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DONIO'S GUIDED TOUR OF MUSIC BIZ 2019

Back in 2014, Jack White said Nashville has always felt like the perfect place to be. The Music Business Association clearly agreed with White’s assessment, because the very next year the org moved its annual conference to Nashville, and it has no plans to go elsewhere. 

According to Music Business Association President Jim Donio, Music City provides both economic and geographic benefits to his organization and to attendees of the conference. “For years,” he tells us, “Music Biz has provided a trusted forum for commerce and content entities to come together.”

Given the city’s rich music culture and extensive and influential history, having the conference in Nashville has brought about the addition of what Donio refers to as “the third corner of the triangle—creative.” He also likes to say that Music Biz “is a thing now,” as the conference draws increasing numbers of new artists, veteran musicians, songwriters and publishers, while it seems like everyone in Nashville has become hip to the array of features Music Biz has to offer.

Many companies in the industry, which have primary locations on one coast or the other, also have offices in Nashville. While the city, which sits in north-central Tennessee, isn’t centrally located, Donio says it nonetheless has an allure all its own, and the conference offers these companies the opportunity to bring together their people from around the country—as well as around the world—to do business and to meet with domestic and global partners.

As the music business has evolved, so too has Music Biz. One of the org’s most prescient shifts began years ago as the industry was just starting to shift from units to access. According to Donio, some rolled their eyes at the idea of getting several hundred people to spend an afternoon talking about metadata. Now, content creators and providers regularly gather en masse at the annual event to discuss best practices and how to move the overall business forward.

Also within this year’s conference will be “Celebrate the Album,” a campaign that will feature landmark longplayers and encourage fans to explore new ones. As an example, Donio points to Billie Eilish, whose debut LP moved north of 300k in album equivalents, as a new artist who truly believes in “the art of the album.” As a result, he says, Eilish has ticked off both boxes in terms of consumption—high sales and high streams.

In conjunction with the campaign, the conference will showcase the results of a poll in which people were asked to name their favorite albums. Throughout the conference and in some of the hotel rooms, graphics featuring poll results with “some of the most beloved albums of all time” will be featured. Although spearheaded by the Physical Business Action Committee, the campaign will be directed toward both physical and digital configurations.

Other meetings this year will include a brand summit, a financial-literacy summit and an independent-artist forum. New sessions will focus on being a parent in the music industry, and managing and dealing with addiction and addictive behavior, which Donio points out is a crucial issue in all the creative industries.

Music Biz will once again this year add to its Hall of Fame. After a soft launch in 2018, in which Tower Records founder Russ Solomon was posthumously inducted, this year’s inductees will be broken out into several categories. Sir George Martin will be the first producer inducted, with his producer son, Giles, doing the honors. Other categories will include major label, independent label, media, industry executives and some landmark venues.

There will also be the Music Biz Awards, which will include three industry and four artist awards. This year’s Independent Spirit Award is being presented to Record Archive and its owners, Alayna Alderman and Richard Storms, while the Outstanding Achievement Award will go to Richard Gottehrer—legendary producer, Sire Records co-founder and founder of The Orchard. Sony Music Nashville CEO Randy Goodman will receive the Presidential Award. Donio points out that Goodman was one of the primary architects six years ago in convincing Music Business to move its conference to Nashville.

On the artist side, breakthrough awards will be presented to RCA Nashville/Zone 4’s Kane Brown and Warner Bros.Bebe Rexha. Capitol Nashville’s Darius Rucker will receive the Harry Chapin Humanitarian Award, and the Chairman’s Award for Sustained Creative Achievement is being presented to Peter Frampton. River House/Columbia Nashville’s Luke Combs will perform at the awards dinner.

Non-music companies such as Citibank and J.P. Morgan Chase are now sponsors of Music Biz. Donio points out business in general is looking at the music industry with a much more affirmative eye toward potential investments and increasing interest in partnerships. “We have over 50 sponsors for this year’s conference, which is the most sponsors in the history of the event.”

Looking ahead, Donio sees the major music services using the Music Business Association and the Music Biz conference as a way to continue the “very exciting and long-awaited” resurgence of the industry, pointing to its dramatic growth during the last several years.

“To have all the music services like Apple, Amazon, Spotify, SoundCloud and others who are at the forefront of the subscription model use and value our organization and event has really underscored the energy and excitement that is now around the industry,” he enthuses.

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