Netmix Winter Music Conference Update – A day at the panels

Hosted by the National Association of Recording Arts & Science, DJs Fedde Le Grande, Sasha and Sharam joined producer Brian Transeau (BT) an moderator Kurosh Nasseri for an afternoon discussion on the pros and cons of pushing for more opportunities at the Grammy Awards, as well as the intricate nature of pulling off certain sounds they use in their original productions.

While BT is busy taking his work to a PhD like level, by actually writing code to create sounds, Sasha talked about one time stringing together $40 and $50 guitar foot pedals, then running a synth through them for effects that can’t be replicated digitally. It was a pretty intense, educational and enlightening discussion for a well attended session today at the Winter Music Conference. I’ll soon post video of the session. I think one of the highlights in Winter Music Conference history, for sure. Stay tuned.

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DJ Lars started off the day with a DVD DJ competition put on by Pioneer, the leading manufacturer of DVD DJ or VJ (whichever you prefer) equipment. Lars operates a visuals service, DVJVision.com. He recently announced he’ll be working with DubSpot, New York City’s leading DJ and Remix Production school, to teach DJing with DVD’s and Pioneer gear.

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I also hit the Digital Distribution panel, moderated by well known entertainment attorney, Matthew Kletter, who has worked with many of the leading DJ/Producers and signed deals on behalf of artists to numerous to list.

The panel was heavily attended. Beatport’s Shawn Sabo shed some insight on why the leading online store for dance music is limiting new labels and their program to ensure that label’s meet a $500 a month minimum to stay in the store. As the business of digital music grows, the barriers to entry fall, creating an opportunity for anyone to call themselves a label. Beatport wants to ensure that their content is relevant to the tens of thousands who shop the store every day. The distributors on the panel were in agreement with the fact that, although they want to see labels succeed, they want to make sure the labels make it worth their time and effort, by putting together a solid marketing plan and release schedule to get behind. Without that, it’s just not that easy to prop up those who can’t, for some reason or another, commit to being a real record label.

While all the new upstarts wants to be on Beatport, Juno or the other popular services, the new labels have to understand that these companies are inundated with requests and don’t have the staff or bandwidth to support every release out there, nor should they, because some subjectivity must come into play in terms of quality control. With tens of thousands of people shopping online for quality music, these services must put up barriers to entry based on taste and the real opportunity to sell.

However, Craig O’Neill from IODA did bring up the frustration distributors have with label exclusives, inferring that they limit the opportunity for a record to have an extended life. With dance music, once a record is out for two to four weeks in one store, the other stores either don’t or won’t pick them up, leaving good records without an extending opportunity. I think the distributors would like to see companies like Beatport cut their exclusivity windows to allow for greater saturation over more services, so that records have a longer, supported shelf life. While Beatport has implemented a new program to cut exclusives down to as little as two weeks, the distributors argue that any exclusivity can still hurt a record, instead of helping it along. The fewer places means the fewer opportunities.

Sabo also shed light on Beatport’s now defunct affiliate system through Linkshare (which Netmix used often to sell tracks from our Podcasts), which–in his words, was just not worth the effort; mainly because of the fraud that was occuring through their partnership with Linkshare.

On a personal note, after FIVE LONG YEARS, I finally got a bit of face time with someone from Beatport. I want to thank Mr. Sabo for taking the time and making the effort to have a one-on-one conversation, and I look forward to more industrious relationship with Beatport in the future. I won’t go into my past issues, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s all water under the bridge.

Will I still hold their feet to the fire if I see things that need to be challenged? Of course, I definitely will.  However, today’s meeting with Mr. Sabo was genuine and I’m looking forward to our next conversation to set something up for Netmix and Beaport. Thanks, Shawn. Good looking out, man!

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Kletter kicked off the panel with the question: “do you really need to secure a deal with a well known label?’ Chicago’s Groove Media Group Managing Director, Marea Stamper, took a crack at the question in this YouTube video. For anyone in the room, listening to Marea’s perspective on things was surely and educational experience. She really covered some ground here regarding deals, labels and the process and talked about how you shouldn’t just depend on shopping your music to high profile labels. Given the digital world and the reach you have today, you can start putting out records to make some noise, before taking that leap.

On the Press and PR panel, Jim Tremayne, Editor at the venerable DJ trade pub, DJ Times was admamant about publicists delivering a short, detailed bio, hiqh quality imagery and, despite the ease of digital, still wants to get CDs from artists. The main reason is that the artwork, combined with high quality photos and the music can sell an artist into a spread in a magazine, simply because presentation wins in the end. As an editor, it shows him that you’re serious about what you do and you’re willing to put everything you’ve got behind supporting your work.

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If you’re just sending a MySpace link, a download and asking him to take photos of your MySpace page for publication, in his words, “MySpace photos are not press ready.” You have to do more to stand out and show the editors of these magazines that you have put in the time to get their attention. Of course, the music has to be appealing, which is very subjective. But,  in the end, if you have a great package, you’re going win over the artist who didn’t deliver the goods.

Kat Baker from Get In! PR brushed a broad overview of what it takes to get a PR initiative going. Timing and planning are very important. Notably, she mentioned that she makes sure not to send out a full album digitally before it drops. It will only go out to trusted sources, for fear that it might leak on the web. When she’s working singles, she’ll send out more low fidelity MP3’s to press, while making sure she can track the open rates for the emails that go out, as well as press logging into the system they use to download and listen to the tracks. Having that level of control is of obvious importance to the PR effort, so you can administer the campaign effectively and plug holes without being surprised.

About Tony Zeoli

Tony Zeoli is a digital media strategist, innovator, and entrepreneur. He founded Netmix.com in 1995, which was considered by Billboard Magazine to be the "innovation and advancement of dance music on the Internet." Tony has innovated at the intersection of music and the Internet for the past thirty years as a project manager, product manager, information architect. He is also the founder of Digital Strategy Works, a WordPress web design and digital marketing agency in Asheville, NC.

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