aim logo

Slowly but surely, in-person music industry conferences are coming back after a lengthy period of Zoom-dominated gatherings. AIM Connected, the UK independent body’s annual event, included.

It took place in London this week, with a common refrain among attendees of ‘Wow! This is so weird that we’re all here in the same room!’ and a mixture of emotions as people met up with industry friends they haven’t seen for a couple of years.

As ever, AIM had worked hard on putting a programme of speakers together to serve their independent members, and Music Ally was proud to see our own head of training Kushal Patel among them, talking about current tech trends.

Several other sessions stood out for us, particularly the ‘Black Squares, Who Cares: Can Independents Really Deliver on Good Intentions?’ panel.

An amazing panel ‘black squares, who cares?’ For @AIM_UK Connected, With these three brilliant women who are leasing industry change! @The_BMC_UK @BLKLivesinMusic @UK_Music @TimeToPowerUp_

— Ben Wynter (@BillionaireBen) March 10, 2022

It brought together Black Lives in Music CEO Charisse Oyediwura; UK Music Diversity Taskforce co-chair Paulette Long and Black Music Coalition lawyer and chair Sheryl Nwosu to discuss the music industry’s commitment to anti-racism, diversity, equity and inclusion, moderated by Ben Wynter of AIM, Unstoppable Music Group and Power Up.

It was the most passionate panel of the day, with the speakers emphasising that while there has been a lot of talk about these issues since George Floyd’s murder in 2020, this is a fight that has been going on for decades.

Beaumont highlighted some of the key findings from Black Lives in Music’s most recent reports surveying musicians and industry professionals, including the fact that 86% of Black music creators saw barriers to their progression in the industry.

There was applause for the point in the discussion where the suggestion that “if you fix the issues of the Black woman, you fix everything else” was endorsed by all three speakers. Meaning that because Black women face even more challenges, addressing them will benefit all underrepresented groups of people within the industry.

The panel talked about the role that white men in positions of power can play in advocating for change both within their companies and in the wider industry.

There was also a strong sense that simply putting people of colour into higher positions is not the whole solution: that industry structures and especially culture need to change to, so that those people can thrive in these roles.

Attendees were also encouraged to interrogate themselves about their organisation, their position and the people working for them, with the concept of ‘inverse mentorship’ – where people lower down the company give advice to senior executives about how to be more inclusive – also recommended.

It’s a cultural shift that takes more than a quick fix, but we felt that the audience left the panel encouraged to tackle these challenges with enthusiasm.

Horst Weidenmuller (@K7MusicHQ) joins Anna Johnson (Involved Group) virtually for our Sustainability interview, giving practical advice on cutting their carbon footprints. K7 cut 30% of their emissions by shipping physical product by sea freight #AIMConnected2022

— AIM (@AIM_UK) March 10, 2022

We’d say the same thing about the ‘Going Carbon Neutral’ session featuring Anna Johnson, environment & sustainability officer at Involved Group, and Horst Weidenmüller, CEO at !K7. It addressed how labels can become carbon-neutral companies, with !K7 one of the companies closely involved with indie body Impala’s Sustainability Programme.

!K7 recently published a report outlining its progress towards a goal of net-zero emissions by 2026, and ‘carbon positivity’ by 2030.

Weidenmüller explained that the company is keen to put together practical recommendations that can work for music firms, breaking down a challenge that might otherwise feel daunting.

This was his key message: that however complicated it seems to address a music company’s climate impact, there are lots of small steps that are simple to take, but add up to a meaningful change.

!K7, along with other labels like Ninja Tune and Beggars Group who have published their climate targets, are working hard to educate their peers in the industry about how to implement these changes.

Another point from this session stuck in our mind: the claim that increasingly, younger artists and industry professionals actively want to work with companies that take their social and environmental responsibilities seriously.

So, taking on the challenge of sustainability isn’t just about doing the right thing: it can be a real benefit when signing and hiring.

‘NFTs were 2021 and I believe DAOs (decentralised autonomous organisations) are the future’ – Des Agyekumhene, Web 3.0 expert #AIMConnected2022

— AIM (@AIM_UK) March 10, 2022

By a quirk (or perhaps by design!) of the AIM Connected schedule, the sustainability session was immediately followed by a talk on how ‘Independents Need a Web 3.0 Plan’.

Given the debate around the climate impact of NFTs and blockchain technology, it was no surprise to see that question come up for speaker Des Agyekumhene of Soga World.

The answer? It’s an important issue, and work is being done to use renewable energy – solar, water and wind power – to bring down the environmental costs of this technology.

The strong theme of this talk was that while there may be scepticism and controversies around some web3 technologies, it’s not a question of whether this trend is going to happen: it’s when.

That’s why independent music companies are being encouraged to explore the web3 landscape. Agyekumhene talked about the potential of DAOs – decentralised autonomous organisations – as one thing for labels to look into.

For an artist, this could be a new form of fanclub, but one where fans have a stake in the organisation, voting on decisions and even helping artists to raise funding.

The audience was receptive and curious, which is a mark of AIM’s hard work down the years with its events and other programmes to help its members explore new technologies with open hearts and minds.

.@willpageauthor in his keynote address on streaming: “We are in the 20th year of £9.99 [monthly subscription price on Spotify]… this is the key point missed by the uk streaming inquiry.” #AIMConnected2022

— AIM (@AIM_UK) March 10, 2022

This approach carried through to keynote speaker Will Page, former Spotify director of economics, and author of the book ‘Tarzan Economics’.

Page took the audience through some of the key points in his recent Twitch Rockonomics study of how musicians make money on Twitch, and also the ‘Malbecnomics’ theory he outlined in a Music Ally guest column, questioning why the standard 9.99-a-month price of a streaming subscription has remained the same, even as the price of a bottle of Malbec wine has doubled.

Page also encouraged attendees to think about the lasting impact of new platforms in and around the music industry, pointing to the recent success of Daft Punk’s Twitch stream of a 1997 performance, attracting more than 100,000 viewers with just an hour’s notice.

“Live streaming exploded on Twitch during the pandemic. What this exclusive Daft Punk case study tells us is that this innovation isn’t slowing down as we get back to normal,” said Page. “The question remains the same: how will live streaming and live music co-exist?”

He also wondered aloud whether Spotify and TikTok are complementary platforms, or longer-term rivals.

“What happens when TikTok overtakes Spotify? Are these gin and tonic where streams on one compliments the other, or different brands of gin – and they cancel each other out?”

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 >>

Sarah is a Digital Training Executive at Music Ally. With a background as an independent artist and digital marketer for small businesses in Canada and Trinidad & Tobago, she is now a proud member...

Leave a comment

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