"Let life enchant you again." - Fernando Gros
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Blog // Sounds
June 3, 2010

MusicMatters – The Conference

I spent that second half of last week at the Music Matters Asia conference, a large industry event focussed on the music business across Asia. This was my first time at MusicMatters. I found that there was actually a lot going on for smaller operators and artists and for me it proved to be a […]

I spent that second half of last week at the Music Matters Asia conference, a large industry event focussed on the music business across Asia. This was my first time at MusicMatters. I found that there was actually a lot going on for smaller operators and artists and for me it proved to be a encouraging learning and networking experience.

“Music has always been social. Music is probably the most social object there is.” Daniel Elk, Spotify

The conference involved two nights of artist showcases, two days of seminars and a further two nights of public artist showcases, with the conference taking over four venues in Hong Kong’s popular Lan Kwai Fong district (more on the bands and acts in a later post).

On the whole, the sessions and interviews were solid, informative and optimistic. It was great to hear direct from people in the mobile industry on how new technology and platforms are changing the way music is sold (while providing one of the most profitable channels for distribution). It’s not just about music sales, as 19% of smart-phone apps downloaded are music related. Moreover, there will be 10 billion internet connected devices by 2015.

“Living room, TV and connected cars offer music producers huge opportunities going forward.” Rob Lewis

Some of the panel discussions were lively, with genuine differences of opinion expressed on tackling piracy (the ISPs versus the lawyers) and on the future of live music promotion (the 360 degree labels versus the agents). The latter is an area that will only become more contested as Apple seems sent to move the iTunes store into ticket sales. The former was a reminder that it may be getting harder, not easier to break peer to peer and illegal file-sharing programmes.

“Consumers will pay for quality of service.” Michael Nash

I was surprised not to see representation from music hardware and software manufacturers. Increasingly, tie-ups with software makers are an important source of revenue for artist (like the Native Instruments deal with Alicia Keys) and artists in Asia are strategically well placed to work in the developing sample, loop, app and hardware markets.

The only real disappointment was the social media panel. When the moderator asked if anyone was not on Facebook I made the mistake of putting my hand up. A cute joke was made that Facebook was “…on something called the Internet” and I should look it up. Cheap laughs for all, but the reality is that whilst Facebook is still massively popular and growing fast, there are serious concerns about privacy and interesting trend away from the platform for creatives and executives alike. Moreover, while the panel was triumphantly suggesting that we are now talking about strategy and next year we might be talking about metrics, services like Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Tunecore and Topspin have moved beyond metrics into real working models for social media promotion and sales. That the panel didn’t cover that, or even worse – some dismissed SoundCloud because it was “poorly” integrated with Facebook, was surprising, to say the least.

“Social media doesn’t just equal Facebook” Paul Wong

As someone constantly frustrated with the Hong Kong music scene it was illuminating and also disheartening to hear some research statistics from Synovate, on local youth attitudes to music. Only 45% of local youth say they “love music,” by far the lowest score in the region and significantly far below the levels of music-loving countries like the Philippines, South Korea, Indonesia and India. Perhaps slightly more heartening is the statistic that 70% of youth surveyed here see brand tie-ups and endorsements as OK for artists. However, Hong Kongers are extremely resistant to paying for music and also very concerned about privacy, being unwilling to trade emails or consume ads in exchange for free and legal music.

There were great discussion on the music industry in China, South Korea and Vietnam. But, the panel on India’s music industry most caught my attention. Legislatively, India is making itself a lot more attractive, with lower entertainment taxes, better publishing protection and an increased focus on anti-piracy. There are so many opportunities, Weddings, for example are a 10,000 crore, though largely disorganised business. India is also such a complex market. On the one hand, digital music sales are almost exclusively sales to mobile devices. On the other hand, the government is rolling out 700 new FM licences in the next six months, which just shows how under-developed communications are in third and fourth tier cities. India is also, through it’s film industry becoming a significant entertainment exporter. Currently, Indian films account for 17% of cinema takings in the UK.

The closing session of the conference was a Q&A session with Jason Mraz. I have the say the guy not only has great talent as a singer, songwriter and performer, he also has a stellar attitude and work ethic. In was an inspired choice to have him close the conference, because he’s an artist that not only has paid his dues, he’s also been very smart with using online tools like blogging and leveraging his popularity for good causes. During the interview, he credited encouraging and supportive school teachers and also the musical community he found after moving to San Diego for his development. I can’t help but wonder if that sense of appreciation and thankfulness is also connected to his good attitude and the gracious way he handles his success.

“Understand what you are really really good at doing, them amplify that”. Terry McBride on artist authenticity

I’ve already arranged my schedule to attend the conference in for next year.

Chris B 14 years ago

You really must come to Underground 98 on 19 June and check out some bands and meet people who think the HK live music scene is getting better and better 🙂

Fernando Gros 14 years ago

Chris B – thanks for the comment and for your work promoting bands here through Underground!

There’s no question the HK live music scene is more vibrant and less inward looking than it was when I moved here four years ago.

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