"Let life enchant you again." - Fernando Gros
0 items in your cart
Blog // Creativity
May 27, 2012

MusicMatters 2012 – Day Two

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 […]

Vanessa Fernandez
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

Bob Lefsetz at MusicMatters
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

K-Pop Panel at MusicMatters
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.

Mentoring Sessions

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.

Dwayne 12 years ago

Great couple of pieces Fernando – sounds like a wildly varied event (good).
To be honest I’ve never quite understood Spotifys model for artists and I definitely want to pay for and OWN a piece of music – just like a great painting, I’d rather not have it on loan from someone. Subscription music doesn’t make sense to me at all – although I like the sense of discovery that Spotify and things like Soundcloud offer up.

Fernando Gros 12 years ago

Dwayne – I’m all for discovery and socialising music (& playlists). And, if we can attach a cash register to that, even better. We forget too easily that it wasn’t just mix tapes & listening that was social in the analogue age – even going to the record store was often a social experience.

As for subscription, well that’s a model that is attractive to the labels & publishers as a way to maximise long term revenue from back catalogue. But, it’s arrogant and misguided when Spotify claim they will “teach” music listeners to pay subscription the way film studios taught fans to rent films. Music fans want to buy the right to multiple listens over a lifetime, whereas most films only get viewed once.

Dwayne 12 years ago

Yeah I know what you mean about the record stores….mind you, a huge chunk of the online audience likely never experienced a record store πŸ™‚ the closest they’ve come is HMV or Tower (showing my age I know), neither of which constitute a true record store in my opinion…..more like a supermarket! I have very fond memories of hanging out on Saturday afternoons in London hitting my 3 favourite record stores, checking out the vinyl and chatting with the owners and regulars. I supose we can kind of do that now through a little chat window πŸ˜› Not quite the same eh?!

And I totally agree with you about the subscription approach, as I said above. I want to own the music I buy and play it whenever, wherever and however I want to. Aside from the ownership angle, crappy bandwidth can play havoc with the whole listening experience, so for me streaming is one of those situations where either its a one-off event, or there has to be something totally unique about it for me to tolerate it.

Toni 12 years ago

“β€œIf you are bored today you are brain dead.” Bob Lefsetz”

Much more likely that the way music is presented and served fails to connect, and that the means of delivery is alienating instead of drawing people in, many of whom find the sheer quantity of stuff overwhelming.

The record store conversation you had above shows how the music scene used to engage personally, both in selecting music to listen to and in the relationships and feelings that went around that. The pop-video didn’t replace album cover art as a way of making the content appear ‘special’, and likewise on-line music availability has not been a good replacement for being socially engaged in the music selection process.

Or something. πŸ˜‰

What I do know is that the sheer quantity of music available has made me much less inclined to try to find new bands that I want to listen to, simply because one must wade through so much stuff I don’t want to hear. Possibly I’m not alone.

Dwayne 12 years ago

Actually Toni, I find that I’m more interested in finding new bands than when I was younger. I grew up in Hong Kong where it was a staple of local canto-pop (think quazimodo shouting ‘the bells, the bells!’) or Casey Kasem and the US Billboard (urgh) and British Forces radio (yipee!). And yes youre right that the social experience in the store was all about using the same notions we have for peer-reviews and stuff in social media….people who like the same stuff as you can refer more great stuff, and thats what used to happen in those record stores. But I do think services like Spotify allow you to filter and sample stuff much, much quicker than before, so it’s still about discovering those gems. I just have a problem with having to signup to a service where even if I’ve found the music I like, I can only listen to it when my network is good. I can’t (easily) add it into my own ‘mix’ of stuff, and if Spotify dies, for some reason, then it’s all gone. At least when I used to by vinyl, once i left the store, it was mine to do what I pleased with πŸ™‚

Toni 12 years ago

Hi Dwayne – maybe I’ve just grown up too much. πŸ˜‰

Interesting artcile on The Register about spotify and Virgin media: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/05/29/virgin_media_spotify_congestion/

Fernando Gros 12 years ago

Toni – I constantly meet people who seem sure that there is no good music being made anymore. There is confusion and disconnection out there.

I’m not sure what the answer is. Some people cry out for gatekeepers and filters, but I’m not one of them. I grew up in Australia where knowledge of the world’s music was limited by the power of a few influential music journalists (and their relationships to major labels). Anyway, it’s not hard to find decent music journalism, even today.

And, when I was young, I did wade through tonnes of stuff I didn’t like. In fact, I listened to whole albums of stuff I didn’t like, at friend’s homes and on tapes.

I guess the main difference was that, in my youth, those hours didn’t seem so precious or hemmed in by “grown up” responsibilities.

Fernando Gros 12 years ago

Dwayne – I agree with you. I still have my Vinyl, which is even more precious to me now that CD has been and gone. I hope to still be playing my Vinyl even after mp3 has become a distant memory.

Enter your and your to join the mailing list.