The University of Technology Sydney campus served as a seat of learning for Australia’s music industry on Thursday as the inaugural FastForward conference kicked off.
Chris Carey, the British-born entrepreneur, thinker and founder of FastForward, turned on a fire hose of information with a solo-act which drilled down into data, algorithms and shifting formats, and how, through a combination of those factors, albums aren’t getting as much love as they should.
Change is good, and the way we need to listen to music needs to change, delegates heard.
“I would love to see music come back as an activity, rather than just a top -up. So that it stops being incidental. There’s opportunity for it, if you consider how much time we stare at screens, there’s time to not stare at screens. We’re nudging toward deeper engagement and we can do a job in helping deeper engagement, and going deeper into albums rather than just a sugar hit.”
And on that track, Carey posited whether music creators were killing the art to game the streaming platforms. “Are we now making songs catchier in the first 30 seconds so it isn’t skipped? There’s an extent where… algorithms are there to be gamed. There’s a risk that music is served for a medium rather than art itself, there’s a problem we dilute it.”
And for the sake of art, he called for musicians to keep exploring, even if the mainstream doesn’t get it. “I’d like to see people get more of a chance to fuck up, if you just give people what they like… you’re in a cycle. Where’s the risky bit? We should experiment more but the world doesn’t’ reward it. The metrics of success needs to be refined for what it is you do.” He added, “Let’s try to aim for exceptional rather than convenient.”
During the “Building artist audiences” session, panellists discussed the “piggyback” effect, integrated marketing campaigns, and the power of live.
Sweetie Zamora, head of label & promotions at Remote Control Records. gave guests an insider’s look at Courtney’s Barnett’s DIY ethos, and how the Milk Records co-founder took time out from a recent promo event to soclialize pictures of merch.
On branding collaborations, Charlotte Abroms, artist manager at Hear Hear Group, dished out sound advice: be really careful, really strategic so it’s authentic to the artist and makes sense to the fans. “It’s difficult to measure sentimental data,” she added. “It’s hard to step away from all the data and just say, people are connect with this because it’s real.”
Zamora also beat the live drum. “When we’re looking at bringing an artist into the Remote Control family, we always think ‘great record but can they play live’.”
Unlike Brisbane (Bigsound), Melbourne (Face the Music) and Adelaide (Indie-Con), Sydney doesn’t host a large, annual music conference. The teams behind FastForward, which launched in 2013 in Amsterdam and expanded into London, spotted an opportunity.
“Australians always come away with better ideas, part of it is because you’re so far away and your work hours are so challenging,” noted Carey at the top. The Australian music market, he explains, is “innovative but often overlooked due to its distance from the other key English-speaking territories.
Afternoon sessions covered off metadata, ticketing, the future of releasing music and other hot topics. The inaugural conference wraps up Friday.