Just about every music industry panel will touch upon new tools available to record, distribute, market, organize and communicate. But Google's Calendar and Documents?

The free online services had fans at Thursday’s American Music Conference panel titled "The New Big Picture: Managing in the New Economy."

"I can organize better with my artists with a viral calendar," said manager Tim McFadden. "I run my entire business off my Blackberry, basically. Each of my artists has their own calendar." McFadden said it is a big time saving tool that helps with the type of quick decisions that technology now facilitates. Todd Steed from AC Entertainment seconded the helpfulness of Google Calendar and said he used it on a recent tour for one of his artists. "The confusion it eliminated is amazing," he said.

Free and/or simple was a recurring theme on the panel. Steed talked about the way Julia Nunes, an AC Entertainment-managed artist, has used cheaply recorded videos on YouTube to gain followers and even promote upcoming concerts. Nunes was discovered on YouTube and Steed took an interest after he saw she was the 26th most-subscribed artist on the site. J.T. Turner of Nasvhille-based Thirty Tigers stressed the benefits of having a college intern to help with online marketing duties.

Traditional topics like radio promotion, touring and fan engagement were discussed as well. But judging from the comments of the panelists, the new tradition is that there is no traditional way of doing business. Managers wear many hats, and doing business today means thinking differently. Ralph Jaccodine from Ralph Jaccodine Management told how one artist he manages, Ellis Paul, raised money to record and market his latest album by going directly to fans. Paul was able to gather $105,000 from a multi-tiered offering. (Paul's email list has about 20,000 names, said Jaccodine, and about 300 people donated money.) "For the first time instead of having a $25,000 budget to make a record we had $100,000," said Jaccodine. "We will have more money to hire a good publicist and invest in marketing."

Similarly, Turner talked about the route he chose for Those Darlins, a new group from Nashville. "The biggest thing was breaking out of the traditional publicity outlets for Americana outlets," said Turner. Instead, he focused on indie rock and the blogosphere. By getting a publicist with no Americana experience, Those Darlins got exposure at Pitchfork and other places that tend not to cover Americana.

At Thursday's "Working the New Network: Nine Rock Solid Ways to Connect with Your Fans Digitally" panel, the emphasis was on best practices in direct-to-consumer marketing. Empowerment of the artist was the recurring theme. The limits of traditional e-commerce sites, the panelists explained time after time, can be overcome with good use of online tools and sincere communication with fans.

"Downloads are seven and a half minutes into their 15 minutes of fame," argued Roy Elkins of Broadjam, a Web community for independent artists. Kami Knake of Bands Under The Radar echoed Eklins' sentiment and encouraged artists and their managers to think beyond traditional music release cycles. "The death of the album is probably upon us," Knake said in discussing the ability to offer content on a constant basis. "Keep feeding your fans so they don't forget about you."

But the effectiveness of online tools comes from how - not how often - they are used. Kevin Brown of Rockhouse Partners urged artists and managers to build an intimate connection with fans and stressed the importance of putting quality over quantity. To show how a deeper connection drives value, Brown pointed to the number of Twitter followers of Fall Out Boy (100,000) and Keith Urban (57,000). Those are not run directly by the artist, he says, and the number of followers reflects that.

Paul Jacobson of Eventful encouraged people to give the fans the power to make crucial decisions. Make sure information is easily shared, he told the audience, so people can actively promote you.