The intersection of music and technology became a major theme at this year’s EDMbiz Conference and Expo in Las Vegas.
In addition to a bustling Expo area hosting forward-thinking apps and technology platforms like Firechat and Wurrly, the event featured a “Tech Innovation & Disruptive Platforms” panel moderated by Ted Cohen, managing partner of TAG Strategic.
Cohen opened the panel with the question: “How do you approach disruption?”
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Steve Martocci, founder of music production startup Splice, channeled Mark Ronson‘s recent TED Talk in his response.
“Disruption is not about hijacking nostalgia wholesale, but injecting yourself into the story,” he said. “When the artists you love don’t have the ability to use their tools as well as they’re capable of, you know there’s an opportunity to take advantage of. We’re not trying to replace things, we’re trying to bring it all together to make everybody better.”
Mike Darlington, founder of digital label Monstercat, said that all disruptive models were in some way derivative of previous ideas.
“Isn’t modern innovation taking someone’s idea and making it better?” he said. “You just can’t fight the Internet. At the end of the day, the internet’s going to beat you every time.”
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Conor Clarke, founder of music community Wavo.me, said disruption doesn’t always have to spell bad news for established interests.
“You always think it’s bad for major labels,” he said. “But a lot of people here are creating a value exchange where both they and the artists are happy.”
Asked whether dealing with major labels has gotten easier, Stephen White, CEO of Dubset Media Holdings, Inc., said the marketplace had reached a tipping point.
“Major labels have gotten to the point where they need to embrace disruption,” he said. “Major distribution platforms take a lot of the air out of the room and smaller companies keep getting pushed out of stack. Majors need to figure out how to embrace startups and small companies.”
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Stressing the importance of cooperation, Darlington attributed Monstercat’s growth to their open set of policies that clear their music’s use for content creators. Creators can purchase a license via monthly subscription for full access and monetization on YouTube and Twitch or have a Content claim applied to their videos to ensure the original artist receives the revenue.
“Everybody in the food chain has to stop thinking of the individual user and think about mind share,” he said. “Treat it like a tech startup. ‘How can I reach as many people as I possibly can?’ Then figure out monetization, but monetization usually comes with reaching.”
Asked about how disruptive Periscope and Meerkat can be, Kush Patel, music partnerships for video platform Twitch, said the mobile live-streaming apps were similar to regular users’ YouTube channels in their lack of curation.
“Quality is relevance,” he said. “People just want to see content. If they like it, they watch it. Seeing one blurry low quality video won’t make me think less of a band. No one cares about high fidelity. Half the people listen to music on YouTube. People just want to consume it quickly.”
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Cohen wrapped up the panel by asking each member two questions: “Is disruption ever bad?” and “What’s the next major disruption?”
Julien Mitelberg, co-founder/president of Bandsintown Group, said he believes the next disruption will connect artists with their audiences during live performance.
“80 percent of people at a show use their phones to take videos and photos, but there’s no interaction between the artists and their audience,” he said. “Expect to see something.
Martocci said disruption was “great so far” but there were potential pitfalls ahead, particularly in artificial intelligence.
“I’m more excited for augmented reality than virtual reality,” he said. “Limiting the need to carry a screen because it can project to the user changes manufacturing and distribution. The question is how far away we are until it gets to that level.”
Clarke said: “It’s very hard to forecast disruption, because you’re thinking about the last 5 to 10 years and how much has been disrupted, and it’s exponential. As much will change in next 10 years as the next 50 years.”