Transmit+ Detroit Conference Inspires us to Think Global, Act Local
Last weekend, LA-based production company TanZ Group hosted the debut of their art & music entrepreneurship conference, Transmit+, in Detroit. Entailing a full day of learning and networking, the conference was divided into 4 sessions covering topics such as the state of the music business, making money from your music, getting noticed, and self-promotion in the art world. Each session featured A-plus panelists, all of whom are opinion leaders in their respective sub-industry – whether it be business development, entertainment law, A&R or label management. Taking place at the Detroit Institute of Music Education (DIME), the event had a Detroit-centric theme with many of the panelists being from the area or working on projects in Metro-Detroit. With insight from over a dozen panelists, there were a few key takeaways that kept resonating with the crowd:
1- Relationships are EVERYTHING in the music business.
Whether you’re trying to engage a business to form a strategic partnership or just trying to get your music heard, the relationships you make are a crucial element to your success. “Building relationships are important but continuing them is the key,” says Jeremy Peters, Director of Creative and Business Affairs for Ghostly International. The big takeaway here is that it’s not just enough to meet someone and say “hey this is what I’m trying to do and I want your help,” you need to create a genuine bond with potential business partners. Peters went on to describe some of the business meetings that he has been in where ‘music is only 10% of the conversation’ and the rest of the time is just getting to know each other and forming a friendship. Howard Hertz, Entertainment Lawyer based in Detroit, explained how a big part of his operations is going to different music networking events around the world and forming relationships that could potentially benefit his clients. The foundation to any good business connection is a personal relationship.
2- There’s money to be made in merchandise, but it needs to be an experience.
Merchandise has always been a huge money maker for artists but it’s even more important in the current music industry landscape. While merch can be a bring in a profit for a company or artist, it needs to be well done and with purpose. Providing yet another nugget of wisdom, Jeremy Peters of Ghostly International revealed, “There needs to be an engagement process when selling merchandise and it needs to be honest – it’s about storytelling.” He told us about his label Quite Scientific Records, and how they sometimes will randomly throw in an old-school Tigers baseball card into some of the records they ship out. It’s about those little efforts that give your brand character and create an identity that your audience will share and continually support. “Building experiences around your audience is key,” said Alexis Giles, Director of Business Development for Soundcloud.
3- Social media is key to artist development but there’s a science to it.
With multiple platforms at your disposal, artists are sharing their creativity with a global audience. It matters less nowadays what music publications are writing about you as an artist because you can create your own story online. “Artists have more mediums to create their own narrative,” says Teddy Duvall, founder of Baltimore-based label, Space is the Place Records. Take advantage of these engagement tools that, if used properly, can connect you to audiences in places around the world where your music can flourish. From a business standpoint, you are leaving money on the table if you’re not fully invested in your online social presence. At the same time, you can’t expect to secure a strong following online if you’re only publishing stories about yourself. “Be a source of information not just self-promotion,” says Ted Cohen, Managing Partner of TAG Strategic. Strategically post content from artists, labels and businesses that you want to work with and that you support.
4- So you want your music signed? Don’t forget the basics, be yourself and be polite!
Labels get inundated with tracks every day, so how do you separate yourself from the crowd? Start with the basics. Stacey Gamble, label manager for Dirtybird Records, told the crowd how she receives an abundance of music that comes with zero contact information. “Some of it is amazing too but we can’t do anything if we don’t know who you are,” she says. If you send in a demo, write your name, email, phone number on the actual CD. This year Dirtybird switched over to a new online submission system where you cannot submit music until required fields are filled out. In addition to the basics, just try and submit music that’s true to yourself. Gamble says, “be yourself and be tactful when submitting music to labels.” She explained that after mega-hits like “Jack” by Breach and “Okay” by Shiba San, people would send in demos that sounded exactly like those songs. “We’re not looking for copycats, we’re looking for fresh new sounds and originality,” says Gamble.
5- Artist development is not about breaking a record, but establishing a career
With a background working with Prince and Van Halen among other music icons and major record labels, Cohen explained that artist development is not about breaking a record, but establishing a career. “Quality is about relevance and passion,” says Cohen. The ability to maintain music relevance is difficult, especially as trends change, but the key to building an everlasting career in music is the passion and the hustle. Working hard is important but having a deep-seated love for the music is what keeps you going when the work is hard and you want to quit.
What really set this conference apart from others attended in the past was the accessibility to these industry leaders. After each panel, there was a break where attendees could individually speak with panelists to ask advice or even for a business card. The panelists were very approachable and offered support to attendees. Following the sessions, attendees and panelists headed to Detroit Bikes for a social networking event that focused on meeting fellow attendees. What was most impressive was the energy in the room, full of young artrepreneurs ranging from writers and musicians to DJs, web developers, graphic designers, and beyond. The best part about the conference was its ability to bring together a unique group of people in Detroit that are trying to nourish the city’s future. This event definitely had a local feel to it, but the conversations taking place dared us to dream on a global scale. Thanks Transmit!