Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit
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Fandom, new-age curators, and global Music combine at Primavera Pro

04 June 2024, 18:00
Original Photography by Hara Amorós

As fans and labels hustle to cultivate audiences in a music industry with more influence than ever, heavy hitters from both sides convene in Barcelona’s (still) world-leading conference to divulge, discuss, and democratize.

Once again, Primavera Pro solidifies its reputation as a pivotal event in the music industry calendar. Held in conjunction with the legendary Primavera Sound festival held on the other side of the city, this year's conference maintained its tradition of blending insightful discussions, live performances, and the vibrant atmosphere of Barcelona's Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB).

This year, the conference focused on three main themes: the evolution and impact of fan culture, the critical role of curators in an age of digital chaos, and the rising prominence of Catalan and Spanish-language music. These themes, explored through a series of thought-provoking talks and panel discussions, offer unique perspectives and actionable insights for industry professionals and music enthusiasts alike.

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Kicking off proceedings in a session that beautifully intertwines music and visual art, La Mesías creators Javier Calvo and Javier Ambrossi (pictured above), alongside Hidrogenesse, take the audience on a journey through the creation of Stella Maris, a satirical Christian pop band that takes the world by storm in their breakout fictional show released earlier this year.

The discussion emphasizes the emotional depth and artistic vision behind their work, with Ambrossi noting, "It's not just sadness, it's difference. The thrillers we love make you feel many things." Calvo added, "It's the way they confront things," highlighting the series' unique approach to storytelling through music.

The session delves into the various methods of music creation when paired with art, emphasizing the importance of having a clear emotional intent. This collaboration between the creators and Hidrogenesse showcases how any music no matter its function can transcend its origins to become a powerful narrative tool in modern media.

Staring at a full auditorium, it’s clear their surprise at how music creation simply as a fuel for a larger narrative can become a cultural phenomenon. This was personified that night as Stella Maris performed to 15,000 people at Parc del Fòrum with both Calvo and Ambrossi in tow in a celebration of Catalan culture.

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Giddy music fans later queued down the hallway in hopes of scoring a seat to a panel led by Founder of TheNeedleDrop, Anthony Fantano (pictured above), the face behind Marg.mp3, Margeaux Labat, and former Executive Editor of Pitchfork, Amy Philips.

In a world where algorithms increasingly dictate music discovery, this panel led by music journalist Miranda Sawyer explored the enduring importance of human curators. The discussion emphasized the irreplaceable value of passionate and knowledgeable curators in navigating the overwhelming abundance of music available today.

Fantano set the tone with his infectious enthusiasm. "The best part about this job is still just that I get to indulge in as much music as possible," he says through a big smile, a statement that drew nods and smiles from everyone else sitting on stage next to him.

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Sharing her journey from interning at Village Voice and various blogs to leading the biggest music publication on the planet, Philips echoes the sentiment. "Getting to talk to other music nerds about music all day is the best thing ever.”

Her words paint a vivid picture of a career built on shared love and deep discussions about music as the conversation dives into a historic “who’s who” of Pitchfork review notoriety and the scandalous highlights of a magazine that has spearheaded critical discussion of what music matters for the past 20 years. Fantano is quick to bring up their notorious review of Jet’s second album which gets a laugh from Philips as they reflect on where the line is in going too far when it comes to being a music critic.

"The algorithms make it competitive," Fantano notes, adding a personal anecdote, "I've had artists tell me to never review their music again and then apologize later on." His experiences shed light on the pressures and realities of the music industry, emphasizing the human aspect behind the digital facade.

Labat (pictured below), whose career has evolved from label work to making TikToks for her massive online audience, brought a fresh perspective. "It feels like a natural form of expression for me," she says, explaining how the platform allows her to connect with audiences in new and dynamic ways.

Her experience takes the conversation towards the theme of the changing landscape of music curation, where digital platforms offer both opportunities and challenges as the role of critics and curators blurs together. She talks about how they join forces to fight algorithms that can only eat data points and churn them back into rough predictions that feel more like an attempt to clone fans than liberate them. "As curators our job is to give them something that the algorithm can't give them," adds Fantano

Sawyer steers the discussion towards the responsibility of critics in this digital age. Fantano responds by pointing out a problem with the “intelligent” streaming. The same way a song could dominate the radio and therefore the charts 30, 40 or even 100 years ago, labels can promote songs so the algorithm can suggest them to you.

"It'd be great for the States to have more funding to help people make music liveable. People deserve to walk into bars for open discovery and really care about music," says Fantano, a hopeful vision that left a lasting impression on the audience.

As the panel draws to a close, Sawyer encapsulates the core message: "Specialism and enthusiasm can't be replicated, can they?" This statement echoes throughout the room, reaffirming the invaluable role of passionate and knowledgeable curators in a room full of similar-minded music lovers.

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As Irish rising stars Curtisy (pictured above) and YARD go back-to-back playing stomping sets for fans wanting a break from the auditorium in the Catalan sunshine, Luna Cohen-Solal's session on unlocking the power of fandom takes us on a deep dive into the strategies that help artists cultivate loyal fan bases.

Presented by Santander SMusic, Cohen-Solal shares that there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to becoming successful. Instead, Cohen-Solal urges artists to think back to their own experiences as fans. "If in doubt, go back to your experiences as a fan. What would a fan want from an artist?"

