Conventions & Awards

San Diego Music Thing Cuts Through The Noise

San Diego Music Thing Logo(UPDATED) By Diana Hereld of Pathways in Music.

This weekend, the seventh annual San Diego Music Thing took place at the Town & Country Resort Hotel in Mission Valley. Featuring some of the most innovative minds in the business, the two-day music and media conference produced by the San Diego Music Foundation upheld its pledge to bring forth a wealth of informative opportunities.

This year’s meeting provided attendees with interactive roundtable sessions featuring nationally known panelists, a trade show, happy hour parties, and the chance to mingle across two nights of over one hundred and fifty local, regional and national bands performances from Cults, Meg Myers, The Griswolds and more.

Day One: Music Biz 101, PR Panel Publicist, and Artist Sessions

The morning kicked off early with “Music Biz 101,” introducing a panel of experts ready to impart their knowledge of the ins and outs of the industry. Specially designed for the up-and-comers of the event, this introductory panel addressed topics across the board such as how to locate and control revenue streams, general tips for dealing with managers, record labels, publishing companies, promoters, and retailers, and how to avoid debacles from poorly-planned business ventures.

Day-One - Mason James Performs at San Diego Music Thing's Day Stage

Mason James Performs on the Day Stage

As panelists are often keen to supply surprisingly humorous accounts of artist development fiascos during Q&A, Chelsea Schwartz (High Voltage magazine) reminded that when it comes to forming a team, having a firm grasp of one’s musical foresight can make all the difference later down the line. “You need to be very clearly defined in where you’re going and what your vision is… Know the business of your band before you shuffle it off to other parties.”

Immediately following, Nicole Poulos of Sideways Media headed “PR Panel Publicist” and tackled concepts from how to gain the attention of the media to learning best practices in hiring and working with a publicist.

The day continued with live performances, panel “Digital Business: Social Media and The Value of a Fan” and small group mentoring session with Marc Wilson (Warner/Chappell) for a run-down of general questions in music publishing. The day concluded with artist session featuring punk raconteur and vocalist Jack Grisham of T.S.O.L.(True Sounds of Liberty).

Day Two: Touring Panel, Music Supervisor Mosh Pit, Moby

After an evening of great live performances, including Justin Furstenfeld (Blue October), King Dude and Liars, the second day began bright and early with panel “Lawyers, Guns and Money,” one-one-one mentoring sessions in media law and “Social Media Boot Camp.”

Mid-morning, club owner Tim Mays (The Casbah), Lol Tolhurst (The Cure) and others came together to conduct a Q&A. In “Business of Touring,” the recurring theme was simply the importance of building one’s foundation before attempting to go on the road. In regard to how one reaches that point, Tim Hays began to cement a new thesis that would repeat itself throughout the day: stick out. “Do something successful, and different. Share your story. You have a narrative – use it. Go out and create something on your own. Not ‘Oh, we can’t do that, but we can do that. Now, how are we doing to do it?”

From tales of shut down house shows (Fidlar, anyone?) to pop-up concerts under a freeway, panelists continued to stress the importance of generating a local buzz by simply utilizing the steps any great entrepreneur comprehends: formulate a unique approach, problem-solve creatively, and practice the art of converged media marketing.

Jeff Gray, Amine Ramer speak during Music Supervisor Mosh-Pit

Amine Ramer and Jeff Gray in the Music Supervisor Mosh Pit

Later on, panel “Music Supervisor Mosh Pit” turned unexpectedly poignant upon the presentation case study of the “commercial of the decade” – the 1999 VW Cabrio spot which utilized “Pink Moon.” When Moderator Jason Kramer asked “Pesci” Jeff Gray (Hunnypot Unlimited) to explain the significance behind the television spot featuring Nick Drake and its resulting emotional affect, the room was quiet; expectant. “You feel positive –you feel happy, joyful – I want to be somewhere where this is playing and I want to be immersed in it.”

By crafting the combination of visual poetry, relatable experience and the type of song that haunts long after initial exposure, music supervisors and marketers alike become capable of taking a sixty second commercial and crafting a timeless memory. Affix in the addendum of an artist’s cultural equity being brought to the table, and it’s a win-win situation for everyone.

Keynote Focus: Moby

A general highlight of the conference was ironically awarded via an unfortunate travel mishap – with a bit of futuristic problem solving. Though Moby’s train was delayed out of Los Angeles, that didn’t stop him from ‘appearing’ in San Diego regardless – and who better to rock 2014’s telecommunication trend than the electronic music legend himself?

From musings on Derrida and majoring in philosophy to his pre-1983 drum machine fetish, conference attendees were satisfied with the intimate, laidback (and thus, often humorous) ambiance of FaceTiming with Moby. Given the artist’s career timeline, the question on everyone’s mind appeared cohesive from the start: Are there any facets of the music business that Moby grew up with that are still relevant today?

The DJ effortlessly fashioned his response: “The biggest (constant) variable is the fact that people continue to have this very profound emotional connection to music – an emotional relationship to music. That, to me, is why we’re here. That’s why there is a music business in the first place.”

Moby continued, expressing a unique sympathy for the consumer. “To a lot of us – I think that’s where some of the institutions have gone wrong. The big record companies at some point failed because they made themselves more important than the artists. They made themselves more important than the audience.”

Moby makes a great example of someone whose career has not only stood the test of time, but stood the test of a completely dissimilar industry in which he began. What makes any act, great or small, break through and make it to the next level? In Moby’s case, many would assert it’s in his honesty with himself and with his listeners. Some might say that it’s his flexibility and adaptability for change in a constantly evolving industry. Others might claim it’s his innate ability to read people, and in turn, reach them. Regardless of what makes it work, his is a model we all might do well to remember from time to time: empathetic hard work, loyalty to the craft and simply knowing one’s audience will often go a long way.


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