Nadia Elkharadly: Toronto International Music Summit – Year One
This Saturday I had the good fortune to attend the first annual Toronto International Music Summit. The summit was founded by Tanya Michell, working with director Laponne Burton. Held at the Royal York Hotel, which seems to host a fair amount of music related things, this summit was meant to bring together fledgling and veteran artists and musicians, industry experts and other businessy types whose brains and experience in the music world were ripe for the picking. The day was divided into four panel discussions, two celebrity talks and a workshop to end the day. And of course, no music extravaganza would be complete without, well, actual music, which took place at the Hard Rock Café that night.
When I was first turned onto this event by the PR mavens at Audioblood Media, I figured it would be a great networking opportunity, and overall learning experience. I’ve only been hacking it at this music periphery thing that I do for a couple of years now, so I recognize my dire need for continuing education in that regard. Outside of the learning part, I had no idea what to expect from the event. I invited my dear friend, singer and social media mogul Mark Munroe to accompany me, and to give the summit some serious social media coverage. My choice in partner in crime proved quite fortuitous for myself and the summit, as social media marketing was at the forefront of much of the discussion, and was incredibly well played by the organizers. Each and every panellist with a twitter handle (and truly there was only one who did not have one), had that handle displayed on the main screen, and audience members were not only encouraged but advised to live tweet the discussions and talks, in the hopes of generating interest and visibility for the summit and the speakers themselves.
I would say for a first outing, the Toronto Music Summit did pretty well. The panel discussions were topical and effective, the majority of the speakers insightful and helpful, and the guest speakers very entertaining, as well as educational. At some points I was a bit lost as a result of my lack of knowledge of the industry, but moderator Anthony Mclean did a great job of ensuring panellists and speakers used layman’s terms or explained industry jargon in a way that kept everyone on the same page. He was also especially helpful at curbing overzealous audience members from overtaking question and answer periods, which was no easy feat considering how passionate (and disjointed) some of the diatribes from the floor became.
The panellists were selected based on their varying degrees of experience and specializes in the music industry. From voice coaches and music theory teachers, to lawyers, to radio personalities to agents and managers, virtually all facets of the business end of the music business were represented. Some of the talks had me nodding along in agreement, others had me cocking my head to the side in confusion (I still don’t really understand what an “agent” does in the music business, if anything at all), and others still had me shaking my head in disagreement, and sometimes in outright disbelief. Hearing Jules Lynch from Red Bull Records tell a would-be music businessman and MBA student to work hard, work for free, and work as much as possible to get ahead? Fantastic. Hearing mainstream radio representatives patently avoid the question that they only play major label (read major $$) backed artists? Terrible. And finally, regarding the panelists, I would like to give a shout out to Audioblood Media’s Sari Delmar.
Besides running a great PR company that supports and promotes indie music in Canada, and being an all around awesome gal with great taste in music, Sari provided one of my favourite quotes of the day: “good music gets noticed.” Such a simple, but valuable idea, but it’s something I don’t think any of the mainstream radio people understand very much at all.
Perhaps the biggest, and most pleasant, surprise of the day was the talk given by Canadian rap mogul Kardinal Offishall. My interest in Kardi has waxed and waned over the years, starting at a major high when I first heard “Northern Touch” by the Rascalz on the radio in university, to just kind of hearing his signature style on records with all sorts of artists in the hip hop industry. To say I didn’t know what to expect from his appearance at the summit would be an understatement. I was a complete blank slate, which probably enhanced my enjoyment of his surprisingly wise words. Starting out with an incredibly intelligent spoken word introduction, Kardinal easily won the hearts and minds of everyone in the room. He had several points to make, but the two that drove home were: surround yourself with those who truly love and support you, and be your own man (or woman). Having been in the industry for many years now, Kardinal has been through it all, the trials and tribulations, the successes and the failures. He’s seen the destruction that pretending to be something that you’re not can do, and he’s seen the negative impact that the bloodsuckers, as he called them, can do while trying to ride someone else’s coattails to success. It’s clear that none of it has brought him down; instead, he’s learned, he’s grown, and he’s persevered. As a result he proved to be the greatest example, and inspiration to the struggling industry hopefuls of the world. Incredibly humble, pleasantly humourous, and exceedingly wise, the words Kardi imparted on all of us rang true with even the most jaded listeners in the room.
All in all, I really enjoyed the Toronto Music Summit. The only suggestions I would have would be to include a journalist and a social media expert on one of the panels next year (hint hint…) But on a truly serious note, some one from the media, or someone truly versed in social media marketing could offer some very good advice to the many aspiring artists in the crowd. Having a panel of successful and regularly working musicians, to give real life advice and engage in discussion could be incredibly beneficial. The spirit behind this event is wonderful.
Until next time,
Nadia’s column appears every Tuesday
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Nadia Elkharadly is a Toronto based writer with a serious addiction to music. Corporate drone by day, renegade rocker by night, writing is her creative outlet. Nadia writes for the Examiner (.com) on live music in Toronto and Indie Music in Canada. She has never been in a band but plays an awesome air guitar and also the tambourine. Check in every Tuesday for musings about music, love, life and whatever else that comes to mind.