People are going crazy to try to save their digital enterprises right now. Sorry to have to break the news to you but digital is not working in the music industry. The digital summits and showcases we had online were just to keep up with something at a time when live events were not allowed.
So far, it’s been a very few that I thought were good, and you saw that it was getting harder and harder to get people to log in to different online communities to be on there. The tragic part is that the only one I have heard taking on the positive about these digital events is the organizers. Mainly because there is a lot of funding to get if you are digital edition, second, it’s much easier for you as you can gather a lot of people from around the world with just emailing and social media.
Problem with this is that, yes. you get funding, but you can’t get paid for doing it. The conferences I went to that cost money were very seldom occupied, most people in there were the people that got free tickets because they were speakers or friends with the organizer. Many of the events were free or you could decide the prize yourself.
The second problem when it’s all for free it attracts too many amateur players. One of the things with the conferences is that you must pay and travel costs to attend so that it takes off many of the not-so-serious amateur players. With digital events, the threshold is about zero. You just register and there is no effort. Sure, many of these artists and new people in the industry were glad that they got a chance to tag along. At the same time, they were not prepared to get anything serious out of it. Most of them treated their career as a hobby. They were just after someone else to pay for their hobby to maybe get into a real business. A real conference or showcase festival takes off these since they are not investing anything except for time. To get to a real event you must spend both time and money and be focused.
Of course, with the main part, players that were that local or not ready most abandon the events. I’m never a quitter, I always make an effort right the end. I actually did over 65 online events from the start of COVID until now. In the beginning, the more important people were on. The longer the pandemic lasted then more of these people didn’t show up. The last event I went to with them, they even stopped responding to direct messages on the platform. It was actually better to seek them out on LinkedIn. The digital conference was over.
Did I do any business? Yes, I did, but it was with contacts that I already knew and met live before the epidemic. Almost none of them was actually a person I had met on the platform. I calculated that I met over 6000 people at these online events. Most of them just led to an email saying hi. Some led to a Zoom meeting but nothing after that. The whole thing was just that all of us were waiting for the epidemic to be over so we were just talking about what maybe is going to happen. Also, most of these connections that were new were made between me and other speakers on the same panels. Very few were any of the people listening on the panel or anyone in the system messaging me.
Most contacts were just local artists asking if they could get a record deal or tour in my area or which way was the best to distribute digitally to get on playlists. Asking if they had a budget was like ending the conversation. Most of them were calculating to have a career sitting in their bedroom just give out music.
Digital opens up for everybody. The problem with that is you need some kind of threshold to seek out people. You got the same mistake with the distribution of music. Now it’s for everybody and you have no gatekeepers a massive brown wave of music that is not good enough is just pouring out. 60, 000 songs released a day, for whom? And the digital systems were quickly taken over by artists that weren’t ready. By cheating (oh yes, I was part of that too) they get a lot of numbers but really presenting very low-quality music for the masses which was done that outlets like Spotify now promote more their podcasts than they promote music. If we let this happen to the live industry we are really doomed. Still the live shows are 52% of the income for artists. It’s 95% the best way to promote and artists to get a sustainable career. We already lost people that have never been to a good concert or a good live event like a football game. I’m a bit worried that we now have many politicians and shady industry people that just scream digital or hybrid events. People are satisfied to have 20 viewers on a digital event since that is more what they had live. Well, 20 viewers are actually zero. The conversion rate of a view digitally online and a real person in the room is more like 20,000 viewers to get the same impact. All they see is it’s cheaper and everybody can be on at the same time.
Sorry, this is not for everybody. You need thresholds to sort out the real players from the hobby players. Otherwise, you will just turn everything into a giant hobby project.
I’m not against digital stuff. What I’m against is that we try to replace the real deal with digital too early. The technology might get that it will be digital later. Right now, though it’s too weak and is more an annoying project and by adopting it too early we might lose the audience we have presently.
Editor’s Note: Peter Åstedt has been working in the music industry for over 30 years. He has started record labels, distribution systems, and publishing companies. Peter also runs several major showcase festivals and is an advisor for INES and co-founder of MusicHelp/Discover Sensation. He has worked with the Top Ten most streamed songs and had music on both the Olympics and Super Bowl. Peter has currently taken up the seat of Station Manager of Cashbox Radio, working with MD, PD and station owner, Sandy Graham. As well he recently worked as the European Consultant for Heal the Earth – An Earth Day Celebration. His latest venture is a new Showcase Festival in Sweden, Future Echoes https://futureechoes.se/ scheduled for September 16-18, 2021.