Rethink Music: The Recap
Monday, April 23
The 2012 Rethink Music conference started off bright and early at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston’s Back Bay. Eager and excited to see all of the heavy hitters who would be speaking and presenting that day, the LTM team ventured in to hear the opening remarks.
Opening Remarks and Make Something Happen
Roger Brown from Berklee College of Music warmly welcomed us to his event and set the mood for the morning’s keynote speaker, Seth Godin. Seth came out in a lively, blue, pinstriped blazer with some loudly colored embellishments (which did not go unnoticed), jeans and a big grin on his face. Happy to be in the spotlight, Seth started to speak about the state of the music industry as the screen to his left blew up with tweets from audience members and fans. Godin, a renowned author and speaker, started to liven up the somewhat sleepy room with his unusual and bizarre comparisons of art, including the Mona Lisa and an (art) installation of a urinal in an art museum. His highly energetic attitude brought a liveliness to the room as he mixed graphs and straight facts with jokes; the room erupted in laughter in continuous waves.
After taking a short networking break, we reconvened to watch DJ Spooky give a breakdown of the intricacies of his musical style and how he is using technology to help his career. To my surprise, DJ Spooky came across as a very put together and well-spoken man. He started to show the audience his iOS application for iPhone and iPad, appropriately named DJ Spooky. He demonstrated how the application allows users to remix his songs that are exclusive to the application, as well as use additional sound effects or mix their own songs once they are unlocked.
After explaining that “we’re no longer in an era of mass production, we’re in an era of mass customization,” Spooky showed more examples of why his application is addressing needs in the ever-changing music world. He described how the use of such applications have helped build his brand and fan base. The DJ’s final thought: “If everyone has the same tools, things get boring. As an artist you have to make innovation the new currency.”
Then the LTM team split up. I went to “The Intersection of Content: Music+Video” panel while Andrew went to “The Basics of Copyright Law” with David Herlihy.
The Intersection of Content: Music+Video
The panel was comprised of Rio Careaff (CEO of VEVO), Chris Roberts (creative director/A&R of Vice Media) and Karmin (artist), and was moderated by Andrew Hampp (senior correspondent for Billboard). Instantly, I knew we were in for some good conversation, with all of the strong personalities and different places the panel members were coming from. Briefly after starting the panel discussion, the moderator and audience turned their attention (via a live tweet screen) to Rio Careaff and VEVO. Careaff dominated the conversation, saying that his company VEVO “doesn’t want to tell you what to do, they want to give people platform choices . . . the real challenge [is] to make the audience that loves music as valuable as the audience that loves the Super Bowl.”
The Basics of Copyright Law
David Herlihy, entertainment lawyer/musician/professor, gave a very informative presentation on the ins and outs of copyright law. Well, anybody can get a rundown of copyright law anywhere on the Web. The quality and clarity may vary, but the information is definitely out there. Instead of repeating what many other websites say, here are the highlights of David’s discussion.
- “We have copyright to promote progress. The only property mentioned in the Constitution is the notion of intellectual property. Exclusive rights for a limited period. A limited monoply to the author for the benefit of society. We need that limited monopoly. If we didn’t have that, many of our favorite songs wouldn’t exist.”
- Spotify has a royalty pool. An artist gets a percentage. A pretty puny percentage. One sees pages and pages and pages of accounting for a 19 cent payout. “Spotify is not really a cash hen, let alone a cash cow. But as a local startup band, I would be on Spotify right away. Tied in with Facebook, it becomes an aural business card. Because I see my best friend Judy listening to it, I know it’s not being marketed to me, and I can go check it out because I know she digs that kind of music.”
- Ever wonder why you can find so many songs so easily on YouTube? Aren’t people making a big deal about piracy? Well, check out this little tidbit of info, courtesy of Herlihy: YouTube has a massive database that detects soundwaves that match songs in your catalogue. When they detect it, they approach you (the copyright holder) and ask if you want to monetize it, take it down or remove the audio. So when sk8erdude2112 uploads a Rush song and has Google AdSense on it, now you know where that money really goes! To its rightful owners.
- Does control make sense? “Peer-to-peer is here. Digital technology is here. We shouldn’t sacrifice those opportunities for the sake of control. Control doesn’t make any sense anymore as the default copyright motive.” Instead, foster innovation.
This panel discussed the idea of cloud storage and, more importantly, how it affects the average consumer (as opposed to a bunch of insiders). The panelists discussed their own services and how they relate to the cloud. Here are some excerpts that speak more to the cloud and less to each company’s services.
- Toig: “Ten years out, consumers will be experiencing music bundled as part of their wireless service, similar to voicemails, text messaging and data backup.”
- On sharing the stage with the competition: “We all get along really well. We’re all together trying to build new opportunites for artist of all strata.”
- Consumers’ perceptions of the cloud are some of the biggest obstacles. “Cloud” is just a label for the service. There is no cloud business model, it’s just a technical infrastructure. So having people try it is key. It’s the business’s responsibility, not the audience’s, to tackle ignorance through marketing.
- The cloud is new, but the issues are the same: How are people going to get their music? How are artists going to get paid?
Every minute, there are more consumers of music, but that doesn’t mean they are customers.
Most streaming services have a few million subscribers; Spotify has three million worldwide, Rhapsody has one million in the U.S. It’s not enough. It’s not a lot. To better monetize it, we need to bring that number up to tens of millions. Every cloud-related service is trying to scale big. That means getting more people to adopt cloud-based services for their music solutions.
Keeping Your Sanity in an Ever-Connected World
We finished up the day hearing from Amanda Palmer (solo artist and member of the Dreden Dolls) at the “Keeping Your Sanity in an Ever-Connected World” panel. The moderator began by asking, “To be frank, how do you become Amanda fucking Palmer?“ Amanda’s very in-your-face personality and openness is very refreshing compared to the other speakers, who tended to be closed off from their fans.
Amanda Palmer is known as a “twitwhore” to the majority of her fans. Palmer stated that sometimes being on, “Twitter is like being an alcoholic.” She has found a medium that instantly connects her to her fans, and she constantly uses it to announce new releases, surprise shows and appearances. Let’s Talk Magazine sat down with Palmer after her presentation, and we can’t wait to tell you what she said! Be on the lookout for the interview in the coming days.
Thus concluded our first day at Rethink Music. Stay tuned for much more!