NXNE 2012, Day 2 (Jun. 14): Attention is the new currency

One thing we decided to differently this year at NXNE, and the reason we added another day onto our schedule, was to attend some of the interactive sessions.

Unfortunately, we underestimated Toronto traffic again and missed the sessions we wanted to see on Wednesday: "Punk: A Not so Unbiased Take on How it Shaped All Modern Music" (led by Damian Abraham of Fucked Up), and for obvious reasons, "Living in the Map: Adventures in Making Detroit a More User-Friendly City." So the lone session we attended, on Thurs., Jun. 14, was "The Rise of the 'Artistpreneur' and Entertainment Industry 2.0."

We chose that session mostly because D-Sisive was one of the panelists and we wanted to hear what he had to say (and it's always worth listening to D-Sisive). But it turned out that the topic had a lot to say to us, as one of us recently self-published a novel. From the session description:

"The line between amateur and professional artists is blurring and entertainment industry stakeholders are losing control over whose art gains popularity. Unsustainable industry business models have given rise to a new one: the 'artistpreneur.' What's an artistpreneur? It's anyone who sees their creative production from initial concept to a finished, market-ready product. It is the synthesis of art and business; a response to a democratized arts/entertainment industry."

There's been both opinion and vitriol over how bands should get money for their art and who should give it to them. In addition to D-Sisive, the panel featured business entrepreneur Jayson Gaignard, and Matt Fullbrook, of the seven-member band KC Roberts and the Live Revolution. Three different points of view, three different opinions, and three different experiences.

Gaignard's advice was to take the Tony Robbins approach: "Study like successes and implement that strategy," he advised. D-Sisive was quick to respectfully point out "That model isn't going to work for everyone," referring to instances where mentorship helped pave the way to success, i.e. Justin Bieber and Usher, Dr. Vincent Lam and Margaret Atwood. Fullbrook and his band have embraced DIY, from learning to do tasks themselves (instead of hiring an expert) to doing their own fundraising.

The most interesting discussion centered on giving music away for free. As Gaignard pointed out, "Attention is the new currency." For D-Sisive, free "Wasn't meant to be a strategy," he explained. "I had two retail albums already out. My first free album was Jonestown, and that's when things picked up for me. Free has been my friend." (And Jonestown is still available for free download.) But KC Roberts and the Live Revolution haven't had to go that route; they raised more than $26,000 through an online campaign to fund recording of their last double album.

What shouldn't be free? Some private sector media companies in Canada think CBC Music (which includes our beloved CBC Radio 3) shouldn't be offering free streaming music. Panelists agreed things like t-shirts and shows shouldn't be free. Yet we've been seeing a trend of more free Canadian indie shows in the Detroit/Windsor area.

The business model will keep evolving. Artists may shrink from the comparison, but Gaignard noted early on that artist = brand, art = service. We don't expect dentists or lawyers to provide their service for free, and we shouldn't expect it of artists. Which makes us even more committed to supporting bands however we can, whether it's buying merch, paying cover or promoting them here, so they can keep on making the music we love.

Photos: Russ Gordon/N2D Images