Content, Copyright and Commerce
MuseWire COLUMN: When BMI announced they were teaming with Digital Hollywood to present a day-long conference entitled “Content, Copyright & Commerce,” a few thoughts popped into my head. First, it seemed that the title was a brilliant and concise description of where we stand in the evolution of the music industry.
Second, while the business side of me understands the idea of “content,” the songwriter side of me rebels at the use of that term. Hey people, here at Golosio, we make music, not content.
As Ted Cohen has observed, content is something that is consumed. You listen to music, react to music, move to music, and make love to music. Music enters your ears and affects your head, hips and heart. If something is merely content, then it goes in, gets processed, and comes out the other end.
Still, I get the point of the conference, as long as we keep reminding ourselves that music is far more that just “content.”
Third, I worried about attending a Digital Hollywood (DH) event, which traditionally over-books its programs in hopes of extending its reach into the creative community. I think the idea of multiple mini-conferences going on at the same time can be confusing.
Here and There
For example, on Wednesday morning of the conference, four panels were taking place at 9 a.m., and another began at 9:30, right in the middle of the other four. At 10:45, five panels were scheduled, with two more starting up before the end of any of them. Between 2:00 and 2:15 p.m., seven events were scheduled and two more began before any of them concluded.
Perhaps the DH idea is to have firms send multiple attendees so everything can be covered, but I am not about to hire people to attend panels and take notes for me, nor do I want them to attempt to ask questions in my place.
Symposia on Digital Media
Fortunately, the BMI portion of the day was not splintered. Described as “a symposium on the evolution of media in the digital world,” all the BMI panel presentations stood on their own, beginning with a “Keynote Q & A” in which Bob Lefsetz, industry commentator and author of the influential Lefsetz Letter, interviewed Evan Lowenstein, CEO of StageIt. Lowenstein is also a songwriter and performer (Evan and Jaron scored a number of hits, including “Crazy for This Girl.”)
A portion of the presentation was a bit of a commercial for StageIt.com, but that was forgivable since the idea seems cool. Basically, StageIt offers performers a virtual stage where artists can make money from live interactive experiences for fans who are seeking a “front row seat to a backstage experience.” While the hotel hosting the conference was so lame that they couldn’t figure out how to provide Internet service, a quick demo of StageIt reveals a nifty idea that is already well-realized while also offering a multitude of options for the future.
The presentation entitled “Music Downloads vs. Streaming: Who’s the Winner?” was led by moderator Dan Kimpel, author of “Networking Strategies for the New Music Business” and columnist for Music Connection magazine. Despite the good-natured probing by Kimpel, the panelists seemed to opt for “both” as the answer to the event’s titular question. Kimpel also elicited a lively discussion by asking, “Streaming seems free, but is it?” For the record, all panelists agreed there were very real costs involved, both for their own firms as well as for consumers.
A portion of the panel addressed the issue of audio quality. “We believe people will pay for a good listening experience,” stated Vickie Nauman, VP of 7Digital, a firm that sells mp3s but supports the cloud concept. “Streaming is good for discovering new music,” she noted, while her firm partners with a wide array of firms in 25+ countries, including Spotify. Massimiliano Pellegrini, Managing Director of Dada.net, agrees with Nauman: “We see a surprising number of people willing to pay more for higher quality audio.”
Among the interesting opinions, facts and observations from Kimpel and the panel members was this from David Rosenberg of Live365: there are 7,000 Internet radio stations involved with his firm and they represent 280 genres, indicating a healthy diversity of programming.
During the audience question segment, Josh Brooks created a bit of a buzz by asking the panelists why more music companies are not working creatively with ISP’s like DirecTV, Comcast, and so on. Currently a partner at Special Purpose Media, Brooks was formerly a VP of Content Programming at MySpace and a former artist manager. With attendees like that, any conference is more likely to be lively.
For the presentation entitled “Disruption and Innovation: How to Change the Model and the Market,” the feisty moderator was Tamara Conniff of TheComet.com, a social platform combining music, lifestyle and cultural content. A big fan of the term “disruption,” Conniff elicited excellent comments from Allen Duan, VP of Digital Distribution & Strategy for MTV Networks; Jordan Glazier, CEO of Eventful, a site enabling consumers to better connect with local entertainment; Sean Demott, Head of Music at Guvera; and Jeff Price, founder of TuneCore.
In general, the panel members were very enthusiastic about the future of music and media. Price, in particular, expressed his optimism about how technology has changed the music industry, providing “infinite shelf-space and limitless consumer accessibility” while avoiding the manufacturing of product that doesn’t sell.
Take My Card
Networking is a prime motivator for many conference attendees, with the goal of trading as many business cards as possible. I was happy to interact with many of the presenters, a number of exhibitors, and certainly with Michael Drexler, Sr. Director of New Media at BMI, and Hanna Pantle of BMI’s Media Relations department. Having excellent speakers attracts crowds to Digital Hollywood events. And from what I saw of the panel attendance figures, DH would do well to woo BMI to participate more often in the future.
Photograph by Arnold Turner. Used by permission. Left-to-right: Bob Lefsetz, Michael Drexler, Evan Lowenstein. Article is Copr. © 2010 by John Scott G. – all rights reserved.