By Marcus Leach
The final day of Social Media Week London saw Like Minds turn their attention to the music industry, looking at the impact of social media on the music industry and how the leading players are responding and adjusting to the ‘social’ opportunity.
The session was Moderated by Chris Maples VP Europe of Spotify and he was joined by a panel of industry experts including Dave Haynes, Head of Business Development, Soundcloud, Dave Castell, Head of Music for Nokia, Zoe Lazarus from Lowe+Partners, Matt Brawn, the Head of Digital for Defected Records, and John Bartleson, Global Marketing Director, Telefónica Digital.
The world continues to change at such a fast pace. Social is such a big part of everything that has in music. Let's look at the impact of artists taking control of their persona on social.
MB: There are a number of areas at Defected, including a management agency who give advice to those who want to manage their own profiles so they protect themselves and maximise our own interests.
Is there ever a healthy tension?
MB: At times yes, but you have t comer to a balance where everyone is happy.
What about the music business generally now. Trying to stop piracy and peer-to-peer sharing. Social sharing has changed the industry generally. What s been the biggest impact form social
DC: It's the hot topic. That's why we're here today. Coming back to your first question, it's hugely exciting because it's empowering the artist, and for brands we have an ever closer relationship with the artist and the consumer and fan. And from technology point of view it makes us, at Nokia, look at how we can best deliver this medium and pushes us forward in advancing technology. The licensing question around social in music is an interesting one, and something that is ever evolving.
ZL: I think the impact of social and the internet has changed the context of the way we experience music. We used to go to record stores to buy music, and clubs to hear it. Yet now it is so different and online. There is a different interaction with music now and a different social context around it.
DH: I think the business and the economics of it has all changed. A lot of the artists are asking 'how do we change what we are doing and remain successful?' One of the biggest changes e have seen is the younger artists coming up are thinking about getting there content in front of people in a very different way. The traditional pattern has been turned upside down and we are starting to see young new talent doing things in a different way. To be able to publish instantly to fans and get that feedback straight away through platforms like Sound Cloud has changed things totally.
One of the biggest impacts is that releases and schedules are not defined by borders now, as online and in social there are no boundaries. How is that impacting?
JB: I was very connected to music on the artist side, where now it's a global marketing role and one of the biggest challenges we face is around localisation. Not everything is relevant the world over. There can be tension between global perspective and then making it work in a local market. We need to know how to speak to an audience in a compelling way that engages them. My focus now is o0n mobile apps and we have done a huge amount of work to integrate artists into this.
DC: I would agree with a lot of that, it's one of the key challenges, but also one of the big opportunities in terms of creative. We have all these relationships to manage and we are working with our own pace of releases, which for Nokia has normally been products and handsets, but marrying that with a global releases schedule for artists. To marry the two is a programming process for us. The local and global question is really interesting. We could be promoting an act in Mumbai that could actually build an audience for that artist in London. We are much more a lean back company, where Spotify would be a lean forward brand.
For me one of the most important thing in social and that is authenticity, you have to build your credibility. Who is doing that really well?
MB: Scream, who categorically has an approach to his social channels where he doesn't seem to give too much thought to it but has gained a huge amount of respect for being true to himself. He has remained authentic and a true reflection of himself.
DH: I think for artists looking at social media they need to look at what their goal is and what they are trying to achieve. It shouldn't be a frenzy of activity just around a releases. If you are going to be successful you need to be there all the day.
ZL: That's what fans want, the real stuff, the day-to-day life of the artists. Rhianna is brilliant at that as she is so personal and that's what the audience want. She is original.
People's understanding of how to use social has accelerated so quickly, how do you keep up?
DC: It's interesting. It comes down to who is running it, especially from my agency point of view. If you have an agency running things for you it is clear to see as it comes through in their tone. Not music but take Ricky Gervais as it is so clear he is doing it himself and it is authentic and genuine.
Does the music industry get social as well as it should do?
ZL: Within music the relationship between social and record sales is quite clear. That's why people take note of it in music.
JB: From my perspective it is constantly evolving and we are creative people, and there is an intuitive understanding that the connection with fans is so vital to how the industry operates. There remain big challenges though to create and remain authentic.
DH: I think it is a case of thinking about that before turning up on social. Not everyone is going to be cut out for it. Think about what it means to you and work out what channels are for you. Don't do something because you feel you have to. It might be that you are only good at taking pictures, so stick to Instagram. Someone like Radiohead want to create more of a mystique and that reflects in what they do.
MB: Social has opened up the opportunity to bridge the fan-artist relationship massively. But I think the artist needs to keep a certain distance, they should hold something back and remain exclusive. There is a lot to be said for scarcity for an artist ion social.
JB: I wouldn't agree with that entirely. There is so much volume of information that it is easy for consumers to forget what was said as so much is said and put out there.
DH: You can still keep mystique but keep regular content, it's about how you do it.
MB: At Defected we are looking to build a community with our artists, not just push out product stuff.
DC: I think it's also tone of voice. The question of quality and quantity. The other point from a broadcaster of social messaging point of view, we have to allow for the intelligence of the consumer of how to read stuff.
ZL: The technology is evolving too, and we see artists collaborating with people like Google now. So we expect the new artists to come up with something new and different.
