After a late night watching the live showcase at Clarke Quay, it was a caffeine dependent start to the second and final day of MusicMatters. Thankfully, local performer Vanessa Fernandez woke up the crowd with an engaging performance.
The Lefsetz Thing
It was standing-room only for the much anticipated session with blogger, Bob Lefsetz. I’ve already said my piece on Lefsetz and his approach to commenting on the music industry. Lefsetz was cutting and critical, but also funny and entertaining. He did a good job of making the point that we need to keep trying to make the music we produce better, while also innovating in how to deliver the music.
“If you are bored today you are brain dead.” Bob Lefsetz
The K-Pop Explosion
On the first night of the MusicMattersLive showcase, we saw first hand, the explosive interest in K-Pop as thousands of local teenagers flocked to Clarke Quay to hear a fantastically well produced showcase of Korean Pop, Rap, Soul, Electronica & R&B. Even the non-pop oriented conference attendees were commenting on how well produced the show was.
The panel session on K-Pop was equally fascinating. In Korea the labels don’t wield the power. Rather, it is the large artist management companies, which are often run by former musicians, who are building the industry. And, K-Pop is just one part of a growing entertainment export business, which includes fabulously successful television programmes.
“There was not much role of government in making K-Pop grow.” Chan Kim
Spotify Under The Spotlight
The highlight of the day was seeing Bob Lefsetz interview Kenneth Parks, the Chief Content Officer of Spotify. Lefsetz often evangelises for Spotify, so it was fascinating to see him grill Parks on the service. On a few points Parks was not only unwilling to answer the questions (or move off his talking points), he actually refused to even take the question seriously, especially when asked about Spotify’s commitment to using Facebook login.
The question time was even more revealing. When asked what happens to playlists if user try to leave the service, Parks was evasive – “we are looking into it”. Then, a well known (and highly respected) manager put Parks on the spot about Spotify’s “scandalous” failure to be transparent over the payment structure, in particular what Spotify’s payments mean for down-the-line earnings for artists, musicians and producers. Parks was evasive again, commenting on how much money Spotify had paid out to labels. But, payments to labels are not really the issue.
I am not a fan of Spotify, partly because I’m not sure their model will every really pay off for musicians, but mostly because I believe music-lovers want ownership and access, not subscription. Evasive answers on key questions did little to support Spotify’s claim to be good for the whole ecology of music.
I was fortunate to attend three artist/manager mentoring sessions during the day – an artist management session with Lee Trink (Kid Rock Manager), Rob McDermott (ex-Linkin Park), Chris Craker (Craker Media), Peter Jenner (ex-Pink Floyd), an interview session on live music with John Meglen (Concerts West/AEG) and a music technology session with Tod Machover (MIT Media Lab).
These are closed-door sessions, so I won’t be commenting on what was said. But, I will say that they were all informative and helpful. Just like the similar sessions on day one, the speakers were approachable and willing to answer practical questions.
In a way, this isn’t really a final conclusion on MusicMatters (you can read my review of day one of MusicMattters here). Next week I’ll be writing a piece that tries to address the question; “what’s the point of these sorts of conferences?”
For now, I will say that this year’s MusicMatters was a great event. I learnt a lot and met some amazing people. But, more importantly, I was inspired to see the way the local independent music scene rose together, through the new Singapore Music Society, to try and get the most from this conference, participate actively and build relationships that will strengthen music in this town. This was a good event for the global music industry, a good event for Asia and a good event for Singapore.