The Billboard R&B and Hip Hop Conference Awards is coming to a close tonight in Atlanta with the Awards Show featuring live performances by Ying Yang Twinz, De La Soul, Keyshia Cole and others capping off the three-day event.

The conference consisted of numerous symposiums and panel discussions that included appearances by several veteran industry executives and artists. Producers Dre & Vidal, Timbaland and Shawn Garrett were among the talent represented at the conference along with executives from HITCO, Sony and TVT among others.

“I think the conference is important because it exposes aspiring artists and executives to the information they need to succeed in the industry from a business standpoint,” says Ivory Jones, managing editor R&B and Hip Hop with Billboard Radio Monitor. “It gives them insight from people who have been successful in the industry so they don’t have to make the same mistakes.”

Jones, who moderated the panel discussion Declaring Independence, said the conference was especially helpful to independent artists and executives looking to make waves in the industry. Featuring forums on branding power and the new emergence of the digital market (ringtones, downloads, mobile distribution versus online) indies had the opportunity to soak up a load of valuable information.

“I think now being an independent is the way to go,” Jones says. “So many artists complain about not having any control over their careers. With the Internet and all of the technology out now, it’s easier than it has ever been to go independent. You don’t have to be on a major to be successful. A lot of the artists on the charts now aren’t on majors or have reached success before they signed to a major.”

Held in midst of a slew of week-long events taking place in the city, including TD Jakes’ Megafest and the National Association of Black Journalists’ 30th Anniversary Conference, the Billboard Conference Awards nevertheless garnered an impressive turnout.

“Atlanta is where everything is happening right now, in terms of both music and business,” Jones explains. “Atlanta is the new New York of the industry. To have it any other place wouldn’t make sense.”

Billboard has plans to expand the R&B Hip Hop Conference Awards in the future, though no definite plans have been made.