Kaskade talks about Hardwell as China, Spotify and monetisation take focus at All That Matters in Singapore

Branded co-founder CEO Jasper Donat welcomed everyone back to the Ritz Carlton yesterday, as All That Matters kicked off in Singapore. This introduction was ahead of the first panel, “For The Fan of it!”, in front of a packed ballroom audience. The panel brought together the various streams of the conference – Sports, Music, Gaming and Entertainment – ahead of splitting into Music and Gaming Matters for the first day. 

Christophe Muller, the Director of Music Licensing at YouTube talked about how gaming streaming is becoming the way millions connect through the YouTube platform in a way they never have before; and that from there they can connect on other video content and music and more: “It’s all about finding ways to bring more value to our content providers and our audiences.”

There was also a lot of discussion about never resting on the laurels of one’s industry, as Italo Zanzi from FOX Networks Group explained, “We can’t always take for granted that sports will have the success that it’s had. And there have been plenty of times things have fallen over. But people are more and more connected than ever before. We have to always make sure fans are satisfied.” Italio pointed to the recent success of the World Cup and the Asian Games in Indonesia on the platform as being particularly important in lighting the fire of interest, and developing the “story” that sports fans crave.

Collectively, the panelists helped set the tone for the day and the week ahead. Sameer Nair, CEO of Applause Entertainment, reminded us why we’re all here. “In this business it’s all about keeping people in front of their screen”, he said, while Ralf Reichert of Turtle Entertainment hyped his own industry, saying, “Gaming is going to become the biggest entertainment platform in the world in the year ahead. Resistance is futile.” Muller meanwhile looked at the priorities of the streaming business, “Monetisation is on top of the agenda this year, driving more value to the industry, and more choice,” he said. Though, moderator Jasper Donat was sure to keep things all in perspective, “It’s all about the fan. Without the fan none of us are sitting here.”

These would be topics that would run through the day, right from the opening Music keynote from Danny Lee, Head of Talent & Partnerships at YG Entertainment USA, talking about the rise of K-Pop. This led into the panel “International Indie into Asia”, with representatives from Ultra Music, Paradigm Talent Agency, Ingrooves, Mom+Pop Music and Beggars Group, speaking with Rob Schwartz from Billboard Magazine about how their businesses are working in Asia.

Paradigm’s Ian Bron talked about how “steaming has literally knocked down all the walls; artists can headline festivals first time into the market, where as they used to have to come back time and time again to organically grow an audience in person.” He also discussed how the company wants “to maximise our time in Asia to engage in the marketplace moving forward.

Simon Wheeler of Beggars extended on this need to work in the marketplace for longer periods: “You can do a lot remotely, but having local people/partners to work with, without that you come up a bit short... Festivals are a great way to get into a market where the economics are otherwise hard to make work. But does that build the fan base? You can’t fly into a territory and fly out the next day. There needs to be a network of promoters across territories and a number of shows.

Paul Smith, Head of International Licensing at Spotify was interviewed for “Harnessing the Global Power of Spotify”, and he detailed the impact Spotify makes globally on a release, and what their priorities are moving forward, which is the same as any other music platform, telling the room, “we’re mining the opportunity to discover the next big thing.”

“What Spotify represents is a global platform, with 65 markets that you’re leveraging. We put together a social media campaign around the release of BTS’ “Love Yourself”. We drip fed messages through the billboards, and they followed a narrative through social media. We want to break new artists and gel together established artists with their existing audiences. And then there are different languages and genres in each market. There are different ways to navigate And pay. Spotify has to be a localised version of what they expect.” 

As has often been the case at the Music Matters conference, the growth in China took a lot of the focus. With Tencent Music Entertainment as the sponsor of Music Matters, there’s no surprise it’s even more of a focus this year. Professor Fengyan Zhang of the University of China looked at the numbers of the region in her keynote. She took time to look at the massive drops in copyright infringement in the region, and detailed how the small amount of artists signed to the equivalent of ASCAP or APRA, MCSC, is notable. But she celebrated the fact that music is at the heart of education in the region: with 40 million piano learners and 30 million violin learners, there’s a big potential for future musicians. And there were no less than 269 music festivals in China in 2017, so the opportunities are becoming endless for the next generation of musicians.

And that led well into the next panel, When Not If: “China WILL be the World’s #1 Music Market”. Guests from Sony, Warner, and Believe Digital were amongst the guests on this panel. The music industry is all about consumption, and there’s over a billion people in China who are consuming Music. It’s still in the early evolution of the industry. Paid subscription is the way for the future in China as it is elsewhere in the world, “it was shoehorned into the market by Tencent”. For many Chinese artists, they don’t feel they need to break out of China. Korea is different, it’s a smaller population, and they’ve become the world standard at creating idols. 

After this there was another panel about the Asian industry looking into China, which as it turns out, really is a new thing. “Until Tencent Music came through, there hasn’t been a reason for external companies to focus on China”, said Lauren Kosher of Sony. But now, with the size of the market, and the new abilities for external companies to come through is too big to ignore. Jooyong Lee, Senior Manager, YG, says the development of music publishing in China is the future. And whilst this was all happening, the gaming conference wrapped up with a look at monetisation. 

Closing the day, the artist keynote and electronic artist Kaskade sat down with Australia’s Lars Brandle. They took some time to talk about his career, and about mental health: “I think it’s important to find time to disengage from social media and having to be “on”. You don’t need to reply to everything. You need to take time for yourself. It’s really easy to get lost in this, especially when you’re doing something you love.” Being asked about Hardwell’s recent decision to step back from touring indefinitely – a move that echoed AVICII‘s decision years before his passing, Kaskade said, “I applaud the guys that are willing to stand up, and step back.” He noted the stresses that running your career – which is a business that employs dozens of people – can take on you as an artist and as a person. He also took some time to reflect on his time living in Japan, a place where he still seems to love to perfom more than anywhere else.

After the conference was over, a couple of Chinese bands took to the stage at a pool party, and then it was the Aussie’s time to shine, with three Perth acts on show at the Aussie BBQ in Clarke Quay. The event kicked off with Almond Soy, and fresh from a UK jaunt, Ben Catley, who bursted with confidence and an impressive guitar style that brings Ash Grunwald to mind. Australia’s newest boy band Darling Brando followed, representing Sydney, and then it was time for the girls to shine, with Brisbane’s Jaguar Jonze and Perth’s Your Girl Pho closing out the night. Both artists will also be playing the Girls’ Night Out showcase on Wednesday night at Barber Shop by Timbre, which is closing out Music Matters Live.

If some of these names aren’t familiar to you, don’t be too alarmed, there are some truly new acts amongst this pack. For Darling Brando, these shows in Singapore are their first live performances ever, and Jaguar Jonze is here in Singapore following her live debut last week at BIGSOUND. But, it was Your Girl Pho who had the last notes and left the lasting impression, thanks to her soulful production, accompanied by some welcomed saxophone, which sent everyone into the Singapore night.

Stay tuned from more from the AU at All That Matters. The AU are official media partners of All That Matters and Music Matters Live. For more details about the conference, which runs until 12th September, head to their official website.

To get to Singapore for the conference from Australia, we travelled courtesy of Scoot, and stayed at the Intercontinental Singapore Robertsons Quay, not far from Clarke Quay where the nightly Music Matters Live Festival is being held.

Larry Heath

Founding Editor of the AU review. You can find him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.