With the first annual Music Business Association (Music Biz) convention being staged in Los Angeles at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel from May 6-9, Billboard caught up with the trade group's president Jim Donio to see what was in store for attendees and how it differs from NARM.
Billboard: So how's the branding switch from NARM to the Music Biz going?
Jim Donio: We are pleased in the way people have received the name. We have set the goal that once we got to this event next week, then the brand — the Music Business Assn. — will stand on its own. We will no longer add that we were formerly named NARM and digitalmusic.org.
We will now simply be known as the Music Biz; it’s much more easily promotable. NARM was a mouthful to explain, especially what recording merchandisers was. It didn't resonate with the broadest swath of entities that we would want as members. It telegraphed a time in the industry that had come and gone. That was why we rebranded. Now it’s a much easier explanation. Anyone who has any interest in the commerce of music, on whatever side you of the business you are on, they can all find a place at the Music Biz.
What are some of the highlights of this year's convention?
We have consolidated and streamlined the event to three days. On Tuesday morning, we will have our Metadata track, which was well received last year. We will also have the Music Business Academy, which is for newcomers to the business and start-up developers. On Thursday, we will have a law program and a country music track. In between, there will be one-on-one meetings and panels on a handful of other special interest topics and various digital topics. We pride ourselves on the diversity of the program, because our audience is in all aspects of the music business.
What about the organizations awards and any other fun events during the convention?
The opening reception is on Tuesday evening, followed by a breakfast on Wednesday morning sponsored by Sony Music Entertainment, which will do a short presentation. Our award winners will be announced then. [Epic Records president and Vested in Culture founder/CEO] Sylvia Rhone will be given the Presidential Award for Sustained Executive Achievement. She is the first female recipient of the award in our history, so it will be a significant and momentous occasion. She is one of the few executives that has worked at all three majors, and her career really symbolizes what the award is about.
We will also present [Sub Pop Records co-founder] Jonathan Poneman with the 2014 Independent Spirit Award, honoring his remarkable career supporting the indie marketplace and bringing us bands like Nirvana and his ongoing engagement in philanthropic endeavors. These are two ideal recipients.
On Thursday, we will have an awards lunch, which will be sponsored by YouTube, where we will present (Twisted Sister frontman) Dee Snider with the Harry Chapin Memorial Humanitarian Award. Some artists have a persona and musical reputation that present them one way, but then when you strip away their persona, you see they are among the most charitable and philanthropic people our industry has. Snider has been involved in giving back in a lot of ways, including his involvement in the “Celebrity Apprentice” contest where he gave his winnings to the March of Dimes; the biker rides he does for a number of charities and his work for Long Island Cares, which was founded by Harry Chapin — his widow Sandy Chapin will be there this year.
On Thursday, we are having an afternoon award luncheon, sponsored by Youtube. This year the honoree will be Ariana Grande who will make a big impact on the chart [this] week.
We will also give the Outstanding Achievement Award to the "Frozen" soundtrack, the biggest-selling album of the year. That film, the song, the cast and songwriters and Disney really captured lighting in a bottle and so we are pleased to honor the whole gleam behind it. Chart-topping pop star and actress Ariana Grande will receive the Breakthrough Artist of the Year Award. And finally, the Chairman's Award is being president to Paul Rodgers, the critically acclaimed artist/vocalist, who during his five decade long career has fronted some of the most renown band and who continues to reinvent his musical contribution through the years. The award is about sustained creative achievement.
What's attendance looking like so far?
It will be about the same or a little lower than last year, when we had about 800 during the convention. We are already at 700 and with the walk-ups we could be in the 800 range.
We have something like 90 new entities who are attending the convention for the first time. We also have a big increase in representation from the three organization that are responsible for the success of Record Store Day, which this year was the best ever. We will celebrate their great success from this year and provide them with an opportunity to debrief from this year and begin planning the next one.
What will be the hot-button topics at the convention?
On the digital front, there will be a lot of conversations about the access model and the services coming from YouTube and discussion on what Amazon, iTunes and Beats are up to. There will be a lot of conversations about the growth of streaming and what impact it is having on the industry. But at the same time, based on the Record Store Day data, vinyl will continue to be a big topic, too.