YAIC Roundtable Workshops [Day 2]


After a lunchbreak and an intimate performance by the wonderful Olof Arnalds, You Are In Conference deliquesced into a series of afternoon roundtable workshops on a variety of subjects.

Songbird Olof Arnalds puts on a stunning afternoon performance
Songbird Olof Arnalds puts on a stunning afternoon performance

In The Perfect Lovenest - which explores the relationship between film and music – Christopher Roberts from Sidelot Studios was joined by Hampus Kivimae from Sony (SE), Icelandic musician Petur Ben, Icelandic director Gunnar Gudbjornsson, Cinesong’s Milena Fessmann and Alicen Schneider from NBV / Universal.

There were record labels, musicians and publishers in the room, and the discussion centred around how film studios go about sourcing or choosing music, how artists/labels can best present their music to films, the advantages of hanging around film schools to build relationships with directors at an early stage, and the importance of using ALL channels – not only the official music supervisor or whoever – to get your music into hands of the right people. A final point for musicians: be targeted and make sure you have a card and a website and can represent yourself.

The Where Is My Money panel included Mobilium Advisory Group’s Ralph Simon, Smarten Up’s Birgit Hoff, Helga Valfells from Iceland’s New Business Venture Fund, Runar Ornarsson from Nikita Clothing and Sr. Eggert Claesson from the Frumtak Investment Fund. Here the room learned about how to present a business plan and find investors; how to fan fund and micro fund; how to work on different business relationships; and who are the new players in the funding business.

A good point raised by Runnar was that investors are not only people who write cheques and give money – they can also invest energy or experience, i.e. forming strategic partnerships. YAIC MD Anna Hildur (in the audience) also stressed the importance of official government support in helping new creatives grow, and the need for physical interaction as well as digital networking.

The World Without Borders discussion explored overlapping circles within new business models. Jonas Antonsson from Gogogic, Kristin Andrea Thordardottir from Poppoli Pictures, Asgrimur Sverrison’s Cinema Now and Nokia’s Asa Carild (SE) looked at new options in the digital space, examined the borders between the different creative sectors, the role of games as potential distributors, the effects of the games boom on filmmakers and new consumer behaviour.

There were concerns from the artistic side about being lost in the new world, that middlemen therefore might be necessary as guides, but they should be transparent and bring value.

The Perfect Lovenest Roundtable
The Perfect Lovenest Roundtable

In the Creating A Green Future room, Catherine Langabeer from Julie’s Bicycle in the UK, Sigridur Sigurjonsdottir from the Iceland Academy of Arts and Gudrun Lilja Gunnlaugsdottir from Studio Billy analysed the issue of energy and the environment and the fact that the IT sector is responsible for 3-5% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The room’s main question was: how is it possible to use the digital environment in more creative ways to create a more sustainable future? There were many ideas on how to be greener as an industry, how to engage individuals as well as companies, with the overall conclusion that the emphasis should be shifted from punishing the ‘not doers’ towards rewarding the ‘doers’.

There was also a room for Fashion, Digital Retail and Marketing, featuring Nathan Richardson (CCP), Oisin Lunny (Habbo) and Hugrun Dogg Arnadottir (Kron). They discussed how there is a lot of opportunity for fashion designers in the virtual world – getting brands into Eve online, Habbo, 2nd Life, where you can get real revenue. A strong identity is also essential for fashion brands, and also using Facebook and bloggers.

The final workshop was Visual Arts 2.0, which looked at the role of the visual arts in connection with the digital revolution. Gerfried Stocker from Ars Electronica, Margret Elisabet Olafsdottir, a writer on aesthetics, and artist Finnbogi Petursson chatted with moderator Christian Schoen from the Center for Icelandic Arts. The focus was on the continuing merger between the media sector and the traditional arts, and though few conclusions were found in this ongoing dialogue, the general feel was not to be in control, but to be free with ideas…

Where Is My Money roundtable workshop
Where Is My Money roundtable workshop

Interview with Sigurjon Sighvatsson

Film producer Sigurjon Sighvatsson is the most famous and established Icelandic individual working in the film industry today. He has over 30 features to his credit and is known for his innovatve and influential principals with regards to the modern concept of the commercial and music video.

He talked to interviewer Ralph Simon about his time making music videos in Iceland back in the day (he was formerly a musician), his move to the States and working with stars like Madonna (on Truth & Dare) and on groundbreaking TV shows like David Lynch’s Twin Peaks and Beverly Hills 90210.

