peter Smidt’s opening address was followed by a live forum that saw UTA’s head of worldwide music, Neil Warnock, become the latest executive to criticise YouTube for not delivering enough revenues to rights-holders. “Artists need to be paid for their music,” he said, to applause from the audience. “This ain’t something for free."
The panel also discussed the changing role of the live sector, which is now much more involved in artists’ wider careers.
“It doesn’t matter how big [an act] gets, they are still in artist development,” declared Warnock, while Benjamin Weeden, COO of Live Nation-owned House Of Blues Entertainment said his firm had more to offer artists than just ticket sales.
“As well as selling more tickets than the venue down the road, we can help the band’s brand,” he said.
Smidt stressed the importance of festivals in building up a band’s following, with over 400 festivals attending Eurosonic to pick up up-and-coming acts for their events.
"Festivals are a great place to develop new talent and break new bands,” he said. “At a festival, you have a large number of people interested in music and if they see a band that they don't know, if they have a good experience, they will follow the band."
Warnock stressed the importance of timing, however. "You've got to strategise the right time for a band to play festivals,” he said. “It can be very early on or you hold back to get the positioning."
There’s clearly still plenty of money in festivals, however. John Boyle, chief growth officer for Insomniac, which puts on EDM festival Electric Daisy Carnival, said EDC is worth $350m per year to Las Vegas in economic input. Some of that money clearly trickles down to the performers as well.
“The middle [ranking] DJs are earning way more than the middle [ranking] bands,” he said. “You can make a shit ton of money right away. But the guys at the top aren’t earning as much as the big pop acts.”
On the afternoon’s digital panel, Shazam’s VP/head of music Peter Szabo said Shazam’s data was now so sophisticated it could pick out sure-fire hits earlier than ever before.
“We always knew we could predict the Hot 100 months in advance,” he said, “But now we can have indicators a year in advance.”
Shazam co-founder Chris Barton also gave a presentation showing how the firm can help artists break, saying many emerging artists have more followers on Shazam than they do on sites such as Facebook.
Meanwhile, the publishing panel hosted by Music Week’s US editor Emmanuel Legrand saw executives debating the changing role of publishers.
BMG US's president of music publishing, Zach Katz said: "Anybody who wants to compete in publishing has to put aside time, energy and resources to develop writers."
The panel said bidding wars still went on for hot songwriters, but stressed that the biggest deals weren’t always the best.
Peermusic president/COO Kathy Spanberger said: "Bidding wars lead to ludicrous deals that aren't sustainable however much you believe in the artist." And Universal Music Publishing Group’s North America president Evan Lamberg said: “Go look at a new artist that’s signed a $1m [record] deal and watch the pressure on that artist.”