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Micheal Bunnell of the Boise Record Exchange, is Executive Director and a founding member of the Coalition of Independent Record Stores (CIMS) and Making Vinyl moderated a panel of four additional music insiders at Trailhead in Boise, Idaho as a Music Fort for the music festival Treefort. The panel included Christie Coyle and account representative for Redeye Distribution, Aaron Meola, a record label manager for Tender Loving Empire, Patrick Ferrell, Head of Label Relations at The American Association of Independent Music and Skyler Locatelli, Founder of Freakout Records.

The panel was informative and entertaining as each panelist and the moderator fielded questions, both prepared and from the audience. The overall subject of the panel was discussing the future of the industry and how to navigate modern developments like Spotify and the future disruptions that will inevitably occur, how musicians and promoters under appreciate foreign markets, vinyl and CDs in today’s digital world and how platforms like Spotify should be looked at as a way to leverage other forms of publicity as opposed to the endgame itself.

Key points included:

  • Good music breaks through. If you’re good, you will be found.

  • Treat your music like a career. It is both business and art.

  • Labels must look at signing an artist or band like a banker looks at lending money. It is an investment and returns matter for sustainability. Therefore, the music must have an audience.

  • Touring is a great way to sell merchandise, but use good data to book tours. Money is wasted going too far and to venues that aren’t worth it.

  • It takes time to build a following. Returning to locations helps build brand, identity and fanbase.

  • Tech platforms, like Spotify, are beholden to their shareholders, not the talent on the platform. Therefore on-platform revenues will reflect this reality.

  • It is still the wild west as far as how tech and new platforms are revolutionizing how music is distributed.

  • Labels still matter. The work that goes into marketing a band, song or artist requires a network of people doing many things. Independents who don’t have a label must still do all of the same work. The label has that work streamlined with relationships and infrastructure. The label is a partnership because they rely on the success of the bands they sign to profit. Therefore they are invested in the band’s success.

  • Making friends in the industry pays off. Being the support band can create a lot of opportunity.

  • Retail coalitions are a great way to get physical music (CDs and Vinyl) into independent music stores.

  • KEXP Radio is a king maker/taste makers.

The panel was very open to audience questions and enthusiastic about the industry and helping artists. I have included audio clips of the discussion for those who want more granular detail.

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