Ralph Simon interviews veteran Icelandic film producer Sigurjon  Sighvatsson
Ralph Simon interviews veteran Icelandic film producer Sigurjon Sighvatsson

Throughout Sigurjon was relaxed and tremendously down to earth, avoiding hyperbolic words like ‘grondbreaking’ and ‘innovative’ and putting many success stories down to serendipity and/or often elements out of his control. After admitting to a love of soaps and his role in bringing Dynasty to Iceland, Sigurjon discussed some of his current projects, sich as Brother (with Tobey Maguire) and The Knock Out Artist, a new movie being directed by Sean Penn.

The interview was wrapped up by Sigurjon explaining how being an Icelander and therefore an outsider in the Hollywood industry had its advantages, and had some advice for budding creatives: be disciplined, be resilient (some of his projects have been in development for ten years!) and, above all, make sure your ideas are good!

YAIC Day 2: Remi Harris [Association of Independent Music]

Remi Harris began her presentation by rewinding to 1999 and the beginning of the “digital dream” – and how labels and middle men at that time were scared of being cut out of the picture. She recalled how between 1999-2005 AIM were busy exploring, learning, experimenting with new technologies like streaming services, and dealing with how to turn the physical product into something digital.

By 2005 AIM had started London Connected, and were helping their members use the technology via workshops and conferences to everyone from publishers to record labels and online advertisers.

Remi Harris from AIM
Remi Harris from AIM

Remi’s advise to music businesses was manifold: think about who your target audience is, and where to find them on and offline – with special focus on the core audience; the importance of communicating and using feedback on the web to collect information and responses; being creative and original when promoting your music; not trying to do everything yourself, and trying to make use of your fans and supporters.

The final bit of advice was to move steadily-  learn to use the tools available, moving through them slowly.

YAIC Day 2: Gudjon Mar Gudjonsson [Ministry Of Ideas]

Gudjun Mar from the grass-roots driven Ministry of Ideas kicked off Day 2 of YAIC by encouraging us to take a look at our lives and actions from a historical perspective, looking at how much we have changed our planet in recent times and then went on to explore the potential of the Free movement and Gift economies, specifically with regard to the creative industries.

Gudjon Mar Gudjonsson
Gudjon Mar Gudjonsson

One of the big questions was: is there any money on Planet Free? Gudjun pointed to profitable companies like Facebook, Skype, Google as well as non-profitable companies like Twitter. He then asked, can something similar happen in Iceland?

Well, he said – yes it can. He pointed out that Iceland has as many people as employees as General Electrics. He talked about the concept of Akido, the American vision of sending men to the moon – and viewed Iceland’s financial situation as being an opportunity to become a role model for other countries.

Why? Because it’s small and manageable; it has a sophisticated infrastructure; and a useful sense of urgency. The way forward will involve thinking big and working with innovative solutions to funding problems. So for example, his company have already begun the process of procuring 200 Billion ISK to put into innovative, grassroots business and developments.

The money will be raised via crowd-sourcing, and the most successful companies will be those with blended values: those with a sense of the social, financial and the environmental.

Ambitious and inspiring ideas for sure – but as the man said, if you’re gonna think, why not think big?

YAIC Day 1: Power Of Digital Media

Record Of The Day editor Nicola Slade moderated this panel on the implications of new (or online) media. Ogilvy’s Dave Birss had a go at breaking down the word “tribe” before China’s club scene aficionado Neebing explained why blogging doesn’t have much influence or impact in a country the size of China.

Power Of Digital Media

Haukur Magnusson, editor of Grapevine, pointed out that the authority of paid journalists who have editorial fact checkers etc. behind them is perhaps more alluring than maverick bloggers. He also (justifiably) pointed out the similarities between the diminishing returns for the content creators both in terms of journalism and music, underling that researching articles and making music are both expensive processes that are these days being ‘stolen’ or used for free.

Nicola pointed out that there are bloggers who command respect and have larger readerships than some established media outlets. Bearded magazine’s Anita Awbi made the salient point that there are many types of bloggers – authoritative bloggers as well as the bedroom ramblers. Icelandic fashion designer Gunnar Hilmarsson (from Anderson & Lauth) offered some insights into the fashion industry media, while Dave Birss opined that Vogue (as an example) would be more suited to an ‘instant’ blog or even mobile phone app than an expansive and time consuming magazine format.

The panel also discussed the changing ways in which bands can now create hype and success with the diminishing power and number of magazine front covers. Haukur argued that though media is now more prolific and even fragmented, this means that there are in fact more ways of finding outlets for your music – e.g. online radio stations, blogs, websites, fanzines etc. – even if they don’t have the traditional power of established print magazines.

