March 24, 2012

A Panel of Industry Insiders and Artists – WMC 2012

A Happy Accident. Winter Music Conference is about more than just the parties, its a chance for artists to get together and talk about the state of electronic music. It is a place for artists, DJ’s, and producers to get together and network as well as find out the ways in which they can make themselves relevant and noticeable in a genre dominated by a plethora of artists. Where has it been, where is it now, and where is it going are the questions that artists want to know and there are plenty of people within the industry who have insight and predictions about these elements. I was fortunate enough to attend one of the panels at WMC and hear insights into the culture and industry surrounding electronic music.

The panel consisted of 7 people from diverse backgrounds within the industry.

Rod Carrillo owns an independent record label (Carrillo Music) which has up and coming DJ’s, producers, and remix artists.

Brad Ferringo is a producer, composer, and sound designer, a voting member for the Grammy Awards, and is currently the team lead for Sound Design at Research in Motion.

Neon Hitch is a singer/songwriter who has worked with the likes of Gym Class Heros and Bruno Mars.

Michael Ostolaza is a producer/DJ who coordinates music and talent for MTV.

Craig Swann owns and manages a website ( where artists can put their stripped down tracks online and lets users submit remixes.

Liquid Todd is a DJ who hosts his own electronic music program BPM on Sirius/XM satellite radio.

Robert Celestin is an entertainment lawyer based out of New York and was the leader of the day’s panel.

Celestin had a list of questions which he openly asked the panel to be “100%” with their answers which meant he did not want any of us in attendance to be mislead or deceived by a wavering answer to important questions. The theme of the panel from my perspective was this term: “A Happy Accident.” Many of the panelists commented on this notion that there needs to be a return to musicianship and an abandonment of this notion that you can just stumble upon the next big trend. Sometimes the accident works, but too many artists are relying on this “Happy Accident” to be the sole determining factor in how they create music.

Lets here what some of the panelists had to say about the questions asked by the panel leader Rob Celestin. Because of my limited access I will be paraphrasing some of the responses as well as taking highlights from their sometimes lengthy responses to the questions.

How would you define electronic music?

LT: It is always going to be something electronic, that electronic sound that we all know and love but it has to be good.

CS: Electronic music is about technology and the role it plays in creating music.

NH: Electronic music is about making people party. It is about making people dance and feel good about the music.

BF: It’s about the tools you use to create the music. Sometimes its about traditional instruments but more often it is about those nontraditional instruments that you use to create your sound.

RC: Electronic music is about that hook that gets people into it. Its about that riff that stands out and stays in people’s heads.

How are electronic music artists getting on?

LT: An artist needs to have complete control over their work and brand. That kind of control is empowering and really helps to define you as an artist. Its also about getting your own gigs and actually putting flyers in the hands of people and utilizing social media to its full capacity.

NH: You need a hit that is radio friendly. You can hustle all you want but if you don’t have that song that gets you noticed, then it is a wasted effort.

How important are music videos and how do you get one on MTV?

MO: MTV has grown as a forum to host dance and electronic music videos. The great thing about music videos is that it tells the story of an artist especially that artist who needs that exposure to tell their story. If we partner with an artist to get a video premiered on MTV then that artist has the support of all that MTV has to offer. An artist can make a name for themselves by posting their video online and having it go viral and we will certainly pay attention to those artist who we see, hear, and really like.

How difficult is it to get your song on to radio?

LT: Honestly radio is a great platform but all of us hear great electronic music come from things like car commercials. There are plenty of forums to distribute your music. If you want us as a radio station to play your song, then send it to us. It’s really not that difficult and we will listen to it and decide whether or not it deserves our listeners attention. At this point labels have become less relevant in deciding what people are listening to so more and more people are turning to radio to hear new music. As an artist it is important to find ways to make yourself relevant and noticeable through social media and networking. As your relevance increases so does your ability to get noticed by us and we will invest time in your music.

Are DJ’s producers? Is there a market for people to be just DJ’s or just producers or does an artist have to do it all?

NH: They certainly can be if they can know how to program a beat.

BF: Artists need to get away from the happy accident type of producing. DJ’s and producers alike also need to be aware of how they can activate all 5 senses. If you can get the public to feel, taste, touch, see, and hear your music, then you are on to something extraordinary. This is why you see so many artists with branded clothing lines, fragrances, and branded gear for production and performance.

Is it better to be on an independent or a major label?

BF: Its really about who believes in you the most.

RC: Its also about maintaining your credibility as an artist. Which route is going to give you the most creative control is the one you should go with.

Where do you guys see electronic music in the next 5 years?

NH: Even with all of the genres that are crossing over, electronic music will continue to thrive and it is not going anywhere.

MO: Its all about the full 360 plans. Its no longer just about DJ’s or just about producers and making top 40 singles. Its about doing something that is yours and turning people on to your sound.

CS: As the technology advances so will the sound of the music. Its exciting to see all of this new technology coming out and seeing what artists can do with it. Thats where I think electronic dance music is going.

LT: It’s not about trying to be the next trend because as soon as you create the song that fits that mold, it’s already dated. Just make great music and people will respond in ways that surprise you.