The 9th Music Matters conference in Singapore wrapped up on Saturday, running May 21 through May 24. The proceedings are the focal point of the music industry in Asia when they happen. The live music showcases saw their culmination on the final day as did the Music Matters Academy, which offers understanding of the music business for aspiring entrants.
Around 1850 people attended the conference according to organizer Branded. Sixty-five bands from 18 countries performed at 11 venues, including the conference ballroom. And the budget for the four days of events was over US$1.2 Million.
The sessions led to some interesting insights from industry leaders.
Founder/President of Glassnote Entertainment Group Daniel Glass sat down with Ralph Simon, head of Mobilium Global Group, to recount his storied career and artist-friendly business model: He started out as a DJ in New York City in mid-1970s and joined SAM Records where he worked in publishing but also used his street sense from being a DJ to promote records. This led his becoming the Director of Marketing at Chrysalis, the label that broke such acts as Blondie, Pat Benatar, Madness and Funboy 3.
Glass explained he did everything from producing, editing and marketing, but his strength was going around and talking his records up to radio programmers and stations. His success led positions at SBK Records, part of the EMI group, and Rising Tide Records which became Universal Records. But Glass noted he was never comfortable in these major label environments, preferring strong personal relationships with artists based on trust and mutual interest, not contracts. He moved on to Artemis Records and in 2007 returned fully to his indie roots by starting Glassnote Records.
Relating how they had no money at first, the label ‘operated’ out of the mezzanine at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel (and its free wifi) in New York. Glass explained how he has to feel a band could fill Madison Square Garden in order to sign them but also needs to develop a strong and mutual relationship with the artist. He emphasized how he “pays the artists fairly” and revealed that was something of a 50-50 split of revenue from recorded music.
The star factor at Music Matters was added by the Black Eyed Pea Apl.de.ap, who sat down with presenter Dominic Lau to discuss his career. Filipino by birth, Apl is very interested in promoting Asia, a perfect match for the Music Matters conference. To this end he founded the Apl Foundation to help Filipino children in 2008 and jumped into his interview by stating “I wanna be the Jay Z of Southeast Asia!” Apl told the story of him being adopted by a family in the US and how his adoptive father’s roommate’s uncle was the father of future bandmate Will.I.am.
His advice for young musicians was “perform!” In order to break a new artist Apl suggested the dual approach of pairing them with a brand and getting a street team to help with publicity.
The conference was electrified by the discussion between Marc Geiger, head of music for William Morris Endeavor, and Simon. Simon noted that Geiger’s division books over 29,000 dates a year and represents many of the biggest stars in music.
Digging into his development, Geiger explained how he was an early enthusiast of the internet and stumbled on the Ultimate Band List. He was thrilled it had more information than “any record store” and bought the software for $1500, noting how it became “the core of a $500 million business.” The company he was referring to is ARTISTdirect, which presaged the e-commerce distribution channels dominating the music business today. Geiger ran the company from 1997-2003.
Geiger went on to praise the band The Pixies, noting their huge influence on bands like Nirvana and Radiohead. Geiger discussed Apple’s purported purchase of Beats Music, which he called the most important deal for the industry of the last 10 years. He said was wise as it keeps the company a step ahead of the market by adding the expertise of Jimmy Iovine.