Monday, October 29, 2007

Music Conferences Should Be Banned

Allen Johnston - The Music Specialist

This year I have seen advertising for over 30 music conferences just within the Southeastern United States. What could possibly be the reason to have so many conferences about the same issue? Is there such a dire cadre of uneducated artists, producers, label owners and wannabes that these conferences are really needed? What are these conferences setup to do? The reasoning is ultimately extremely easy to understand. ALL of these conferences have played to a basic instinct within the populace.


Every one of these conferences has had showcases of one type or another that was a hidden reason to pay additional monies to the conference owner. What has been accomplished? The majority of the conferences were attended by independent record labels that never understood the rational around selling music versus performing for free. These labels will take their budget, (whatever it is) and squander it upon creating cd’s, postcards, flyers, hiring promotion people or the occasional video. Their ultimate goal is to have a major label “discover” them, pay them, sign, promote, market and sell their music all the while creating more and more opportunities for them to become famous. NOT ONCE has this happened! The performers are performing in front of their peers and not anyone that has an interest in signing them.

What happened to educating the people? Why are their so many people rushing to give away their money just for a few moments upon a stage?

What has been created has been the growth of a new business model. This model is one where a few entertainment industry people are getting wealthy from the mass of uneducated artists who have a burning desire to be a STAR. Unfortunately none of the artists, labels or producers knows anything about the music industry.

What I am finding more and more of is the young entrepreneur who really only desires the fame and popularity associated with the entertainment industry and not the basic business acumen needed to initiate and maintain a viable entertainment business. “BALLIN” has become a game of one up man ship to see who has the brightest “iced out jewelry”, biggest most expensive cars and the latest fashions. Who can market themselves into a major deal yet not have any professional team available to maintain a deal.

Tools needed to become a winning label.

The creation of a written document outlining the agreement among partners should be one of the first things you do. Next the organization of your office environment where all mailings, billings, invoices and correspondence can be collected, sorted, acted upon and filed. A central phone number and a computer based office system should be formed. How will you keep in contact with the many different individuals and companies you & your crew will come in contact with?

Incorporation of the business will give you the tools needed to create a corporate bank account, savings certificates and a corporate credit card. Additionally it will also give you the basis for paying your taxes and the ability to keep open and honest legal documents.

The entertainment industry is based on communication so a strong ever-increasing database of radio, retail, publicity and industry executives should be started.

You won’t be getting this information at any music conference that you attend locally, because it is better to keep you ignorant and coming back then to assist your knowledge and have you become a potential conference owner yourself.

As for you conference owners and promoters your days are limited. People deserve and want more than a chance to perform in front of other “poor and unsigned” companies. To stay in the conference business you will have to change your conference structure.

A few ideas for the next REAL music conference.

Publish a list of the conference attendees and give it to every person that attended your event. This will increase networking and give your attendees something that they will hold on to for at least a year.

Make sure that you have “hand outs” for each panel, seminar, lecture, etc. Thus giving your attendees information that they can study and learn from at their own pace.

Have every one of your panelists write a paper or case study of something they did concerning the title of their panel. For example if the panel is about independent distribution, then the case study should be about a label that acquired independent distribution and how they fared.

Stop having panels and start having working workshops that teach skills.

5. Qualify your panelists and know that they have done something positive within the industry BEFORE you ask them to be involved with your conference. There are WAY TOO MANY frauds speaking on panels today.

Recently I spoke at a conference and during a private networking session I was asked how to just “jump over” all that old fashioned business and go directly to having a major record deal. My response was that it would be really easy to do if you have met someone in the position of power at the major labels that wanted to immediately sign you and spend their money on making your career. The only issue I can see would be in how you will keep a deal of this magnitude without knowledgeable individuals around you that know the business, have connections and will work on your behalf to ensure your continued success and well being.

In other words where is your trusted team?

Why continue to go to conferences that only waste your time? Why not develop the business structure you will need now, acquire your trusted team, develop your database of industry connections and prepare yourself for success.

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