Q&A: Andre Harrell Talks About the Inaugural Revolt Music Conference, State of the Business

Sean "P. Diddy" Combs and Andre Harrell
Johnny Nunez/WireImage

Sean "P. Diddy" Combs and Andre Harrell attend the 3rd annual BET Honors at the Warner Theatre on January 16, 2010 in Washington, DC.

Why Miami? Because Sean Combs wanted to have dinner at his house... natch.

From Thursday, October 16th through the 19th in Miami, the first Revolt Music Conference will kick off. The conversation -- and the bar scene -- around the beach that weekend should be lively, with the event set to feature a wide cross-section of industry players, including iHeartMedia CEO Bob Pittman, Vevo CEO Rio Caraeff, hip-hop impresario Steve Rifkind, The Fader co-founder Rob Stone, Glassnote Records' Daniel Glass, Atlantic CEO Craig Kallman and Epic Records president Sylvia Rhone.

Ahead of the conference's inauguration on Miami Beach, Billboard caught up with Andre Harrell, Revolt's vice chairman, chair of the conference, in charge of wrangling talent and seeing Sean Combs' vision through.

Billboard: What other events were you looking at when you were starting to plan this conference?

Andre Harrell: There haven't been music conferences where people go and get acts broken, and music executives get to talk about the industry with technology and social media -- ever. I drew some of my inspiration from TED, and from some brand conferences and tried to put together an intersection where technology, music and social media can fit and talk about how we utilize each other better. It seems to me that social media and streaming music are breaking people and getting people more familiar with artists then regular radio used to do.

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So radio isn't really driving the charts anymore?

I'm not gonna say radio's not driving it, 'cause radio plays are still a huge huge part, but it just seems like the timing of radio impact is different. I remember we used to have mix show DJs that would be the first place you could hear a new record, but now you can hear it on what you call that show? What’s his name, white boy rapper who has the radio show?

I'm not sure…

The biggest who raps… Eminem. He has a radio show targeted toward rap every day and he plays rap records. [Plus there's] Spotify or Beats or Pandora, the music is getting out there. So how do we adjust the timing of how we work radio for the most impact? How do we make radio more aware of what’s going on out here? And maybe they can catch up and we can get to unison for the most impact. But we as the record companies breaking new artists we have to understand the timing of how these things work and try to get it to be as impactful as possible.

You were talking about conferences that break bands and bring technology and music together. Was SXSW in the back of your mind?

SXSW still seems more festival to me, because it’s over more days and because it’s a lot of people… I don’t think they have the level of people we have if you look at whose at our conference.

Why was Miami chosen at the site of Revolt instead of New York or L.A.?

Miami -- because Puff has a great house down there and he wants to have a dinner party for the fabulous fifty, the first people to speak at his inaugural conference.

How involved were you and Diddy in the planning?

I'm the conference chair, so that means I talked to all the people, got them to commit, talked about the subject matter, and basically figured out. As a record man for 30 years, what would I want to talk about in terms of how to make an artist more impactful? How to make the brands connect better to the artists so they have meaningful relationships that work on both sides? How to measure social media in a way that uses it effectively and then how to make the most money from subscription services like Spotify? How is the money breaking down? Who's getting it? How much should we be making on this" Because, do the math. These days music's not selling, but it's being listened to millions and millions of times.

Spotify just tapped Calvin Harris' "Summer" as its song of the summer with 161.5 million streams. At around 0.0084 cents per stream, that means he's made over a million dollars for the track...

I don't know if the math is right. They may need some new math. They might have outsmarted the record companies. We know they outsmarted the record companies. 

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