It's surprisingly rare for panel discussions featuring businessmen to bear out a polite but dissenting debate, but that's exactly what "The New Geography of the Music World" had to offer. The panel, presented by Oisin Lunny (OpenMarket) and featuring Daniel Glass (president/CEO, Glassnote Entertainment Group), Scott Cohen (founder and VP Int'l, The Orchard), Axel Dauchez (CEO, Deezer) and Claudio Vargas (VP digital marketing & business at Sony Music Entertainment), covered the broad topic of increasing globalization, and the constricting business within it.
After Dauchez asserted that digital services were spawning a culture of international discovery and appreciation, Cohen said, "I was going to gently disagree [with Axel]" before joking, "You don't know what the fuck you're talking about [laughs] . . . A couple months ago, from Norway -- streaming services up there -- they saw local repertoire going down and the superstar artists doing even better."
The problem of how to foster new artists and direct ears and eyes towards promising artists when the aperture of attention seems to be focused a few "1%-ers" is a question no math whiz nor business titan seems to know how to answer.
"Now, in a world of pull [contrasted with the 'push' of previous distribution platforms like radio], you're in a world of Deezer, Spotify, Beats, Rdio -- there's 30 million songs in there, [so] how do you get anyone to listen to your song? [There] is a new challenge of understanding how we're going to do that."
"Discovery is also a stake for keeping and developing the market," said Dauchez. "If are you able to generate discovery, you are able to break [new] artists."
One thing that should put a smile on artists' faces is new data that Cohen put forward suggesting a return to album listening instead of the primacy of the single, a model pushed by download retailers. "We've been looking at some of the early research on streaming services [and] what we're seeing is people spending more time listening to albums again. In a streaming model, you see the single still streams more, but the other tracks go way up, because there's no cost barriers, just a time barrier," said Cohen, before cautioning the winnowing of attention towards certain artists. "So we're seeing people spending more time with one artist -- now [that] means that people will listen to fewer artists, but the ones they do [listen to] they'll spend more time with. it benefits album-oriented artists, artists with something to say."
"At the end of the day," said Vargas, "the music business remains [rooted in] in the magical moment [of creation]."