Lady Gaga manager Troy Carter delivering the keynote address at the Music Matters conference in Singapore. (Photo: Crowded Studios)
Music Matters, Asia’s premiere music conference, held another successful edition, its 8th, digging into substantive music industry issues for both for Asia and the world. 1,200 people attended this year’s confab with 175 speakers, 40 performing musical acts and 400 participating companies across 30 countries.
The headlining speaker, Troy Carter, Lady Gaga‘s manager, had several interesting insights and Asia-specific thoughts. Carter, referring to the supremacy of social media, noted that he did not want fans to find out about his artists’ music via the radio but rather on the web which he believes has more value. He also pointed out that for this album cycle, Gaga would spend more time in territories instead of flitting in and flying out immediately. Carter also commented on Gaga’s shows in Indonesia, which were still on at the time. He said the show sold out faster than in any other market, noting the dialectic between repression and the urge to seek out art.
Catherine Liang, GM at Baidu (China’s premier search engine), noted, “I actually got a lot more from the keynote… than from the panels. Troy Carter [explained] how the Internet is great for talent because it offers an instant global market.”
One the second day music industry pundit and blogger Bob Lefsetz took the stage. Lefsetz’s remarks on Asia were interesting if not completely informed. He offered that in the West between 1964 and 1977 there was a cultural, political, and sexual revolution that informed our attitudes towards music and musicians. Lefsetz posited that since Asia has a different history, its experience is all about the fans’ relationship with an artist as facilitated by media, and the business which results. Though an interesting theory, Japan, Asia’s largest music market, in fact had a very similar cultural revolution in the sixties.
Spotify COO Kenneth Parks engaged in a conversation about Spotify’s business practices. (Photo: Jean Gorguet)
Lefsetz came off better when he went one-on-one with Spotify COO Ken Parks, taking the exec to task for Spotify’s insistence that one log on to Spotify with Facebook, calling the subscription service “beholden” to the social media site. Parks rejected the idea and attempted to defend the Facebook entry point, calling it a “social tool.” Parks tried to smooth things over by saying Spotify was constantly reviewing its system and it was possible they may allow a different style of log on in future.
Things got even more heated, however, when Spotify’s remuneration to rights’ holders was addressed. Lefsetz asserted the system wasn’t fair and Peter Jenner, the legendary manager of bands like Pink Floyd and The Clash, stood up and screamed Spotify’s “NDA [Non-Disclosure Agreement] structure is a scandal.” Parks contended that the system was fair and the company is always re-examining its process. He also reminded people that Spotify is monetizing music consumption that was previously being taken for free.
A K-pop panel [which included this reporter], discussed the rise of the genre and its astute use of social media, YouTube and blogs to become a worldwide phenomenon. Razmig Hovaghimian, CEO and co-founder of online TV site Viki.com noted that K-pop stars Big Bang had received a remarkable 58 million votes for the MTV Europe Music Awards’ Best Worldwide act. The panel posited that K-pop is still a work in progress in terms of worldwide success as no artist has yet sold significant numbers in the American market.
Live Nation Entertainment president international/emerging markets Alan Ridgeway on stage during the Rise of the Asian Music Festival panel. (Photo: Getty Images)
Perhaps the panel that offered the most opportunity for industry actors to make important new connections was The Rise of the Asian Music Festival panel. It featured, among others, Alan Ridgeway, President International and Emerging Markets at Live Nation Entertainment; Scarlett Li, CEO and founder of Zebra Media Group; Paul Dankmeyer, festival director, Java Jazz Festival and Java Rockin Land; Martin Elbourne, talent booker, Glastonbury Festival and Brent Grulke, creative director, SXSW.
Panelists discussed their individual experiences holding major music fests around the world and the astounding rise of the music festival in Asia. Scarlett Li told Billboard the conference was key for her China-based fest. “Music Matters has helped us a lot, it connects us to artist agents, [helps us] share information with other promoters and introduces us to important media companies such as YouTube.”
Scarlett Li, who founded and serves as CEO of Zebra Media Group, during her panel. (Photo: Getty Images)
She added her panel was particularly valuable. “I was able to ask specific questions to Alan Ridgeway, and I learned a lot from Martin Elbourne and Brent Grulke. Our Zebra Music Festival is [only] 4 years old. Compared with Glastonbury, we are still a toddler. The experience of these western music festivals is fascinating to us.”
Alan Ridgeway concurred the conference were a great help. “It was an extremely productive two days — not just because it was possible to take so many meetings in one place, but also being able to hear through the panels, the views of local market experts on such a variety of topics.” On the festival panel he added, “It was particularly good to hear about the experiences and challenges faced by Scarlett in China and Vijay ( Nair, Director of Only Much Louder Entertainment) in India. The biggest surprise was the shortage of home grown talent when it comes to booking their festivals.”
The Rise of the Asian Music Festivals panel at Muisc Matters. (Photo: Getty Images)