Before the advent of social it was a case of playing gigs and hoping to get signed. Is it an advantage for those who are adept with social in terms of getting signed and noticed?
DH: I think the most interesting thing is the data you can get back from it. You can see someone rising and follow the story. There are so many tools where you can get different statistics, and I think if you're an artist now you can empower yourself. You can go to labels and show that you have leverage with fans and following.
JB: There are all these tools that exist and if you look at SoundCloud I hear so much good new music on a new day. In the music world people exist in their little niche, some bands are great on SoundCloud but on Twitter they are pretty dull. People don't always engage me on Twitter, but then I can go back and get the full experience through SoundCloud.
Is there a chance that this becomes painting by numbers, that social gets in the way of music?
DC: In theory what we are talking about is the general democratisation of music and culture. If social can help you as a young artist to reach people you might not have reached before, that's generally good. If it gives people an unfair advantage, well if that's the way you're inclined you;re going to do it anyway aren't you?
DH: On the painting by numbers point, I think ultimately the musicians are trying to get their message out there in essence and are creators. Creators have to fit their art to fit the current medium. We had three minute songs because that worked for radio, we had albums around 74 minutes long as that's what would fit on two sides of vinyl. Videos now are shifting to what will go viral. There will still be those who create beautiful pieces of art and will find an audience.
Audience: I work for a radio station and Twitter is brilliant that we can get to people directly, without going through labels who sometimes just don't listen because we are not as big as other stations.
MB: Personally I think it is great for smaller radio stations that they can get in touch with artists. The management side might be cautious, but if the artists connect with you and like what you're doing I think that is great.
Audience: How has the industry structure changed. As a consumer it's about discovery and cutting through the noise to find the good stuff. What are the key channels in the future?
MB: At Defected we use a lot of channels in a different way, but SoundClod is by far the best channel for us.
ZL: It has gone more from general approach to a much more curated approach where you discover through people you respect.
DH: It's horses for courses. I am a big fan of Spotify, and I am excited to see this multi-pronged approach. I think there is big scope for brands to create their identity around certain channels. People like labels now so they will listen to their podcasts for example where there is the constant update of what that family is doing and who is new and exciting.
JB: Music discovery and content creation has room for improvement in my eyes. For me the most valuable tool in SoundCloud is you see the artist you like, and then you can see the people that they like and have an influence from. That is a great way of getting into new music. You can dig into what people like and are paying attention to.
DC: My personal view, and I would say this, is I think we are heading more and more to mobile. There is room for lots of different services though.
I feel like the world of social is evolving like most platforms see to do, a big blanket mass of stuff before it starts narrowing down and becomes refined. Where are we going to be in 12 months?
ZL: It is going from being focused on technology and communication channel to something is a more creative medium. Instead of it just being a tool it is something you can create something with. People are coming up with ideas that will work across different channels.
Is there a chance the platforms are affecting the music artists are creating?
MB: I have seen examples of producers using Vine to give a little bit of what they are doing and see what people think and get the feedback.
ZL: It was done before social though, bands would play something live and see what the feedback was. That's the sign of a good artist, someone who can interact with their audience and know what they want.
DH: In the world of instant publishing the dynamic has changed. However there is still the scope for a lot of rubbish.
Is it necessary for artists to get involved in debates that involve them on social?
MB: I can think of an example that has been out there quite a lot. There is an argument for both sides. You have to stand your ground and make your point if you are in that position, but you don't have to keep going on about it. It's striking a balance.
DC: It comes back to who owns the channel, is the artist running it or is the management company doing it?
JB: For some people, like Mylie Cyrus, it can be a great traffic driver, rightly or wrongly. In a world where brand advertisers are helping support some of the creation, there are instances you need to walk a fine line if you want the brand relationships.
Audience: What is going to happen to the heritage acts?
MB: I think someone like Bob Marley has a verified Twitter account, and you would hope that if you had built up a heritage it will be passed on down the years. I'm not sure who runs it but it is keeping that going.
Audience: WIll social help educate young people about quality music?
MB: I don't think they see social in the way we do. They have never known life without it and are integrated to a life with it.
Where are we going to be in 12 months, and what advice would you give an artist?
JB: I think there are trajectories that exist that will continue. It;'s the same core activities, text and images. What's changed is the way we can stitch together these pieces. Mobile and social will be the big focus. Content owners could do a better job in my eyes. I guess the advice is to focus on controlling your content better from a creative point of view.
MB: In terms of the future I hope there will be more emphasis on the data behind it and creating a more personalised experience for the user. Advice would be back to the fact you have to maintain authenticity and remain transparent.
DH: I think the thing we will be talking about is the business model, which is the least interesting. How does a creator continue to be successful and make money for what they do when people are less inclined to pay. In terms of advice it would be thinking about who you are and what you want to say and being true to that. But ultimately being able to adapt to the media.
ZL: The future is more social and more mobile. To think that people are stopping to think that technology is a separate thing, it is now in everything and it is a lot more connected. In terms of advice it is important to think about the changing context of the audience.
DC: I would agree on all of the trends, as well as adding in the medium of video and it's importance. In would like to see more innovation, and that fusion of innovation and art to create beautiful music.
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