What Lies Ahead, last night’s panel discussion on the future of music, was informative and altered my thinking about the future of the delivery and consumption of information in general. The venue was too large for the size of the audience but the audience, which included musicians and others in the music biz, was knowledgeable and opinionated. The event’s student organizers deserve great credit and should be proud of what they pulled off.
Some random thoughts:
- Moderating this panel of five passionate, experienced music industry participants was not easy. Keeping the conversation close to the topic was like herding squirrels. Balancing audience questions and panel responses was almost impossible.
- The spirited, and at times heated, discussion of the roles of “gatekeepers” and “tastemakers” was fascinating. The relevance of radio and the major record labels as vehicles for breaking new artists have waned. Independent labels, blogs, genre magazines and e-zines have all taken on a role in getting out the buzz on new artists but the mass of information is overwhelming. One panelist rejected the idea of tastemakers–those who influence others’ choices in music, fashion, etc.–even though he runs an independent label, produces hip hop artists, and is himself a tastemaker.
- I have no desire to sample Crunk Juice.
- The panel talked for an hour before music piracy came up — and was dismissed quickly. “It’s too late” said Duran Duran’s manager. Piracy is a fact of life. RIAA lawsuits were mentioned even more briefly.
- There may be a market for vinyl, but most of the panelists saw the future of distribution as all-digital.
- The role/need for/identity of gatekeepers and tastemakers applies to all digital information. Who will be trusted sources for news? Some current media brands will survive, many will not, and something will come along to fill the role. Individual blogs are too diffuse, but blog aggregations may form and acquire followings.
- The co-founder of Newbury Comics warned of Big Brother-esque changes in the Internet. “If 200 Airbuses crash because some hackers thought it would be cool, we’ll have fixed IP addresses within a year.”