CMJ 2010: Undergrads report on panel discussions


Every year the CMJ Music Marathon & Film Festival (link) is held in New York’s Greenwich Village neighborhood. From October 19th through the 23rd, CMJ 2010 took over Lower Manhattan. For five days and nights, dozens of the city’s greatest venues, bars, and theaters hosted over 1,000 up-and-coming artists from across the globe. An estimated 120,000 musicians, fans, and industry members participated in the event, hoping to reach new audiences, discover new music, and discuss the future of the industry.

This year, NYU again served as the festival’s headquarters, hosting everything from badge pick-up to live music events and panel discussions. All Music Business students take full advantage of this, and are encouraged to participate as much as possible. They actively engage in numerous networking opportunities, and some have even performed in showcases. As a class assignment, our undergraduate students write about panel discussions, so to cover CMJ 2010, VeloCity selected these five reports.


“From Crowd Surfing to Crowd Funding” – Aaron Marks (’12)

The panel’s purpose was to both define crowd funding, and describe how it can be used by both signed and independent artists. The first order of business for the panel was to give an expert definition of what crowd funding is. Although the various companies represented differ in their methods, they agreed that crowd funding is a means by which artists can get funds for their a project – be it recording a new album, touring, making a video – by taking money directly from their fans, often offering rewards in exchange for giving money.

The advantages of crowd funding discussed by the panel were many. One of the main advantages crowd funding offers over more traditional forms of funding (such as getting money from labels) is that it forms a strong connection with the fans. By actually seeing where their money is going, the fans feel like they have a direct influence on the artist’s project and career. They can, in a sense, play the role that the label once played, helping to directly build the artist which they care so much about.

With many companies offering many methods of crowd funding, artists now have a wide array of options to complete their next project with the direct help of their fans.


“Controlling the Pipeline; Net Neutrality and the Level of Access” – William Perliter (’12)

This subject is one of the most crucial and confusing subjects with regards to the digital age today. Net neutrality is an Internet debate, but as the music industry is so reliant on, and expanding within the Internet, it was a very fitting topic for CMJ. Essentially- from what I think I got out of it- net neutrality is essentially, equality of internet access (in the broadest of terms). One of the panelists helped describe it best with an example from the telecommunications world. He said, “Imagine if you were making a phone call to your local pizza joint, and while the phone is ringing, an operator comes on the phone and says, ‘please wait while we prioritize your phone call.’” Prioritizing your phone call means that pending on what you pay, determines when your call will go through.

To better explain this, it is important to understand that on the Internet, there is content, and searching for content. The content is the “exits” or “streets” and the search for content is the “highway.” If you give the ISP’s power to control the “highways,” you are giving them the power to say, “You know what, I don’t like this content, I am going to block people from getting off at this exit,” or “We should be the only music distributors, let’s block the iTunes from our server. This is even a bigger problem because the ISP industry is more or less an oligopoly (almost even a duopoly). If you give a small amount of people such great power, you are treading in very dangerous waters. This can lead to unconstitutional decisions, and be very harmful to all industries and people who use the internet.


“Hitting Your Target: Using Adwords, Facebook Ads & Blog Networks To Reach Your Fans” – Lauren Grimes (’14)

This panel featured five men in the advertising/marketing/promoting fields talking about “sponsored tweets, google adwords, Facebook ads, blog ads and blog marketing.”  They started off by defining a few terms: CPC (cost per click, or the ability to purchase inventory in ads and only be charged if said ad is clicked on and the website is landed on), CPM (cost per thousand, paying per thousand “impressions”), and CPW (cost per “whatever” – the end goal of the ads).   They repeatedly focussed on the action that the ad is trying to produce in whoever is reading it – whether it’s buying a CD, downloading a song, RSVPing to an event, or what have you – that you must question the value and the profit of the ads you purchase and invest in, or what it’s worth for somebody to take each step according to what you want them to do.

Their final point was that it is important for bands and musicians to have things to say besides trying to sell things and just featuring music on their websites.  It is important not only to figure out how to get the consumers to find and discover you, but also to deliver on your promises and keep them interested and intrigued.  And it’s important to know the audience – based on a study called Natural Born Clickers, it was found that younger game-playing men are doing 80% of the ad-clicking on the internet; design ads with that person in mind.


“Getting Paid From The Song” – Milton Koh (’14)

This panel was on revenue streams available to the aspiring artist, as well as to artists in general, in the changing modern-day landscape of music distribution and consumption. Through the discussion, the panel established that all revenues in the music industry boil down to copyrights and the enforcement of these copyrights. They mentioned that there are two copyrights for each piece of work: the original composition, as well as the sound recording. The panelist talked about 360 deals, also known as Multiple Rights Deals, and how marketing and profit revenues have changed from before, where the avenues were traditionally AM/FM Radio, sales of physical albums (which one panelist humorousl
y put as “these flat plastic circles with shiny stuff on either side that you probably no longer know of in this day and age.”), magazine reviews and college radios.
The panel also suggested that aspiring artists should consider the option of starting their own publishing companies, as many publishers, especially the bigger, more established ones, are very likely to try to fleece young, new artists.

Alex Holtz (G ’06) of Rightsflow (link) spoke on merchandising as a way of earning money from your songs, and described how advertising had become to ubiquitous, that differentiation was more increasingly needed for the market to take note. He discussed on the importance of certain new markets in this modern day, such as the gaming industry, which is certainly booming. Marketing to this industry could mean getting your song placed on a game soundtrack, or even your band name on online avatars’ outfits. He also spoke on Limelight, one of Rightsflow’s services that makes it easier for people to clear cover songs.


“Managing Without Borders” – Olivia Muenz (’14)

The panelists unanimously agreed that they must act as mediator between all agents worldwide. The agents (most have two) for artists in various territories will act out of their own interest for booking. It is the manager’s duty to mediate between two conflicting schedules of two different agents for the benefit of the artist. The explicit passion for the artists work is what ultimately drives the success of the artist and keeps the strong relationship between the artist and manager intact. Friedman, who manages Chrystal Castles and Dirty Projectors, asserted that it is the manager’s responsibility to keep everything running smoothly. When there were flight cancellations before a show for his artist, he had an A, B, and C plan always ready. There is no excuse for a show not happening.

Managing artists internationally can be an extremely challenging task, with flight cancellations and visa problems. The success of international touring is largely based on logistics, while the success of the artists is largely based on the seriousness and passion for the success of the artist by their respective manager.

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