The session introduces the Fancone™, a concept from Matt Hart's book, The A-Z of Fandom, which breaks down the economic impact of superfans, who spend 80% more on music. In the midst of divulging industry secrets and powerful audience data, Cohen-Solal discusses the importance of first-party data and how personal connections with fans can be nurtured through simple, direct engagement, such as replying to DMs or using platforms like Instagram broadcast channels.

Using examples from her work, including the plan for the one-year anniversary of Dua Lipa's Future Nostalgia, Cohen-Solal demonstrates the effectiveness of innovative campaigns like online treasure hunts to drive fan engagement and grow mailing lists significantly.

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"It's very much about slow acquisition. A viral Tiktok will get lots of views but an email address will be useful for a long time." It turns out her Future Nostalgia campaign resulted in 68,000 signups and a 50% growth in their mailing list in just one week. People want access to the artists they love, and by gamifying this experience, artists can cultivate die-hard audiences who actually get something in return.

The session reinforced that authentic and sustained fan interaction can be more valuable than fleeting viral moments. While it may seem like an industry obsessed with virality and one-hit wonders, sustained popularity is still what major records labels are looking for.

Later that day, a candid discussion led by industry experts (pictured below), The Dark Side of a Release, unveils the common pitfalls that can derail music releases. Ignacio Alarcón of Warner Media Group and Simon Wagner of Youtube Music share horror stories and practical advice, stressing the importance of thorough planning and the perils of last-minute changes.

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"If there's been a leak, it's actually a bad idea to bring the real release date forward. Sometimes leaks are actually good for engagement," Alarcón notes, while Wagner emphasizes the need for a strategic timeline that builds hype steadily. They laugh as they reminisce about an anonymous artist demanding the album artwork be changed just one week before release day. “It takes 4 months to print vinyl so as much as you want to please the artist there are some things you can’t do,” adds Patricia Zavala from MagnusMedia.

Led by Jakue López of Youtube Music, the panel share insider secrets on the importance of recycling content and maintaining a consistent presence to keep fans engaged post-release. "Too many campaigns just let the content strategy die once the release happens,” Wagner confesses.

Zavala highlights the challenges artists face when creating content for older releases, advocating for concurrent content creation during the recording process to keep the promotional material fresh and relevant. “Making a TikTok about a song you released a year ago is not fun.”

And their top tip when it comes to release day? “Don't forget to check Two factor authentication. Believe it or not but it goes wrong way too often."

The intersection of music and fashion was explored in depth during a panel on The Role of Merchandising in Community Building and Fan Culture, highlighting how artist merchandise serves as more than just a revenue stream.

The discussion traces the historical impact of figures like Vivienne Westwood on punk aesthetics and examines how modern merchandising can create a sense of community among fans. Why does the music you listen to affect the way you look and what role do musicians and community managers have in that space?

Panelists discussed how well-designed merchandise not only reflects an artist's style but also fosters a deeper connection with fans. Successful merchandising strategies can transform casual listeners into dedicated superfans, creating tangible memories and new market opportunities.

This was illustrated by the immersion of light sticks in K-pop culture and the lengths fans will go to in order to assimilate with a culture they connect with.

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Later, in a masterclass presented by Giulia Lizzoli, Head of Music for Southern Europe at TikTok (pictured above), attendees learn how to leverage the platform's unique features to enhance music discovery and audience engagement. Lizzoli emphasizes that TikTok is a "sound-on entertainment platform, not a social media platform" where storytelling is key. "If you watch TikTok without sound, it's only half the experience," she notes.

The session highlights TikTok's ability to connect local artists with global audiences, citing that 89% of users agree that artists gain more visibility on the platform.

"Everyone thinks you have to dance. If you don't want to dance, you don't have to dance,” she laughs in an attempt to set the record straight on the pressure put on artists to create content they don’t like. It's all about storytelling. That is what is at the core of TikTok's community management plan.

After dispelling the rumors, Lizzoli focuses on the diverse ways artists can tell their stories and build their brands by diversifying the content they put out and connecting with their fans in more intimate ways than ever before with live talks and gifting which allows fans to even leave tips for musicians they love. The platform's impact on music spending is underscored further, as she reveals TikTok users in the UK are spending 49% more on music compared to other platforms.

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Exploring the international rise of Latin music, From Local Beats to Global Hits: The Evolution of Latin Music featured insights from industry experts like María Ramírez of Queen Street Talent, Bruno Duque of TuneCore and Ariel Chichotky from DALE PLAY Records (pictured above). They discuss the historical and cultural influences that have shaped Latin music's global appeal, noting the shift from English translations to embracing authentic Spanish narratives.

"Years ago, artists felt like they had to sing in English to reach great success," Ramírez says. "Hips Don't Lie was one of the first songs to blend the languages together," she adds in response to what spark ignited this international obsession with Latin American music and the boundary-breaking artists that are coming through from Argentina, Colombia and the rest of South America.

Highlighted by the success of artists who integrate regional subgenres into their music, Chichotky points out that achieving international recognition can only come from embracing the roots of where you’re from. “It’s important to tell stories about the places the world didn’t know they wanted to know about.” By blending local sounds with global genres, Latin artists have created a unique and popular musical fusion that continues to captivate audiences worldwide.

Primavera Pro 2024 once again showcases the dynamic interplay of music, culture, and technology, providing valuable insights and fostering meaningful connections among artists, industry professionals, and fans. With its focus on fan culture, the role of curators, and the vibrant landscape of Catalan and Spanish-language music, the conference highlighted the evolving narratives that continue to shape the global music scene.

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