Last week I dabbled in a few conferences and then committed to a panel. What did I learn?
At ITExpo in downtown my big takeaway was speed. Evolution. Regulation. The cloud. Opportunities continue to develop at an increasing pace. And the battle of net neutrality continues. Indeed, Hank Hultquist gave a riveting speech on the major issues and regulation that comprise net neutrality issues…from AT&T’s viewpoint.
Panels at the Digital Music Forum West (Roosevelt Hotel) sometimes got confrontational, with the forces for change arguing against those with a vested interest in staying the same. A few later panels were too politically correct and mutually supportive (for my taste). But Rick Alden, SkullCandy’s CEO provided insight and emphasis on branding, which distinguishes how his company operates. Visionary and charismatic (with freebees to hand out) he garnered a lot of questions and a crowd outside the main hall. Best quote? “The best ideas won’t come from sitting behind a desk”.
Later panels on Brands & Music and Touring explored further specific instances of how acts and brands can customize and define themselves. The real message? Define clearly who you are and your audience. Then set yourself apart creatively in that context. And don’t tie your brand to an artist; develop your own broader, richer personality.
The conference highlighted innovation (and spots that lack innovation) within the music industry. As we all know, the music industry was ahead in getting hit with digital change, making mistakes in their response and now in coming up with new ideas to survive and prosper.
The Caltech/MIT Enterprise Forum – From Past Time to Prime Time (on Social Networking) – was where I committed. Kevin DeBre of Stubbs Alderton & Markiles introduced. Mark Suster of GRP and Jay Samit of SVnetwork spoke. You want to hear the message straight? They both deliver that. Mark told us to look outside of walled gardens (if you rely only on Facebook they own your audience – keep your website) as both closed and open systems work. Jay advised entrepreneurs to get between big trends and pick up the crumbs (great imagery).
The panel: Jay, Sean Moriarty (Mayfield Fund currently), Jonathan Strauss (awe.sm) and Andy Wilson (Momentum Ventures), with Mark Suster moderating. The panel offered so many insights; I only have room to list a few. The social capital that you bring to business is critical today. Traditional analytics don’t work in social media…the space is so fragmented; do you want pages views or transactions? Brands need to get where the customers are and realize that their “important” doesn’t matter as much as does their customers’. Individuals now communicate across channels. Local is (still) the great unsolved problem. Women are over-served in the major success stories of the past few years: daily deals, flash sites and social games (take the women away and…). Tigertext effectively erases the record of your digital communications.
My conclusion on the week? I’d prefer not to go to conferences/panels everyday (fun though they can be).
Next up, Digital Hollywood starting October 18. I myself am on a panel on Wednesday, October 20.