San Francisco MusicTech Conference at the Hotel Kabuki.
Yesterday, I attended my first MusicTech Conference, and aside from feeling physically horrible from sitting so long with my head unsupported, I left in good spirits, because it was a cool event.
True to my hermetic nature, I did absolutely no networking and shared not a word with another soul. If I had felt better, I might have, but I was feeling dizzy and a little twitchy, so I kept to myself. Here are the highlights.
• 9:00 to 9:30 AM, Opening Remarks: Pray tell, what kind of moron starts a music event before 10:00 AM? I missed this.
• 9:30 to 10:30, Policy, a panel on copyright/licensing/royalties et al that was educational, but confusing. The most interesting part was listening to a rep from Pandora talk about his company, which I now understand to be ad supported and likely to be shut down in the near term, because of royalty issues. My own opinion on Pandora is muddled; I just don't know enough about them to want them to succeed or to be shut down. The guy speaking on behalf of the company, Tim Westergren, however, did a good job presenting Pandora as a service that holds the artist's interests at heart.
Parallel to the Policy panel were two other panels, Non Traditional Licensing and Custom Deals and Social Networks, the first of which would have seen me in attendance if i hadn't been confused about where to go.
• 10:30 - 11:30, three parallel conferences, Leveraging Data to Generate Revenue, Ethical Issues in Music Law and Building Social Networks around Music, the third of which had my semi-rapt attention. Panelists were Steve Jang, imeem, Josh Brooks, MySpace Music, Rachel Masters, Ning, Geoff Ralston, LaLa, and Anthony Batt, Buzznet. Honestly, they all seemed to be unsure of what was working in social networking, but their honesty was refreshing, as was their pioneer spirit.
• 11:30 - Noon, Steve Jenkins of Third Eye Blind, who started out seemingly completely unsure about what to say, which, to me, was pretty uncool, since he was supposed to the keynote speaker, but in the end he tossed out some decent content. Most interesting was the story about how his band had come up through the old system, but had "died" and been reborn in the newer system. As Jenkins explained, Third Eye was "discovered" the old fashioned way, in that they met with record company after record company before finally landing a deal. But Jenkins said he never felt much kinship with the image of his band, because, in his opinion, that image was created by the record company. Happily -- I guess -- the release of their third album coincided with their record company's demise, and without the record co's promo magic, the band's sales dried up and the new album languished. Then a new fan base grew organically out of file sharing, and Third Eye saw its ticket sales go up. Further, the fans showing up for gigs were REALLY into it. Jenkins surmised that this was because this time around the fans were defining the band for themselves, and as a result, had a deeper interest in the music and members than fans of yore. Going forward, Jenkins now feels much closer to his band and wants to engage with fans, To that end, Third Eye is releasing stem mixes of upcoming tracks for fans to play with and remix. Kinda cool. Jenkins then talked for a bit about albums, and how he hated the pressure they create; rather, he now just wants to do songs, release them, and when there are enough songs, make an album. Last, he talked about "spreading the bounty", by which he basically meant that if you make stuff available free to fans they will return the favor by attending gigs and buying t-shirts and the like.
1:00 - 2:00 PM, a bunch of product demos, Netpop, Josh Crandell, Apture, Tristan Harris, MixMatchMusic, Charles Feinn, Dysco.DJ, Ian Nieves, BandCamp, Ethan Diamond, WaZatSong, Raphael Abruz.
Netpop was just a bunch of research, Apture was amazing and worth a post, so stay tuned, MixMatch was a novelty, not for me, Bandcamp was great, I will be writing more about them, Dysco I missed most of, and WaZatSong I missed, because I was headed back upstairs to catch the Producers Panel.
2:00 - 3:00, Producers Panel, this was incredible, featuring Narada Michael Walden (photo below), Scott Matthews, Stephen Hart and Jim Greer, and moderated by Shiloh Hobel. Narada kicked things off with ridiculously long, but fun, intros, and when he was through, the crowd was pumped, but poor Shiloh was pressed for time to get her questions in. All producers agreed that today’s world was more about getting paid up front and less about royalties, all agreed that Pro Tools was awesome, but could kill even more time than it saved by allowing too many options, all agreed that a great producer puts the song first, works to realize the artist’s vision not his own and makes decisions.
After the Producers Panel, I bailed. Sitting in those horrible convention- style chairs had made me really dizzy (no head support) and sitting off the side with my head against the wall only made me realize how much I wanted to go home. Still, I forced myself to walk the few miles back to my apartment, then I crawled into bed and stayed put until 9:00 PM, when I was finally roused by the prospect of a grilled cheese sandwich served by a good looking waitress.