Panel gives insight into modern music
Due to changing technology, the music industry has undergone a drastic, seemingly irrevocable change within the past twenty years. The impact of technology on the music industry emerged as a major theme of discussion in “The Dialogues: Global Music Industry Leaders.” The panel discussion this past Thursday in Slosberg Recital Hall featured five guest speakers who have spent their careers in the music industry and offered first-hand accounts of working within the industry, as well as their thoughts on its evolution. The panel also served as a mark of Brandeis’ close relationship to leaders of the music world, since all of the speakers were either alumni or parents of current students.
The advent of the internet has undoubtedly made it easier for artists to share their talent with the world and to be discovered. Whether this trend is better or worse for artists, however, is debatable. The panelists, which included Mark Eisenberg ’85, a senior vice president for strategic initiatives at Sound Exchange, and Jeff Jones P’19, the CEO of the Beatles’ Apple Corps, discussed the changing nature of artist discovery and, more specifically, how it is common for higher-ups to decide whether a potential artist is worthy of their time based primarily on data and analytics, rather than true talent. Susan Dodes ’83 P’19 — a Professor in the Department of Music, Music Industry and Sound Recordings at the University of New Haven who has spent an extensive amount of her career in talent acquisition — expressed her apprehension about this. “I was raised in the music business to find and watch the talent, to go with my gut and understand if I’m seeing a star in the making, a true performer, a true artist, someone with a real voice. Now it’s about how many Shazams, how many Facebook likes, how many people are tweeting, etc.”
A perverse effect of the speed at which things happen today is that many genuine musicians are not afforded time to develop as true artists. Jerry Blair, a music executive who currently heads the multidisciplinary talent and management company Global Entertainment Management, was particularly passionate about this issue, stating that the music industry just doesn’t allow for artist development anymore. This causes artists to be signed before their time and before they have developed enough to be really credible, interesting artists. Another issue is the trend of giving music away for free. Donald Friedman ’74, a partner at entertainment and media specialty law firm Grubman Shire & Meiselas, P.C. commented that artists don’t actually look to make their wealth from the record companies or royalties. In current times, artists make their money through live performance, through endorsement and branding opportunities and through music publishing. Overall, “the record company has become more of a spoke on a wheel.”
The Dialogues served as an opportunity for young artists to hear about the practicalities of today’s music industry from prominent figures in the field. Students even had the chance to ask their own questions, which unsurprisingly centered around the idea of the best way to start a career in the music world. The general consensus was to take advantage of all internet platforms for sharing music and social media, but even more so to find gigs and work on your craft.
Friedman commented that if your goal is to sell a lot of records, you need a major label, but if it’s not, you may not, considering how cheap it is to produce music. Interestingly, the consensus among the speakers was that, despite changing technology, terrestrial radio is still very much the gatekeeper in deciding which songs and artists will make it through to the world. Overall, the panelists offered helpful tips on how to make it in a changing music industry.