'Music Never Sleeps': Day 1 Highlights from Revolt Music Conference 2017

Kevin Liles at 2017 REVOLT Music Conference
Teekay for REVOLT

Kevin Liles at the 2017 REVOLT Music Conference.

Going indie, radio versus streaming, and the ever-evolving changes happening within the music industry were among the topics discussed during the first full day of sessions at the fourth annual Revolt Music Conference Friday (Oct. 13).

The night before, Revolt chairman Sean “Diddy” Combs hosted the official RMC 2017 welcome ceremony at the Eden Roc Miami Beach Hotel. The evening also featured performances by French Montana, 21 Savage and King Combs. The evening night also included a yacht party hosted by 2 Chainz.

RMC 2017 continues Saturday (Oct. 14) with sessions encompassing the inner workings of a major label (Atlantic), how to build your personal brand in corporate America, hip-hop journalism in the Trump era and producers sharing their formula for launching songs from strip clubs to mainstream radio. Capping off the day: a gala dinner and award presentation honoring Queen Latifah with performances from SZA, Daniel Caesar and special guest Ms. Lauryn Hill.

RMC 2017 wraps Sunday (Oct. 15) with its third annual film festival for young filmmakers.

Here’s an overview of Friday’s packed -- and informative -- panel sessions.

“F--k A&R: I Can Do It All Myself!”: Atlantic/Warner/Chappell VP of A&R Orlando Whartonberg, Warner/Chappell co-head of A&R Ryan Press, I Am Other head of music Kawan “KP” Prather and 6Hundred Entertainment/Def Jam CEO Brooklyn Johnny shared perspectives on developing and working with talent in the age of social media, streaming, digital sales and global branding. From the audience, soul-singing legend Betty Wright punctuated the proceedings, moderated by Concrete Entertainment/The Gluemen Agency co-owner/COO Darrale Jones. Noted Wright, “You [artists] really do need somebody -- but not to the point where you lose your vision.”

“The Power of the Playlist”: Syndicated radio personality Ed Lover helmed this session, asking panelists to drill down on how artists can get onto streaming services and radio’s role in today’s digital environment. “I told you this wasn’t going to be no bullshit panel,” Lover said to audience applause. Panelists included Spotify’s global programming head Tuma Basa and senior manager/urban Amber Grimes; Pandora’s head of hip-hop/R&B programming Justin Boland and VP of industry relations/artist marketing Jeff Zuchowski; Tidal’s editorial director of culture and content Elliot Wilson and editor of culture and content Adelle Platon; and DJ/radio personality DJ Nabs. Grimes advised that artists need to have a plan. “The first thing I ask an artist is what are you doing,” she said. “My job isn’t to build your career for you. It’s to help you build what you’ve started.” The panel consensus was that traditional radio isn’t going to become obsolete; that the medium (with its local community advantage) and streaming services complement each other in many ways. One caveat: radio needs to stop taking so long to add new records.

“The New Record Business”: Introduced by friend and Revolt vice chairman Andre Harrell, keynoter Kevin Liles -- co-founder/CEO of 300 Entertainment -- related what first excited him about hip-hop’s emergence and what excites him today about the genre/lifestyle’s powerful influence on mainstream culture. Liles illustrated that journey with music, video, clips and photos referencing key chapters in rap ranging from LL Cool J, N.W.A., Public Enemy and Dr. Dre to JAY-Z, Kanye West, Fetty Wap, Tee Grizzley and Eminem’s recent freestyle denouncing Trump. Citing Goldman Sachs’ prediction that the music industry will be a $41 billion industry by 2030, Liles told attendees, “We’re here to be agents of change. Music never sleeps so why should we? There’s still the fight to be equal but let’s also get some motherf---ing equity.”

“I Am the Record Company -- Going Indie”:  Moderator Ogden Payne, a contributing writer at Forbes, guided this discussion about the pros and cons of taking the independent route. Fuzzy West, GM of Priority Distribution, noted that like major label artists, an indie artist still needs a team that includes a manager, publicist and videographer. Indie industry veteran Ted Lucas, founder/CEO of Slip-N-Slide Records concurred, adding, “Invest in yourself and bet on yourself. Don’t wait for someone to come in. And when you put your team together, make sure that they are going to work harder than you and help motivate you -- that’s it not just you doing everything.” Ghazi Shami, founder/CEO of Empire talked about “building as many end points as possible” between social media, streaming and video. “As they grow,” said Shami, “connect and build a picture from there.” And most important, said Arnold Taylor, owner/CEO of South Coast Marketing/CEO of South Coast Music Group, “identify what kind of artist you are. Build a strong first lane, then you can move over into a second and third lane.”

Rounding out the daylong schedule of sessions: “I’ll Make You Famous,” moderated by journalist/TV personality Alicia Quarles. The panel featured high-power publicists Yvette Noel-Schure, exec. VP of media at Schure Media Group; Natalie Moar, senior VP/head of communications for Combs Enterprises; Cindi Berger, chairman/CEO of PMK-BNC; Phylicia Fant, senior VP of PR at Warner Bros.; Courtney Lowery, VP of publicity at Epic Records and Vanessa Anderson, owner of AM PR Group. Revolt’s Harrell also helmed an afternoon Q&A with Shakim Compere, co-CEO/president of Flavor Unit.