By Kat Drucker, Strategic Consultant for Canadian Music Week and Digital Media Summit (@kitkat5656)
Live music industry trade magazine Pollstar's annual gathering and awards took place last week in downtown Los Angeles. The LA Live area was a bit of a whirlwind of music industry - with Pollstar Live, AEG Expo, EventLive Expo, and Grammy set-up all happening next door to each other. With the Pollstar Awards closing the event on Thursday night, venues, promoters and agents came from as close as across the street, to as far as Singapore and Dubai in order to participate in this one-of-a-kind industry event.
Despite the nearly impossible to replicate networking opportunities Pollstar Live offers, the event is very much an all-boys club; or an "old boys club" as an agent friend in his late 30's preferred to call it. The long-term working relationships and chance to connect face-to-face is part of the magic that draws so many from the industry to the event - but perhaps also holds the event back from attracting a wider audience.
A venue marketing executive encouraged to attend the event to understand more about the booking process found it hard not just to fit in, but to also follow the discussion; "…they all know each other so well, but when they're on stage talking about John (who isn't on stage), I don't know who John is or what he does".
Tight knit community or boys-club aside, the event presents access to key players in the industry in a very relaxed and casual conference. Most notably, the 'Meet The Agents' session Thursday afternoon gave the audience two hours of networking with 29 booking agencies including giants like The Agency Group, WME, CAA, ICM, Paradigm, Paquin, TKO, and many more.
Connecting to the Fan:
Ryan Chisholm who recently transitioned to Nettwerk Music Group, spoke from the artist management side of the industry. Telling the audience that a strong email list is still the best way to reach a fan in most cases. Younger audiences being the only exception, have yet to adapt email use and pose a challenge with their reliance on that use social networks which often lose the message.
"I see comments like 'OMG I can't believe you're in Atlanta'" about shows that were promoted heavily leading up to the event. "How did you not see that?"
Jamie Loeb of Nederlander Concerts agreed that email won over Facebook when promoting shows and identified with the fan discovery problem. Responding to Bandsintown during the Q&A; "I'd love to know where the bands fans are. I would love to pay you for that knowledge."
Bob Moczydlowsky who recently took over Ian Rogers' post at Topspin Media advised the room; "Hey venues, hey managers, share your email lists, share a song…the way we solve this knowledge problem is by attaching information to consumption."
Discussing his favorite band, the Cloud Nothings, even he has been victim to the information barrier. "I've listened to their album within a specific music service 50 times, I drive by the Troubadour every day. I fucking missed it."
How can venues, artists, and the music industry as a whole maximize fan reach?
Facebook and Event Marketing:
In discussion of the methods and time to market a show, The Union's Harvey Cohen stated that 3 to 4 weeks is sufficient for an EDM show "when it comes to EDM its almost entirely social media."
Yet, with most promoters, a minimum of 2 months, and ideally more than 3 months is what it takes.
LAMC Productions' Lauretta Alabons discussed the reliance on word-of-mouth marketing and social media even in Singapore. "We just did these 3 indie bands…2 of the band weren't on Facebook. That made it very difficult."
Metropolitan Entertainment's Ian Noble summed it best; "Facebook is important to promoting an artist. You know certain artists have certain likes… Facebook gives you those tools to get to your artist in each market."
With two of the four panel time blocks including EDM, many non-EDM panels and even Seth Godin touching on the topic, EDM has become a prominent topic in all facets of the industry.
John Boyle, Chief Growth Officer and interim CFO at Insomniac was joined on stage by a colleague and Gannon Hall of Ticketfly to educate the audience not just on the history or EDM, but on the growth of the genre and community. Insomniac with its legendary Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) brought in over 300,000 attendees to last year's 3-day Las Vegas event.
"America has just recently caught onto the craze of electronic dance music which has been thriving in the UK since the late 80's and early 90's… In the US, some established EDM festivals have grown to become some of the largest in the world"
Ticketfly presented a thoroughly researched infograph (available at: http://start.ticketfly.com/blog/social-media-gets-rave-reviews-from-edm-fans-boosts-sales-infographic/) which demonstrates the unique purchase behaviors of the EDM community.
"Social is driving 2 times more than search for EDM" while tickets are commonly purchased individually despite attendees going to events as large groups.
With the US ranked as the most passionate EDM audience, and fraction of the population actually being exposed to events, there is a lot of potential for promoters to monetize as EDM continues to climb and grow its community.
Wednesday Morning, author and marketing genius Seth Godin captivated the audience with his joking criticisms and life comparisons to the touring industry.
Godin started his keynote with an announcement about the manufactured entertainment in professional wrestling. Discussing the way one perceives wrestling after the realization of the theatrics behind it, he discussed how perception alters the ability to succeed and interpret.
Years ago, Godin had predicted the impact on business and society that the internet would bring.
"I made a book… it sold 12,000 copies…in the same time, two guys in California started Yahoo"…. "If we don't see clearly, we're not going to take advantage of what is going on."
Purple Cow, Interruption, and the Music Industry:
Associating his famous purple cow example to the music industry, Godin discussed the need to stand out and do something different in order to succeed.
"Keep interrupting people …If I could just interrupt enough people, we'd make a fortune"
Delivering a unique product, or a unique show experience creates a sense of irreplaceability and allows an artists, promoter, or venue to charge more for tickets, drives a higher attendance, etc.
"I have the only 6000 auditorium in this town – this is not hard"
"Bob Dylan gets booed off stage" yet his shows continue to sell out; "he keeps making art"
Early on poking fun that Jimmy Buffet makes 110% of ticket sales, he explains "The reason that Jimmy Buffet gets 110% … he can whisper to his fans and they will show up"
"The challenge isn't how do we get the average people to notice us, its how do we get the people that care to find us."
Individuality and Taking Risk:
When Amanda Palmer wants to do something "does Amanda have a meeting? No, She does it the way Amanda does it….she's Amanda F* Palmer!"
"Who else's risk are we supposed to play at?"
"Think about the Ryman in Nashville. How is it that they outperform almost every other venue in the country?…they organized a tribe" of country music fans.
"Who will make an impact? Who will over time tip the scale?"
As announced by Nashville's mayor Karl Dean at the Pollstar Awards Thursday night, next year's Pollstar Live and Pollstar Awards will be held in Nashville Tennessee.
More: Full List of Pollstar Awards Winners