Aspen Live, the entertainment think tank, in it's 18th incarnation, took place this past weekend in Aspen. Music industry veterans from all over North America made their annual pilgrimage to A-Town for Aspen Live. The Aspen Live "family" is comprised of managers, agents, promoters, ticket-ers, venue owners, marketers and really anyone interested in the business aspects of the music biz. Aspen Live is the brain-child of Jim Lewi, a music industry vet who spent 14 years living in Aspen. This year, A. Party of AspenSpin, a music biz outsider, was able to get inside Aspen Live and learn the real meaning of " it's all about the hang". Interesting seminars as well as parties sponsored by Voice Media, Access Pass & Design and Belly Up Aspen contributed to the experience.
Click 4 Pix: For the LOVE of MUSIC
Thursday's highlight was Steinymania as Dan Steinberg of Square Peg Concerts hosted cocktails with industry icon, Alex Hodges. Mr. Hodges, currently the CEO of Nederlander Concerts has used his Southern charm to navigate the music world for more than 5 decades. The first concert he attended was Elvis at the Fox in Atlanta in 1956. Alex wove stories about promoting frat parties in the 50's and eventually "breaking" Otis Redding, Sam & Dave and others in and around Macon, Georgia. He briefly took a real job in Atlanta after college...but when his partner Phil Walden passed him an acetate recording of The Allman Brothers first album... before it was released...he bolted back into the music biz without a second thought. He told a great story about the rivalry between The Allman's and Lynyrd Skynyrd and how he signed Skynyrd by telling them they would never be billed 2nd to ABB. That deal was eventually renegotiated. Hodges worked with Atlanta Rhythm Section, Charlie Daniels Band, Stevie Ray Vaughn and many others. Steiny asked the provocative questions to get the real stories from Hodges. It's clear why he is one of the most widly loved guys in Music. A true gentleman.
Day one included an interesting discussion of "Content" led by David Rubin of Rabbi Where and Jeff White from Ticketfly. The word content was used "317 times"during their slide deck...which did not seem to bother anybody in the room except industry poobah Bob Lefsetz. Goldstar Events CEO Jim McCarty spoke about mobile. His presentation entitled "how not to suck at mobile" made several salient observations for the mostly old school crowd. For me...the take home points were obvious, the incredible rise in the use of smart phones and tablets will continue and that 50% of Goldstar's ticket sales are via mobile.
Day 2 was all about business. Many Aspen family members skied or rode our mountains. Several people went on a snowmobile excursion to the Maroon Bells and others took a gourmet cooking class.
At 4pm, the school bell rang. Harvard Business School Professor, Anita Elberse presented her findings on the blockbuster theory. Ms. Elberse has the distinction of being the youngest tenured prof. in the history of HBS. Her book, Blockbusters...hit-making, risk-taking and the big business of entertainment served as a template for her discussion. Anita is an empirical modelist who does academic research using vast pools of data in an effort to predict future results. Her theory in a nutshell...bet most heavily on the most likely winners. She suggested that our world is quickly moving towards a "winner take all" marketplace. She put this into perspective for the music people...by sharing her research. Using a sample size of 8 million songs... 94% of them sold fewer than 10 copies. A full 1/3 of the songs sold only one and the top 102 songs accounted for 50% of the market. Basically the odds of an unknown making a huge hit record are very low. The winners are almost always controlled by the major record companies. It's a "grab for scale" she added. "So you're pissing on their dreams"? asked Vince Bannon referring to the huge number of aspiring musicians. To paraphrase Anita...basically...yes. Her book sold very well at the merch table.
Jay Sider from Band Page spoke about monetization and engagement. The concept of "moment of intent" has a 25X greater chance of a conversion on-line. Band Page is a company that gathers content, commerce and data all in one place for Performers. Nic Adler owner of The Roxy in L.A. and a social-media jaugernaught shared his thoughts on Curation vs Content and gave an up-to-date overview about what's hot in social media.
By Saturday everyone was in the chill zone. The entire vibe of the conference had changed. It appeared as if a special bonding had occurred. Maybe it was the altitude? The Old guard has finally realized that technology has taken over the music business. Some of the "young guns" of the Aspen Live family found their voices. The rules of passion for their livelihood, which has thrived for decades on relationships and mutually beneficial goals, has changed drastically in the past several years. There was a flash bomb toast when the poobah of music, (Bob) interrupted the main speaker to prickly opine. It resulted in an unexpected belly laugh on stage-right. Everyone seemed more relaxed...or maybe it was just me who was more relaxed. Plenty of good natured burning was going on throughout the meeting room. When Jim Lewi suggested that the group have "1 meeting instead of 100" attention was turned to Kristina Wallender.
Introduced as "the marketing lady from Ticketfly" Kristina is a music industry neophyte and she seemed a little nervous, but she actually killed. Her previous position with an extremely large on-line reseller who is attempting to rule the world. Hint: it starts with A and ends with mazon allowed her to drill deep into e-commerce. She shared 5 simple points that everyone can learn from A-Zon.
* Obsess about customers
* Create a loyalty program
* Invest for the long term
* Never stop experimenting
* Use technology (and data) to your advantage.
Kristina compared the statement "I think" to the concept of "the data says". Think about that for a second. The data is usually pretty reliable...right? She said companies should identify, encourage and do anything in their power to engage "super customers". The top 5% of customers at Ticketfly account for 20% of sales.
The final presentation raised a few eye-brows. Stubhub the ticket re-seller owned by E-Bay gave their spiel. By this point the crowd was chomping at the bit to get to the open bar. StubHub has "legitimized the ticket scalping business" but you will never hear that come out of the mouths of the Stubhub guys. To summarize...one comment from the peanut gallery..."we are just ahead of the Amish when it comes to adopting technology".
The Aspen Live Family Dinner and a late night after party closed out the weekend. Old friendships were renewed and new ones formed. The older generation struggled to find an app for that...while the young guns geeked up. This year it seemed like the generations were closer to a merger...with the old guys listening a little bit more and the young guys speaking up.
It's still a relationship business. In Aspen...it's clear that everyone had a blast, made a few new contacts, learned a couple of things...but in Aspen, really...it's all about the hang.
Thanks to Jim Lewi and everyone who participated in Aspen Live 2013, the entertainment think tank.
Click 4 Pix: For the LOVE of MUSIC