The 2012 midem Bloggers’ Wrap session featured (left to right) Eliot von Buskirk, editor of Evolver.fm; James Martin, midem’s community manager & session moderator; Will Sansom, writer and consultant for Contagious; and Bas Grasmayer, head of information strategy for Zvooq.
The panel, whose aim was to resume the industry’s key trends as seen at midem, featured a sense of optimism towards the future of music and technology, with this year’s conference trends focusing towards data and experimentation as the age of access begins to enter the music industry marketplace.
Data was the key trend discussed, but questions still remain on how the industry will allow for more innovation the the marketplace and to fully realise the value. James Martin pointed to Dan Rose’s staggering statistic released at yesterday’s keynote session: five billion tracks were shared on Facebook in the last four months alone.
Will Sansom cautioned these findings, “There is a data fantasy. People don’t post content that they are super passionate about. They post content that makes them look cool.”
This points to another key trend: to identify who exactly are the real influencers. Von Buskirk shared, “With music you are sharing what you are listening to, for better or worse.”
For him the future is about allowing different data systems to talk to each other by using Application Protocol Interfaces (APIs).
Eliot gave an example of what can be done by developers when they have access to those tools. “A guy at Facebook created Crowdjuke. It can mine the data that a person listens to allow the venue that a person checks into to alter the music in that place, say a restaurant, to that person’s taste. These kinds of systems will reward the people who give more of themselves. Those people will likely be the influencers. They allow these systems to know more about themselves.”
Eliot pointed to the return on investment of the consumer: “If people are giving you their data, you have to give them something really good.”
midem 2012 saw several global brands such as Coca-Cola and Converse align campaigns with music artists to expand their reach. Said brands specialist Sansom; “midem is a collision of marketing and brands. I couldn’t see that happening a year ago, much less five years ago.”
Sansom went on to address the trend towards to the digital space. “There are so many technology companies (attending midem). Technology should be the key driver. Yet people are still throwing in technology first. Take for example QR codes. They are ugly and pointless. I’m not convinced that people are pirates; they are just sick of barriers (like QR codes). They want content on demand. They want less friction in the process. The first time I used Spotify it felt too easy. It was almost too good to be true. They reduced the friction. There is an interesting tension between technology companies and keeping things about the human experience. It’s what real people want.”
The panel notably discussed another hot question at midem this yeat: whether artists are sufficiently paid by streaming services like Spotify. Von Buskirk noted that of the approximately 250 million people listening to music online worldwide right now, only 10 million do so on Spotify: “so that’s a small slice of the pie. We’re in the early days. For now, the only market Spotify has reached scale in is Sweden. The reality is that YouTube is still the number one music service in the world.”
When asked about how technology such as streaming services and social media may be leveling the playing field, Grasmayer offered that the question is about entry to market, “The old model says you can’t succeed without radio. Today it’s not about radio and MTV doesn’t play music anymore. You still have to be really talented. You need to have a cool story that is presented in a way people can describe you. It needs to be a story that spreads. Take someone like Zoe Keating (1.3M Twitter followers). She is going it organically and has more followers than Joss Stone (322K Twitter followers) or Mark Ronson (67K Twitter followers). I don’t think a level playing field exists. It’s all about engagement.”
The value of, and need for experimentation has been a key theme at midem. Open EMI, a collaboration with EMI and The Echo Nest to put EMI content out for application developers for collaboration.
With application developers entering the music business, there is an opportunity to grow a commercial approach to experimental partnerships. Von Buskirk pointed to the need for more collaboration in this space. “What I like about it is that developers can get paid. The whole idea that I can build something out of Robbie Williams’ music and get paid is new.”
So, asked Martin, does this mean there should be a split between paid hack days and those, like midem/Music Hack Days, where developers hack just for fun? Von Buskirk conceded that that wouldn’t be such a bad thing… before going on to close the panel on a positive note: “The great thing is that hackers would do it anyway without getting paid. They are people who are passionate and can connect. They have the skills and creativity. This is what makes me optimistic about the future.”
Heather Blanchard is a global communications student at the American University of Paris, has been covering key sessions at midem this year, for midemblog and her own blog. Be sure to follow her on Twitter too!