Interview with New Music Seminar’s Tom Silverman: Conquering The New Music Frontier

In its vast history, the music industry has experienced an overwhelming amount of changes. From shifts in musical tastes, styles and influences, to continual developments in technology, the business has adapted, evolved and survived through it all.

However, since the ‘90s, the music industry has faced one key disruptor: the internet. The inception of Napster, the growing prominence of online ripping and file sharing, and the iconic status of Apple’s iPod and iTunes all have encouraged music fans to consume music differently. Furthermore, these innovations also have forced artists to rethink how they release and promote their work for ensured longevity.

Music executives, producers, songwriters and artists have faced a rocky path of trying to thrive and survive in the fickle music world. The New Music Seminar was developed to offer in-depth insights, best practices and real-world success stories of how artists and their representatives keep pace and achieve in the music business in light of new and emerging disruptors.

“The music business has gone down to its lowest bottom since 1967, and the slowest ever in its history,” says Tom Silverman, co-founder and Executive Director of New Music Seminar and Founder/President of Tommy Boy Records. “This drop has forced the business to reinvent itself and basically start over. We’re focusing on these changes and really are trying to determine what this kind of new business will be like.”

Cited as a “conference for the Next Music Business,” the New Music Seminar was developed to help people excel in light of changes that are “transforming the old ‘record business’ into an entirely new industry,” according to the Seminar’s mission statement. The conference will take place June 17-19 at Webster Hall in New York City.

“It’s exciting to see how certain trends are growing,” Silverman says. “At NMS, we’ll be examining where the money is coming from and where the opportunities are, and what the future looks like. There are many differing opinions on what the future is, but all of them are positive. Regardless of what tomorrow may be, it’ll be much better than what it is today.”

During the four-day conference, executives from companies including Rhapsody, Spotify, Pandora and YouTube, will discuss how artists can utilize new digital outlets to increase exposure and monetize their image, as well as their content. Along with breakout sessions and interactive demonstrations featuring executives from BMI, Hype Machine, iHeartRadio, Pitchfork, Sony Music Entertainment and SoundExchange, among others, Clear Channel CEO Bob Pittman and Sean Parker, digital music pioneer and Founders Fund Executive General Partner, will deliver keynote presentations.

The growing ubiquity of social media sites, internet radio and music applications has forced developing artists to rethink their branding and marketing strategies. In an online stratosphere swarming with talented performers, artists must not only have the talent, but the business knowledge and drive, to communicate with potential listeners and fans, and build relationships.

“We’re in the early days of digital technology, and we’re still learning new things every day,” Silverman says. “Revenue exists everywhere, it’s just a matter of finding it and tapping into it.”

However, emerging artists are slow to garner the knowledge and resources to build their brand. This is a harsh detriment for artists that want to be successful, but are simply lacking digital knowledge, Silverman explains.

“Not only do you have to look good on video and be a good performer with solid music, you have to have knowledge in video tagging, SEO, social media and how to effectively communicate with fans,” Silverman says. “It’s a whole different business now, and it may not be for everybody. Sometimes I wonder if Elvis or the Beatles would be able to thrive today—they may not have been able to handle it.”

To teach singers, songwriters and instrumentalists how to exceed the competition in a crowded marketplace, the New Music Seminar will hone in on three key trends: shorter listener attention spans; the growing prominence of social sites in the marketing mix; and how to monetize music via YouTube. In fact, NMS will showcase top YouTube sensations in a performance showcase, as well as a panel, titled “Video Innovators: Big YouTube Hit Makers Talk about the Art and Science of Making Successful YouTube Videos.”

One artist that achieved mainstream success through YouTube is Pittsburgh wordsmith Mac Miller. Although the rapper released tracks through Rostrum Records, an independent label in Pittsburgh, Mac tapped into YouTube to share his tracks and garner a fanbase. After landing the number-one spot on the Billboard Top 200 with his debut, Blue Slide Park, he has become the hip-hop industry’s latest star, selling out shows and even headlining this year’s Bamboozle Festival.

“On YouTube, there are no gatekeepers, which allows new artists to break through,” Silverman says. “Although we’re seeing artists like Mac Miller become stars, a lot of artists that are successful on YouTube may not resonate outside of the platform. When you think of most of those artists, who are doing covers of hit records, they’re using familiarity to drive impressions. When they try to perform their own material it doesn’t work, because they haven’t perfected their songwriting. But the ones that succeed in YouTube have fans all over the world!”

Seminar organizers also will be celebrating the inaugural NMS New York Music Festival. Scheduled to take place in 17 venues throughout New York City and Brooklyn, the fest will kick off June 17 at an invite-only opening night party. During the event’s entirety, NMS will showcase acts from its “Artists On The Verge Top 100 Chart,” which highlights breakthrough musicians that have positioned themselves as up-and-comers and innovators in the independent scene. On June 18, the top three finalists on the chart—Maren Morris, Black Cobain and Ninjasonik—will perform at Santos Party House to compete for more than $150,000 in funds for marketing, promotion, services and music equipment, and will receive consultations from business executives regarding their fields of expertise.

“If an artist wants it—and is willing to put the work in—they can’t be stopped,” Silverman says. “The necessity of being on a major record label is no longer relevant. Artists now have the opportunity to raise funds and build their audience and monetize it. We’ve been preaching this for a while and have taken artists under our wing to be the poster children of this movement.”

To be eligible for chart placement, U.S. artists must have never sold more than 10,000 albums or 30,000 single tracks. Acts also were judged on quality and uniqueness of songs, production and recordings, live show, image, career momentum, and fluency in social media and other prominent online outlets.

As marketing channels continue to develop, artists will be faced with a greater opportunity to develop their presence and overall business strategy. The New Music Seminar will offer the networking connections and educational content to hone in on new trends and offer a solid foundation for success.


The New Music Seminar will take place June 17-19 at Webster Hall in New York City. For more information, go to