Do We Need Music Conferences?
Music Conferences provide numerous possibilities to make business, network and discuss with your colleagues, share knowledge with your peers and discover new talents and industry trends – so they say. But do Music Conferences really provide added value and do they fulfill what they promise? Does the industry need conferences to develop to the next step? What are the reasons for the increasing amount of conferences all over Europe?

I came across this when browsing this year’s program to Luxembourg’s Sonic Visions [link broken, 2016-03-10] festival and – you guessed it – conference.

Obviously, the question is a more rhetoric one. At least I hope so. Too bad if announced panel’s conclusion would be to reduce and cut conferences. Of course, some conferences appear dispensable. Actually, changes in music industry indicate that some sort of conferences has become redundant.

The traditional ones are losing personality. Their purpose is to give the people in industry a date and a place to meet. Something to hold on to. But it’s not like your pub around the corner. It’s no habit – it’s duty. If you want to do business with a lot of people in a short time – the conference is where to go. Though, the real deals are not signed within the halls – these take place in hotel suites. New connections and the best information you will find when having a drink.

Most importantly, it certainly doesn’t cater your appetite for new ideas, changed views, altered approaches, innovative thinking. Some of these you surely will find at large conventions but it’s… filtered. There’s a huge mass of industry veterans – and wannabies. the atmosphere is not at all motivating or fresh, but stifling and grey. People attending apparently are not willing to learn by mistakes. These conferences are lacking the emotion and the vibes that any creative domain draws upon.

I intentionally avoid the term creative industry. I get goosebumps saying that. Like nails scratching across a wall.

Traditional and grown conferences, trade shows, conventions etc. are industry. They are business.

So what’s the problem? That’s why we are here. A meeting for the music industry. – Really? Who likes to go there? The major and not so major labels. Collection societies. Manufacturing facilities. Publishers. And so on.

But these are those who are missing the changes. It’s them who do not embrace today’s technology and strategies. Un-convention, one of the new events claims in its manifesto:

Un-Convention understands that the most interesting stuff happens on the margins. We don’t mind the mainstream. We just don’t find it relevant.

If you have ever been at an Un-Convention, at all2gethernow, or at any of the barcamps – it’s a spirit of starting new with help and support from everyone involved. It truely is inspiring.

Today’s economical context, the vast possibilities enabled by technology, and the way established companies are doing business as usual makes artists take the independent road in all its trash and glory. Either, due to being dropped from their label, or due to finally being released. Either, due to see their label in bankruptcy, or due to not willing to join the labels at all.

And that’s where we are. The media industry is larger than ever (and content industry will keep growing despite the crisis), so there’s more demand for artists. Yet, the number of musicians has increased beyond demand. It has exploded due to lowest cost of equipment, production, and digital distribution.

Any musician and any other independent participant in the music market – including the fan and consumer – finds himself in a changed role. More opportunities bring more responsibilities, and certainly more questions. But these uncertainties can’t be dealt with at traditional big style conferences.

Now, it’s about credibility, support, and collaboration. But how can you be sure to find events catering these demands?

Partake in one. Help to start one. Attend. Speak for yourself, and collaboratively work on solutions.

Someday in years to go, barcamps might have worn out. This will be the time for something new. But today they are where the real change happens.

This text has been published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 3.0 Unported licence. If you would like to make use of the text or parts of it in a way that goes beyond the scope please get in touch with me.