What can we learn from the Bogota Music Market?

By Michael Gaitskell

Since 2013, the Bogota Music Market has been creating new and unique opportunities for musicians. This event, held once a year in the Colombian capital city of Bogota, is now known to be the greatest meeting center for various industries represented by countless number of businesses that are craving to network and exploit the country’s musical scenes.

In the founders’ own words, the BOmm (Bogota Music Market) was created to “stimulate the creation of new music businesses (…) and facilitate business alliances between musical creators and commercial brands.” It can be thought as something close to the annual NAMM show, but instead of focusing in music products, pro audio and event technology; the BOmm focuses on the artists’ new career opportunities.

Each year there is an application process in which only 250 musical acts are selected to participate in the event. The chosen acts then become the “sellers” that will offer different kinds of musical and artistic services to the “buyers” (the partner companies attending the event). The BOmm counts with the presence of buyers like publishers, record labels, music festivals, venues and touring agencies. But the event does not stop there: every year there are companies from the fashion, telecommunications, advertisement, film, and entertainment industries participating at the event looking to land great deals with music creators.

But why do all these companies outside of the music industry want to connect with creators and artists? Because of the way we are consuming products and services. We have to understand that technology has brought all of us together thanks to the Internet and mobile devices. This caused a shift on the way we experience our lives; nowadays we are used to spending most of our time watching, sharing, and creating compelling virtual content with quality audio. Big companies are aware of this and want to exploit music’s power in every way possible to aid their business ventures.

The fact that bigger industries are venturing into this uncertain and ever-changing music industry shows that they have detected valuable growth opportunities to invest and exploit.

We all have been witnesses of an exponential increase in sponsorships, partnerships, and live music performance in public/private events thanks to other industries. Since the end of the CD era, artists (and labels) have had the need to find new revenue channels. Open up your Instagram accounts and see how many artists/bands are being sponsored or have brand partnerships with different kinds of businesses. And as much as music helps these industries to grow, all of these help music too and that is where the BOmm comes in.

The BOmm has been bringing unique opportunities in Colombia and overseas. For artists that do not have the “right” connections to reach higher grounds by their own means, the BOmm has become one of the best business accelerators. Being able to showcase, meet, and talk directly with commercial brands and businesses at a single event (something that would otherwise take years to accomplish for an upcoming artist), has led local bands to tour around the world, to be the sound or image for advertisement campaigns, be synced into movies, participate in panels, and also be considered for label/publishing contracts.

So if this kind of event represents a win-win situation for music and other industries, why aren’t we carrying it out more often? Yes, there are plenty of music-related networking events in the country, but why is it so difficult to create such a specific event where musicians and executives meet with the soul purpose of trade rather than just networking? For an artist, there is no fine line between a simple talk, and a deal: it is different to go home hoping for something to happen, than being certain that a tour will happen, than a gig will happen, that a paycheck exists.

In a country of more than three hundred million people, we can find plenty of “sellers” as well as “buyers.” The BOmm and the Internet have showed us that music is powerful, that it is something people want for their lives, and that it is something big industries want a piece of. Even though it gets competitive as artists start climbing the ladder, it also gets tough for upcoming companies (in whatever industry the are). We should create a common ground where all kinds of artists and all kinds of businesses can come together to trade and grown together. This should be done locally, on your city or town, or can also be done as a state event.

Sometimes, if the big fish wants to keep growing, it has to look out for what other smaller fish are doing. The BOmm is a clear example of something we can do to help the music industry in North America. This industry can be unforgiving at times, but it is up to all of us to create our chances and help each other out: in the end, music is what drives us as humans, so let’s work for it.

Michael Gaitskell is a Colombian musician currently living in New York City.

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