Music Matters 2018 Highlights China, EDM and Adele

Photos courtesy of Music Matters/Branded.
Billboard's Lars Brandle, DJ and producer Alan Walker and Liquid State managing director Gunnar Greve share a joke on stage at Music Matters 2018

The 13th All That Matters/Music Matters conference was held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Singapore from Sept. 7 -12 with more than 1,700 people attending, and 35 musical acts performing at venues all around the city. All told, 240 presenters gave a total of 77 panels and keynote presentations.

The event is recognized as the leading international music conference in Asia and attracts industry heads from territories across the globe, with a concentration on south east Asia, China, Australia and Europe.

There was a focus on the new paradigm in music discovery, the fast-growing China market, Adele career via an interview with Jonathan Dickins, and music in advertising. 

Josh Rabinowitz, executive VP/director of music at Grey Townnhouse, gave an insightful presentation on how music can be used to energize advertising and help promote the artist. “(In the late '90s) advertising started using music that was relevant to culture (instead of using jingles),” Rabinowitz related. “Sting was having problems with a song called 'Desert Rose'… and he got involved with Jaguar and all of the sudden a song that was not doing well in the charts exploded because it was in an ad.” He offered, “It became cool to ‘sell in’ instead of selling out. The concept of selling in became prevalent and important.” Rabinowitz continued, “Music in advertising sort of became the new radio. People were discovering music (that way). Artists who were hesitant to do it were like ‘let’s go’.” Rabinowitz noted this coincided with the shift from physical to digital. “It became really difficult in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 to make money in record sales so how are you going to monetize your music? Get it into an ad, get it into film.” He summed up, “That was the rise of the music supervisor slash music producer.”

Gunnar Greve, founder of Norwegian music company MER and managing director of Liquid State, the joint-venture label in China between Tencent Music Entertainment and Sony Music Entertainment, gave an incisive keynote. He focused on how the movement from physical to digital has changed how consumers engage with music and in turn how companies should market music. “When there’s a new disruptive change it always comes with a challenge, because you’ve been used to telling that story and creating that narrative into a box…or into physical CD that gives you a framework of how you should tell that story. The most important thing with change is to embrace what comes after.” He noted that even today Spotify or other well-known streaming outfits may not be the way young listeners discover music. “The majority of young consumers discover music….on platforms services, apps and outlets that are in many cases disruptive," he explained. Also, Greve pointed to a new type of music consumer, “Gamers… consume music in different patterns and very alternative ways compared to what we’re used to or were used to so in that sense they are an extremely early-adapting audience.”

Greve was then joined by a panel of artists including Alan Walker, Corsak, Seungri of Bigbang as well as Andrew Li, executive chairman of the club Zouk. He explained about the label Liquid State. “Liquid State is a very, very unique project, which means we have to figure (things) out and find our path as we go. For (Alan Walker’s) involvement and for Seungri they’re collaborators and ambassadors. They’ve taken on the role to be ambassadors that help build the brand. When they come together and make a song such as ‘Unite,’ and we’re talking charts in 15 countries, and we’re doing 200 million streams. That paves way…. I get phone calls…from artists in the U.S. or from China or Korea… saying can we get on a collaboration? So in that sense they’ve taken on the role as ambassadors and play a hugely important role in what we do.”

Jonathan Dickins, founder and CEO of September Management and manager of such acts as Adele, M.I.A., and Rick Rubin, closed the event with his insights into the industry. “The policy of my company is that there are two types of artists I want to work with. One is commercially successful artists and the other is influential artists. Because if we have influential artists, they drive the commercially successful ones. There are tons of examples of that. Would Geffen Records have gotten Nirvana if they didn’t have Sonic Youth? I don’t think so.” Dickens also explained, “I don’t think you have to have hits to have a career. One thing I think is super important is relevancy. If you have relevancy you have careers. (By contrast) there are artists that blow hot and no one cares about in a year.”