By Sean MacEntee
CMJ 2011 kicked off by diving into the backstage of new music in the Information Age with a panel staffed by representatives from cutting-edge music-minded companies and industry heavyweights like Myspace, New Universal and RootMusic. Moderator Paula Moore, president of the trendspotting research company Massive C.I.A., led a discussion that dissected social media’s influence on marketing artists.
Digiwaxx founder CL Llewellyn stressed the importance of branding, synergy and plain old-fashioned star power in carving out a profitable niche in the music business. Artists, he said, need charisma and star power in order to successfully market products—including themselves—to fans. If a synergistic promotional campaign is going to work, such as Dr. Dre’s line of Beats headphones and speakers, the personality and character of the artist involved in the campaign plays a determinate role in how influential artists will be to their fans. To panelists like Llewellyn and RootMusic representative Chris Wiltsee, matching an artist to the right products is a primary consideration. Rather than declining sponsorships and profit-driven business partnerships to avoid the stigma of being a “sell-out,” artists should take advantage of a business’ presence and role in their careers and focus more on choosing the right kind of partnerships for them and for their fans. “I don’t think there’s even a concept of selling out anymore,” Wiltsee said.
According to Wiltsee, who works for the company that powers Facebook’s BandPage app, the same goes for choosing the social media platforms upon which a particular artist hopes to build a Web presence. Instead of trying to attack from all sites at once and trying to manage accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, Google +, Spotify, Songkick and more, artist and their management teams are better off focusing their efforts on a few platforms and building a solid presence there. According to Wilstee, the key is once again a matchmaking game: match the artist to the best platform for their audience, and then encourage them to connect as personally as possible to the fans they reach. Posts on Facebook that at least appear to come straight from an artist’s fingertips garner far more activity and attention than generic posts, Wiltsee said.
As for the detrimental effects the digital revolution has wrought on the music industry, Llewellyn was optimistic for artists’ possibilities in the contemporary market. “It’s a tough moment, but from the artists’ perspective it’s a great moment,” he said. Myspace employee Lisette Paulson also seemed optimistic about the future of the industry, especially in terms of her own company’s future. Although Myspace’s continued profitability has seemed dubious in recent history, Paulson promised a slew of renovations that are coming to the site by this spring that will rejuvenate Myspace and carry it into the future.