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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Web Summit 2016: Lessons Learned

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

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Web Summit 2016 Lessons Learned

Last week, I had the privilege to fly to Lisbon, Portugal to attend the 2016 Web Summit conference as a press delegate, representing this very blog, taking in presentations from some of the very best progressive minds across Music, Technology, Social Media and more.

Attended by 53,000 people from 166 countries, it was an absolute pleasure being involved in the event, talking to those within Business, attending press conferences and being approached by entrepreneurs about their ideas that they hope will shape the future Music Industry.

Across most of the talks from an abundance of speakers including music and entertainment guests Joseph Gordon Levitt (Actor), Bruce Pavitt (Sub Pop Records founder), Tinie Tempah (Musician) and Ne-Yo (Musician), there were vital lessons shared, in how to develop in creative industries, what the future may hold and most significantly, the importance of engaging within your chosen community.

If you’re serious about building a fanbase, being a successful artist, getting further in the Music Industry (or any creative industries for that matter), you need to take note of these lessons learned:

1. Be In The Moment

In the first of his three talks (on ‘creativity and commerce’), Joseph Gordon Levitt discussed his career, acting from an early age (remember 3rd Rock From The Sun?) and how his parents ‘didn’t emphasize success’ to him, instead to focus on the creativity in the here and now.

Web Summit 2016 Attendees
While all creatives set goals, look to the future and like to plan their route to success, it’s far too easy to lose sight of the present, of what is truly important in expressing your authentic self through your art. It’s too easy to make a 10-step plan to building a self-sustaining music career but not getting past step 2 because you’re concentrating too much on step 9. Don’t run before you can walk.

From my time working in and around the Music Industry, i’ve found that most artists’ concentration is on getting signed or getting spotted rather than being in the moment and enjoying the creative process.

For a musician, your songs are your calling card, it doesn’t matter how good your image may be, how much money you have behind you or how many contacts you have; if your songs aren’t up to scratch (both in songwriting quality and production quality), you have nothing!

So many musicians love the thought of touring Internationally, headlining arenas, having passionate fans the World over, being a full time musician but seem to concentrate too much on the pipedream than their output of art.

Be present, be here now, focus on your songs, make them authentic to you, real feelings that others can connect to, lyrics that mean something to you so when you perform you can evoke that feeling to enhance the live performance.

2. Be Authentic & Be Accessible

During Thursday’s ‘The Truth about the Music Industry’ talk, both Tinie Tempah and Ne-Yo shared their experiences from careers that span 11 and 16 years respectively.

For Tinie Tempah, his career began in ‘the Myspace era’ where it was commonplace for artists to be mysterious, prior to social media being a constant stream of new updates and regular behind-the-scenes content. As Ne-Yo mentioned in the talk, ‘The mystique of the artist used to be what was cool. This is not the case anymore’.

Times change, but the Music Industry has always been notoriously slow at evolving with new technologies or social behavioural norms. On this point, Tinie Tempah went on to state that he felt ‘record companies [weren’t] eager enough and excited enough’ to collaborate with new social media platforms, adding that, had they been more ‘innovative and prudent we [the music industry] would be in a much better place’. The major label’s original streaming deal with Spotify is evidence of this.

Web Summit 2016 Speakers
The same applies for artists. I speak to a lot of upcoming artists who echo the same social media (and marketing) behaviours of much of the last ten years. Yes, fans connect to the songs you put out, but to become fully engaged with you as an artist, they must connect with you on a deeper level, a more personal understanding of your values, of your personality, of you.

It is no longer enough to post your own lyrics, or focus on selling your CD or concert tickets or merchandise. Now, it’s more about the discussion, regular conversation with your followers and fans, building an engaged relationship; a two-way one at that.

Selling should be something you do maybe 20% of the time, with the majority of your time just conversing with those on the social media platforms you use, giving them a glimpse of your day-to-day life or the things that you hold dear or… well, anything that gives them a deeper understanding of what it is you stand for. It works for vlogs and vloggers, it’d work for you too if you put the time in (you’re going to need a lot of it).

3. Be Part of a Community & Collaborate

Whether it was debating SHARED mobility in driverless cars, COLLABORATION on Joseph Gordon Levitt’s HitRecord or OPEN source robotics, they all gave their support on the importance of creative collaboration within their communities.

It’s not a new notion but working with other creatives, other likeminded individuals, leads to the whole being greater than the sum of its individual parts. Creativity, plus the use of technology, enables artistic synergy.

Web Summit 2016 - Joseph Gordon Levitt
In ‘The difference between a crowd and a community’, Joseph Gordon Levitt discussed what he called the ‘3 pillars of today’s internet’ against his alternative principles which has formed the bones of HitRecord – the crowd vs the community, free culture vs fair compensation, and socializing vs collaborating.

For those who have yet to come across HitRecord, it is a fantastic idea whereby creatives can set challenges to other creatives, or upload say, a song structure on guitar. Then maybe a pianist adds another layer, a bassist adds another, a singer sings, an illustrator adds animation ideas and eventually a finished piece is fully formed – but that’s only the start.

Once ‘complete’, HitRecord services the work out for potential sync to media and if it makes any money at all, that money is fairly shared equally between each creative who worked on it. Fair compensation. Recently, HitRecord went past the $2 million mark of royalties paid out to its community of creatives. It seems to be working and it is a solid business model for creative collaborations.

It just makes sense to collaborate, especially at an early stage. If you have a following of 250 people, and 3 other musicians have the same, surely it makes more sense to join together and be seen by 1000 music fans than trying to slowly build out. Collaboration means exposure and it means opportunity, so think about it.

If HitRecord isn’t your thing (and I really recommend checking it out), then here’s a free idea for you; take it or leave it. If you have a single coming out, find 3 musicians who know how to remix or cover the song and see if they want to collaborate. They give you extra promotional material (remixes or covers) and they get promoted in return. Now use that same idea for music videos and you’ll soon be involved in a collaborative scene where musicians are excited for one another, keen to help out for mutual opportunities rather than seeing every other musician as a threat (which is not the case).

In Closing

If you've enjoyed this blog post and found any of it interesting, please share it online (i'm @sunnynorwich) and start a conversation - the more we talk, the better our industry becomes.

I’d like to thank the good people at Web Summit for their kind invite. I’d love to return next year because the event was nothing but a success; inspiring. And Lisbon is a wonderful city with wonderful people.

I’d also like to thank my fellow press in the media village, entrepreneurs who passionately pitched their business ideas to me and all the staff at the event who spoilt me with free food, free drink and the special treatment.

I’ve started using my YouTube channel again and have posted some videos from Lisbon on there for you to check out. I plan on using it more regularly with video content and my forthcoming podcast (more on that soon). Why not subscribe so you don’t miss out on any useful tips, interviews and discussion? Would love you to join the conversation.

Until next time…

Web Summit 2016: Lessons Learned - Sunny Stuart Winter


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