Louise Bruton runs the brilliant website Legless in Dublin, which discusses accessibility issues in venues, at gigs and festivals etc. I met Louise in Dublin to discuss such issues and the condescension she faces on a regular basis – and which she wrote about last week. We also discussed the idea of guilty pleasures and live streaming over the actual gig experience. That latter idea was something that was brought up at Web Summit, which was held in the RDS last week, November 2-5, and which I attended. After the interview with Louise, I talk about my experience of the overblown tech event. You can read what I think about the whole affair – which includes praise for Swedish House Mafia (well, kind of) after the jump. You can subscribe to the TPOE podcast on iTunes here.
Some words on the Web Summit:
It’s a weird event. I still don’t think I’ve fully processed it. I certainly felt a little out of my comfort zone, surrounded by techies and quote unquote entrepreneurs hawking startups with taglines like ‘the Instagram of slow motion video’ and ‘the Facebook for pets’. There was also another one that involved an app that analyses your pee on a night out. I did not ask how it works.
Most of my time was taken up by the talks held across each day, mostly sports on Tuesday, media, publishing content, social, and sharing on Wednesday – Stephen Hills of The Washington Post, discussing innovation and the future of news, was probably the best talk of the week – while Thursday was the Music Summit. All the talks were 20 minutes long and it seemed like everything had been discussed beforehand. It felt like Ted Talks times ten, no breaks between each panel and basically like the Web Summit was going, ‘LOOK AT ALL THE NAMES WE GOT’. The co-founder of Pitchfork, Chris Kaskie, was there, but he was just interviewing some journalists on a panel called ‘making music media matter’. I think there was only one actual music maker – or artist, for want of a better word – on the 11 panels of the Music Summit, and that was Steve Angello of … Swedish House Mafia, and owner of Size Records. I was as surprised as you are that I found him so engaging, considering the music he makes. He discussed things like the idea of an album launch – what even is an album launch in 2015? He spoke about making videos for all his songs, partnering with companies, splitting the album into two chapters and releasing them six months or so apart. “I can release records however I want nowadays,” he said, adding the caveat ‘you can’t just give the fans shit;. Did I mention he’s from Swedish House Mafia?
Three words kept coming up across the Web Summit – monetisation, disruption and unicorns. I think the latter idea is about the golden goose, the tech idea that’s the next Uber, the $50 billion company. Disruption and monetisation, I think I could go the rest of my life without hearing those terms again and I’d be happy.
Other names on the Music Summit included Bruce Flohr, who signed Foo Fighters. He’s a manager and discussed his role nowadays including helping his artists craft stories. Because, as Angello alluded to, it’s not enough just to make music nowadays, you have to have a plan, you have to engage. So Flohr pointed to Foo Fighters’ last album, Sonic Highways, for which Dave Grohl went to various cities for new inspiration. It’s a cute idea, though it struck me as someone lacking in ideas – and even a fleeting listen to the album would confirm as much. Flohr said not every band should be a brand – what a hideous idea – and that new fans are better than old fans, though he didn’t elaborate on why.
Other talks were titled things like, ‘The digital divide: are artists missing out?’, ‘are record labels still relevent’, ‘the digital agency’, ‘does the industry put fans first?’ and ‘moving beyond the artists’. There was a lot of crossover, as you might expect, so much so, however, that it seemed like we were watching the exact same talk but with different participants. Adele and Drake were thrown out as examples of music biz 2k15, that they’re the ones doing it right. As if anybody needed to be told that Adele and Drake are doing good things. The crowd petered out over the course of the morning and early afternoon – and it was noticeably less crowded at Web Summit on Thursday – and I wonder who exactly the music summit – and the event overall – was aimed at. I wandered out of the RDS in a bit of a daze, mostly because I didn’t want to spend twenty quid on a burger, but also because there was so much noise. A constant buzz and murmur from the main area where the startups were positioned soundtracked all the talks, and it felt like people were all just so desperate to be noticed. So ultimately I think I left Web Summit having heard a lot of stuff but not really learning anything new.