Reflections On iMusic

Last night was iMusic, the social media and iOS music event I mentioned last week (in conjunction with the Soundcloud Global Meetup day). It was an amazing night that capped off a brilliant day.

Just after noon, I was on RTHK (Hong Kong Radio), being interviewed by Phil Whelan on the direction that music production is heading with mobile devices (you can listen to the interview here). Radio is always a tough gig and although I didn’t cover off all the things I wanted to mention, it was a great discussion and a good opportunity to plug the event (and Hong Kong Social Media Week in general).

iMusic itself was important for me on two levels. First of all, it was a lot of fun just to get some iOS devices out – iPads and iPhones and make some music (Gary Gibbons of WormWorldStudios gave a great performance with two iPhones and an iPad). Increasingly I’ve come to realise that the iPad has a huge future in music production (last night I was showcasing the amazing Korg iMS-20 app). Moreover, there’s a neat path from music creation on devices like the iPad to sharing music on platforms like Soundcloud. In fact, you can listen to the demo song I created in real time (experiment for iMusic), along with a few other iMS-20 explorations below,

iMS20 Experiments by fernandogros

iPad fun aside, the bigger reason for getting involved with iMusic was to meet other musicians in Hong Kong and try to contribute something to the scene here, especially the social media space for musicians. In the past year I’ve met a number of really talented musicians who are squandering their work on MySpace, or simply don’t have an online presence. So, when the event organiser, Casey Lau (who I also have to thank for the photo above) asked me to get involved, I jumped at the opportunity. Last night’s turnout proved the opportunity was worth the effort!

I know it’s a cliche, but the music business – especially the recorded music business – is fundamentally different to the one I knew as a teenager. In fact, with EMI falling under the ownership of Citigroup, then Sony Music seeing a dramatic fall in revenue and finally Warner Music Group posting it’s eighth consecutive quarterly loss, you have to wonder what kind of future the big end of music industry has.

Of course, a lot of people lay the blame for this on piracy, illegal downloads and peer to peer file sharing. I don’t dismiss the effect of that. But, for me a more fundamental shift was the launch in 1997 of CD Baby, which radically changed the playing field for independent musicians who wanted to sell their music direct to fans, regardless of where they were in the world.

CD Baby continues to be a solid platform and is one of many great platforms that musicians can utilise. I’ve already mentioned Soundcloud and I suggest every musician check out Bandcamp, TuneCore, IndabaMusic, Sonicbids and TopSpin, to name a few. All of these are sharper and more focussed than MySpace, provide meaningful metrics and are designed to help musicians sustain themselves, commercially and creatively.

I know that I’m repeating myself here, but I really do believe that musicians need to look to photographers, graphic designers and other “creatives” for direction in how to build a business around their “art.” Develop a small team you can trust, get a good manager (or at least good mentors), buy in PR, distribution and so on as you need and engage with your fans on whatever level they meet you. The tools are out there – it’s up to us to pick them up and use them.

You can read about the presentation here.

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