CMW 2018 Wednesday Wrap - Panels
FYIMusicNews' intrepid team is attending CMW and reporting on a number of panels, in order to bring you the scoop and flavour of what promises to be some interesting discussions about the stature of the music and technology industries at this particular juncture.
By FYI Staff
The 2018 Edition of Canadian Music Week and its annual conference is underway, and FYIMusicNews' intrepid team is attending and reporting on a number of panels to bring you the scoop and flavour of what promises to be some interesting discussions about the stature of the music and technology industries at this particular juncture.
So, let's begin...
10:05 a.m. - Nielsen - State of the Industry:
David Bakula, SVP of Client Development and Industry Insights at Nielsen Entertainment, USA, offered some positive news for the Canadian music industry in his stats-heavy presentation: not only do 91% of Canadians listen to music regularly ("we hate that other 9%," he joked,) but the hours of music they listen to on various devices continues to grow.
"Technology fuels listening," he stated. Nielsen, known as one of the most comprehensive and credible of data compilers, also tabled that 9% of listeners are considering a move to paid streaming services - representing a growth potential of $315M in Canada and that the first 18 weeks of 2018 reveal a 17% increase in Canadian music revenue. Also confirmed: the importance of playlists for the music streaming consumer and the dominance of hip-hop and R&B in the streaming sphere. (Kerry Doole)
11:00 a.m. - Spotify Master Class:
If you are a musician, you’ll either love or hate Spotify. The chance to get heard by millions is seductive. Royalties? Negligible! Then, why should you supply your fruits of labour to a site that harbours billions of recorded tracks and adds new ones daily? It depends on your needs and aspirations. Spotify’s Nathan Wiszniak – Head of Artist & Label Marketing - broke it down nicely during a 40-minute early morning session. He said that Spotify is much more than a tap-and-play entity: It expands and adapts to musicians' needs. Wiszniak's tutorial advice: build your followers, socialize, tease new content, brand your playlist, empower fans, share with followers, include audio ads, keep content fresh, go viral and embed it on your website. Just get engaged in your career and take advantage of the tools presented to you.
Wiszniak senses that the issue of artist compensation will eventually sort itself out through copyright legislation. He also keeps in mind the innovators who do the work for them. Spotify survives on serious investment capital, and for their employees, it’s no less demanding than your stress-filled day job. When wearing my radio hat, I see Spotify as the future. Programming and discovery have never been sweeter! (Bill King)
11:00 a.m. - Blockchain Music: Set It And Forget It, You're Getting Paid
Panellist Jason Robert, a musician and CEO of HelloSugoi, has several colourful descriptions of blockchain, the bitcoin-driven technology that consists of a pipeline of secure digital blocks. "Economies that enable peer-to-peer value exchange in a way without a central authority," is one way he describes it. "Banks without the banks and tickets without Ticketmaster" is another. But no matter how you slice it, the allure of instant payment, decentralization and ultimate, honest transparency are blockchain's three most attractive aspects. And it works, says moderator and legal eagle Steven Masur, citing a "smart contract" initiated by recording artist Imogen
Heap a few years ago for a single that allowed her fans three cost options to download one of her singles: $.01 per stream, $.60 for a download or a whopping $45 for a variety of rights and that the transaction was paid within 15 seconds. The challenge? Blockchain technology needs to become more user-friendly. The panellists mentioned that they saw mainstream implementation anywhere from 2-10 years away. (Nick Krewen)
11:00 a.m. - MAGNIFY VR/AR – The Future of Content
In a sign of just how much interest (and capital) there is behind the Augmented Reality / Virtual Reality juggernaut, CMW this year featured a one-day mini conference to address the topic, including this lively panel featuring four of the sector’s top practitioners.
Moderator Barry Sandrew opened the proceedings by asking if the AR/VR hype was just that, a bubble akin to the excitement around 3D filmmaking that peaked with the release of James Cameron’s Avatar in 2009. Ana Serrano, CDO at the Canadian Film Centre, countered that interactive storytelling has a rich thirty-year history, of which VR/AR is only the latest manifestation, and that today’s content creators would do well to draw upon the lessons and insights of earlier generations.
