From now until Midem this June, some of the world’s most cutting-edge label executives — our 2016 Label Ambassadors — will be speaking out here on midemblog about the state of the industry today. Grant Bussinger, Head of Digital at Warp Records, is the last of of our five ambassadors. He is interviewed by Lucy Blair of Motive Unknown, who’s coordinating this series of posts.
midemblog: What are the best things about your job, and what have been your career highlights to date?
Grant Bussinger: Ahh, there are so many things. The music, first off, is innovative and courageous; always pushing boundaries and making people uncomfortable and fixing intelligent thought. With Aphex Twin it was brilliant working with our whole team to bring his album Syro the cultural significance it deserved. It’s wildly fulfilling being able to execute huge artistic concepts that cut through the music marketing noise and leave a scorch mark on the present. Such as that we were able to do with Syro and using the deep web to announce his highly anticipated return album. That kind of statement contributed to the album’s overall transparency themes and produced a wake of discourse even beyond the press release-laden Pitchfork. Just as thrilling, though certainly not as sexy, has been the great lengths leading our company’s big data and analysis initiatives. Working both within and outside the music industry to liberate data and enable accessible insight is my passion. I love how I’ve been able to work for common standards and efficient analysis processes whilest showing how data is here to facilitate art, not threaten it.
> What advice would you give to people looking to start working in the music industry today?
Think long about it. Unless they were an artist I think I’d encourage them to think about what besides love for music is driving their desire to our world. The hopeful music industry worker should want to disrupt and influence but more importantly should have a burning desire to do things that will be remembered 100, even 1000 years from now. One shouldn’t come into it for the money because fiscally it’s not what it used to be and likely never will. If you happen to grab that 2% slice of the pie that makes up 90% of the music industry revenue you’re facing an arduous journey trying to keep it. I made those percentages up, ha, but hopefully it paints a good enough picture!
> What do you predict will be the key trends for music consumption and marketing in 2016?
I learned a while ago that trend forecasting ends up being a hamster wheel exercise! That said, I can only really hope that we have a collective music industry pause. Hopefully we begin to recognise the race to the bottom we’ve been competing in in the past 15 years. Hopefully the trend for 2016, overall, is that we’ll stop inadvertently devaluing our most valuable assets – the art and artist. When letting the tech companies use our art as a loss leader in their own campaign to own consumer-content ecosystem we rob ourselves of the other ‘trend’ for the coming years: developing closer bonds with our fans and audiences. Someone once told me that in the future, after machine intelligence has automated most of today’s highly valued trades, that artists and art will once again rise to being the most important and valued part of society. I hope this year is when wider music consumption habits and industry marketing efforts start to make a play towards that future.
> What is the one innovation that we should be the most excited about?
Certainly not block chain in any consumer-facing product, unless there’s a killer app from Google or Apple. I’m most excited about technology and the opportunities that commodity cloud computing resources are creating to facilitate artists and their support teams. Just in the past six months has there been a seismic shift in dev ops, fueled by the fierce competition of the big players in online infrastructure. With that there has also been an open source revival that is breaking down many of the barriers that the old guard once erected to protect their antiquated revenue models. There’s a new global community formed around the efficient (but still lucrative) disruption of what was once the norm. This sense of community has fostered real innovative business models that will hopefully make is way to the music sphere soon. For the present I’ll continue building on projects that support data transparency and enabling easier data access for artists and the industry.
> And what do you think are the biggest challenges facing the music industry this year?
It’ll be a challenge to not take ourselves too seriously and also not to embrace the new music economy but instead embracing **OUR** new music economy.
More from Grant & our other Label Ambassadors soon: meanwhile, check out all of their posts to date here