YAIC Day 1: Copyright & Social Media Websites

This panel looked at how future generations consume culture and entertainment. Birgit Hoff from Germany’s Smarten Up explains how our generation are now willing to compromise with regards to in-built advertising schemes in online media and that artists can make a living now just as well as before – they just need to make an effort to identify new avenues of income.

Morgunbladid representative Arni Matthiasson talked about how his paper has survived in the new online generation by running different and separate content in print and online.

Panel: Copyright & Social Media challenges

Tahir Basheer from law firm Sheridans discussed how papers and news in general has had to adapt in the Twitter and Facebook age – that, although the importance of print has declined, the two things can co-exist: it’s simply a case of working out how. Similarly, artists also have to learn how to co-exist with the new technologies.

Arni Matthiason, well known for his passionate views on the music industry, urged everyone to wake up and face the fact that many aspects of the music industry – from publishing to newspapers – are moribund and will eventually disappear for good. He celebrated the demise of the “middle man” and the strengthening of ties between musician and listener / consumer.

His fellow Icelander Haukur S. Magnusson from innovative music platform Gogoyoko, which does in fact cut out the middle man, underlined the human aspect of music business interaction and that despite the industry flux, music sales and consumption is booming.

The final part of the panel was given over to the thorny issue of how to control / monetize downloading, along with the currently popular theories about the role of ISP providers (could they be taxed, should they charge money and distribute to artists) and streaming services like Spotify. As always, there are no easy answers, but the dominant conclusion at the end was: it can be done.

YAIC Day 1: Oisin Lunny [Habbo]

Former member of UK hip hop / acid jazz band Marxman, Oisin Lunny now works for Sulake’s Habbo Hotel. After a short video introduction into this mind-bogglingly immersive virtual reality world, in which you can hold parties, wear cool clothes, network, run campaigns, he went on to explain some of the functional and financial aspects of Habbo.

With 144 million registered Habbo characters (89,000 sign up every day, mostly by word of mouth), Habbo is particularly pro active in its campaigns, which include not just billboards and branded spaces / interstitials but also profile pages, branded badges, created events (for Comic Relief, for example) and more.

Oisin Lunny explains the virtual world of Habbo

Oison also spoke about the importance of the Habbo Youth Survey, which gives intimate insights into the network’s users, and which are then sold on “as another separate business venture”. The research allows Habbo to find out what their teenage audience want, leading to link ups with companies like American Idol, MTV, SuperSuper and more.

In fact over 200 brands have advertised in Habbo, including Nokia and Coca Cola and the site is monetized via services like the Habbo Club, branded Furniture (called Furni), special promotions and bespoke merchandise.

Music, of course, is of prime importance. Over 400 music celebs have visited the site including Lady Gaga, Gorillaz, Ozzy Osbourne and The Veronicas, many of whom chat with users.

YAIC Day 1: The Future Of Digital Distribution

This panel included Asa Carild from Nokia (Sweden), Elisabet Gretarsdottir from CCP (Iceland), Gerfried Stocker from Ars Electronica (Austria), film maker Cory McAbee (US) and Icelandic designer Katrin Olina Petursdottir.

Future Of Digital Distribution Panel
Future Of Digital Distribution Panel

The emphasis here was on the changing human, or physical, aspects within the ever-changing [and dominating] digital world. The inter-connectivity of the internet being wonderful but as Gerfried Stocker from Ars Electronica reminds us “we are all still atoms, from head to toe” and foresaw the artistic re-creation of physical locations that are now missing from people’s lives (record shops, museums, opera houses).

Cory McAbee praised the extra intimacy that comes with self-distribution, bridging the gap between your creation and its life in the world: “It’s good to embrace your products and enjoy them.”

Asa from Nokia pointed out that the world of digital music encourages people to explore more genres and makes it more immediate via streaming on the internet and mobile phones.

Gerfried envisioned a future filled with screens of every kind, for newspapers as well as films, and a corresponding call for literally avalanches of content. His question was how to control the quality of the content being made for these “surfaces”. Elisabet and Cory talked about shared experiences – using the internet to enlarge our sense of shared experience, with the ensuing paradox that we are increasingly alone yet increasingly connected.

The overall conclusion was that despite the proliferation of the digital era, our activities will retain a human shape. We will continue to consume in a tribal manner, though perhaps the thing we need to watch out for is – that famous watchword in the internet era – quality.

YAIC Day 1: Paul Bennett [IDEO]

Rokurro play a captivating warm up set at You Are In Control.

After some lovely morning music courtesy of Rokurro and a welcome from You Are In Control MD Anna Hildur, the conference got underway with a rousing introduction from Minister of Industry, Energy and Tourism Katrin Juliusdottir (“I’m going to indulge in some of the old fashioned Icelandic art of boasting”), immediately followed by an inspirational lecture by Paul Bennett, Chief Creative Officer of IDEO.

