The sole music-related event at last week’s Social Media Week in NYC was the SoundCtrl “What is Your Social Music Currency” event on February 4th. The event was moderated by James Andrews (former Columbia exec) and featured a panel of Questlove, Andrew Katz from Pepsi, and Marisa Bangesh (Uncensored Interview). Lots of good talk followed, but most of it centered around brands, content, and of course….social media. More video + photos after the jump.

Questlove & Andrew Katz (Pepsi)
Questlove & Andrew Katz (Pepsi) – Photo by GFM

Before I dive in, though, let me just say, the space they hosted it in couldn’t have been more perfect.  The old Tower Records, now shut down (can we say old music model??) was brought into the new age of music and converted into an art gallery by “No Longer Empty.”  The gallery was more than appropriate, with a music-shop theme and huge photos of contemporary album covers mashed with legendary titles (i.e. a Mariah Carey album cover for a Wes Montgomery show).

As for the panel, here are the three points I thought summarized it best:

#1: Do brands want to be famous?

As more brands work on being cool &  get acquainted with social media, Andrews brought up a great question…do brands want to be famous?  Hmmm.   Twitter certainly wants to be famous…Google did….and Apple can’t seem to stop itself.   Katz noted that Pepsi wants to be “iconic” and not famous, and that the path of brands today should be about being legendary along the lines of Marilyn Monroe.

Not 100% sure if I agree with that.  I like the idea of iconic brands – Coca Cola (sorry Pepsi), Cadillac, Nike – but I’m not sure that fits into the social media model.   Social media is about being flexible, about being true to your brand but being a conversation leader — but that doesn’t necessarily build legends.  It does build, however, authenticity and trust.  Just as important as being living legends.

#2:  “Yeah, you can spit, but can you blog?”

Questlove said that new musicians (especially the rappers that go to him for advice) need to be their own promoters.  Gone are the days where you hand someone a nice demo and hope for a huge record contract (do you even want one anymore?) and the bucks to roll in.  You’ve got to be blogging, tweeting, creating, and doing EVERYTHING.

Lots of musicians feel like they’re sacrificing the “art” to work on their digital PR game, and borderline selling out if they’re trying earn money from something other than selling their music.  Wrong mindset, said Questlove.  “If you don’t realize this is a business….it’s like trying to cross FDR without looking both ways.  You’re going to be blindsided by a giant truck.”  Case in point, it’s all about exposing your music whichever way is possible — and that means working with brands, who aren’t evil, but a channel for your music.

#3: Content, content, content

The fact that your content is your way in couldn’t have been made more clear. Bangesh, from the video production & licensing company Uncensored Interview (which targets musicians), noted that more brands are coming to the table with the mindset of creating & curating good content, rather than just slapping their logo on something they’ve already done.   Even more interesting (and promising), was the fact that the “big guys” care more about independent and “about-to-break” artists for prominent campaigns than trying to book the Beyonce’s of the world (at a hefty price tag no doubt).  It means that brands, once again, want to be creators…ushering in the revolution, not reacting to it & pointing out how cool it is.  I like that.

Katz, though, warned of trying to be too much too soon.  Brands “have to earn the right to be content curators,” he said.   True.  Trust takes time, so just because you recognize great content, be careful before you declare yourself an expert.

Thanks again to all the panelists, moderator, and of course SoundCtrl for another awesome event.  Make sure you check out SoundCtrl’s new Flash Forward (which awards digital innovators) program, and photos/videos from the event below.