Exec Speaks on Evolution of Music Industry in Digital Age

Exec Speaks on Evolution of Music Industry in Digital Age

Music industry executive Larry Mattera P’23 offered insights on how technology has transformed – and continues to change – the dynamics of the music business, in Dean Zhan Li’s most recent Dolan Dean's Executive Forum.

Larry Mattera, P'23 shared his career trajectory in a conversation with Dean Li and co-moderator Nazuk Sharma, PhD, assistant professor of marketing, at the second Dean’s Executive Forum, “The Dynamics of Music Industries: Business Models and Innovation,” held virtually earlier this week.

As the former general manager and executive vice president of Warner Brothers Records, Mattera has been responsible for commercial activities and marketing across all platforms related to music promotion. At the dawn of his career 30 years ago, he became an early adopter of technology, gravitating toward the intersection of digital technologies and the marketing potential they had for promoting music. He taught himself how to use these new technologies, and helped build the first websites for artists back in the 1990s.

“I always loved music, and played in a band for years starting in high school,” he recalled. The band had some success, but when it became clear that he wouldn’t be making his career as a performer, he realized he could still find satisfaction in his career choice as long as it had music at its center. “I had a background in accounting, but I wasn’t passionate about it. By luck, I found that New York University offered a master’s degree in business with a focus on the music industry.”

Inspired by a professor who emphasized the role technology would have in upending the music industry’s business models, Mattera said he realized “no one knew how this was going to evolve. I thought that if I could become an expert in this field and stay on top of the different technologies, I could be a little ahead of the game. I began to test some marketing ideas other than the traditional radio promos and other standards.”

The music industry has always been driven by technology, Mattera noted. “Think of the development of the phonograph, then eight-track tapes, CDs to digital downloads, and now to streaming. Consumer patterns have changed and forced business to figure out how to survive and thrive.

“In the last five years, the change to streaming services has been the most impactful,” he continued. “The consumer used to buy the specific music he or she wanted. Now, you pay monthly for a wide range of music. We’ve changed from a sales oriented model to a market share model, and it’s forced us to think differently about driving business.” The advent of the smartphone has been another game changer, giving users a portable device with a library of music they can access anytime, anywhere – propelling new growth.

Another evolutionary change is the artists’ ability to speak directly to their fans through social media, eliminating the need for “gatekeepers” such as MTV or radio. Artists can now gather their fans’ information, requiring new direct-to-consumer models of marketing.

Mattera said he’s excited about the new career opportunities opening up for graduates. Data analytics is obvious, but there is still a need for producers and engineers. On the creative side, companies always need compelling content for use online. For those interested in the music industry, “the important thing is to get in the door,” said Mattera. “That’s where you’ll make connections, and it’s those connections that will help you when you’ve identified the area you want to focus on.”

The final webinar in the Dean’s Executive Forum series, “Defining Talent for Tomorrow: A Leading Perspective,” will be held on November 10.  For registration information, contact dolancommunication@fairfield.edu.

Tags:  Dolan School,  Top Stories

Last modified: 10-23-20 9:40 AM

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