James Donio

James Donio

Courtesy of the Music Business Association

Music Biz 2017 is gearing for kick-off on Monday, May 15 with the convention running through Thursday, May 18 at the Renaissance Nashville hotel. The event will feature more than 100 seminars and panels as well as plenty of music.

Billboard caught up with Music Biz Association president Jim Donio to see what this year’s convention has in store for attendees. In addition to industry executives from labels, digital services, physical retailers, copyright experts, branding, touring and marketing sectors, and students, Donio reports there will be 30 international delegates from 12 different countries.

Billboard: What are the highlights of the convention going to be this year?
Jim Donio
: There is a lot. It's a much bigger event than it has been. We are back to four days, which is what we were years ago, but more recently had been down to 2.5 days. We will have over 100 sessions and over 200 speakers.

Is the conference still going to be divided up into different tracks?
Yes, we will have a Law Conference, the Metadata Summit, Career Development, Branding & Strategic Partnership Summit; and Digital Music Workshops.

Tell me about them.
The Digital Music Workshops is one of the most high profile new things we are doing. It is an unprecedented collaboration of the digital services (Amazon Music Unlimited, Pandora Premium, Spotify Creator services team, Google Play and Youtube Music Workshop and Apple Music and SoundCloud) doing workshops or presentations, the theme or agenda is unique to each of them, and each service can do what they want in their time slot. A common thread is how labels can best use the service in marketing their artists and gathering data. But each is doing their own spin. For example, Amazon is focusing on Alexa.

What about the law conference and the Branding Summit?
The law conference has been extended to a full day and will cover a lot of copyright issues. Meanwhile, for branding, one of the themes will be focusing on creative partnerships, and we are bringing back keynotes, something we haven't done in a few years. 

We have a keynote from Troy Carter of Spotify as a featured presentation, and Cracker Barrel [SVP of marketing] Don Hoffman will give a keynote for the brand summit. We will have Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town talking about her brand partnership with Macy’s [for her clothing line]. Also Little Big Town will perform on Wednesday morning as part of our tribute to Mike Dungan, [chairman of Universal Music Group Nashville].

In addition, Atlantic Records co-chairman/COO Julie Greenwald is keynoting the "Leading Ladies" session, and she has invited Kelly Clarkson to talk about their new creative partnership as she is putting out her first album on Atlantic this year.

What award is he getting?He will get the presidential award for outstanding executive achievement. There will be other awards too: Terry Currier of Music Millennium is getting the Independent Spirit award. Maren Morris and Lukas Graham will get the breakthrough artists awards; Paula Abdul is getting the humanitarian award; Adele will get the artist of the year award; Reba McEntire will receive the chairman’s award for sustained creative achievement; and the outstanding achievement award is going to the Hamilton Cast Recording and the Hamilton Mixtape albums. 

Getting back to the programming, I see you are repeating one of my favorites, the Metadata Summit.
This will be the fifth Metadata Summit. I don’t know of any other event that you get hundreds of people together to talk about the billions of micro-transaction data that needs to be measured and managed. 

Will the convention be overrun again by students?
We will have a full day of career development and a day for interviews and internships. Last year CAA, Redeye and SESAC found someone that way. 

Are there any sessions for retailers and wholesalers, who used to be the mainstay of the organization?
Sure, there will be seminars on vinyl, and the Record Store Day wrap-up, and a seminar on putting physical out in catalog versus new releases. Also, we have created a physical music action committee to help deal with issues there. We are not what we were 5 or 10 years ago but we are a reflection of the changes that have taken place in the industry. We are a not-for-profit, healthy and vibrant organization but the reality is that the constituency of the industry has changed and so have we. So you will see everything here being discussed from streaming to playlists to vinyl. It is a very balanced blend of information and topics.