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Millennials & The Social Media Explosion

7th July 2009 @ 5:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Venue: The Basement, PRS for Music, Copyright House

INTRO: This MusicTank session will lift the lid on the social media phenomenon and reveal how rights holders can better engage with this social space and make sense of its increasingly complex future.

Beginning with a presentation from artist, composer and serial social media experimenter Steve Lawson, this event will also update on progress of our chosen Millennials artist James Yuill, twelve-months on from MusicTank’s Millennials conference at which Terry McBride spearheaded a unique 360-degree artist road-map assisted by the amassed 180-strong conference audience.

Closing this event will be a 90-minute debate looking at the future of social media in an attempt to gauge where it’s heading and its impact on rights holders, with a panel comprising far-sighted entrepreneurs, commentators and digital culture experts.


TOPIC: Social media is a many-headed beast; a mixture of social networks, blogs, recommendation and discovery engines, personalised radio, playlists and wikis…and that’s just for starters.

Given near universal presence of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and countless other platforms, it’s hard to believe that as a term, ‘social media’ is barely three years old.  Its phenomenal rate of growth in popularity has been nothing short of exponential with consumers forcing the pace at which new platforms are adopted.  Among its many and varied uses, social media’s ability to directly connect consumers with business is unrivalled – the music industry being no exception.

From blogs, micro-blogs and wikis through to social networks and user-generated content, such is the rate of change of new product development that even to the initiated, social media’s plethora of online tools is as bewildering as it is exciting.

Beginning with a presentation from artist, composer and serial social media experimenter Steve Lawson, this session will not only lift the lid on the social media phenomenon in order to understand how rights holders can better engage with the social media space but it will also update on progress of Millennials artist James Yuill, twelve-months on from MusicTank’s Millennials conference at which Terry McBride spearheaded a unique 360-degree artist road-map assisted by the amassed 180-strong conference audience.

Closing this event will be a 90-minute debate looking at the future of social media in an attempt to gauge where it’s heading, with a panel comprising far-sighted entrepreneurs, commentators and digital culture experts.

Part 1: Steve Lawson – Understanding Social Media

Kicking-off proceedings, artist Steve Lawson – the ultimate social media case-study and one of its most sophisticated and successful exponents – will draw from his own experience of more than ten years at DiY’s digital coalface.  He will guide us through a complex maze of social media tools that facilitate the online conversations and communities that form around music.

Steve is an independent musician who has become something of a renowned social media expert.  He’s had to – as a niche independent artist, his DIY route to market has involved releasing six albums through his own label, Pillow Mountain Records, when not tour supporting for the likes of Level 42.

Very much at the forefront of experimentation through his hands-on ‘suck it and see’ approach, Steve’s been blogging since the pre-millennial days of Web 1.0 – before it was called blogging – and has used social media to interact with his audience.

Rights holders are constantly told to be creative and innovative in their use of social media, yet most seemingly fail to get beyond a MySpace page with photos on Flickr and video courtesy of YouTube.  From blogging, tweets, video conversation and podcasting to web forums, live streaming and real-time chat sessions, this session will dig deep into the social media toolkit to help rightsholders realise the potential of direct interaction with their audience.

Part 2: Millennial Artist Update – James Yuill, Amul Batra & Steve Lawson

Joining Steve on stage will be MusicTank’s chosen millennials artist James Yuill together with his manager, Amul Batra.  Together they will provide a final review twelve-months on from MusicTank’s Millennials conference (July 08).  At MidemNet (Jan 09), a sixth-month update from Amul revealed that ‘traditional’ uses of social media had successfully grown James’ profile and fanbase with blogging the key driver.

Updating on MidemNet delegates’ suggestions to further grow active ‘tribe’ involvement – from encouraging fan remixes of multi-track stems to crowd-sourced singles releases and concert venue selection – Amul will further probe Steve’s social media inventory and together, they’ll scope what should and could happen next.

Part 3: Panel Debate – The Next Big Wave: What Happens Next? Closing this event will be a 90-minute debate looking at the future of social media in an attempt to gauge where it’s heading and the impact on rights holders, with a panel comprising far-sighted entrepreneurs, commentators and digital culture experts.

With social networks already operating beyond a base-level of facilitating friendships, the social interaction applications that such networks support – from the sharing of playlists to information gathering, personalisation, content discovery and recommendation – are set to become far more sophisticated and intelligent.

Despite its meteoric rise, according to a recent Forrester report, “social media has only just taken off” adding that “the community will take charge” 1. So where will social media go from here and how is it evolving to meet demand and expectation?  With recent figures 2 indicating a fall in popularity of the main social networks, unification of the social media experience appears to be key to its future, partly borne out by Facebook (and Twitter) appearing to buck the overall trend of recent decline.

According to Nokia, the future is collaborative social media via mobile – its recent unveiling of its Ovi Store gives handset owners a choice of 20’000 digital content items including apps, drawing second place only to iTunes’ app Store on its own initial roll-out.  This gives credence to earlier research concluding that by 2012, 25% of entertainment will be created, edited and consumed within peer communities rather than coming from traditional media companies3.

With a growing number of handsets capable of true web integration many see mobile’s role in how consumers interact with social media expanding, unifying the experience between friends, profiles and communities. Whatever the technology or platform, if the pundits are right and “social networks become the base of operation for everyone’s online experience”3, the era of social commerce may just be around the corner, with activated communities at its core.

Ultimately, will these developments benefit artists and rights holders?  As highlighted in MusicTank’s 2008 Millennials report by Terry McBride, are we now at the dawn of a new era of mass peer-to-peer affiliate sales in which everyone becomes a potential music retailer and but a step away from highly personalised information services?


1 The Future of the Social Web by Jeremiah Owyang, a Forrester senior analyst, 27.04.09

2 Wiggin Digital Entertainment Survey, Entertainment Media Research, 2009

3 A Glimpse of the Next Episode, The Future Laboratory, 2007

You can find resources from this event via the links below.

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