Aspen Live, an intimate music and entertainment conference went viral this past weekend in Aspen. #AspenLive in it's 17th year, attracted some fresh faces and some fresh ideas about "live entertainment" and the future of the music industry. AspenSpin, an outsider to the biz, had a backstage pass to document the proceedings. We witnessed the O.G. music industry guys perk up and listen when the new blood & social geeks spoke up. We observed the wired generation of tweeters pause from texting and listen to the stories from their elders. We watched the old school and the new school of music merging...right here in Aspen.
Click 4 Pix: Backstage @ Aspen Live
Jim Lewi created Aspen Live in 1995 when record companies were flush with big budgets and it was good times for all. In 1995 the music business a.k.a. " the boys club of cool" per Michael Rapino was still thriving. The internet was in it's infancy...and many in the record biz did not recognize the changes looming on the horizon. Many old school music execs probably never envisioned how Steve Jobs and a little company call Apple would revolutionize the method by which recorded music was consumed. The music business has changed drastically since 1995. Those that adapted are still in the game that they love. Those that didn't...??? they're thinking about logging on to My Space.
The AspenLive family is a tightly knit group (an understatement) of industry professionals, many with long standing relationships. This years #aspenlive conf. included, agents, venue owners, promoters, marketers, ticketers, technologists and social media pros. There were no major record labels in attendance, a glaring change from 1995. The keynote was a chat with Michael Rapino, CEO of LiveNation (Ticker LVY), producer of over 30,000 concerts per year in 41 markets serving 100 million fans. Live Nation is parent company of Ticketmaster. Bob Lefsetz, proprietor of the extremely influential music industry blog, The Lefsetz Letter prompted Rapino to summarize his rise from a mullet headed & earing wearing teen in Thunder Bay, Ontario to the CEO post of the largest live entertainment company in the world. Clearly Rapino's passion for music drove him. He knew exactly what he wanted to be as a University student at age 20. He wanted to be the #1 concert promoter in the world, and he drew up a plan, on a napkin, which he has framed in his office. The plan eventually took him around the world and now...he cribs in the corner office at LVY in Beverly Hills.
If you google "Steve Martin" you'll see a white haired guy in a white suit playing a banjo. If you google Steve Martin, The Agency Group, you'll meet one of the greatest guys in music, a white haired guy who prefers not to wear a suit. We understand why everyone in the biz loves Steve. Steve Martin, the Agent started off booking bands in the 70's in The Hamptons (before they were the Hamptons) at Hot Dog Beach ...a shack on Dune Road. He promoted on-campus shows for Springsteen, Jerry Garcia, Patti Smith before moving to NYC. Fast forward to the present, Steve runs North America for The Agency Group, the largest independent talent booking agency in the world. He was grilled by Dan Steinberg (@theJew) for an hour...and the stories started to flow.
Martin was extremely tactful in his presentation, and he did seem mildly suspicious about all the big time media in the room (ie: AspenSpin). He wound one yarn about his client, the late Fela Kuti. Fela, a Nigerian artist and political activist was a pioneer of "Afrobeat" music. Fela's entourage included about 60 people...20 of whom were his wives. Coming to the U.S. from Nigeria they had no coats, so Martin peeled off $1000 and sent an aide to buy outerwear in quantity. Many will remember the iconic "snorkel jacket" from the early 80's... "it was like the Nigerian Army had invaded" laughed Martin. In a seperate vignette, that occurred way back when you could still smoke on airplanes. Fela lit up a doobie on a plane headed to a show in Seattle. When the flight attendant..and eventually the pilot demanded that Fela distinguish his blunt...he replied (as imitated by Martin)..."I'm a Prince...and I will not". Push came to shove and the plane was diverted to Denver. Martin had to buy 60 one-way tickets from Denver to Seattle and promptly docked Fela's pay for the bill. "That joint cost Fela $10,000" he recalled fondly.
Hank Neuberger gave an enlightening presentation about live streaming. Neuberger, CEO of Springboard Productions was billed as "The KING of LIVE STREAMING" and it was clear after his talk...that he deserves the moniker. Neuberger showed some sizzle reels from Coachella and Austin City Limits..which his crew streams Live/Live for millions of people all over the internet. Technology has allowed for production quality to spike while keeping cost seemingly moderate. Neuberger should be known as king of "engagement time" as his stats are off the charts in that category. Live/Live is crucial to the viewer experience...as it has become clear that fans want to connect in real time. Time shifting bands has proven to be a tricky proposition. The "ah ha" moment occurred in 2010 when you tube got on board and announced a live stream of an Arcade Fire show ...2 hours before they hit the stage. Unique visits for that show exceeded 1 million.
