The music business Down Under has a bright future. But none of the AustralAsian Music Business Conference's speakers could quite agree what that might be.

That was the lingering impression from the 2009 AMBC event, which took place Aug. 20-22 at the Acer Arena, Sydney and left its 360 attending delegates with much to chew over.

"The future is disconnected from the past," former Sony BMG global COO Michael Smellie told guests on the Day 1 panel, "Beyond Downloading -- The True Futures of Music."

"Don't try to think about what the business was. The future will be a bundle of income from differing sources," Smellie continued.

The panel then heated up and threatened to boil over when Smellie locked horns with media futurist Gerd Leonhard (author of 2005's "The Future of Music" and 2008's "Music 2.0") after the latter pondered, "do you extract value or add value? Anyone who extracts value will fail. The IFPI extracts value. Roadrunner, Terry McBride [CEO of Nettwerk Music Group], they add value. We have to keep adding value to the experience."

Smellie responded, "The explosion in the music business in the late-70s to the mid-90s can be traced back to adding value. Many majors add value. Simon Cowell added value and BMG invested in it. Clive Davis adds value. We wouldn't have Whitney Houston if not for Clive."

In his opening keynote remarks earlier that morning, Roadrunner Records senior VP Jon Satterley had implored artists to get to grips with technology, and "be awesome, not shit" at their craft.

"E-mail is king. All other marketing tools pale," he told the audience. "Inboxes rule. They are the hub. If you're not in the business of collecting e-mails properly, this should be the starting point of marketing," said Satterley, adding that Roadrunner has amassed a database of 900,000 contacts.

TuneCore CEO Jeff Price and Leonhard took similar themes -- technology and music -- when they delivered their own keynote appearances during the course of the event. But it was Leonhard's presentation at the start of Day 2 which became the talking point of AMBC.

E-mails, Leonhard claimed, were old hat. Effective marketing nowadays was all about creating hype and having fans come to you. "Quit pushing," he told delegates, "and start pulling."

Leonhard continued the debate online when he fired a diatribe at Kevin Bermeister, the CEO of Kazaa, who proposed a new method of policing file-sharing at the ISP level by replacing illegal files with legitimate DRM'ed versions.

In the hours after the presentation, Leonhard blogged, "the mere fact that this kind of scheme is being presented in a keynote at a leading music industry conference is, frankly, making me feel quite hopeless on the future of digital music."

South by Southwest creative director Brent Grulke offered another approach, warning artists not waste too much time and energy on technology.

"Spending time Tweeting or updating your Facebook page, you're eating into the time you need to make music," he told Day 3 guests at Sydney's Acer Arena. "You have to find the time to make your music."

The future for the music business might not be clear, but the underlying theme of the conference was that music industry would certainly live on in some way, shape or form.

The same can't be said for the event itself. AMBC producer Phil Tripp has announced plans to retire before the next event is due to be staged in August 2011.

Tripp says the music business conference gap that he filled with AMBC in 1991 "has been compensated by other events that are state sponsored," a thinly-veiled barb at events such as the upcoming Sept. 9-11 Big Sound conference in Brisbane, which counts among its major sponsors Trade Queensland, the Queensland government's export agency.

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