The first day of Revolt’s Music Conference in Miami centered on two central themes: Innovation and artistry.
Approximately 800 people flocked to Miami Beach’s Fontainebleau Hotel for the cable music network’s inaugural conference event, with attendees including Revolt Chairman and co-founder Sean Combs. Following opening words by Revolt Vice Chairman Andre Harrell, who chaired the conference, a Q&A session with Maverick founder Guy Oseary (with this week’s Billboard cover story, featuring Oseary, spotlighted on a screen above the presentation) launched the panel portion of the three-day event that runs through Oct. 18.
For a crowd that included many executives and producers, but also many new acts, one highlight was the L.A. Reid-moderated “The Lost Art of A&R and Artist Development,” where the take-away was that A&R is not a lost art after all.
“You have to sit down with an artist and find out what their goals are,” said Sickamore, A&R at Def Jam. “What kind of career do you see yourself having? What inspires you?” Then, he proceeded to narrate a particularly telling anecdote about rapper YG.
“When I was doing YG’s record, I said, ‘Let’s sit down and listen to your album,” said Sickamore. “And he said, ‘What album? I’m doing mixtapes.”
Sickamore says he sat YG down and for days on end played him years and years of classic rap albums. “Until he said, ‘I want to make a classic too.’”
“There’s an artist development process that has to on and we’re going to die if we lose that process,” added Sickamore.
The importance of “process” came up again and again. Larry Jackson, BOH specialist at Apple, calling Glassnote Records CEO Daniel Glass a “long distance runner,” literally. But figuratively, “there’s a lot of lessons to be learned from that,” said Jackson. “In terms of the microwave, flash-in-the-pan stuff, it doesn't really matter.”
“It’s about sitting with an artist and understanding their goal and their vision,” added Craig Kallman, chairman/CEO of Atlantic Records.
In terms of fertile music scenes, several of the panelists agreed that hands down, the U.K. is winning the artistic race.
“In England, music is the first thing they care about,” said Glass. “You go to a festival and you see these emaciated faces -- that all they care about is music, music, music. In U.S. festivals it's a lot of posturing. In England it’s not about what wristbanddo you have but, who did you see perform?”
“They still take [music] seriously,” Sickamore agreed. But, he added, there are burgeoning pockets of creativity here, including Atlanta, Chicago, the Bay Area and Oakland, Ca.
The challenge, however, is in building morale for the industry in general, and in the end, that’s not just about sheer music.
Streaming, everyone agreed, is the hot button topic and the big future of the industry And, of course, there’s the hustle -- while artistry is still tantamount, “Work ethic has risen in importance,” said Kallman. “Very, very few artists can get to the top without insane amounts of work.”