Has the music industry reached an inflection point?

Maybe it was the forward-looking topics of the panels at the Leadership Music Digital Summit. Most likely it was because of the particular group of industry leaders in attendance. In any case, after the conference started with a recap of some industry missteps by NPD Group's Russ Crupnick, the tone was surprisingly positive.

Prehaps the industry hasn't completely turned a corner. But for two days the conversation rarely reminded people of the painful disruption that has happened over the last 10 years.

One reason for the sunny sentiment is that many panelists, or the artists they represent, were not in the industry 10 years ago when CD sales peaked. Many companies did not exist until recently.

Even long-time A&R reps and lawyers showed they had come to grips with today's music business and are seeing signs of a more stable future. So rather than compare the present to the past, people mostly talked about the future. And it wasn't filled with the sort of hyperbole about digital music that tends to characterize the digital discussion. Instead, the discussion's optimism was firmly rooted in the realities of today. Frankly, it was therapeutic and a welcome change from the normal industry conference tone.

Some Highlights From Day 2 of the Leadership Music Digital Summit

-- A highlight was a panel with Troy Carter (manager of Lady Gaga) and Marty Winsch (manager of Corey Smith). The two managers have different types of artists but similar approaches and outlooks. They talked about strategy rather than tools. "If these two managers are the architectures of the new music industry, there is a viable business here," says BigChampagne's Eric Garland, the panel's moderator. "It was encouraging. They talked almost exclusively over nurturing an artist-fan connection that goes on for years." When Garland asked them if they were concerned about the catastrophic changes, they answered in unison: "Not at all."

-- When Jon Cohen from Cornerstone talked about Mountain Dew's Green Label Sound record label, he was talking about now, not the future. Artists are being helped by brand partnerships now. Brands are dedicating more of their ad budgets to music now. This isn't an expected shift to help make up for dropping CD sales. Real, impactful stuff is going on right now that has flipped the old model on its head.

-- The ticketing panel showed how social media allows you to constantly listen to fan feedback and more cost effectively reach fans. Ticketfly's Andrew Dreskin says his company tells prospective clients, "We hope your ad budget goes to zero." Moderated by Billboard's Ray Waddell, the panel also included representatives from Mozes, Eventful, Eventbrite and Sonicbids.

-- CD sales may be dropping, but listening that moves from AM/FM to Internet radio is found money, Pandora's Tim Westergren said.

-- The A&R panel reflected the transformation of finding and signing artists. The 360 deal, for example, makes A&R staffs think differently about acts. "Now we're Atlantic Merchandise," joked Steve Robertson, Atlantic Records' senior VP of A&R. When asked what websites the panelists use to track new artists, We Are Hunted got two nods and Hype Machine got one.