This was my fourth year attending South by Southwest, and I had never been more excited to attend the premier conference dedicated to new music, tech, emerging media and social marketing. With music blogs jumping the shark, microblogging reaching mainstream, geo-location aware social networks reaching broader awareness and companies — both large, small, B2C and B2B — increasing adopting social marketing strategies, there has never been a more thrilling time to be involved in this space.
Not only did I get to present on a panel, I attended a ton of panels (see my notes here, here, here and ).
I’m pleased to report my panel went very well. Even though we were at 5 p.m., opposite Bruce Sterling, we had a great turnout, and the audience listened, asked good questions and seemed generally pleased with the conversation.
Why did I put this panel together? I’ve been music blogging for more than four years, earned a spot on , named to Daily Reviewer’s Top 100 music blogs and — for better or worse — landed on all sorts of record label and PR distribution lists.
Right now Perfect Porridge receives more than 100 incoming pitches a day, and you don’t want to know how many CDs come in each week. I’ve developed long-term relationships with PR firms, record labels and publicists vying for coverage — yielding experience that gives me great insight for my day job working as a social marketing strategy director at a large PR firm.
I’m personally fascinated with the parallels between the record industry and the overall business environment. Consumers — via Napster and MySpace — killed and reshaped the music industry’s historical business model through social media long before General Motors started blogging, Dell started responding on message boards and blogs, and Comcast started listening/responding to tweets. It’s a slight precursor to the social marketing landscape today, and I’m not afraid to admit I get drunk on the potential of what’s-next in this space.
We discussed how important music blogs are to the industry today, how social media has impacted traditional business practices, and how new technologies and strategies will impact the marketing mix in the coming year.
With the decentralization of resources for music, music bloggers are the new tastemakers and gatekeepers. Blogs are one of few places to find out about new, up and coming or underground bands in the voice of genuine music fans and independent industry folks. Their posts are rarely tied to advertising, payola and marketing agreements. They offer immediate reporting with little filter, and even major labels and legacy publications have launched blogs.
Sure, there’s oversaturation and echo chambering — just look at all the Top 10 lists last year (lots of overlap). But music blogs have pushed indie mainstream, and only those with a unique talent, voice or approach will stand out in any medium. And although the RIAA’s war against file sharing has slowed the mp3-free-for-all (can you believe they sued a Minnesota mom for $1.92 million for sharing 24 songs?), bands are giving their material away online every day. Blogs are a critical part of the marketing mix.
As a result of the social web, bands can now build, engage and equip their own fanbase online. Whether they’re building online-savvy street teams, using tools like MySpace, Facebook and Twitter or crafting their own social networks, the barriers to entry are gone, and the game is changed forever.
New FTC regulations aim to redefine the freemiums, but traditional music marketers still don’t understand this brave new world. They bribe, buy and spam these new mediums with blogola and pay-per-post. It’s crappy and will get worse before it gets better.
In the future, mobile tech will push the boundaries further than we can imagine. Crowd-sourced, curated streams could redefine the concert experience. With GPS and in-car internet, look to music bloggers to start launching apps, radio shows and social networks of their own — especially in emerging niche genres like jazz, hip-hop, world, noise and electronic.
I wrote an article for SXSWORLD Magazine’s May issue that sums up a lot of the conversation. It will hopefully be online soon.
Until then, read summaries of the panel here:
Here’s my 20-part series interviewing musicians, marketers, labels and bloggers about their thoughts on The State of Music Blogs in 2010.
In closing, I want to thank for his help with the panel. Hugh is the catalyst behind the scenes who makes SXSW so great. Many folks don’t realize there wouldn’t be a SXSW without Hugh. Not only does he manage the top-level strategy, he personally called me about this panel, helped me discern who would be the best speakers and even helped with a bio and badge issue. He read and approved the article I wrote for SXSWORLD Magazine, and when I stopped him the hallway to say “thanks,” he even remembered my name and that I’m from Minnesota. This man is a machine. Hugh has cultivated and curated a phenomenal annual event that tops itself every year, and we all owe him a debt of gratitude.
And now back to the inbox. 54 e-mails already today. Sigh. So much music, so little time.