Capitol Music Group held the second annual music and tech festival, Capitol Royale, this past weekend. With “Music on the Move” as its theme, creators, coders, musicians and startups gathered at the Capitol Records Tower and nearby Hollywood locations.
Steve Barnett, chairman and CEO of Capitol Music Group, said that this is the most exciting time in music that he can remember. In his opening remarks, he underscored how powerful music fans have become to artist development. “The audience’s voice is louder than it’s ever been and that’s a good thing for the industry,” he said.
Balancing data with passion was a prevalent theme among music industry executives throughout the weekend. At the “Data Driven Touring – How to Use Data from Streaming, Social Media, Bandsintown and More to Book and Market Better Shows” panel, moderated by Hypebot editor Bruce Houghton, panelist Trey Many of Paradigm said he uses data for marketing, determining venue sizes for touring artists, gauging which shows should be all-ages and choosing secondary markets. However, a genuine music fan who talked about his passion for discovering new artists, Many also stressed the importance of the pursuit of art for art’s sake, saying that if one were to rely exclusively upon statistics, most artists don’t ever succeed, but that shouldn’t deter musicians from following their hearts.
Panelist David O’Connor of Live Nation joked that data is “personal pain and difficult mind numbing crunch” before saying, “I still think the people in this business matter the most and the people with passion and compassion for the art will always prevail, but if you’re going to make a choice between three or four artists, the data can help point you in the right direction.” He said he uses data for various aspects including choosing specific nights of the week for artists to play shows. “Put New York on a Wednesday or Thursday because industry folks don’t want to go out on Fridays and Saturdays to cover shows — and that goes for L.A., too.” He said he retains a “healthy skepticism” as far as relying exclusively on data, maintaining the importance of finding artists who have a good team, who have some regional success and who possess what he calls “live vanity” whereby they want to be out on the road touring which he calls an “arduous” lifestyle that doesn’t suit everyone.
Relying upon data, however, has its challenges warned panelist Marisol Segal, head of digital partnerships at AEG Presents: “Not all data will tell you what you think you’re looking for. It’s not just about number of streams you see or the number of followers. The crucial data point is the engagement — that is what is hard to get to – is it a passive listener or active?” While passive listeners listen to curated playlists, active listeners are directly engaged with specific artists, supporting the music and attending live shows.
“Research and data has definitely changed the industry and especially my job,” said panelist Kate Loesch, A&R manager at Capitol, at the “Head versus Heart – How Data Is Transforming the A&R” panel moderated by Fabrice Sergent, co-founder and managing partner of Bandsintown. “With the amount of music that’s being put out and released today, it’s my job to sort through it. I use data to back up my gut instincts. I never look at charts and say I’ll try to sign that guy because he’s at the top of the chart.” She, too, discussed the downside of relying exclusively upon data. “There’s a lot of ways to skew numbers and fake it. At the end of the day, numbers won’t tell you what cuts through emotionally. Only music can do that. Only real artists can do that. ”
Panelist Ankit Desai, CEO Snafu Records, recounted a cautionary data tale: “One artist we found had the number one song on Soundcloud and a decent social following. I’m a data person, so I got excited and I said, ‘We found the new Eminem! This is like the 8 Mile movie!’ Then it came out he had bought all his plays on Soundcloud and all of his Instagram followers.” Calling his experience, “a failure,” he addressed the audience and said, “Please, if you’re an artist, do not buy your followers.”
Another increasingly important aspect discussed at the festival was combining artists with corporate and technological innovation. “I focus on building relationships with emerging platforms and new technologies to see what opportunities exist for our music roster,” said panelist Vanja Primorac, head of music innovation at UTA, during the “Play v. Process – The Challenging World of Corporate Innovation in Creative Fields” panel moderated by Adrienne Palm, director gBETA Musictech & gBETA Northeast Wisconsin at gener8tor.
Primorac said she walks a fine and challenging line balancing business with art. “I spend 50% of my day talking to all sorts of new companies and understanding what problem they’re trying to solve — how do they superserve fans, reach new audiences, and monetize merchandise? The other half of my day is spent sitting with artists and their management teams and finding out, ‘Where are you at right now and what are your goals for the next 6 months?’ Then I try to identify the gaps and make the connections between the two. It’s our job, coming from the corporate side, to understand the art and put a process in place to elevate the art and get it to people.”
At the end of the day, it all boils down to music which was the focus at the “From the Studio To Your Living Room – Immersive Audio” panel. A passionate discussion about immersive audio (3D sound) and music ensued among panelists Dion “No I.D.” Wilson, executive vp A&R at UMG; Samuel Lindley, senior vp indie distribution strategy at UMG; Capitol Studios engineer Nick Rives; and moderator Chris Jenkins, executive vp Digital Studios.
Jenkins said, “We think that this format, immersive audio, allows people to find music and enjoy it in a way that other stuff hasn’t done in a non-elitist way that should be accessible to everyone.”
“I once got a note from a producer that said, ‘I want this to sound so big it doesn’t fit into my ears,’” said Rives. “Now that I have more room, sure I can make it louder, but I can also create a dynamic that is enormous or intimate, I can make it small or big, I can be aggressive or gentle. I have more control and it’s a fundamentally new approach to how we relate to mixing and composition.”
“We’re at the point and place now where we’ve saturated the earth with music. No longer is it about creating a specific product just listened to by a person in front of a speaker. We’re not consuming music the way we used to so we have to create it differently,” said Wilson. “Once I learned about immersive audio, the thing that touched me creatively was thinking that there are so many different things we do in our lives — you’re walking down the street and you hear it coming out of a store or a movie theater, you hear it in a movie, in a television commercial… I don’t think the majority create with that in mind unless they’re a niche creator. Beyond creating an album or piece of content, it will soon require us to rethink what our choices are when we create what we create because there are so many different landing places now and those become much more important. High end content creators won’t just create music to chart as a specific sign of success but also just to enhance different parts of life.”