Wednesday, March 5, 2008

For a Beat, a Rhythm and Melody


Digital Music Forum East, held Feb. 26-27, 2008, is an industry event co-sponsored by Digital Media Wire and Consumer Electronics Association that discusses the profits from the want of a beat, a rhythm and melody. Powerhouse executives from Napster, AOL Black Voices, SONY BMG, Bluhammock Music, Wired magazine, MP3tunes, Definitive Jux, Microsoft and Epic Records expressed their views on how to best meet audiences and keep the sales rolling in.
The definition of digital music went from “CD audio that’s digitally remastered from a analogue master” to music stored in the clouds. The younger the consumers, the more likely their music is stored in the clouds—i.e., downloaded to iPods, mobile devices and laptops—rather than found in CD jewel cases.
The Museum of Jewish Heritage on Battery Place has the space, style and technology to accommodate the panels and one-on-one interviews. Audience members sent text messages that were displayed on a side screen rather than form a line behind a microphone. The event planners knew that the thought leaders sat on both sides of the dais; so there were many networking breaks.
One House’s managing director Jim Griffin did a friendly keynote interview with maverick Michael Robertson, founder of MP3.com. Robertson recently launched MP3tunes Music Locker, an online tool to auto synchronize music to all devices, in April. Many point fingers at Robertson for breaking the tradition of selling a physical music product and opening the floodgates to music delivered through the Internet—paid and shared. Robertson’s big question that the courts still wrestle with is, “Who is the owner of music once it’s purchased by the consumer?” Does a record, tape or CD buyer have the right to do with her property as she sees fit?

The panel called The Kids Are Alright: The Tween, Teen and College Market dealt with the age groups most comfortable with having their entertainment and news up in the clouds. Panelists included NARM president Jim Donio, Ruckus Entertainment CEO Mike Bebel, Razor and Tie’s Edith Bellinghausen and journalist-turned-author Matt Mason (The Pirate Dilemma: How Youth Culture Reinvented Capitalism). Aram Sinnreich of Radar Research tried to breathe fresh air on this panel that fell into side conversations. The pearls formed from this discussion came from Jim Donio who said “Redirect the sales focus from the music to the iPod, MP3 player, phone or lap top used to watch and hear the music.” Matt Mason agreed by saying,”It’s the concert, ringtone and advertising that are the music industries' revenue streams.”

Major label executives gave the floor over to independent labels after one and three-quarter days of dominance. The Indie Takeover? panel featured Mitchell Volk of ADA, Definitive Jux co-founder Amaechi Uzoigwe and Jaylaan Ahmad-Llewellyn, owner of Bluhammock Music. Ahmad-Llewellyn noted that digital music was a cheaper, greener proposition compared to petroleum-based DVDs, Blu Ray or CDs. Among Uzoigwe’s insights was the concern for Net Neutrality. “Left unchecked, the many tariffs charges to access the Internet would serve as barriers for smaller corporations." Volk did an extensive statistical review of independent label play and sales power.

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