Music Business

What the National Association Of Broadcasters Show meant for music

The recent National Association Of Broadcasters (NAB) Show saw 65,000+ from 166 countries converge on the Las Vegas Convention Center.

The centennial celebration featured over 1,200 exhibiting companies curated into thematic zones across the show floors and convention halls. Interwoven throughout the schedule was a plethora of panels and presentations.

What did the National Association of Broadcaster’s annual tent pole event mean for music?

By David Benjamin De Cristofaro

Music Has Entered its Multimedia Future

If you don’t already know, music has entered the tri-dimensional era of multimedia which is in full swing. So much so that we are simply connecting and developing digital and virtual spaces across platforms and verticals to build and bridge the existing metaverse that’s been developing since the advent of in-real-life entertainment. We’re simply catching up.

Technology is advancing at a rate that consumer cultures have embraced while industry and business spheres have adapted and adjusted to the market they are shaping. Music has been along for the ride, with evergreen areas like production, distribution, and live performance all finding new outlets and platforms for interfacing with fans via tech and digital platforms. As tech is driving the future of these verticals and music’s major companies and labels are adapting more reactively than proactively to platforms and outlets that could change overnight, Los Angeles has ceased to be the hub of the music business. Instead, tech companies in places like Silicon Valley and Sweden are now steering and navigating the voyage of music’s next horizon with Web3 around the bend.

Some of the companies in music that are proving to be in it for the long run are harnessing the very engagement, education, and entertainment values of consumers across visual, audio, and audio-visual spectrums of media ecosystems that were on full display at the NAB Show.

A Convergence of Audio and Metaverse-Centric Brands 

NAMM Show and music staples like Avid, Sennheiser, Solid State Logic, Audio-Technica, and even JVC and Panasonic were present, with Sennheiser hosting artist performance schedules in its activation space on the exhibit floor.

Companies poised at the interface between consumers and content creation that will be major players in laying the groundwork for the metaverse, like Verizon and Adobe, as well as full spectrum media production and service companies like Sony, who like the first record labels of the late 1800’s to early 1900s extended into consumer lifestyles by also creating usable products for engagement and consumption, were also featured.

For music specifically, the presence of both microphone and production-focused brands make a great deal of sense for a broadcast-oriented event. Even more so though given that the most prominent topic that permeated across NAB from the show floor to their track programming was virtual production.

The Best Parts of The Show That Other Events Should Adapt

What the NAB Show does better than others like it is that it combines key features from events of similar stature and adapts them into its offering to create a much more directly engaging opportunity for brands on the show floor.

NAB offers free badges to access the exhibit floor exclusively, resulting in massive attendance and business for brands big and small exhibiting in the convention halls. Higher tier badges, meanwhile, retain the exclusivity of access to special events, tracks, and panels. They also offer several pre-reservation guided and curated show Floor Tours led by experts of the verticals thematic to the tours, complete with museum-style audio and language curated headsets. The topical options to choose from were Data, Data, Data, New Production Modalities, and The Evolution of TV/Video.

Invite-only mixers and afterparties, not to mention full-on SXSW-style music showcases and artist performances were held and housed right at exhibit booths and in convention center stage rooms after the show floor’s closing time (A far cry from the aggressive yelling of the Anaheim Convention Center security head at patrons to leave during NAMM every year.) This allowed exhibitors to market their brands and offerings by creating an experience for fellow exhibitors and attendees beyond product and tech live demos, which were still on full display.

Among the best post-event gatherings outside the floor, was Adobe’s NAB x Adobe Video Community Mixer at the convention center as well as their other gatherings offsite, and the best offsite event by way of the NAB ‘23 After-Hours Networking Event hosted by Infinity Festival guru Lori H. Schwartz of StoryTech

RSVPs with capped attendance were required to leverage exclusivity, free curated food and bev options were provided, all while facilitating both the peer-to-peer business networking of Pollstar Live! with that of creative thought ecosystem SXSW. Mostly all are centralized within the greater venue and event itself, allowing seamless migration to these gatherings.

