Forging the New Music Industry. A Discussion with Peter Schwinge

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The music industry has gone through major transformations over recent years, and these changes look to only continue. At the Music Producers Forum, we are always looking out for those who are not only riding this wave of change but making some waves.

As the computing power, internet, mobile technology and social media continue to redefine how music is produced, distributed and consumed these people guiding us all through the new and unknown. I was introduced to Peter Schwinge a few years ago, it was identified by our introducer (Hisham Dahud) that we share a connection to the Nordics. But a little bit on that later…

Peter Schwinge is now the General Manager of the New Music Seminar, which is held annually in New York City. In 2014, Peter has personally invited the Music Producers Forum to be a media partner of the event, something that we are now truly honored to be a part of.

At the time of writing this, Peter and I have only exchanged emails. Over the past two years we haven’t had a chance to connect on Skype as the timezone difference between Copenhagen and New York is not too kind. So over a doubleshot latte, I’m writing up this email with a few questions for Peter to answer.

About Peter Schwinge

Jomar: You started your career behind the desk as an Audio Engineer in the mid 90′s. Describe what drew you into the music back then?

Peter: I’ve been a musician since early childhood, I played organ and clarinet, which took me into more electronics with synths and woodwind controllers. I went to UMASS Lowell to study Sound Recording Technology and upon graduation I headed to NYC to work in a post-production house, and got to work on many TV shows and commercials. This also gave me the opportunity to sit behind the console working with numerous bands and co-productions.

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Jomar: If you could tell Peter Schwinge from those days in 90′s two things from today, what would these things be?

Peter: I would tell him not sell that original 1986 Kramer with Floyd Rose pickups and that he should come to the understanding that he will never get the buffer size just right.

Jomar: You studied Music Business in New York University, how did this inspire your current journey, and your plans for the future?

Peter: I stepped out of working directly on the business side of music around 2005 (which I think was a good time) and focused on production. I needed a job and found myself at a Private Equity firm as their media person. Good money, not so good for following my passion. We actually were the company that bought Neverland Ranch, our CEO knew MJ and wanted to help him out and get him back on his feet, so they worked out an arrangement. Shortly after Michael’s passing we held our annual meeting there – which was quite the event I produced. I got the itch to get back into event production and focus on business, so I decided to go for my Masters at NYU. The program there was great because I got to study in the Stern Business School, which housed the MBA classes. My focus became on the International market and I wanted to really dive into business operations. I had my own Multi-media Company back in 1999-2001 and I can now smile when I say this, but it failed miserably. I wasn’t prepared at that time, so I wanted to have more of a business foundation before taking on my next big project.

NYU was a benefit also because of its Global reach. It gave me opportunities to study and do training programs at music companies in the UK, which widened my network and understand how the music business operated outside the US.

Jomar: Your Nordic Spotlight project looks very interesting (Especially for this guy asking you the question who is sitting in Copenhagen). Could you tell us a bit more about this? How did the idea come about, what is the vision and plans for the future?

Peter: I’ve also been a DJ for many years, and was finding that a lot of my music was coming from Swedish and Norwegian producers so I started digging in and became engulfed in finding more music from that area. I would share with my friends and found there was many like-minded people in New York – we would post on each other’s Facebook pages and I figured why not start a website devoted to great music from that region and push it into the US market. We also began Nordic showcases called NordAmerica: Northern Nights in NYC and was getting a great response. It helped me to build my Nordic business relationships, which then was rolled into New Music Seminar. Nordic Spotlight is a bit on hold as I am moving more of the elements into NMS now which will have greater reach and power behind the outreach and exposure opportunities. This year will be our second year with a Swedish showcase and we have a large Finnish delegation coming in June as well as many other members in key organizations from that area.

About the New Music Seminar

Jomar: The New Music Seminar’s is actually one of the industries oldest music industry conference brands. What was it like in the early days and what impact did it have on the industry?

Peter: I was a bit too young when it first kicked off in 1980, but the stories I hear from the leaders of today’s music business is that it was massive. NMS is actually what launched SXSW. In 1987 it was to be called New Music Seminar: Southwest. The New York team pulled out and the Austin Chronicle guys ran with it. It was a different era back then – there was actually NEW music genres, punk, hip hop, new wave, and there was a lot more money flowing. Todays heavyweights such as Daniel Glass (Glassnote) were speaking even in 1981 – Bob Pittman (CEO, Clear Channel) was speaking as well as he was launching some television channel called MTV – Madonna even spoke (See below video). You can find a lot more on the NMS website under history – you will be amazed.

