(UPDATED) By Diana Hereld of Pathways in Music and photo by James Gutierrez.
The annual San Diego Music Thing opened Friday, with this year’s conference boasting artist sessions from Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth, Body/Head), Lol Tolhurst (The Cure), Scott Page (Pink Floyd), and Brett Anderson (The Donnas). This small conference is quickly proving one not to miss.
Panel Highlights & Keynote from Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon
The morning kicked off with the introductory yet relevant essentials during Music Industry 101. Marc Wilson (A&R, Warner/Chappell) immediately opened up the floor for questions, with quandaries ranging from “How can I get in touch with A&R without a lawyer or manager” to “Do you scout?” The answer to the first, we all know. The second proved a bit more interesting. For Wilson, the answer was “absolutely.”, believing that old-fashioned scouting remains an indispensable component of discovering new talent. “I have to see a band live to see how culture is affecting them, and how they are affecting culture.”
Panel: Shout It Out: PR & Promoting Your Music
The panel entitled “Shout It Out: PR & Promoting Your Music” included industry professional Nicole Poulos (Sideways Media) sharing her wisdom from her own successful digital media and marketing campaigns. Poulos was quick to remind the room of wide-eyed hopefuls that when it comes to promotion, they need to learn to “get attention without seeking attention.” She continued, “You should be spending your time writing songs, playing shows, and making music.” Regarding bringing on a publicist, she drew attention to the importance of full band participation. “It’s a lot easier of a sell if you’ve been doing it yourself for a while. You want to think ‘they’re going to help me help them.’ That helps us a lot as we’re building their story. To every artist: Taking your time-there’s so much that can be done for no money. This is your artwork…treat it as it’s going into the Louvre.”
Panel: Secrets of Synchronization.
The largest panel came at noon. PJ Bloom (Music Supervisor, Glee, CSI Miami), John Anderson (Hunnypot Unlimited), Jeff Gray (Retrofit Tunes) and Brett Anderson (The Donnas, Alpha/Beta) made up the panel “Secrets of Synchronization.” These young professionals endowed the large crowd with the naked truth, however bleak and dismal. Most music professionals listen to a track for an average of ten seconds “tops” before making their decision. Long intros are a no-go, as is leaving your best track until slot three on a demo. When asked of the process in which music supervisors procure music, Bloom replies “It needs to be relevant to the productions in which I’m involved. Just like everything else, know who you’re pitching to. It’s all time-management…the best place to get at me is in a bar, having a drink and talking music.” Brett Anderson, Jeff Gray and John Anderson provided heartening advice to close the panel: “Bands are no longer judging other bands for doing a commercial. In the industry, it’s no longer about how many records you sell. It’s about film, TV and online placement, how long the turnover is, and how one best capitalizes on new financial opportunities.”
Keynote: Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth
Day one was sealed by female rock icon Kim Gordon. Gordon’s achievements in and outside of the music industry have been nothing short of remarkable over. Departing almost completely from any talk of her new band’s recent release (Body/Head’s Coming Apart) she chose to instead speak of her life growing up as a child of no-wave, and expositing a brilliant poetic diatribe on rock history in successes and failures. In response to the penetrating question “What disrupted you (Sonic Youth), and what was responsible for such a change in your sound over the years?” she replied “It would have been dishonest if we had tried to keep doing the same thing we’d done on the first record…I’d like to see myself as a disruptor.”
The conference continues tomorrow with a variety of legal panels, followed by a special performance and talk by MxPx frontman Mike Herrera.