By way of example of where the state of the art resides, the panel pointed to Alejandro Iñárritu’s Carne y Arena, a three-room immersive VR experience that vividly recreates what it is like to illegally cross the border from Mexico to the US. Installations such as this one, in which the viewer experiences empathy for the experiences of immigrants, point to a role for VR/AR beyond simply escapist gaming. Other areas include business or educational experiences in which users engage in playacting to advance their skills and understanding, which as Serrano noted, is good news for storytellers, including, naturally, musicians.
Other cutting-edge examples mentioned by panel members included the Neil Gaiman-adapted Wolves in the Walls, as well as ILM’s new location-based experience Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire which can be seen at various Disney theme parks. Unfortunately, the clock ran out on the discussion, though clearly the panelists had much more to say about this fast-developing content space. (Barnaby Marshall)
12:00 p.m. - Magnify - 4D Sound:
Unfortunately, some sessions are bound to be clunkers - and this conversation between Ted Cohen and renowned producer Joe Solo (Macy Gray, Michael Jackson, Erykah Badu) was one of them. By the end of the 30-minute talk, the concept of immersive - or 4D Sound - remained as clear as mud to the uninitiated present in the poorly-attended room. The idea is that this sound surrounds you - think chopper blades sounding like they're directly overhead when the sensation is at its most potent - but without a demonstration or a sample, the explanation seemed moot.
Dolby Atmos and Sennheiser Full Circle Microphones were mentioned as devices that offered a similar effect, but one left the conversation with more questions than answers once the time was up. You can't win them all. (Nick Krewen)
Exhibit Hall: Spotlight on USA: Georgia
I have a soft spot for Atlanta, having lived there and been part of the music scene 1978-1979. I was able to sit down for a quick chat about tourism with Lisa Love, Division Director of Economic Development, who quickly reminded me of Georgia's impressive musical legacy.
“We are working on music as a hook to visit Georgia," she told me. "We are here to tell people about live music in Georgia and its musical heritage. There’s a rich history and incredibly vibrant scene today that spans geography, genres and generations. We have that soul and R&B musical dynasty: Ray Charles, Otis Redding, James Brown, Gladys Knight. But we also had Gram Parsons: Americana would not be what we know it to be today without Gram Parsons. There’s iconic songwriter Johnny Mercer from Savannah; Norman Blake, one of the greatest flat-pickers and roots musicians and we have the ‘Mother of the Blues,’ Ma Rainey. Georgia has helped shape the fabric of American music.” With local Atlanta artist Alicia Bridges scoring a massive disco hit in 1978 with “I Love the Nightlife," how could I ever forget the blazing backroads of Georgia? Windows down, radio up, roaring around in my red Camaro. There’s also Cameo, R.E.M., Dixie Dregs and Peabo Bryson, The B-52s, The Black Crowes, The Allman Brothers Band, TLC, Ludacris, Usher, OutKast and on and on... Visit: ExploreGeorgia.org (Bill King)
1:00 p.m. Pitching Tracks - How to Get Streamed:
As playlists have rapidly accelerated in popularity and perceived influence when it comes to breaking songs and potentially making careers, there is still a lot of mystique surrounding how to actually land on a Spotify or a Pandora or a SiriusXM and reap the benefits. And while the Jake Gold-moderated panel may not have provided all the answers, they did spill a few secrets. In a nutshell, figure out who you are as an artist; be prepared to launch a campaign that will probably take a minimum of three months to grab any attention...and be even more prepared to work it through your social media presence.
