5 Takeaways From Music Matters 2018

Courtesy Music Matters/Branded.
Billboard's Lars Brandle and veteran DJ Kaskade chat during a keynote session at Music Matters 2018

Dance music is crossing borders like never before, clubland has found its groove in Asia and the sleeping giant that is China… well, it’s awake. Those are just some of the hot topics that were explored from the stages and the buzzing floors of Music Matters 2018. 

The 13th annual summit was held Sept. 10-12 at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Singapore, under the All That Matters umbrella, which gathered some 1,700 professionals from across the region and around the globe to do business and gauge the state of the industry. 

Among the 100-plus speakers who plugged into the summit’s five content tracks were DJ Kaskade; Liquid State managing director Gunnar Greve and his protége, the Norwegian/English EDM star Alan Walker; Adele’s manager Jonathan Dickins and many more. 

Billboard caught all the action. Here are five key takeaways from the latest edition. 

China is powering ahead. Streaming giant Tencent Music Entertainment Group hosted a Music Matters forum which explored the notion, “When, not if, China will be the world’s No. 1 music market.” It’s not far off, noted Gunnar Greve, founder of the full-service music company MER and managing director of Liquid State, the joint venture between Tencent and Sony Music Entertainment. During his final-day keynote presentation, Greve described China as the “music market of tomorrow, the most exciting, the most vibrant and fastest growing market in the world." 

With electronic music emerging as the “universal language,” he looks forward to the “chance of breaking the first global superstar from China.” The Norwegian-born executive and his 21-year-old client, Alan Walker, whose works have been streamed billions of times in China, also participated in a packed panel session with artists Seungri, CORSAK and Andrew Li, executive chairman of the Zouk nightclub brand. “China will become the biggest market in the world,” Greve said.

Clubland is jumping.  With Hakkasan now open for business in Bali, rumors of Pacha also opening a permanent club on the Indonesian island, the Marquee planning to launch next year in Singapore and underground clubs Savage in Hanoi and TAG in Chengdu, China making all the right noises, Asia’s club scene is bouncing. Andrew Li says his Zouk venue has hit on a novel idea to cope with demand and build the brand, specifically in China: a cruise ship, with a capacity for 9,000 people. It’s a major challenge, he admits, but the realization of the dream could see a floating festival complete with bars, hotels and restaurants.

Denis Ladegaillerie will make you believe. It’s no secret: streaming has returned the global recorded music market to growth. As cheap data rolls out across Asia and music fans adopt new platforms, there’s more good times ahead, predicts Denis Ladegaillerie, CEO of Believe Distribution Services. “Asia today is the fastest growing region, from India to China and Indonesia,” says Ladegaillerie, whose own company is expanding as music fans clamor to streaming services like YouTube, Deezer and others.

There’s a lot of “growth potential,” he told DFSB Kollective’s Bernie Cho, which will be reflected by his own company's recruitment of 15 addition staff in the year ahead to work with labels and in other roles. Ladegaillerie also talked transparency across royalty collection and data. “The more information you make available, the more power you put in the hands of the artists,” he enthused. In time, the digital executive expects indie market share will continue to grow because “indie artists understand how digital works… and they’ll continue to build success on their own.”

Kaskade’s beach dream. Few DJs and producers have enjoyed the career longevity of Kaskade (aka Ryan Raddon). And no-one could blame him for wanting to ditch the club and hit the beach. The veteran U.S. DJ and producer also became a festival owner and promoter with Sun Soaked, a beach-festival concept he started in 2017 and hopes to expand in the years to come. "I’d been talking for years about doing something at the beach. My sound is very beachy. It’s the ultimate thing for me," he said during his Monday keynote. This year’s edition grew almost triple-fold, gathering more than 30,000 party goers. "My goal is to hopefully take it to the rest of the country and beyond," he noted. Kaskade and his small team is already planning and securing dates for next year.

Think big. Be ambitious. But you won’t beat Adele. September Management founder Jonathan Dickins had the privilege of closing this year’s summit with a relaxed keynote loaded with insider stories, advice for aspiring stars and surprise tribute videos from industry leaders. Dickins, a regular entrant in Billboard’s Power 100, talked Adele (25 is “probably the last blockbuster” CD, shifting 23 million copies), London Grammar ("this band this gonna get better") and King Krule (“an artist we’ll be talking about in 20 years”).

On pursuing acts, he also has one thing in mind: “We try to sign the best of class. If you do that, you can build careers.” And he warned baby bands to not get ahead of themselves. “The easiest thing you’ll do is put out a debut album. When you’re putting out 3s and 4s, that sorts out the wheat from the chaff…. So many artists fall off a cliff after the first."