What I Learned At the CMJ Panels: Not Much
Last week, as a self-assigned endurance test (and out of an occasional true interest in the subject matter), I attended as many CMJ panels as I possibly could -- the good, the bad, the sparsely attended, and the boring -- with a tape recorder, a cup of iced coffee (not quite willing to submit to the looming hot-coffee weather), and what was probably a poorly camouflaged smirk. The future of radio, social media, crowdfunding, launching a music start-up: I heard experts weigh in on it all in 10 panels. And it wasn't pretty.
Though some quality networking went down and some insider knowhow was shared, CMJ's panels tended to follow the basic tenets of any professional conference's panel discussions: earnest attendees, A/V technical difficulties, forward-looking discussion topics, and many, many questions from the audience answered inadequately. Despite all the intensive mentorship that the "silver boardroom" and other panels promised, in most every session, the main idea conveyed was, "It's going to be a lot harder for you than it was for me, kid."
To save you the trouble of being crestfallen in person next year, I have distilled the most often repeated vague refrains (many of them contradictory!) of the whole shebang into the below summary, followed by their subtext. Good luck, you little go-getter, you! Now, make with the famous!
So, you are an aspiring artist, producer, manager, entrepreneur, or music executive. Let's talk about how you should get started. (Subtext: Thanks for spending $549 on your CMJ badge! That was step one to achieving your goal -- you're one of us now! But be prepared not to get anything out of this discussion, because half the time will be given over to panelist bios, decrying the current state of the industry, and self-anthology.)
Keep your day job that you hate. You need to be committed to your dream, but if you don't have a back-up plan, you're in trouble. (Subtext: You will only make a third of a cent each time your song streams on Spotify, and we know you have no savings, so steal photocopies, long-distance phone calls, and stamps while you can.)
Quit your day job that you hate. Be fully committed to your dream. If you have a back-up plan, you're in trouble. (Subtext: Use your trust fund. Oh, or crowdfunding. Lots and lots of crowdfunding.)