midemblog: What are the best things about your job, and what have been your career highlights to date?
Emily Gonneau: Honestly, it’s hard to chose between the absolute privilege of working in music with the artists and professionals I admire, the freedom to organise my days as I wish, and the never ending intellectual stimulation of working in an industry interconnected with tech, ticketing and communication that also meets many other fields of interest for me (social transformation, politics and public policy…).
As for career highlights, I particularly cherish the moment each one of my big moves has actually dawned on me: in Wright’s Lane staring in utter disbelief at the contract I’ve just been offered at EMI, the excitement of a new adventure every single time I’ve signed with an artist, working on the logo of my own company, teaching my first classes at the Sorbonne (Paris and later Abu Dhabi), holding the freshly printed copy of the book I wrote to help artists for the first time, the incredible feedback for my Midem blog post about sexism and misogyny in the music industry, laying out the ground work for the launch of my own record label… All these moments in time encapsulate settings, feelings and above all wonderful people (artists, colleagues, students, partners, friends) that I will forever associate with the most enduring memories.
> What advice would you give to people looking to start working in the music industry today?
Experience is key. Knowledge is just a click away. So don’t wait, be it to learn something of interest (internet! meet ups galore!) or for someone to give you your first break: get out there and start where you think you can make a difference and go towards a branch of the industry you’re passionate about.
You’ll develop a clearer understanding of how things work and what the do’s and don’ts are. You’ll meet people along the way. Start building your network from day one. The rest will follow. (Trust me, it never fails)
> What do you predict will be the key trends for music consumption and marketing in 2017?
If we are thinking about the tools available, then playlists, messaging apps and VR are definitely ripe for more systematic use beyond the gimmick by now.
If we’re looking at social transformation and the context of music consumption, I believe the main phenomena are 1/ pushing personalised experiences further and 2/ working around fans’ core values.
Personalised experiences can be imagined in many many different settings and for varying occasions, however, it makes sense for the industry to focus on the live experience first. Too many upcoming players are overfocused on the tech aspect of the experience, rather than how to ensure each fan comes out of that experience a different person. What do fans value in a live experience? So how do you put tech at fans’ service and not the other way around. How can tech bring people together instead of intermediating that relationship?
As for working around fans’ core values, music can’t (and shouldn’t) be reduced to being a product consumed by different segments of the world population. It has sometimes felt the industry was heading that way (cf. my previous midemblog posts: Have artists lost their voice? Part. I & II.) Yet seeing Beyonce go full political (and she’s far from being the only one) is fantastic. Music is vital because it carries a message. There is so much we can do and explore if we first focus on what fans’ core values are, how people gather and interact in the name of what is important to them.
> What is the one innovation that we should be the most excited about?
Blockchain. But I’m excited yet wary. Because the technology is amazing. But I’m well aware that so many tech ideals have been turned on their head by big players who, understandably, have identified the potential for big returns if they can monopolise the space. Also, the industry’s pre-existing underlying issues haven’t gone away: we need to address them for this to work. Either before or as we go along. But we believe we’ll leave that until after, it’ll be pointless.
> And what do you think are the biggest challenges facing the music industry this year?
There are many, including ‘getting blockchain right’ (as Benji K. Rogers put it recently) and ensuring artists get their fair share of the revenue they generate in this industry. But the two I’d focus on are :
- Artists are finding it harder and harder to develop sustainable careers. Unless they started before the ‘crisis’ or exceptionally manage to get into that magic place where you can make it big as a mainstream artist, it’s tough. Meanwhile, the way fans discover and listen to music is increasingly linked to context and lifestyle choices. Also, their attention span is getting shorter. It’s less about a particular artist than a specific song. So developing an artist’s career is harder today, because of these movements. It’s a challenge, but one I’m confident we’ll overcome.
- AI for music creation: of course it is impressive that science and tech have made such progress that we can push the experience so far in the field of creation. I understand the fascination with endless possibilities. Yet if you go a little further along the line you always end up with the same question: are we exploring AI to create music for the sake of it or are we using AI to get to get rich thanks to music? If AI, non-humans are creating tunes that have better monetisation potential than heartfelt tunes created by songwriters who need the royalties and copyright revenue to earn a living, where do we take things from there ?
This is the latest in a series of posts from key industry influencers from the world over, whom you could meet at Midem 2017.