Arts & Crafts' Cameron Reed cited the recent Broken Social Scene album and says it's important to build streaming strategy into your album rollout campaign and larger marketing plans. Artists should create their own playlists and use that leverage to capture other media and build a bigger story. And to get on SiriusXM, they have a number of new channels including North Americana. Music programmer Sarah Burke says they're willing to have conversations to help land artists' music, using Jessica Mitchell's upcoming album as a prime example, for a number of purposes, including exclusive channel-exclusive events. It's all part of the algorithm of life these days, artists. (Nick Krewen)
2:00 p.m. Streaming: Power of a Playlist
Playlists are nothing new, but the rapid rise of streaming to dominance in the music universe has made the term something of a buzzword. Positioning your music on a tastemaking or widely-distributed playlist can really boost your career - and this panel explored strategies on how to get playlisted. Radio DJ Paul "Mastermind" Parhar of Flow 93.5 compared them to the mixtape phenomenon of the '90s that helped introduce new artists who weren't cracking radio. Streaming strategist Patrick Topping predicted that "curators of playlists will be squeezed out of play" as streaming evolves, while noting that the collaborative nature of hip-hop helps that genre's artists gets placed on multiple playlists. Moderator Fiona Bloom urged artists to "get to know curators and their tastes" before pitching for inclusion on their particular playlists. She also suggested artists "should create their own playlists and update them. That helps create a sense of community." A shared sentiment was that the streaming landscape will continue to shift quickly, with Stingray Music's Pierre-Jean Lavigne predicting that the advent of smart speakers will fuel further growth. (Kerry Doole)
4:05 p.m. Voice Activated Devices and the Music Industry:
As anyone with the surname Longbottom can attest, titles are important. So, one could be forgiven for entering the drearily dubbed Voice Activated Devices and the Music Industry panel with scant expectation. Surprise! The topic at hand — innovations in virtual and augmented realities — soared as soon as the panellists shed the tedious acronyms and detailed how VR (and UX and XR (User Experience and Extended Reality)) can and will transform lives in profound ways, from simulating a drive in a 1957 Chevy to foreshadowing what travel on Mars might be like; two real-world applications with transformational impact, respectively, on seniors and children. The panel — a genuinely amusing and insightful bunch — acknowledged tech limitations and challenges while still casting imaginations skyward. If you want to know what the R&D and marketing departments of your favourite brands are focused on right now, it’s this. (Kim Hughes)
4:10 p.m. MAGNIFY: Platforms & Media in the VR/AR World:
Has Virtual Reality been usurped in favour of Artificial Reality before it truly gets out of the gate? Perhaps, say a trio of VR/AR experts who note that when it comes to obtaining funding for their projects, much more money seems to be available for AR than VR at the moment. In a panel moderated by Two Goats Immersive Creators Studio co-founder Johanna Salazar-Cummings, NBCUniversal/Telemundo's Andrea Castillo, Spark Foundry Director Andrew Klein and StreamOne's Nigel Newton all claim that their VR projects are being offered peanuts - relatively speaking - when it comes to producing VR content, because it seems the medium hasn't caught on as quickly with the public as everyone expected. But it seems like there's a watershed of sorts approaching that could mean a breakthrough for one or the other by the end of 2018. Fingers crossed! (Nick Krewen)
4:20 p.m. Is Alexa the "Saviour" Of the Music Industry?
Its hyperbolic title notwithstanding, this panel was conceptualizing something grand although, judging by the lack of people in the audience with first-hand experience with the technology, it was scheduled a year too early.
Key takeaways: voice-activated “virtual assistants” —Alexa, Siri and their ilk — make the business of metadata very important for search, but devices that compile ‘dinner party’ playlists don’t tell you who you’re hearing unless you ask, so that’s scarcely a win for the music industry. Also, catalogue is likely to trump new music based on current demographics, which suggests older users are adopting faster than young ones. And if you ask your device to play you something similar to… say… Kendrick Lamar, should Lamar get a piece? And what about bands with weird (or foreign) names?
Zach Fuller, a researcher with Midia Research UK, prefaced the panel with a data snapshot titled “Voice Activated Devices and the Music Industry.” Few departed either gathering much wiser. (Kim Hughes)