“We need to think of new and innovative ways to support the physical marketplace.”
——Robb McDaniels


Annual Confab, Now Going by Music Biz 2012, Gets Off to a Lively Start Behind Donio, Friedman, Gurewitz, McDaniels and Rogers
The 2012 Music Biz 2012 confab, presented by NARM and digitalmusic.org, officially got underway on Wednesday. The Opening Day session featured speeches by NARM prexy Jim Donio and Chairman Rachelle Friedman, Epitaph honcho Bret Gurewitz receiving the Independent Spirit award and a sit-down interview with this year’s keynote, INgrooves Fontana CEO Robb McDaniels, conducted by Topspin’s Ian Rogers.
Donio wasted no time in addressing the issue of the increasing digital presence at the event and complaints from some of the constituency that the conference has shifted too far to the digital side. Calling it a “damned if we do, and damned if we don’t” predicament, he insisted that the industry at large has never been more representative of the marketplace at large.

“From Dimple to Target, from Atlantic to Alliance, from WIPO to HFA, from Spotify to Super D, from Amazon to Aporia, from Music Hype to Epic, from Microsoft to Muve, from EMI to Universal, there is no better example of a music industry event that is a true commerce and content melting pot,” said Donio. He added that the welcome mat “is now and has always been, and will always be there, for anyone and everyone who is passionate about advancing the business of music—physical, digital or mobile.” He further noted that more indies are represented at NARM this year than in the past five, and that the membership is “pretty evenly split between physical and digital, mirroring the industry we represent.”

Referencing the fact that 2011 was the first time in seven years that the industry had seen an uptick in year-over-year sales, the NARM chief asserted that being basically flat in 2012 would have been cause for celebration in years past. He applauded the RIAA’s efforts against the ISPs involving piracy as well as the org’s part in creating new royalty rate agreements for subscription services, He also brought up the continuing trend of mergers/acquisitions, including INgrooves Fontana, IODA, Orchard and of course the impending Universal acquisition of EMI.
Donio paid tribute to those we lost—Adam Yauch, Jerry Leiber, Nick Ashford, Don Cornelius, Dick Clark, Davy Jones and Whitney Houston—each of whom either received NARM awards over the years or performed at the convention.
After pointing out that NARM is “refreshing our curb appeal,” and noting that 70 new companies have come into the fold, Donio turned the mike over to NARM Chairman Rachelle Friedman of J&R. She welcomed her new officers of the board: iTunesBrent Muhle as Vice Chair, Amazon’s Craig Pape as Secretary and Immergent’s John Trickett as Treasurer. New board members include Nokia’s Jonathan Dworkin and Spotify’s Steve Savoca. Filling out the rest of the board are AEC’s Mike Davis, Baker & Taylor’s Steve Harkins, eMusic’s Adam Klein, Homer’s Mike Fratt, Microsoft’s Christina Calio, Target’s Alyssa Vescio and “music veteran at large” Len Cosimono.
Friedman then introduced a video reel on Bret Gurewitz featuring testimonials from an array of industry heavyweights, highlighted by a hilarious tribute from Tom Waits asking the question “What is an independent man.” Gurewitz took the stage and gave a heartfelt thanks.
She then gave the RIAA and NARM’s Presidential Award for Sustained Achievement. A video reel featured RIAA Chairman/CEO Cary Sherman, who could not attend due to a personal conflict, talking on a wide range of subjects, not the least of which was RIAA’s legal accomplishments on copyright law. He noted the 2005 win over Grokster and the more recent court injunction against LimeWire. Sherman also touched on the org’s fight for creative freedom in implementing the Parental Advisory Label, and the participation with NARM in the creation of the Give the Gift Of Music campaign. He concluded with a look at the future in adapting licensing practices to new business models of music delivery. RIAA Senior EVP Mitch Glazier accepted on Sherman’s behalf.
This year’s keynote “address” was in fact a spirited conversation between Ian Rogers and Robb McDaniels. The INgrooves Fontana ruler recounted his career path, from gigs as a DJ to six years in finance to trying to get a foothold in the digital-delivery space in 2002 with the launch of INgrooves. He explained that the demise of Grokster was a flashpoint for his company’s belief that legal downloads were about to explode, providing a great opportunity for a well-designed digital-delivery entity. He thanked former Napster tech maven David Kent for creating INgrooves’ digital structure. Kent is now CTO of the company.
McDaniels and Rogers then discussed the evolution of INgrooves from a purely digital platform to the company’s expansion into the still-potent physical marketplace. UMG became an a major investor in INgrooves in 2008, and two years later investment giant Shamrock took a major share in the company, initially drawn to its Inscribe Digital division for e-books. McDaniels revealed that the moment Shamrock came on board, he realized the importance of adding physical to the mix, and his existing relationship with Fontana made it the perfect fit, cemented by the huge success they both experienced last year with Rostrum’s chart-topping Mac Miller album. “We need to think of new and innovative ways to support the physical marketplace,” said McDaniels, noting his commitment initiatives like Record Store Day.
McDaniels also reiterated his support of streaming services, saying that, while these services may now represent a small percentage of the overall market, the growth curve should be huge. “It’s not an all-or-nothing proposition,” he insisted. “It’s just one more way to engage with consumers.” He also supports the cloud/locker sector, stating that consumers want more options.
He talked about the value of the music experience and consumers’ ongoing willingness to spend
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