I was at a conference recently (called The Millennials – the generation roughly born from 1982 to 2001) and the most notable session in the morning was chaired by Alan Cross whose “Ongoing History of New Music” really was influential in giving me a new appreciation of how popular music forms around trends and influences. The topic of the session was “Connecting to a New Generation of Music Consumers.” The session focused around how they consume music and other content. On the panel was Jodie Ferneyhough – MD, Universal Music Publishing; Dave Kines- Manager, Music Partnerships, Rogers Media; Daniel Ewing – EVP, Ticketmaster; Dave Jaworski – CEO, Passalong Networks.

Alan Cross posed the first question “How will the Millenniums consumer music?” The response from the panel revolved around how these consumers had access to many devices (phones, iPods, computers etc.) and wanted their content to be more mobile, just like they are. Furthermore, they have also shown that they will not be content to wait for content and wanted it faster than previous generations. The conversation turned to convenience and not only getting the content ‘whenever, where-ever,’ but how this generation appears to want to purchase ‘a-la-acarte’ instead of getting a CD with ‘one or two tracks’ they like.

The next question from Alan brought me back to my youth in that he asked “What happened to broad consensus in music?” It seemed to me that back then, there were a few stragglers who liked country or jazz or new wave, but at a certain time everyone liked Kiss or Cheap Trick and God forbid if you didn’t… One of the panelist mentioned that maybe the format imposed this type of restriction on behavior, but now consumers could customize their playlists so it didn’t seem as relevant today.

 But if this is true, what happens to the ‘social experience’ of music? The listening party; the ‘tribal experience’ of belonging to the ‘metal heads’ or ‘new wavers?’ Are we really programming to a listenership of ‘one?’ How then could the industry market to this group? One theory was that it had to be an ‘experience’ that was the actual thing being sold, not just the recorded music and perhaps the expectations of selling millions of copies of a track were not based in this new reality.

This led to a lively discussion on the question of whether music is still a unifying force for this generation. Given the prevalence of protest songs of the 60s and 70s and the rebellion songs of the late 70s and early 80s is this generation still expressing themselves through music? Sounds like the jury is still out on this one as there were several theories floated ranging from expression in different ways (rather than writing songs, Millennials were actually joining NGOs and going to Africa)  to a thought that the songs were out there, but we weren’t seeing them.

So amongst the music execs, there is not a whole lot of consensus, although they did agree that the model of selling hardcopy tracks is in transition and the eventual ‘replacement’ for this model is still not certain. Now where is my copy of Live at Budokan