Published Jan 21, 2009Tyl van Toorn has established himself in the arts, entertainment and action sports industries over the course of his 15-year career in event management. Past projects include large commercial media events like the ESPN X Games in Los Angeles and Aspen and the FIS World Snowboard Championships in Whistler, the largest televised event of its kind. Tyl is CEO of TNT Productions based in Victoria. He co-founded Transmission in 2006.
How is Transmission different from the 1001 music conferences out there?
First of all it's an invite-based event, so we spend a lot of time working out how to get the right people to the event. Secondly, the format is roundtable. The roundtables have really been successful, in our case because we put a significant amount of time in planning who's around the table. The same thing applies to the showcases - we don't just want to be a digital or a talk event. We want to be a showcase event. We noticed that a lot of events have many, many bands and hundreds or thousands of delegates, but the truth is that there's a lack of focus. If we have only 20 artists and only 100 professionals in the room watching the artist, the numbers are significantly in favour of the artist. So we put all of our artists into one showcase room; we manage the production value and raise it to a really high level. So our impact is a lot more, with more concentrated results. A lot of time gets focused on the details, whether you are talking about the conference, where roundtables take a lot of time to pick every single person at each roundtable, and there are over 50 of those, or whether it is selecting only 16 or 18 bands as opposed to hundreds, where no one gets left out. It's a lot tougher selecting only 16 bands.
What were the successes of the December conference?
We're seeing about an 85 percent interest to return rate for next year. In terms of the outcomes for industry itself, I think the general mood was an incredible indicator that people are willing to move forward and let go of their predisposed ideas about how music gets monetized, and start recognizing that music will always be there, but that who is going to be monetizing it might be changing. How that's going to go is going to have to be done under more creative circumstances. I think in general - and I can only make comparisons to years past, because we've seen a big black cloud over the industry in general - people were a lot more optimistic.
What's new for 2009?
We're moving; we're taking it to Victoria and changing it to September. We'll be doing our event in tandem with another great festival called Rifflandia (www.rifflandia.com), produced by a group called Atomic, who are great promoters. This is a real young tastemakers' festival, and we want to continue building on the live aspect of our event but we didn't want to water down the conference itself. So we're going to continue maintaining the conference as an intimate roundtable gathering of professionals from around the world but at the same time you'll see an expansion into the showcasing.
Given what you've witnessed, what piece of advice would you give musicians still stuck in the "gotta get a record deal and sell records" paradigm?
There's a whole new atmosphere of inventiveness that's taking place. But let's be clear, let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. A lot of great things have occurred over the years are due to the development work that both indie and major labels put into artists. This is not a label-bashing exercise. But at the same time, so many people fall into this rut, even when they identify that everything's changed, they continue to believe that their measurement of success is the signing of the deal. I am always interested in seeing artists that don't try to measure their success by the traditional milestones. Start measuring your success by your fan base, or by the capacity of your touring. Measure your success by other factors, in the digital framework, by finding other opportunities. Success comes down to each individual as to how they measure it, but a big one is, can you afford to live as an artist? I would argue that nothing has really changed there. A lot of artists were never making any money being signed to a major label when there was a record business to talk about! So what does that come down to: work really hard and you'll probably succeed. If you work really hard and you've been doing it for ten years and you haven't succeeded... well, maybe you suck.