Rockstar Dreams hosts the San Francisco Music Conference

We’ve covered plenty of Bay Area hip hop, and the whole Bay Area music scene has long been one of the nation’s most prolific – making it the perfect spot for a new music conference. The San Francisco Music Conference took place on Saturday, December 16 at Fort Mason in San Francisco. The morning began slowly, but after the first panel about artist management began, the expertise of both speakers caught the audience’s attention. Fred Croshal, CEO of Croshal Entertainment Group, and Keegan Pitz, Founder of Rockstar Dreams, both spoke about the role of an artist manager in the music industry.

“I view management as artist direction,” said Fred Croshal. The duo went back and forth discussing how an artist must work as hard and have a vision similar to their manager’s. Croshal made an analogy that should have resonated with anyone who passed their high school government class: being a manager and working with the team(business manager, attorney, booking agent, etc) is similar to the president working with the different branches of government. The system of checks and balances can be applied to both scenarios. The manager must direct the whole team, but trust that each person will fulfill their own duties. Croshal and Pitz fielded questions whose answers touched on how to legally cover your music and have things like trademarks registered.

The next panel was by far the most current, and arguably the most informative; Croshal, Pitz, and Jonathan Leone, President of ThrillCall, discussed all aspects of music streaming. According to Croshal, the consumer has spoken: they love streaming. Services like Apple Music and Spotify are not going anywhere anytime soon. Croshal said that on Spotify, major labels know whether or not a song is “working” within three days. Being that there is such a short time to gauge future success, Croshal recommends making sure to “get all of your ducks in a row” before any release.

Next was a panel on touring and booking. Leone spoke again, this time with Jacqueline Gomba, an Event Coordinator at LiveNation. They talked about how when talent scouting, social media numbers are important but engagement on social media is always the priority. In terms of promoting shows, Leone recommends using tools like ThrillCall (and BandsInTown) to promote your event. “Cross promotion is everything,” said Gomba. Both panelists agreed that both artists and their management must remain proactive and stay in contact with venues before and after shows.

Another interesting panel at the San Francisco Music Conference came after a brief break: this one was about artist endorsements. Many of the same concepts from the previous panel seemed to apply, in that endorsements are a reciprocal thing. According to Mike Ciprari of SJC Custom Drums, there is no such thing as free shit, and anyone should actively support brands they want an endorsement from. The lessons from this panel seemed to be all about maintaining brand loyalty and constantly networking.

The panelists consistently took questions from the audience, turning each panel into an open discussion about the music industry’s intricacies.

The audience was soaking in information throughout each minute of the conference, and next up came a panel on marketing. The marketing panel saw overarching themes of consistency and authenticity. Artists must maintain a “look” that is consistent across all social media platforms and extends into their music and artwork. According to Ciprari, being genuine, humble, and giving back will help anyone build their brand. Differentiation was mentioned as another big part of making it in today’s oversaturated music world. This can be through sound or image, but the panelists agreed it should maintain a consistency.

After a discussion with an audience member, it was determined that focusing on distributing whichever medium makes money is beneficial, but that this will be different for different artists. Many of the marketing lessons from this panel were informative but broad, being that a marketing plan should be tailored to each artist.

The next panel – on sync licensing – seemed to mark the beginning of the end of the conference. The endless knowledge spewing from each panelist would not last through the night. Jeff Straw, a co-founder of a marketing and licensing firm, and Brooke Wentz, who ran ESPN’s music department, were the two panelists who gave specific examples of licensing issues and successes. Wentz had recently been approved by a lawyer connected to Justin Timberlake to use a song in a film, and she took the audience through the difficulties of making that happen. Straw spoke on sync licensing splits, saying that they are normally between 50/50 and 70/30.

Next was the beat making panel, which saw Greg Gordon, an experienced music supervisor and producer, speak to the specifics of making beats. Gordon said that he prefers to use Ableton, and then explained how he is passionate about producing with The Push 2. This panel seemed to intrigue the artists in the building much more than it did any managers, bookers, or writers.

The last panel saw former Interscope Records A&R James Mormile speak on his experiences in A&R. He said he has done all of the jobs within a record label since he was 16, but that the pinnacle of his success was when he broke One Republic and their hit “Apologize” went multi-platinum. He detailed that being a major label A&R doesn’t always mean that you have a huge success rate among acts that you sign, and that he was lucky to have one act blow up in the way that they did. He said that the fun part is bringing people together to make great music.

Big thank you to Rockstar Dreams for having us out and for putting together an informative and awesome conference!

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Jack Steindorf

Jack Steindorf

Co-Founder at Apex Hip Hop
Co-Creator of Apex Hip Hop. Spreading dope music. Born and raised in Sacramento, California. Current student at Oregon State University. Message on Twitter for email.