Los Angeles, May 9-12, 2011, Hyatt Regency Century Plaza. The NARM Music Business Convention was back in Los Angeles for the first time in 21 years. NARM President Jim Donio remembered some of the performers at that last time during the opening breakfast: “Michael Bolton and Harry Connick, Jr., with surprise guests Kenny G. and Branford Marsalis. But, it was the unknown newcomer who took the stage for a duet with Michael who stole the show.” She was Mariah Carey, who has since sold 200 million singles worldwide. In more recent years, part of this convention have been first time appearances of artist such as Taylor Swift and ‘N Sync. From independent labels, producers, managers and service providers to large music companies such as EMI Music, Sony, Warner, Universal and CBS Records, every music professionals had a reason to attend.
Also in his opening remarks, Jim Donio announced that “when we take all formats into consideration, and with track equivalent albums, I am happy to say that sales are up 1.6% for the first time since 2004.” It has been and still is a long winding road for the music industry since it was caught off guard by the rapidly growing digital technology and its unforeseen consumer usage. “Rampant illegal downloading worldwide has contributed to a 52% decline in music sales in the past 10 years” Jim said. He also introduced some of the many new tools NARM is setting up to support music industry professionals nationwide like GiveTheGiftofMusic.Info.
The piracy debate continues and looking for ways to bring value to the consumer was one of the main subjects in this 4-day event. On one hand large established labels and known artists see file sharing as the cause of major loses. Recent case Youtube vs Viacom is setting precedent and attorney Chris Castle is establishing a case against Google for facilitating more than “23 billion views of intellectual property”.
On the other hand, upcoming artists and independent labels see social media and digital platforms as one of the most efficient inexpensive forms of marketing and fund raising in music history as these new technologies help building and engaging a fan based these professionals wouldn’t have had access to otherwise. Singer/songwriter Jake Walden has a strong social media presences and 200 of his fans funded his album. At the Marketing in the Digital World panel, Kelli Fannon from Rdio said: “Don’t be afraid to give away your hottest track because it may help you turn it into the best selling one”. Roger McNamee co-founded Elevation Partners with partners including U2’s Bono and former Apple CFO Fred Anderson; the current single of Roger’s band, Moonalice, has been downloaded 754,000+ times and part of their marketing includes broadcasting their shows openly on social media. The panel on Live Concerts highlighted the challenge for ticket sales in the USA as opposed to Europe and Mexico and the need for incentives such as free downloads, t-shirts, meet the band, merchandise discounts, etc. Digital technology has definitely brought assistance in promoting, creating and maintaining the key emotional connection between artists and fans; it has also given opportunities to many new artists and companies increasing the music supply, and shown that there is a strong demand; what is under question is the price people is willing to pay for the value offered; the pie is almost half of what it used to and there are many more pieces to be cut. It ultimately is the artists’ choice as to how generous towards their fans they want to be.
The event started with an intense day and a half Music Business Crash course that covered aspects such as contracts, production, publishing, licensing, touring, marketing and promotion from traditional to social media and mobile. Artists managers had a special afternoon session to discuss the industry changes and product managers, such as labels and independent artists, had the opportunity to present their music products to retailers including Target, Amazon and iTunes, during the One-On-One Meetings.
All aspects of the music business were covered by the over a dozen panels with emphasis on social media, digital issues and new online promotional & tracking tools, and the convention included the NARM Entertainment & Technology Law Conference where four panels with top attorneys discussed complex issues and cases on piracy, royalties and copyright. Key speaker, Billy Mann, president of BMG North America, who has worked with artists such as Martina McBride and Kelly Rowland selling over 85 million albums, talked about troubling times at EMI when he had four CEOs in three years and the adventure of launching artist David Guetta.
Part of this event were various cocktail parties, two breakfasts with music performances and an award gala that brought to the stage live music by Jake Walden, Sadie Jemmet, Cathy Anne McClintock, Timothy Bloom, Cherry Bomb, Big Sean, Eden’s Edge, Greyson Chance, Fitz & The Tantrums, Matt Nathanson, Tyrese and David Cook, whose new album is coming up June 28. Among the honorees during the gala were mythic songwriters/producers Kenneth Gamble & Leon Huff, Annie Lennox for her dedication to AIDS and HIV, Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, Nicki Minaj and American Idol’s 10th Anniversary Season. Charity Idol Gives Back has raised nearly $185 million in its three airings.
For more information: http://www.narm.com
Photo credits: NARM