What’s next for musical artists at CES?

I spent the week before last at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Vegas, hoping to see the latest convergence of music and electronic devices and new media. While the show floor was filled with hundreds of new tablets, Ultra HD TVs, app-filled car dashboards and wireless everything, the next level of artist-centric electronics and new artistic expression in digital media seemed pretty lacking.

Over the past few years CES has become more than a showplace for the latest electronic gadgets where retailers and manufacturers meet up and decide what to stock on their shelves this year. It has become an “entertainment” show where artists and producers put their creative touch on the CE and speak their mind on the future direction of digital media.

From the perspective of musical artists, CES was becoming the place where Dr. Dre showed off the latest Beats and Lady Gaga announced her new Polaroid sunglass/cameras. Okay, I never understood the sunglasses (nor did consumers apparently) but I was excited by the possibilities: musical artists could expand their brands into consumer electronics—a sector that we all know has become “entertainment” in the digital millennium in so many ways.

And perhaps musical artists could get involved in new forms of expression, just as TV producers are learning to use short-form and “the second screen” to build audience for big network shows, I was hoping to see music artists take advantage of these new possibilities. Beyond shooting the same old music video, create engaging “second screen” content for fans to enjoy during the concert, for example.

Instead, most of what I saw on the CES show floor was endless rows of headphones from artists trying to compete with Dre. Is “Street by 50” or “Soul” from Ludacris the best we can do?

Maybe I wasn’t invited to the right parties and missed something at CES. Perhaps our industry is focused on more important priorities like the music and touring. But I can’t help but think that we’re missing an opportunity here, both in extending our brands into physical electronic goods and expanding our horizons in terms of digital expression.

-Sam Milkman, Executive Vice President, Music Forecasting