Mothers of Invention

Tech-Savvy Women Rock the Festival Scene

woman using mobile device
by Kristin Houser
Writer & Editor
, LA Music Blog

Meet four women who are breaking new ground at music-tech festivals by sharing their expertise, hosting panels and moderating discussions on the future of tech in the music industry.

Each year music fans and tech industry insiders flock to conferences across the nation to discover the next big product, gain valuable career advice and geek out. This year, a number of women are making their voices heard at these music-tech festivals, speaking on panels and sharing their expertise.

“As digital media has broken down some of the traditional barriers to entry, there is a wonderful breath of fresh air that is flowing through the industry with more women—younger, racially- and ethnically-diverse creators and innovators taking charge and becoming the leaders of the future,” said Ned Sherman, Co-Creator of the New York Media Festival.

“It’s much more representative of the population as a whole than in the past.”

Revolt Music Conference Panel
Revolt Music Conference Panel. Photo by Andrew Whitfield

As the music-tech industry’s demographics continue to diversify, a slew of new ideas, panels and products are sure to emerge. These four extraordinary women are contributing to this change by rocking four unique festivals—and building a better future in the process.

Suzy Ryoo
Revolt Music Conference

Revolt Music Conference’s 2015 theme was “The Merging of Music, Technology and Innovation.” When attendees weren’t dancing to the featured performances, they were taking in panels such as “Music, Tech, and Startups: Download This,” moderated by Suzy Ryoo.

The venture partner and vice president of technology and innovation at Atom Factory Inc. manages a portfolio of 80 investments, including Uber, Lyft, Dropbox, Spotify and Warby Parker. Ryoo also develops partnerships for the company’s roster of entertainment artists.

Suzy Ryoo

“In my role, I’m required to intimately understand and advise along the market landscapes, business models and daily operations of each company,” Ryoo explained. “I identify and evaluate new investment opportunities and facilitate technology partnerships with our Atom Factory artists.”

She oversees Atom Factory’s 10-week SMASHD LABS accelerator. The six early-stage companies she’s working with now include Sidestep, a concert merch purchasing app; Throne, a mobile marketplace for sneakers and streetwear; and Enrou, a social impact platform where shoppers can purchase unique products and directly support the makers in developing communities around the world.

But despite her busy schedule, Ryoo plans to continue participating at events like Revolt to inspire other young women.

“When I’m invited to speak at a conference, I try my hardest to say ‘yes’ because there aren’t too many others who look like me in my position,” she said.

Gigi Johnson
New York Media Festival

More than a music tech festival, the three-day New York Media Festival in Manhattan covers a broad range of areas of innovation.

“We’re focused not just on music but on creativity and innovation across all forms of media and entertainment, from games to music to video to movies to television,” said festival co-creator Ned Sherman.

Moderating “The Latest Music Industry Research,” one of fest’s 50-plus discussions and panels, was Gigi Johnson, the Inaugural Director at UCLA’s Center for Music Innovation.

Gigi Johnson

Johnson’s bio describes her as “a voice of balance between interests of creators and technology firms.” She examines how tech innovations affect social connections in the music industry, such as the ethical implications of new music distribution systems or the power relations between artists and labels.

She is a frequent speaker on the future impact of digital disruption on media and cultural systems, with a focus on finding a middle ground between artists and tech innovators.

“I tend to joke that at music-tech events I’m a rare voice that talks about data from the artists’ point of view,” said Johnson.

This year Johnson is spearheading UCLA’s “Music 20/20” series on the future of music, including a panel at South By Southwest (SXSW) 2016. The panel will dig into how the music industry can “create, collaborate, share, and live off of music revenue streams.”

Accurately predicting the future impact of tech on the music industry may seem impossible, but with her background and expertise, Johnson is sure to deliver valuable insights.

Ariel Hyatt
SXSW Music Conference and Festival

Every spring, music-tech fans flock to Austin for South By Southwest’s (SXSW) Music and Media Conference. In 2015, Ariel Hyatt, President of Cyber PR spoke on SXSW’s “The Rise of Female Entrepreneurs in Music” panel, marking the fifteenth time she has appeared at the fest.

Since developing the Cyber PR platform over 18 years ago, artists and industry insiders championed Hyatt for writing the book on the use of tech in the world of public relations. Her digital PR work has been featured in Wired and Hypebot, and she has even had a university course named in her honor.

Ariel Hyatt

While many publicists focus on placement in newspapers and magazines, Cyber PR’s digital approach uses “an online system that works like an Internet dating site” between artists and the media.

“A publicist will get the band a review, an interview or a media placement,” explained Hyatt in an interview with Berklee College of Music’s Music Business Journal.

“The Cyber PR process is really about something different. It’s about creating a tangible fan-oriented result, attracting as many people as possible to sign up for an email list, to open a newsletter and to follow-through joining the greater fan tribe.”

The software platform gathers information on media partners, determining which artists would suit their readership and then connects clients with those targeted media makers. Her newsletter and YouTube series “Sound Advice” includes more than 20,000 subscribers

Kiran Gandhi
SF Music Tech Summit

Since its launch in 2008, SF Music Tech Summit consistently brings developers, entrepreneurs, investors, journalists and musicians to the West Coast to discuss the ever-evolving music/business/tech ecosystem.

This year, the Summit included the panel “The Data-Driven Future of Music,” moderated by drummer/producer Kiran Gandhi (AKA Madame Gandhi). Gandhi is advisor at Spotify, Interscope Records‘ first-ever digital analyst and a musician with a dream “to use music and technology to make the world a better place for women.”

Kiran Gandhi

“We don’t live in a perfect world where everything is gender-balanced,” said Gandhi, “but panels and conferences create a stage for the world that we want to live in, and they can show why that world is better than a less diverse world.”

At Interscope, Gandhi launched the label’s digital analytics department, using tools such as Next Big Sound and Big Champagne to track artist data and find patterns between Spotify streams, YouTube views and social media mentions.

Those patterns were then used, for example, to decide which album track to release as a single or which emerging artists showed the most potential to break into the mainstream. It filled an important void at the label, which previously had no infrastructure in place to properly process the data it collected.

Equally adept at making music as she is at analyzing it, Gandhi toured with English recording artist M.I.A. while earning an MBA from Harvard Business School and says that using cutting-edge technology is a key component in her music-making process.

“If I make something explicitly unique using new technology, the sound of my music will be difficult to recreate, so then I’m the one who can perform it,” explained Gandhi, who recently experimented with Sensory Percussion tech.

Gandhi stresses, however, that music should never lack an organic, human element.

“Technology inspires people when it’s used beautifully, but it should never be the main event,” said Gandhi. “It should always be used as a supportive tool to help tell a story with music.”

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