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IHEARTMEDIA MUSIC SUMMIT: DAY TWO

Wednesday's session at the iHeartRadio Theater in Burbank was devoted to the major-label presentations. Competition to woo the audience by out-weaseling the other weasels has grown stiff over the past few years, so everyone was curious to see what was in store. One after another, industry heavies took the stage armed with multimedia sizzle reels, plaques and, of course, music. They included Republic’s Monte Lipman, Charlie Walk and Gary Spangler; Island’s David Massey and Eric Wong; Def Jam’s Steve Bartels and Rick Sackheim; Roc Nation’s Jay Brown, Big Machine’s Scott Borchetta and David Nathan; Schoolboy’s Scooter Braun, Capitol’s Steve Barnett and Greg Thompson; Hollywood’s Scot Finck; WB’s Peter Gray; Columbia’s Joel Klaiman, Lee Leipsner and Jim Burruss; RCA’s Joe Riccitelli; Kemosabe’s Dr. Luke and Greg Marella; Latium’s Charles Chavez; Epic’s Todd Glassman; Harvest’s Jacqueline Saturn and Verve’s Mike Rittberg.

The labels showed off their A-game of breaking acts with performances/appearances including The Weeknd (XO/Republic), Florida Georgia Line (Republic Nashville), Ryn Weaver (Interscope), Tori Kelly (Schoolboy/Capitol), Zella Day (Hollywood), Ella Henderson (SYCO/Columbia), George Ezra (Columbia), Sia (RCA), Bleachers (RCA), Tinashe (RCA), Christian Burghart (Kemosabe), Classic Man (Epic) and Nick Jonas (Island). Sam Smith (Capitol) and Fall Out Boy (DCD2/Island) sent in recorded messages thanking the radio heavies for all they’ve done for them over their careers.

The Summit’s small setting allows for a bit more intimacy than you might normally see with artists in front of a group of tastemakers. For example Sia, who uncharacteristically faced the audience during her performance of “Elastic Heart”, spoke frankly about her past demons and being “scared to death” to be on stage in that manner.

Nothing, however, prepared the room for what happened at 10am, when Steve Bartels bought out Kanye West to say a “few words” and play some new music. West, clearly in a good mood, began by recounting his career path, from making beats for Jay Z to being part of Def Poetry Jam to getting booed on stage for wearing a Roc-a-Fella necklace, because in his words “Unless you’d killed four people you couldn’t rap.” He told a story about going to jail for stealing a maxi-cassette single, because he “needed the information” on it.

He spoke of himself as a “contradiction”, that it was his “responsibility to innovate” and “Things are going good so far, so I have risk being Kanye—I’m the best motherfucker at innovation.” “Sometimes innovation means you have to move on; sometimes I don’t like where I’ve moved on to…like not being on the radio.” He then said he needed to retract a prior statement he made when the Yeezus record came out about not caring about being on the radio: “It was a joke! You weren’t supposed to take it seriously—I want to be on the radio!” He told candid stories about past interactions with record execs, producers, his managers and working with Sir Paul McCartney. He swore he asked Sir Paul “What was pussy like in the ’60s?” In between tales, he would sing or rap a verse or a chorus of a song and even sang “Only One” a cappella.

This went on for almost an hour.

West finally played a new song featuring Rihanna that he said he’s about to release, pulled the plug on his laptop and walked off stage to a standing ovation. During the break, there were some mixed reactions to what happened, not to mention the fact that his stream-of-consciousness monologue put the day an hour behind schedule. But that said, no one could deny that it was clearly a moment.

As the day’s meetings were winding down, DJ Steve Aoki, who is best-known in some circles for throwing cakes, caked iHeart’s Brian Mack, who then caked Tom Poleman. Call it corporate if you want, but it’s still radio wacky-wacky to us. On to Day Three.

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