Music Business Takeaways From The Forbes Under 30 Summit

By | October 29, 2014


A quartet of music’s top young acts rocked Philadelphia’s Piazza at Schmidt’s on Sunday night–local hip-hop duo OCD: Moosh & Twist, singer-songwriter LP, Pennsylvania native Wiz Khalifa and DJ/producer Afrojack–a terrific bill made even more remarkable by the fact that all attendees received their tickets not by purchasing them, but by doing good deeds.

The first Under 30 Music Festival, planned by Forbes in partnership with AEG and nonprofit resulted in the distribution of some 8,000 tickets to people who joined the campaign to end extreme poverty around the world. It was a smaller version of the Global Citizen Festival, and we hope it’ll grow in a similar fashion.

But Sunday night’s events were just a prelude to one of the most remarkable weeks in my time at this publication: the inaugural Forbes Under30 Summit. Think of it as a velvet-rope version of South By Southwest, reserved for the 1,000-plus members and graduates of our 30 Under 30 lists and a handful of mentors like former AOL AOL +1% chief Steve Case and billionaire investor Peter Thiel.

The event, which wrapped up yesterday, included keynotes from youthful newsmakers ranging from new anti-cyberbullying activist Monica Lewinsky to Nobel Peace Prize Winner Malala Yousafzai. There was still room, however, for plenty of discussion about the music business.

Summit attendees included the aforementioned musical acts, as well as the likes of Taylor Hanson (who also made a guest appearance at the concert, delivering a memorable duet with LP); Atom Factory founder and veteran artist manager Troy Carter; and a half-dozen members of last year’s 30 Under 30 list in music.

Many of those people took the main stage in front of 1,500 people–Afrojack discussed the art and science of leading a crowd in a one-on-one with yours truly; Carter served as a judge on a Shark Tank-style startup contest; Wiz Khalifa stuck around to preside over the Under 30 Fashion Show; Questlove did the same at the Under 30 Food Festival; others joined breakout sessions like my Music Goes Moneyball panel.

Now that I’m back and have had a moment to collect my thoughts, here are four of the key music-related takeaways I brought home from Philly.

Goodbye, genre boundaries. So it’s not exactly news that the lines between genres are blurring–I’ve certainly written about that extensively myself–but the past few days have underscored that even more sharply for me. From the Taylor Hanson/LP duet, to Troy Carter’s entrepreneurial exhibition, to Wiz Khalifa’s fashion forays, it’s becoming ever more obvious that the boundaries are breaking down not just between types of music but between music and other industries. Which is part of the reason why…

Artists must be their own advocates and marketers. As Hanson put it during the Music Goes Moneyball panel, “There are no open-source music companies. There are a lot of black boxes.” Understanding that is part of the reason his band of brothers is still quietly earning a living, touring the world while releasing records through their 3CG Records and supplementing their income by extending the Hanson brand into products their maturing fan base can enjoy, such as, yes, MmmHops beer. They also understand that…
Data is the new A&R. In the aforementioned panel, Taylor Hanson joined yours truly along with Spotify’s Sachin Dochi and Next Big Sound founder Alex White (whom I profiled last year). We talked about how big data is revolutionizing the music business–and, in many cases, it’s becoming as much a part of A&R as sabermetric analysis is with major league baseball front offices. “People don’t get in the music industry because they love data. Except for me,” said White, with a chuckle. “There’s never been this much data.” In the end, though…

There’s no draw like a good cause and good music. As much as I learned from the rest of the Summit, the highlight for me was the Under 30 Music Festival. Granted, there’s a level of bias here (I helped plan it). But watching thousands of onlookers of all ages–all of whom had done something worthy to gain admission–brave the elements as the show stretched into the night? It may sound corny, but that’s what it’s all about, and I sure hope to do it again next year.


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