Some brands could have benefited from being present while others from integrating their activations from other events. Such as Roland, who recently launched an audio mixer for smartphones and also debuted its podcast offering through a live studio in the venue Labelcoin hosted during SXSW. NAB would be a prime environment to exhibit how they are breaking into that market. While Adobe hosted an exhibit space that was equally impressive as one of the two best of the show as it was baffling why the activation is not present at other major events like it, Canon had a similar good-problem-to-have. The camera company had a stellar pop up at the VIP entrance to the recent COMPLEX Con in Long Beach complete with branded promotional items and a digital photo booth. At NAB the brand was a standout once more, with a full studio including performances throughout the day by a musical ensemble that was live broadcasted from their activation stage. Suffice to say, COMPLEX Con could have used the addition of the brand’s NAB activation just as the latter could have benefited from the addition of the former to its exhibit space.

Like the recent 2023 edition of SXSW, the NAB Show proved to be a gathering for both intelligent content and smart audience communities, which has big implications for the future of participatory media and live event ecosystems.

What This Year’s Show Means for Music

This year’s show featured programs dealing with a number of relevant topics to Web3 and metaverse tech, such as generative AI, blockchain, and data + analytics, all while making space for topics like community building and how industries like radio are adapting and what the next generation of television (ATSC 3.0) could look like. But the most frequent and high visibility topic was virtual production, which was also prominently represented on the show floor.

What that means for music is that, while companies like Dolby pioneer the next era of immersive audio within music, the audio-visual industry is where a lot of the heavy lifting development is being done that’s not only paving the way by blazing these technological trails but also by streamlining how audio and visual tech will work together across digital and virtual spaces in real-time.

A focal area in the event’s conference programming was how AI is a key to personalization, recommendation, distribution, and monetization, and only wish they’d also addressed its impact on improving supply chain as well. There wasn’t much left on the plate, as these technologies that are having a big impact on music were well covered albeit from the multimedia side. 

It served as a reminder that music needs to reimagine its advocacy efforts on capitol hill to invest efforts into Silicon Valley and focus more on more adaptive policy that can scale with technological development and apply across multi-media digital spaces (not just music exclusively.)

Storytelling through technology was also a prominently featured topic, no more visibly than during the “Immersive Storytelling: Expanding Audiences with XR in Games, Education, and Location-Based Entertainment” main stage talk. It examined the growing convergence between traditional entertainment and advanced technology, as well as how nostalgia is fueling its new adoption. This is an important insight for legacy acts in music who may be missing out on substantial revenues due to reluctance towards adopting tech.

Dreamscape Immersive president and COO Aaron Grosky, Senior VP of Virtual Reality for Sony Pictures Entertainment Jake Zim, and EndeavorXR Founder and CEO Amy Peck provided a look at how immersive storytelling, mixed reality, and increased WX/virtual artist performances present more and new extended reality opportunities for storytelling for artist brands.

If anything, the one downside of the NAB Show was that it didn’t feature more presence from companies and brands in music both on the show floor and in its speaker tracks, who recognize the importance of being present and engaged with visual media counterparts and prospective partners as doing so to collaboratively lay the preparatory groundwork for the Web3 and Metaverse age of consumerism and engagement takes on greater importance. 

The show itself is an ideal convergent destination to do so, with a forward focus and an eye on future innovation, and will hopefully see more major players in music join the conversation. 

“We are thrilled to have so many exhibitors, attendees, and partners from around the world join us in Las Vegas to help celebrate 100 years of innovation. More than any other year, everyone is filled with so much enthusiasm and energy as they engage on the show floor, in special sessions, and throughout the entire event,” NAB President and CEO Curtis LeGeyt noted. “We thank the NAB Show community for helping us reflect on our collective experience with media and entertainment and for previewing the many innovations we’ll see within the next hundred years.”

The event is already slated to return for its next edition from April 13th-17th in Las Vegas, and it will be interesting to see what other companies specializing in multi-media, immersive, 3D, ambisonic, and spatial audio join the show’s ecosystem.

David Benjamin De Cristofaro is a recent grad ‘available-for-hire’ who achieved National success as an award-winning student of Music Business, Tech, Marketing, and Economics at The University of The Arts and Berklee College of Music. While in school, he met with members of Congress in advocacy with The Recording Academy, worked with some of the largest artists, tours, and festivals in Music, and on creative experience projects and solutions for NARAS, the Capitol Records Innovation Center, Fender, Bose, MusiCares, Spotify, and Republic Records. He has served as an international speaker at universities and conferences. He spent the pandemic writing journalism pieces on immersive and fan experience ecosystems and researching emerging ticket models + solutions, while also contributing to USA Today SMG.

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