Tom Silverman, CEO of Tommy Boy Records, Talks New Music Seminar

Tom Silverman, CEO of Tommy Boy Records, is hard at work on this summer’s New Music Seminar, which is coming up in July in New York City. He took a moment this week to talk to BlueComet.TV about the purpose and focus of the Seminar—and to offer our readers discounted registration!

BLUECOMET.TV: Tell us a little about the origins of the New Music Seminar.
TOM SILVERMAN: The origins go back to 1980, when a bunch of us young upstarts wanted to start a conference that would be responsive to new people in the music business and new sounds that were trying to break through, in a business that was controlled by the status quo. We did a small conference the next year, and we did it again the following year, and eventually it grew to the biggest music conference in the world.

Throughout the 80s we were the conference people built their schedules around, and we created the panel style that is so common now. We inspired SXSW and CMJ and England’s “In the City.” We stopped operating for 15 years, and all of these other conferences spun off, and our objective was achieved because we’d integrated the music business.

I’d been asked to start (the Seminar) again a million times, but it didn’t seem like the right time. By 2009 I realized what was going to happen (in the music industry), and I had this vision for… NMS to convene the architects of the next music business, while the old one was designed to reform the music business.

BCTV: We attended the New Music Seminar in February in Los Angeles. Was that the first one?
TS: That was the third. We did three in six months. Originally we thought we’d do them quarterly. They used to be annual, but they’ll be semi-annual in NY & LA because the music business is changing fast enough that they need to happen more than once a year. We’re back where were in 1980/81, although we’re growing quickly. We were at about 1000 in LA, and we’re expecting 1600 in NY.

(((NYC event July 19-21; registration is open now; early-bird registration open now until the end of April. BlueComet.TV readers get a special code: NMSNY10. This code gets you 2 registrations for the price of 1. That’s a savings of $150!)))

BCTV:Who should attend the New Music Seminar?
TS:Everyone who plans on being in the business in the future or being an artist in the future. If they’re not planning on being a successful artist or in the music business, (they do) not need to be there.

It’s very much focused on artists. The reason I started it is because I was asked to be on a lot of panels that had very high-level business topics that had no effect on artists, and it was frustrating because the room would be 95% artists, and we’d be talking about sponsorships. Artists are concerned with what they can do to get from where they are to anyone giving a s*** about them. They need to break through the “obscurity zone.” They might be looking for ways to get more money and more exposure. I looked at everything that’s out there and said, “Well, there’s new ways to look at your career, and new ways to make you money and save you money and build your fan base, and a lot of those thing things didn’t even exist 5 years ago.”

We want to help them define success and get out of their day jobs. We’re trying to break down the idea of label dependency. The reality is that you’re not going to be with a label until your career is going 30-50 mph. They’re not interested in artists that are starting from scratch. They’re looking for artists who have a sense of awareness—they’ve already distinguished themselves, they give a s*** and they’re already working hard. We can take that, throw some gasoline on it, and light it on fire. That’s what labels really do. Major labels want to take artists to 100-120 mph.

About the New Music Seminar…

We have a very organized curriculum. We’re expanding from four “movements” to five as we go to a second day, because the artists we got feedback from wanted more networking time. In going to two days, we’re expanding the amount of open time for people to meet each other, look at exhibits and meet with exhibitors.

Highlights from this summer’s agenda:

1st Movement: Welcome to the new music business; everything you know is wrong. Extreme fans; changing the perception of what you want to do as a musician.

2nd: The future of media. As media starts moving more to the Web, what does that mean for developing artists? How will artists break in the future?

3rd: Touring.

4th: The Creative Conundrum: Increasing your odds with radical differentiation. How do you change the story? How do you make yourself stand out as an artist when there are 5 million artists out there? The less money you have, the more powerful your message has to be.

5th: The breaks. All artists talking about how they got their break (and talking about) their mentors. This will be all big artists of different types talking about when they broke through obscurity and how they got there.–When did you know you were going to make it? Who mentored you?

The idea is inspirational so when artists leave, they feel charged up and refocused.

Then we’ll have TED-style 18-minute talks– three an hour– talking about how artists can make more money now. How can they sell more stuff; increase their fans; generate revenues? Talks that will get them more focused on making money so they can quit their day jobs and grow their business. How do you manage your fan relationships and monetize them?

Then we’ll have mentor sessions in another room- breakout sessions with mentors. Artists told us they wanted more one-on-one opportunities with the people who will be there, and that’ll be on a first come, first served basis.

There will be parties on Monday night and performances Tuesday and Wednesday. We’ll identify the to 100 artists most ready to break, then we’ll bring it down to the top three, who will perform at the Seminar.

And, in case you missed it before:

(((NYC event July 19-21; registration is open now; early-bird registration open now until the end of April. BlueComet.TV readers get a special code: NMSNY10. This code gets you 2 registrations for the price of 1. That’s a savings of $150!)))