Music conference tackles content issues

Industry leaders advised to become brand managers

TORONTO -- Ad industry pundit Bob Garfield on Wednesday brought his doomsday scenario for traditional media to the inaugural Digital Strategies Conference, telling Canadian music executives they are only canaries in a coal mine.

"What the digital revolution did to the music business is in the process of destroying everything else," Garfield, an Advertising Age columnist and co-host of NPR's On the Media, told the interactive component of the Canadian Music Week conference in Toronto.

He said the Internet, while promising more content than ever that ad and cable subscriber revenue cannot finance, has left traditional media with no sustainable business model with which to adapt to the emerging digital age

"The single depressing truth is the revolution will not be monetized," he told the Toronto conference.

Garfield urged music industry delegates to stop being mass content producers and to become brand managers instead.

"It's time for marketers and all the traditional top-down institutions to shut up and listen. Not to me, but the group formerly known as the reader, the customer or the electorate. We must start to deal with them as genuine stakeholders and partners," he argued.

Digital Strategies Conference delegates were told by other speakers Wednesday that their future hinged on targeting consumers with more focused and relevant content offerings.

"It's content and context of what you're trying to do. If you can give people that content in context, they will buy more and have a higher level of engagement," Bob Johnson, vp of IDG Connect USA, told the Toronto conference during a morning panel on digital media.

He added that the Internet and other digital platforms were producing too much irrelevant content that turned off consumers. "We throw up as much content as possible and tell people to go fish. That's not navigation," Johnson said.

And Sean MacPhedran, director of creative strategy at Fuel Industries, argued that content producers had to recognize and reflect more cultural contexts to connect with consumers.

"Getting more aware of the structure of culture gives us more sense of what content will succeed," and gets producers away from being anxious about changing trends, MacPhedran said.

Canadian Music Week runs through Sunday in Toronto.
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