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Music Producers Forum has teamed up with New Music Seminar to offer our readers 20% off online registration rates to NMS June 8-10 in NYC. Enter code NMSMPF14 at time of registration.

Some of the artists that broke their careers in NMS1 were: 10,000 Maniacs, 808 State, Bob Mould / Sugar, Dave Matthews Band, Dinosaur Jr., GWAR, Indigo Girls, Jesus Lizard, Living Colour, Midnight Oil, My Bloody Valentine, Nirvana, Oasis (US Debut), Pavement, R.E.M., Reverend Horton Heat, Romeo Void, Run-D.M.C., Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth, Sugarcubes, The Buzzcocks, The Pixies, Urge Overkill. NMS was covered in every major paper and MTV was always pushing what happened.

Tom Silverman (Co-founder of NMS, and Founder of Tommy Boy Records) stepped out around 1992 and NMS lost its vision and ended its run in 1995. In 2009, Tom brought it back as a high-level discussion on how to build the music business from a $23 Billion to $100 Billion business – it’s why we have some of the highest-level executives speaking.

Jomar: In November 2012, you became the General Manager of the New Music Seminar. Could you walk us through how this role came about?

Peter: I actually volunteered for NMS in May of 2012. I was finishing my masters and doing some keynote speeches in Denmark on the business and had some free time. I met Dave Lory who was Executive Producer and asked if he needed a hand. I showed up to the office and ended up staying there every day until midnight for about 5 weeks. In the fall of 2012 I received a call from Tom Silverman who offered me a position. I saw the growth and potential of NMS being a powerhouse in the music business and I wanted to bring in my International side. I counter-proposed to Tom the role of Operations Director. Dave is a fantastic event producer and Tom has such a amazing vision that I knew the missing piece was someone who could run the daily operations and focus on building the foundation and help NMS grow. I guess you could say I showed up one day as a volunteer, and never left.

Jomar: What is the vision of the New Music Seminar, and what do you bring with your tenure?

Peter: Now with the three key people in place I am focused on NMS to become the International Music Business Annual Meeting and be the key facilitators of the music business. NMS will no longer be just an annual event, it will be a year-round discussion. Smaller pop-up events throughout the year focused on specific sectors, working with international writers and producers to create co-writing opportunities, NMS co-branding opportunities – we are now being asked to curate panels for other conferences as well. All our focus and belief is to do what we do best to build the music business for success of businesses and the success and sustainability for artists.

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Jomar: What are your most memorable moments/speakers/events of the New Music Seminar to date?

Peter: Sean Parker keynote in 2012. The Singles v. Albums debate in 2013 where Bill Werde, Jay Frank, Robert Christgau, and a couple guys from The Cataracs and Yeasayer started doing Tequila shots before, and during the debate – things got a little heated – which is great, because NMS has a feisty, alternative spirit. Though the best thing is the last night of first year. My first year was quite a challenge as I was thrown into the ocean without a compass. I was sleeping less than an hour per night the final week in, and had my doubts if this was going to go off without a hitch or not, or at all. Tuesday night around midnight I received a text from one of my interns saying, “You did it!!! We all decided to throw an afterparty and grabbed some DJ’s…come downtown!” I smiled and went to sleep. It’s hearing from my interns and volunteers that they learned so much and had a great experience and when delegates tell me they met someone and closed a deal from NMS, or a band gets signed…those are the memorable moments.

Video: Madonna at the New Music Seminar 1984

Special Offer to Music Producers Forum Readers and Members

Music Producers Forum has teamed up with New Music Seminar to offer our readers 20% off online registration rates to NMS June 8-10 in NYC. Enter code NMSMPF14 at time of registration. www.newmusicseminar.com/register

8 comments
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Charlie Thompson
Charlie Thompson

Where do I find artist that are ready to take that step, I work for a production company here in south NJ and I am having a hard time getting clients, I attend many open mics, most seem not ready or have no money.  Am I doomed because I live near Philly, should I be in NYC? Any help would be great!  


Charles Thompson

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