Story by Adam Silverman (MBA ’04)
Photo by Samantha Lipman (C ’09)
On Wednesday March 2nd, 2011, members of the Georgetown alumni community gathered at the AOL offices in downtown New York for a wide ranging panel discussion on the current challenges and opportunities in the music industry.
Led by moderator David Schulhof (C ’92), CEO, E2 Group LLC and Former CEO and Co-Founder, Evergreen Copyrights/BMG, the evening’s panelists were
- Craig Besnoy, Vice President of Business Development, Universal Music Group;
- Jeff Bronikowski (B ’92), Vice President and Head of Music, AOL;
- Elizabeth Leahy (C ’91), Co-Founder and CEO, Section 101;
- Jim McCormick (C ’90) Chrysalis Music Staff Songwriter;
- Teddy Zambetti (C ’80), Senior Director, Music Production and In-House Composer, Sirius XM.
The group answered questions on a range of issues, from the anticipated growth of subscription models and the impact of mobile platforms on music consumption to the challenges and opportunities artists face in a market where traditional barriers to entry have disappeared and new distribution channels have emerged.
All of the panel’s participants recognized that the industry continues to face the daunting prospect of falling revenues with Jeff Bronikowski citing the decline of the industry from one that accounted for $40 billion in annual revenue at its peak to one that generates just over $20 billion today.
This loss of revenue has, in Jeff’s analysis, lessened the grip of the major labels on the market, opening up opportunities for artists to get themselves in front of music fans without needing to necessarily rely on traditional methods of distribution. For Elizabeth Leahy, whose company provides digital services for artists to market and promote themselves, this has led to a “plethora of means to the market” for musicians. And while artists are working harder now than they did 10 years ago, she noted that opportunities to build careers and establish their brands continue to grow.
Craig Besnoy, whose perspective on the market is informed by the challenges facing the major labels, believes new business models will grow stronger to create competition for the a la carte model that has dominated the market in recent years. Craig predicted that 2011 would be the year that subscription models catch on, with services like Spotify attempting to enter the market, a belief that many on the panel shared. Likewise, many of the panelists believed that the ability to integrate social media into music services is essential to turning the industry around, as recommendation and playlist sharing become important discovery tools for fans.
Of course, the discussion wasn’t just about dollars and cents. Teddy Zambetti and Jim McCormick provided the artists’ perspective on the current industry landscape. Jim, who has built a successful career writing songs for some of Nashville’s biggest artists, stressed the increasing importance of singles as album sales continue to decline; while Teddy predicted that, whatever the challenges, musicians will continue to pursue their craft, driven by the need to create.
Given the depth and range of the panel members, the evening provided plenty for everyone to think about as the music market continues to evolve in the increasingly digital landscape. GEMA would like to give special thanks to AOL for their generosity in supporting this event.