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Song Summit 2012 – A Business Perspective

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TMV were lucky enough to attend this Sydney based industry shindig for the first time. Last week Dana Gilden reported on the event from an artist’s perspective (you can read that post here), and this week I’m writing from a music business perspective. Considering many international events have seen ever-dwindling numbers in terms of attendees (namely Midem), it was heartening to see over 1200 attendees including some notable international music publishing bigwigs.

Song Summit is based around the song and music publishing, including two days and nights of artist showcases. The setup is focused on industry panel sessions and keynotes as well as in depth workshops for artists focused around marketing, DIY labels, publishing and of course song writing.

I arrived on the Saturday to Stephen Navin the CEO from the Music Publisher Association in the UK outlining where copyright began – apparently it began in Egyptian times more than 3,000 years ago. This keynote was an interesting historical overview of copyright and its origins. Might be a good exercise for the pirates of this world to take that historical lesson…

There were numerous panel sessions usually three running at any one time (not including the workshops), so what follows is an overview of the panel sessions I did manage to attend. First up was an “in conversation” with Imogen Heap session. Imogen discussed her unique method of writing songs and how some of her songs came about. Imogen took the audience into an overview of her world and they manner in which she experimented with sound. This was a great and dynamic session focused on the sounds and songs.

The following session Australian Content “To Be or Not To Be” focused on a very contentious issue of commercial radio not giving enough airtime to new and current Australian music talent. It had the CEO of The Commercial Radio Association Joan Warner who came across as extremely defensive and was also misrepresenting facts to boot. There was DIY artist Clare Bowditch, Chris Scaddan producer from nation youth radio network Triple J, commercial radio plugger Russell Thomas and panel moderator Kath Letch. This was a fiery panel with some very pertinent questions from executives in the audience.

After a fully catered lunch (something Midem could perhaps learn from – especially considering their expensive delegate passes), the afternoon session consisted of 6 separate workshop sessions and seven separate panel sessions. I decide to go-to the DIY label session first. This panel consisted of Bill Cullen artist manager from One Louder, Brett Oaten (well know Australian music business lawyer), Jackie Kralj senior label relations at iTunes Australia and Nicole Hart from RPM PR. TMV do think the panel did not touch some of the key issues associated with artist setting up DIY labels, yet it was good to see an iTunes representative as Apple generally likes to keep a tight leash on its iTunes employees and speaking on panels.

The panel focused on the phenomenon of ‘crowd funding’ was robust and insightful. Rick Chen founder of Australian crowd funding organization Pozible was on the panel along with two artists who had successfully used the service to raise between $10,000 to $15,000 respectively. Most interesting was that each artist only had around 800 Facebook friends of which on average just over 165 fans contributed to each artist’s crowd funding campaign. The average spend was of $50 to $100 each from those fans. A new dynamic start-up called Riplez stated that they focus on creating specific campaigns to help build artists profiles to ensure their crowd-funding effort is a success.

The evening’s entertainment was good, but I was more interested in the networking with some domestic and international friends I had not caught up with in a while. The foreign performing rights societies were put in force with Brandon Bakshi, Executive Director Europe and Asian at BMI and representatives from PRS in the UK and globetrotter Vince Bannon from Getty Images. It was good to chat with Ian Bell Managing Director of Mushroom Music Publishing along with many others.

Due to other commitments, I missed all of Sunday’s daytime sessions but did manage to see the live music showcases in the evening. Of note was the Canadian session with seven artists all up on stage together taking turns and playing their songs. One (find name) absolutely blew me, and the house away, his heart felt and gut-wrenching vocals coupled with such a powerful and amazing voice were a sight to see and hear. Imogen Heap also played an intimate set to packed crowd.

I missed the keynote speech on the Monday session “Digital – What Is Free?” I did however make it to panel session focused on “Content, Competition, Collecting Societies and Crystal Balls”. This panel revolved around new business models and what they offered rights holders as well as the roles of ISPs in this new era of Copyright. The debate was heated at times but equally valid. Jeremy Fabinyi CEO of the Australian Music Publishers Association, Andrew Jenkins the Executive Vice President Asia Pacific for UMPG.

The final session I attended was the Pitch Session where seasoned music supervisors listened to selected pieces of music from the audience and gave their views on its viability for music sync opportunities. The session was good and there was some very blunt, but in TMV’s view valid opinions.

Overall, it was good to see a conference established by APRA/AMCOS punch above its weight in terms of, quality panel sessions and speakers as well as overall organization. TMV believe Song Summit is destined to grow and become a must attend event on the international music business conference calendar as it evolves over the coming years.

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