The New Music Seminar Dedux: Can it Pull Ahead From the Growing Heard?
Is the resurrection of a classic music conference really the new B2B or more of the same old Wannabe?
We know it’s not “new,” and we know it’s not really a “seminar,” but is it still “music?”
About 30 years ago when Tom Silverman started New Music Seminar there were maybe five conferences worth attending. Since that time over 50 have sprung up in United States alone. (A list of my top 19 can be seen here.)
Silverman is a music industry veteran and famous for founding Tommy Boy Records, with its string of urban hits. So why resurrect an old idea in a time when the competition for music business happenings has never been greater?
After being both the speaker and an attendee at the event’s third year since resurrection I’m convinced it’s because Silverman has an instinct that something different is needed in the landscape. I attend many conferences and frankly, after a while (and certainly recently) many blend together with more blither-blather about data points than they do about music itself. And NMS certainly had its share of that. But…
Usually, you’ve got NARM on one hand, which is very B2B and somewhat exclusionary or NAMM on the other, which, with its 90,000 plus attendees, can’t help but lean towards the not-so-exclusionary. Both have their place and their purpose in our community, but NMS seems to find a balance I believe other conferences have not achieved.
Part of its secret is that it’s all under one roof (Webster Hall on Greenwich Village, which I haven’t been to since college). With only three rooms to navigate the show was more ergonomic as opposed to NAMM with its 100,000 square feet. Quality of speakers was excellent and quality of the networking was class A. High-level music executives from performing rights societies and labels easily mixed with people who are still emerging. It was not uncommon to see “Players” schmoozing with those they tend to avoid at these events– artists.
“Players” are what Silverman insists NMS participants are called. Not attendees or panelists. And panels themselves are called, “Incentives” or “Movements.” This is all part of Silverman’s way of keeping it fresh. Does it pay off?
It would be easy to be critical of this choice or that agenda or that rant, though I think doing so would miss the overall point. While metrics and data were certainly obsessed over on a Movement or two, enough equal time was given to what all of these numbers are supposed to be about – music. (To read more about the great acts at NMS go here.)
Long after the last panel ended at 5PM Tuesday, Players still lingered outside, filling the street until police had to politely assist in restoring order. So, clearly there is room in the landscape for one more thing to go to and NMS will be added to my ranking of 19 music business conferences, now officially, my top 20.