If you go to music industry conferences, then you know that…
(a) there are a lot of them;
(b) they can be expensive;
(c) they frequently overlap; and
(d) they often feature similar speakers and similar-sounding topics.
So what becomes of the music industry conference space? Probably what happens to most oversaturated, money-challenged sectors: they shrink.
Which brings us to one of the largest of the lot, Canadian Music Week (CMW), which now appears ready to eat the lunch of NARM, whose annual industry confab has recently settled in Los Angeles. And, like many other music conferences, seems to be struggling with diminishing attendance, year over year.
Maybe this is what happens to wounded animals: instead of March, CMW is now officially moving to May 6-10 in 2014, instead of March. Which is, right on top of where NARM was this year.
So, let the best conference win? We’re seeing other aggressive plays like this one, including a possible jab by NAMM (the National Association of Music Manufacturers) against the ultra-expensive, audience-shedding MIDEM. And hovering in the background is the deep, long shadow of ‘South by‘ (SXSW), which continues to grow exponentially and keeps soaking larger and larger amounts of smaller and smaller industry budgets.
Indeed, SXSW has grown so monstrously large, it seems that almost ever other music conference is being forced to adapt in some way. That includes Canadian Music Week, which typically offers a freezing blast of Toronto air for those that make the trek from Texas (and, in fairness, draws a lot of Canadians and others on its own right).
Actually, CMW has experimented with going before and after SXSW, and apparently there’s a method to the proximity madness. “They can use that [scheduling approach] to convince European execs to stay in North America, because they’re already here for South by,” one source relayed.
No more, and a shift towards milder May could prompt some very difficult decisions at NARM. “There’s Mother’s Day, then Memorial Day to worry about,” another source relayed. “I’m not sure where they go.”
That is, if they go anywhere: NARM could decide to tackle CMW head-on in a bloody match of attendee and speaker sign-ups. But wait: are all these multi-day, big-budget conferences doing it wrong, and trying to play a game better suited to 2003? That seems to be the thinking behind a far smaller, more localized, and far scrappier approach from SF Musictech Summit’s Brian Zisk, whose one-day, well-attended shindig seem to be succeeding by packing more people and energy into a smaller event.
Maybe that’s thinking small, but it may also be thinking right. Because SF Musictech seems to be one of the few conferences outside SXSW that’s actually winning.
Image snapped by Digital Music News at ASCAP’s recent EXPO in Los Angeles.