John Boyle, Chief Growth Officer for Insomniac spoke about Electronic Dance Music (EDM) and festivals. WOW...EDM is the sh*t right now...it's white hot amd getting hotter. EDM is a $4 billion business in 2012...expected to grow to $6 billion in 2013. EDM O.G. Phil Blaine rattled off about 40 genres of EDM off the top of his head. Insomniac's immersive 3-day festival of love, Electric Daisy Carnival attracts 110,000 people per day to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in June. 100's of "world class artists" (ie: DJ's) spinning electronic music from dusk till dawn. The special effects are deluxe. "The Fan is the Headliner" said Boyle. That sentiment was shared by Neuberger who had previously mentioned that 50% of the content streamed at EDM fests focuses on the audience. The music, the lights, the vibe, the community, EDM is now the sound of Madison Avenue and Wall Street. Robert FX Sillerman has announced plans for a " billion dollar roll up" in the EDM space. Las Vegas has surpassed Ibiza as the Capital of EDM. Celebrity DJ's are signing lucrative "residency deals" in Vegas for up to $20 million. Have disc drive...will travel. Boyle was a little sensitive when the topic of drugs at the EDM festivals came up. He countered by saying " there are plenty of drugs in rock & roll". He must not have noticed the large numbers of sweaty, glow in the dark clad, hug happy dancers with huge pupils in the crowd at EDC.
Andrew Dreskin is the CEO of TicketFly and "the father of on-line ticketing". He shared his insights in the world of internet ticket sales. Dreskin founded Ticketweb, the very first seller of event tickets on-line and one of the first e-commerce companies in any category. Dreskin a long-time industry veteran stressed the importance of the data and how social media has a strong impact over-all ticket sales. Social ticketing is one of the most important factors in the future of performance ticket sales. So remember, next time you are humbble-bragging about a siiiiiiiiick show at Belly Up, posting your vids and pix....the venue owners in Denver, Boulder, Salt Lake thank you. And every time you buy a ticket on line...your data is being mined.
It was a HUGE weekend for Nic Adler and the entire crew at Adler Integrated (AI), a full service marketing agency in L.A. First of all his dad, legendary record producer Lou Adler was named as an inductee into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Adler and his team from AI were instumental in Aspen Live and the agency was one of the event sponsors. Formed in the last year, Adler Integrated is on the cutting edge of social media marketing for live entertainment and events. Adler Integrated is an off-shoot of Nic's experience marketing his club... the legendary Roxy Theatre and his work revitalizing The Sunset Strip in L.A. by using social media. Nic Adler was the catalyst in forming a highly engaged social community around the strip...working with former rivals for the greater good. The whole AI team worked the internet, the conference floor and the late night party scene to help build the community of #aspenlive. AI's COO Nathan Levinson led a social media panel featuring Ian C. Rogers of Topspin and J. Sider of Bandpage.com. A team from AI including Andy Sternberg, Alf Lamont, and Tonya Cooke along with P.R. pro Katie Fox from Blooming Footprint gave an interactive presentation focusing on how to manage a live event in real time. AI strategist Kyra Reed and Nic Adler concluded the conference with a quick re-cap of Aspen Live which stressed community building and everybody working together. There was a lotta love in that room.
Aspen Live was a phenominal conference which included plenty of skiing during the day and partying at night. It was educational and informative, but "it;s all about the hang". Aspen creates a very intimate experience and over the years helped to form a strong bond among the attendees. The opening night cocktail party at Belly Up followed by the Elephant Revival show and the closing night bash at Limelight with DJ Carbo were highlights. Some of the O.G. music biz guys learned a few new tricks and some of the young'uns gained the benefit of experience and the value of face-to-face interaction.
A few observations from AspenSpin:
* The Music Biz is mostly guys. "The boys club of cool". All the ladies must be chasing the talent.
* Music people like to swear (on mic.). Almost every speaker included at least a few F-Bombs.
* Apparently skinny jeans are still cool in some parts of the country.
* Adapt or die... this is not just true for the music biz. But the music milieu is an obvious example.
* The connection to music fans via social media is the most powerful sales tool known to man. Way more powerful than a flyer. It's like word of mouth on crack. Converting "kinda fans" into "super fans" correlates to higher ticket sales.
* Technology is affecting everything. From the music itself to the distribution to the sales and ticketing to the live streaming. You have to be where the fans are...on-line. Understanding the data is a powerful tool that leads directly to sales.
* Festivals are HUGE. EDM is equivalent to festivals on steroids. EDM festivals are a perfect storm in the concert promotion world.
* Artists have a lot more control over their message now. Both for established acts and the zillions of hopefuls. There are so many ways to get the content in the hands of fans today. In order to succeed your content must be outstanding...so that it can be separated from the noise.
* Music is a global business. Duh?? But new, untapped markets in Asia and South America are growing extremely quickly.
*PASSION...was the persuasive feeling throughout the weekend. Each and every participant was clearly passionate about the music business. It was very clear that these folks love what they do. They love to discover acts, sign 'em, book 'em, promote 'em, sell tickets and present talent. Just like music fans are passionate about the music...the people in the music biz are passionate about the biz. They are finding new ways to succeed in a market place with no shortage of entertainment options.
Music brings people together...it always has. This weekend in Aspen, #AspenLive proved it again...Rock and Roll will never die....and neither will EDM....yeahhhhhh Boiiiiiiieeeeee. Thanks to Jim Lewi and Nic Adler for allowing AspenSpin to have a backstage pass to AspenLive. It was a groove.
Click 4 Pix: Backstage @ Aspen Live