Somewhat idiosyncratically, Paul began his lecture with a pumping YouTube clip of some 70s Italian proto-disco, showed us some records he’d like to have played at his funeral (Blondie, The Clash) and promised there would be no “strategy shit” or motivational clapping etc.

He then told us that, actually, “You Are Not In Control”. Ah…

Paul Bennett gives an inspirational speech involving Italian  disco, our changing world and social philosophy.
Paul Bennett gives an inspirational speech involving Italian disco, our changing world and social philosophy.

But that was not, he promised, anything to worry about, since Letting Go was the way forward out of the world’s current financial crisis – which itself was preceded by a moral crisis. Paul gave us various philosophical concepts to think about – doing good begats doing good, how pie is the new slice…and insisted that bitching about the sweeping changes of the digital era is pointless. Adaptation and thinking of new ideas is a much, much better way to deal with the situation.

Some of his key recommendations for companies or businesses:

1. Have higher purposes and meaning, despite the circumstances

2. Embrace failure and learn from it.

3. Transparency.

4. Make people the centre of the brand

5. Create the theatre, not the play.

He ended with the “tragically unhip” but interesting example of the Josh Groban inspired “Grobanets for Charity” campaign. Paul’s messages were clear: we must go deeper culturally and morally to be more successful. inspiring stuff indeed.

YAIC Day 1: Serena Wilson [Nile On] on Groove Armada / Bacardi

Serena Wilson from London’s Nile-On PR company started her presentation with a story of how she started working in-house at various labels before starting her own company and promoting edgy electronic labels like Novamute, City Rockers and Warp, and acts like Throbbing Gristle, Aphex Twin and Ritchie Hawtin.

Serena Wilson from Nile-On
Serena Wilson from Nile-On

She then discussed how she was chosen by Domino to launch and promote the now famous Arctic Monkeys debut album, leading into her most recent groundbreaking campaign: a collaboration between Groove Armada and Bacardi – the drink company’s first worldwide promotion.

The online mechanism they came up with, www.bliveshare.com, harnessed the power of social network sites to distribute the band’s new EP. The idea was firmly based within social networking, as in you signed up and generated a personal profile etc.. The more you then shared a track, the more music you got.

Serena explained how she had to generate a broad spectrum of online coverage., engage the blogging community, increase brand awareness, find taste-makers, bring together around 20 different parties etc.

The campaign was hugely successful, with massive global coverage in Twitter, throughout the blogosphere, MySpace, Billboard, Music Week. The campaign earned its protagonists a Music Week award, helped discover a lot of information about new markets, improved engagement with Groove Armada and new fans and built content credibility.

As if that wasn’t cool and innovative enough, Bacardi kindly invited the whole auditorium for a drink tomorrow – when the conference is over of course. See you at the bar then…

YAIC Day 1 [Music To My Ears & Eyes]

Music To My Ears & Eyes panel
Music To My Ears & Eyes panel

This panel, moderated by Ralph Simon, involved Alicen Schneider from NBO / Universal (US), lawyer Simon Long from Collins Long (UK), Hampus Kivimae from Sony/ATV (SE), Cinesong’s Milena Fessmann (DE) and Icelandic songwriter Mani Svavarsson.

Alicen pointed out that she doesn’t always get the music she loves and wants into films or TV, and how sometimes complicated rights issues can be off-putting even if it means. Simon Long, who represents A R Rahmen and his success with the movie Slumdog Millionaire and how films are a good way of making music AND getting paid – although many on the panel later admitted that music, despite being acknowledged as an important aspect of the film-making process, can often slip down the priority list in terms of budget etc.

Alicen also argued that artists or musicians offering their music for free is not necessarily good for the overall fight for bigger music budgets. She maintained that at least a basic payment, however small, should be the norm.

Mani Svavarsson, who admits to being the last person on earth to use Cubase, talked about how he created the music for Icelandic children’s TV show Lazytown, while Milena Fessmann discussed how the new Wim Wenders movie she is working on contains music created specifically for the movie, by the likes of Nick Cave and Bonnie Prince Billy – this makes the music more original and also avoids some of the headaches of clearing rights for music.

Moderator Ralph Simon expresses himself through the ancient art of  Magical Illusion.
Moderator Ralph Simon expresses himself through the ancient art of Magical Illusion.

Simon also raised points about the importance of the games world, which often have larger music budgets to work with, and also gaining insights from Bollywood, in the sense that the soundtracks are often released before the movie and used to propel its success, rather than the other way around as we do in the west.

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