Music’s Future

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.”

2 thoughts on “Music’s Future”

  1. Great work moderating the panel Professor Randall! I could see how difficult it was moderating panelists who had strong passions and opinions about the music industry.

    I felt the ‘tastemaker’/’gatekeeper’ discussion lasted longer than necessary. I understand that the traditional music store use the ‘tastemaker’, but blogs, facebook apps, twitter, myspace, e-mail subscriptions, and other web 2.0 applications are helping make everyone a tastemaker.

    Jay was the only panelist who seemed to grasp that, even though he didn’t truly seem to hit the nail on the head (it took the audience member’s comment to spark the blog talk).

    The record labels have been playing catch-up for years and the Warner Bros representative showed that. He seem undecided on which area the music industry should pursue in the future- saying that its not one answer its a combination of different areas to pursue.

    I disagree. To have a business strategy and viable business plan – you need to know what you are doing. Nobody will be successful playing catch-up. The record labels failed to recognize the internet and its power and it wasn’t until Shawn Fanning invented Napster that any change would come. In an industry where executives like David Geffen and Jimmy Iovine make billions – there was no need to change. The music (and all entertainment) industry is million dollar contracts with billion dollar egos.

    I hope Mike Dreese was right with his “mind the gap” comments (the revenues dropped off in a gap, but it will go back up and it will just look like a minor dip off). I think if Universal, Warner, and Sony BMG want to be successful in this new economy they need a new business model.

    Similar to cable networks offer videos on their websites, the record labels need to figure a way to distribute music through the internet in a way we want it.

    I like Rhapsody’s concept of having a folder than can be streamed to your car, home, computer, or mp3 device. We own vinyls in the garage, CD’s stored in your room, an iPod for the gym, CD’s in the car, and files on your computer. We need a service where we can collect these files into one location – and use them for all of our devices. The identity layer of music!

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