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Opinion December 7, 2020

Clubhouse, the best music industry conference I’ve ever attended

Clubhouse, the best music industry conference I’ve ever attended

Over the weekend I was given an invite to the new social network Clubhouse (shoutout to Justin L. Hunte for the hook up).

For those who aren’t familiar, Clubhouse is an audio app that’s still in beta and not open to the public, but has a huge buzz, mainly because celebrities and high-profile venture capitalists are super active on it.

In a nutshell, anyone who has a Clubhouse account can create a “room” and start talking about any topic they want, and if the room is public, people can listen in, or join as a speaker to contribute to the conversation.

It sounds simple enough; part phone conversation, part live podcast. However what interests me is the fundamental change in human behaviour I witnessed with only two days of use so far.

Why most music conferences suck

Music conferences are important, but I often find them way too sanitised and airy fairy.

Unless John Watson, Vanessa Picken or Terry McBride are speaking (whenever those three are speaking anywhere you MUST ago), you will mostly get a whole bunch of “follow your dreams”, “work hard”, “it’s all about the song” rhetoric. A lot feel good mantras that don’t help anyone.

But why is this the case?

Well, music conferences are an extremely sanitised environment. People on the panel know all their peers and media are listening and don’t want to;

  1. Come across too cocky
  2. Say something offensive at the risk of being quoted out of context and cancelled
  3. Disclose any tricks/IP to their competitors

Or sometimes, they might work for a big multinational and are only able to discuss specific scripted talking points.

I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve been on panels with extremely successful and talented people who gave nothing to the audience. It really shits me.

I always challenge their airy fairy rhetoric on stage to try and get to real knowledge behind their success, and they often reply with joke answers. I think next time I’m on a panel I think I won’t let it fly and I’ll just call them out on it – let’s see how many people I piss off in the process.

However, as frustrating as it is, I somewhat understand it. Conferences can feel high stakes, everything is on the record, so everyone has a guard up.

My view is if you don’t have the courage to tell people what they came to hear, don’t accept the panel invite. Add value or stay home.

Those speakers that are able to offer real value on panels are the ones who are in super high demand, but there aren’t many John Watsons, Van Pickens or Terry McBrides in this industry, so often people are stuck listening to self censoring industry leaders.

Twitter should be more sanitised, but it’s not

When considering the above, I immediately think of Twitter. The amount of amazing insight and things I learn on Twitter every week is astounding. If you follow the right people, they share a lot.

Also, people often tweet super stupid things, and get in a lot of public trouble for it.

Twitter has the same “on the record” consequence of a music conference but it’s amplified to millions. For some reason, people’s guards are down a lot more on Twitter. People speak their minds more freely on Twitter than they do on panels at music conferences.

It’s irrational considering the audience Twitter has Vs. a local music conference; but it’s the reality.

Twitter has built an ecosystem where people unconsciously drop their guard. Brilliant, but strange.

Introducing Clubhouse

Day One on Clubhouse gave me a huge moment of realisation. The first room I joined was a Jay-Z Appreciation room. It was run by giants of the hip hop industry, all people who worked with, collaborated with, or were friends with Jay-Z.

The stories and insights were unbelievable. Stories that (as a hip hop nerd) I’d never heard before.

These industry heads were talking to each other like they were at a pub or on a phone call for hours. It was completely unscripted, completely real, and thousands of us tuned in.

Also, unrelated, this happened!

For the rest of the weekend I listened in on the following rooms;

  • Are labels responsible for the deaths of their artists?
  • How to pitch to media
  • How to get a job the music industry: I review your resume

The first room regarding artists’ deaths got extremely intense, passionate and real.

There were stories of labels intentionally drugging their artists to control them, day-to-day managers of massive celebrities trying to get tours cancelled to protect the artist (but getting ignored), and others saying that no one can protect an artists who craves drugs and the party lifestyle. Regarding the latter, one person said the senior manager will fire you if you try and stop them, so it’s not anyone’s fault but the artists themselves.

It was intense, but it was an extremely important dialogue.

Nothing you could ever hear at a music conference, and not something you could ever explore meaningfully on Twitter.

The future of clubhouse

My prediction is that there will be a new type of celebrity when Clubhouse opens up to the public. “Clubhouse stars”, people who first become famous for their contributions on Clubhouse. These stars will be industry professional celebrities, people who are extremely articulate, visionary and experts in their niche.

For example, if you are obsessed with music publishing, you might find an expert on the topic and follow them on Clubhouse. You’ll be able to see whenever they are in a room and talking on the topic, and you can instantly tune in and listen live wherever you are.

This access to people’s minds, in an un-sanitised environment, is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. It was brilliant and will be a huge new moment in on the internet in the coming years.

Clubhouse is going to be big, get on the platform as quickly as you can.

This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.

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