most wanted music

Perhaps it was to be expected of a city that prides itself in rattling the cages of structural authority that one of the main topics of conversation at the Berlin-based Most Wanted: Music conference, which took place in late October, would be about the redistribution of power in the music industry.

That included the shift to direct artist-to-fan relationships, the elevation of marginalised people to positions of power in the industry, and Web3 technology decentralising equity in art from platforms to creators.

The old Berliner joke that “everyone you meet is also a DJ” is being given a run for its money by the near-ubiquity of Web3 and crypto side-projects.

While the decentralising effects of NFTs are often expressed purely in financial terms, Michail Stangl of the open-source NFT and Web3 protocol Zora also expressed excitement about the repercussive societal effects of a Web3 “solidarity economy.”

This would be where artists’ creative output “can be paired with a tech system that enables solidarity through its redistribution” – giving artists the decision-making power to dictate the conditions of the ecosystem, and the representation of people within it.

He suggested that many artists are moving away from traditional streaming and distribution platforms, because, “the fundamental question is about the power relationship of ownership, and the dystopian hellscape that is platform capitalism.”

Sarah Kockler, Creator Partnerships Manager of the DACH region for Patreon – one of the more prominent platforms trying to help artists earn money – agreed that a shift from traditional intermediaries was happening.

“If you look at how platforms have developed, platforms have cashed in, but little is left for artists. Bringing ownership back to the artists means giving creators the infrastructure to monetise content and to control the relationship with fans,” said Kockler.

Penny Fractions Panel

David Turner of SoundCloud (and of the Penny Fractions industry blog) moderated a session on new revenue streams for indie artists.

Mike Darlington, CEO of Monstercat, said that the effects of Covid-19 meant that artists “had to rethink what they had been taught for so many years to develop as an artist. You look at every single revenue stream, how to connect with the audience, and how to identify my superfans: that’s become a lot more important.”

This extended to how Monstercat operated, he said, citing how it doubled down on streaming and radio and how people discover music, creating unique gaming partnerships, working with apps like Calm, and the NFTs space.

He said that NFTs in particular ended the early-Covid phone calls he received from artists voicing fears over their stalled careers.

“Artists need to build their own direct to audience communities now more than ever,” he continued, “and it might be controversial, but record labels are not necessary any more – you can build the community and the audience yourself. But you’re only really doing one side of the puzzle. You’re not engaging in the side of the ecosystem that allows for organic music discovery.”

While Spotify has come under fire from many angles with regards to the income smaller artists make from streaming, Jennifer Masset, global head of indies, commercial partnerships at Spotify, claimed instead that Spotify viewed its work as that of empowering artists – giving them the platform to “link out to Patreon, NFTs, Shopify… we want them to be able to have a voice and be able to control those communication with their fans. To us, we’re just a platform for them to host their music, and beyond their music they can use it in any way they see fit to tell their story.”

Meanwhile, Rihanna and Kanye West producer Keyon Christ spoke about how he realised that AI music could transform how people are represented in music, having recently collaborated with collective Dadabots to train their AI technology on his music, resulting in an all-new, AI-generated, 12-hour long funk track.

Exploring these results, Christ said, was “like the greatest sci-fi movie ever,” but he was particularly excited by the societal implications upon hearing new, unique voices: “hearing the diversity of ethnic voices on something AI-generated was just mind-boggling.”

It was interesting to hear a high-profile producer describing a positive future from a music-creation technology still feared in some quarters as taking away musicians’ jobs. “We’re super-focused on creating the future of sound and the future of sampling. We’re turning out some great stuff and I can’t wait for you guys to hear it,” said Christ.

As Black History Month drew to a close, there was some more food for thought about actions vs intention. In a session devoted to current and future action around representation of “BIPOC in the Music Industry”, moderator Kenny Eshinlokun of brand partnerships agency Taboo raised the issue of “performative inclusion” – where music businesses’ marketing campaigns expressed diversity without matching by their behaviour – and the panel was in agreement that actions were still not speaking louder than words.

Christine Kakaire of Black Artist Database warned against being “distracted by performative messages,” suggesting we ask instead, “what are the actions taking place? That’s where the change happens.”

Femi Oyelowe, of Black Brown Berlin said it was vital to challenge creative and music businesses whose messaging does not match their actual diversity – and to proactively build supportive communities of the talented Black people that can enter those businesses and start facilitating real change.

EarPods and phone

Tools: platforms to help you reach new audiences

Tools :: Wyng

Through Music Ally’s internal marketing campaign tracking, we’ve recently discovered an interesting website by the…

Read all Tools >>

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *