Surviving in the rapidly consolidating music industry and adapting marketing strategies to fit a reconfigured business were the hot topics opening the fifth annual Billboard/American Urban Radio Netwo

Surviving in the rapidly consolidating music industry and adapting marketing strategies to fit a reconfigured business were the hot topics opening the fifth annual Billboard/American Urban Radio Networks R&B/Hip-Hop Conference. The three-day event kicked off yesterday (Aug. 4) at the Eden Roc Resort in Miami Beach.

The approved Sony/BMG merger notwithstanding, panelists at the "Survivor: Music Biz '04" session noted that the climate is still ripe to create and develop successful music projects. "Convergence always brings opportunity," said Leo Gatewood, senior director of finance & operations for BMG Strategic Partnerships. "Now everyone is looking for new and fresh ideas."

The panel encouraged entrepreneurs to learn and understand all facets of the industry. "You can be an indie all day and all night," said Dangerous Entertainment Group co-chairman Helen Little. "But if you don't have proof [like SoundScan or BDS], none of it will matter."

"The Marketing Matrix" session emphasized the development of a strong marketing plan and spending dollars wisely to execute that plan.

"Let's get the truth out," said Kevin Black, VP of rap promotion at Interscope Geffen A&M. "It takes money, money, money. Anybody who thinks this game is for free is just playing around. You have to know your costs and how much you've got in the kitty."

Other panelists' suggestions included building a street buzz through vinyl sent to street teams, DJs and clubs and seeking out other avenues of exposure including independent films and television.

"You don't have to sell platinum or be an A-list producer to make money in film, television or advertising," said Spirit Music Group A&R director Justin Kalifowitz.

The Billboard/AURN conference continues today with panels addressing the marriage between music and the visual media (film, TV, DVDs), the digital revolution and radio airplay.

Sharing his industry perspectives during Friday's keynote session will be Music World Entertainment/Sanctuary Urban Holding Company Mathew Knowles. The conference ends with Friday evening's R&B/Hip-Hop Awards Show at Fifteen O One Barton G, featuring Brian McKnight, Bone Crusher, Tamyra Gray and Lil Scrappy, among other acts.