Grad Student Report: Takeaways from the Digital Music Forum East

(Ned Sherman – CEO, Digital Media Wire, moderates while Eric Klinker of BitTorrent defends his company.)

Music Business grad student Peter Schwinge writes this guest post for VELOCITY.

On Thursday February 24, 2011, Ned Sherman and his team at Digital Media Wire rounded up a diverse group of some of the most cutting-edge minds throughout the industry to get together for a full day at the Digital Music Forum East. The 350+ attendees (many first-timers) were treated to speakers ranging from start-ups, venture capitalists, entertainment companies, leading brands, and other digital media gurus on the state of the industry, monetization, and innovative/forward-thinking concepts.

With the plethora of information to digest in one day it is comparable to drinking from a fire hydrant. Instead of regurgitating a list of what happened, I would like to bullet out some key themes and discussions in a way for you to think about. More specifically… to instigate a discussion on current trends, concepts, concerns and how we as a fragmented industry can work in conjunction to create stability and sustainability.

Consumers are making out!
– Russ Crupnick (NPD Group): Is the consumer taking advantage of us?
– People want to share music
      – Use music to brand themselves
      – Distributive Discovery
      – They want playlists to see what friends are playing
– “Only Suckers pay for Downloads”
– Big music companies upset people

Streaming Services: Are they working?
– David Bakula (Nielsen/Soundscan): “People play what they don’t buy, and buy what they don’t play”
– In the US, only 5% subscribe to a music service
– No single service that is appealing – Consumers want an experience

Venture Capitalists:
– Music still not a hot area but they are coming back to diversify their portfolios (expectations of 4x-5x ROI opposed to the 20x of yesteryear)
– Investors shy away from anything requiring licensing
– How can publishers make it easier for services to license?

– Music vs Technology = Us vs. Them mentality
– Prevalent attitude that technology companies are stealing the music business
– Technology was inevitable, but nobody knew what to do with it
– Ted Cohen (TAG Strategic): Easy to put a tax line item on cable bill

Bands & Brands:
– Andrew Katz (Pepsi-Cola): “TV Still matters…big time!”
– Where is the void? Where can you have deep engagements?
– Ticket sales, are we relegated to enticing buyers with the need to give away albums with the purchase of a concert ticket?

Social Networks and Music: What’s Next?:
– Today’s marketing game is akin to throwing spaghetti on the wall
– Translate Social Metrics: Fans-to-Revenue
– Eric Garland (BigChampagne): “What can we sell that we’re good at?”

– Timo Poijärvi gets my award for most colorful character…and website

With the abundance of brilliant information being shared at this conference, it leaves opportunity for more questions. How do we put this all together? Is there a way to create scarcity? In this rat race, who is leading the charge?

A problem with many of these services is users don’t know about them, how can they be marketed better and create traction?

To take a page from Keynote Speaker Gary Shapiro… How will innovation fuel progress and will it ultimately save the content and music industries?

And most importantly, how can we get BitTorrent into the fold?

What are your thoughts?

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