Music industry celebrates digital, social media success at Miami conference

Indy music personality Raquel Sofia performs at the MIA Music Summit — a one-day conference bringing together startups and leaders in the creative industries on Thursday, March 26, 2015 at the Colony Theater on Miami Beach.
Indy music personality Raquel Sofia performs at the MIA Music Summit — a one-day conference bringing together startups and leaders in the creative industries on Thursday, March 26, 2015 at the Colony Theater on Miami Beach. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Nicky Jam credits his comeback to Instagram.

“Instagram changed my life,” said the popular Latin singer-songwriter, who explained his career had taken a dive. He now has 2.8 million Instagram fans. “You can call me an Instagram celebrity. … Even my dogs are famous, even though they are ugly, they are Chihuahuas — people love them.”

And while many artists say digital revenues don’t pay the bills, Nicky Jam disagrees. “On YouTube, I have people sponsoring them, I pay all my bills just with YouTube,” he said, speaking by Skype from Colombia. “The success I have been having is 70 percent because of the Net.”

Nicky Jam was one of the speakers at MIA Music Summit, the second annual tech-entrepreneurship conference for the fast-changing music industry that took place Thursday at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach. The summit gathered entrepreneurs, studio executives, investors and musicians to explore the intersection of technology and music, and it was planned to coincide with Miami Beach’s Centennial, the Winter Music Conference and Ultra.

Demian Bellumio, chief operating officer of music-technology company Senzari and the organizer of the summit, said Miami can become an ideal location for creating and growing digital music startups. “As a city, we have a rich music history … and today it is home to top record labels, music executives, artists, festivals, media companies and even some globally recognized digital music startups,” he said.

At the summit, there were conversations about mining Big Data and music recommendation services such as Pandora (you are much more likely to get out of your comfort zone and experiment with your music in the evening, a Pandora data expert said) and attracting investment. Speakers also included leaders from Fon, 8tracks, Havas Sports & Entertainment, Atom Factory, Splice and Jukely, among many others.

A half-dozen startup founders demonstrated their emerging technologies, including Pablo Osinaga of Bandhub, a collaboration music platform for recreational musicians around the world. Dubset is solving the complexities behind proper rights-holder identification, licensing and distribution. South Florida media entrepreneur Derrick Ashong, master of ceremonies for the summit, gave a sneak peek of his new startup Amp.It, which is running a global Take Back the Mic: The World Cup of HipHop competition, with winner to be revealed at eMerge Americas in May. Muzik, based in Miami Beach and a maker of smart headphones and, soon, as seen at this year’s CES, smart drum sticks, also presented.

Partnerships between brands and artists are trending in popularity, and companies are starting to partner with emerging artists and growing with them rather than just the superstars, panelists said. These social media partnerships are significant new revenue streams, but you need to make the content so relevant it doesn’t feel like advertising, they said.

As Ultra gets underway, one of EDM DJ David Guetta’s managers, Jean Charles-Carre, shared some secrets of Guetta’s success: “We never sleep.”

Guetta, who will be performing at Ultra’s closing Sunday night, has sold more than 9 million albums. Guetta’s preferred social platform, said Charles-Carre: “He used to do Twitter, but now it’s Instagram. Facebook, not much.”

Instagram is in fact the fastest growing platform for artists, said Liv Buli of Next Big Sound. But don’t count Facebook out: millennials still are the strongest demographic group following artists on Facebook — nearly half of the total music followers, she said.

Local indie artist Raquel Sofia is one of the first artists Sony signed for its new digital label. Instead of doing the traditional route, cutting an album, doing tours, etc., all the music is available digitally.

“People ask me, ‘Why doesn’t Sony give you a real record deal?’ It is a record deal but a new approach,” said Sofia, who has 6 million streams on Spotify. “We’re measuring in streams, we are measuring in views, we are measuring in all these social media platforms. That is the new way of making it.”

Sofia, without releasing an album, has already written and performed with some of the most popular and influential artists in the Latin market, including Shakira and Juanes.

“There are a lot more tools, it’s easier, it’s more accessible,” she said. “You can have a home studio and put the music out yourself. It’s cool that everyone can be a musician, everyone be an artist.”

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.