This article was written by Music Producers Forum’s founder Jomar Reyes, in the lead up to presenting at the inaugural 2014 KulturM conference in Copenhagen. Feature image is from Music Producers Forum London Meetup July 2013.
The digital age has seen the rise of independently managed communities on the internet. Creative segments has been one of the major beneficiaries with people around the world being able to connect, collaborate and share ideas online. As these communities grow, commercial opportunities arise for the community and/or the community owner. What are the implications of turning a community into commercial operation?
In October 2017 I presented to a full house, the concept of the MusicProducersForum along side some of Scandinavia’s thought leaders in media, creative and cultural industries at the inaugural KulturM Event at the Danish National Museum in Copenhagen. It is a defining moment when this forum, that started with just an idea, is recognised on a European stage (see the presentation here).
In November 2007 the Music Producers Forum had its humble beginnings with a blog post announcing it’s first meetup in a Sydney Cafe. Around 17 independent musicians, songwriters and producers turned up and shared with each other their music productions in an intimate and inspiring, collaborative environment. There was an amazing spirit in that room.
Fast forward to October 2014, nearly seven years since I had set up the blog post and had that meetup, and the community has somewhat grown exponentially. It now has close to 30,000 social network members worldwide, who range from the new and ambitious, professionals and a handful of Grammy Award winning producers. We have held meetups some with up to 80 people, in Sydney, Copenhagen, London and New York.
My goal is to maintain that spirit of ‘inspiration and collaboration’ from the 17 members at the first meetup, to the 30,000 members today and for all future members.
Over the last four years, the Forum’s growth has nearly doubled each year, consecutively. At this rate of this growth, we will exceed 50,000 members by the end of 2015. The challenge (Or opportunity) for me is looking at how can I nurture this growth, and devote more time to the community.
I’ve also grown because of the forum, and in recent years I have been hired by corporations, invited to speak at events and now lecture on the community building techniques that the Forum has taught me. I’ve also moved into music promotion in starting the Copenhagen Groove brand, that promotes music artists based in Copenhagen, to the rest of the world.
Looking forward to 2015, I’ll be using the roadmap that I have set, which also includes the broader creative community in film, television, design and animation, under the Creative Media Network group. It is also important for these forums to run communities professionally without compromising the spirit of the community.
The Music Producers Forum community has hit a point where the ‘public’ social networks cannot serve the community to its full potential, its next big milestone is to turn the Music Producers Forum into an official membership organisation, with membership benefits and a dedicated platform to manage this. As an entrepreneur, the founder of the Music Producers Forum and most importantly a musician, this step would include a more structured commercial model of the Music Producers Forum. This would enable myself and a professional team to devote more time to the forum. But I’m cautious that the community spirit does not get lost in the quest for commercialism.
To this point, I’ve managed to stick to my principles of avoiding Adwords banners, advertising copy (Advertorial) and banners that can have a negative impact on the experience. The SAE Institute who were the first sponsor of the Music Producers Forum, worked closely with me to produce an annual campaign that would be non intrusive but deliver them some new prospective students. Whilst the campaign delivered a solid number of new prospects, we did collectively realise that there is much more work to do to make this kind of exercise mutually beneficial.
The other area to look at commercialising this community is through the community. Having more direct access to a substantial audience opens up the opportunity to provide products, services, events or offer a more formal membership. The challenge here is to make sure that membership provides value that exceeds the cost of membership.
As a community manager of one of the largest music industry groups in the world, advertising is an opportunity that I would not wish to be solely dependent on for revenue. I would be exposed to making decisions based on advertisers needs, where the needs of the community need to be absolutely the first priority.
And now, to find that balance.