Posts Tagged ‘conference’

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Rethink Music: the structure of revolutions

April 25, 2011

In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn famously wrote about science undergoing “paradigm shifts”: that scientific change occurs in sudden upheavals. It’s normally not all that dramatic, even. What I’ve observed to happen is something like this: at a conference, someone will present evidence for an alternative explanation of data. Some people will listen, some will scoff, and some will go off to do more experiments. The next year, more people are on the side of the ‘novel’ explanation. Repeat for another year or two, and everyone is on board with the new idea.

Watching the music industry evolve and struggle and try to reinvent itself, on the other hand, reminds me of what Kuhn wrote about the humanties. “[A] student in the humanities has constantly before him a number of competing and incommensurable solutions to these problems, solutions that he must ultimately examine for himself.”

The Rethink Music conference, starting today in Boston, aims to give “creators, academics, and industry professionals” a chance to think and discuss some of these solutions for the music industry.  A collaboration between the Berklee College of Music, Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, and MIDEM, Rethink Music’s goal is to foster a dialogue between the ‘traditional’ music industry and the artists, researchers, and entrepreneurs who are exploring a musical universe that’s not a holdover from moving around shiny silver discs. The high-powered speaker lineup suggests that Rethink Music is on track: it includes artist management, lawyers, researchers (including Lawrence Lessig and Nancy Baym), CEOs of a host of companies including SonicBids and The Echo Nest, Kickstarter founder Yancey Strickler, and RIAA head Cary Sherman sharing a stage with Google’s senior copyright counsel Fred Von Lohmann, formerly of the EFF (I have high hopes for a deathmatch).

Rethink Music is quite unusual in how it’s bringing people from across the spectrum together. As a counterexample, at SXSW Interactive this year, I went to two panel discussions around metadata: the first featured researchers from UC Berkeley, and the second was organized by a representative of NARM (the music industry trade organization). Even though both panels were nominally on the same topic, they were worlds apart: one group was talking about things like crowdsourcing taxonomies of musical knowledge, and the other group was talking about linking MP3s with the release dates of albums. So I’m excited to see Larisa Mann, one of the researchers from Berkeley, on the Rethink Music lineup.

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, there is already some evidence of friction in this uneasy alliance of interests. Wayne Marshall, a DJ and a researcher in ethnomusicology at MIT, withdrew from the conference over the boilerplate language of the speaker contract (you can read his letter to the conference organizers here). Articles on Hypebot and Mashable took issue with the planned release of an ‘instant album’ by Amanda Palmer, Neil Gaiman, Ben Folds, and Damien Kulash of OK Go (Palmer’s response is here). But of course, the tensions are likely to be what makes Rethink Music an interesting few days.

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SXSW Interactive 2011: music panels worth checking out

August 24, 2010

Crossposted from Hypebot. This post complements the previous zed equals zee post, which focuses on more technically oriented panels.

Thinking of heading to Austin in March? Before the South by Southwest Music Festival, there’s also South by Southwest Interactive, a conference that focuses on technology, media, marketing and culture. It’s no surprise, therefore, that the evolution of the music industry is a hot topic at SXSWi.

The program is partially crowdsourced: people who are interested in presenting at the conference submit proposals, which are then made available to the public to vote on and to provide feedback. Voting opened last week, and is open until August 27th (you do need to register to vote, but it’s quick and easy).

Here are six music / tech panel proposals that are intriguing:

Digital Strategies for Optimizing the Fan / Artist Connection
Pretty much what it says on the package: this panel will focus on the tools to measure and ‘optimize’ fan engagement.

Neither Moguls nor Pirates: Grey Area Music Distribution
Heitor Alvelos, of the University of Porto, argues that music distribution is typically seen as bipolar: music is either legal and paid for, or it’s piracy. Alvelos looks at other models of music creation and distribution besides these two.

Free Is Dead. Fan Experiences are Priceless
This is a topic that’s close to my heart (I wrote a related MTT post, “What Are Music Fans Willing to Pay For?“). Chris McDonald of Indiefeed focuses on the ‘experience economy’: providing unique experiences to fans, that they’re willing to pay for.

Caching in on Collaboration: Allee Willis and Pomplamoose
Heather Gold moderates a discussion between artists Allee Willis and Pomplamoose, who collaborate on both songwriting and visuals.

A Digital Rolling Stone: Disruptive Technology & Music
This panel has a pretty broad brief: to “analyze the current digital ecosystem and reveal creative and innovative solutions to utilize digital technologies in music that progress with and reflect culture,” but the proposer adds that they plan to present research as a case study, so that might make it a little more focused.

The Positive Effects of Music Tech
Samantha Murphy, of The Highway Girl, plans to discuss ways in which the independent artists have been empowered by new technologies around music, particularly those that simplify tasks like tour planning on clearing rights for cover songs.

I’ve highlighted another eight panels that are more technically oriented over at my own blog, zed equals zee.

Want more? Try searching the list of Interactive panel proposals using ‘music’ as a keyword. Know of a panel that belongs in this list? Feel free to add it in the comments.

Hope to see you in Austin!

Deb Chachra is a music fan, academic, and geek (not necessarily in that order). She writes zed equals zee, a blog focusing on the interaction of music, technology and culture, as well as the zed equals zee Tumblr. She’s debcha on Twitter, Last.fm, and elsewhere.

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SXSWi 2011 panel proposals in music and tech

August 16, 2010

Thinking about heading to South by Southwest Interactive next March? There’s a host of intriguing panel proposals in the music, technology and culture space. Below is a round-up of the zed equals zee faves. Click on the titles for more info and to vote.

Love, Music & APIs

(Dave Haynes, SoundCloud and Paul Lamere, The Echo Nest)

Regular readers know that zed equals zee hearts Music Hack Days. Learn more about why developing an ecosystem around putting music in the hands of developers is good for companies, for music and for fans.

Finding Music with Pictures: Data Visualization for Discovery

(Paul Lamere, The Echo Nest)

I’ve heard Paul speak several times, including his talk at SXSW 2010. I love his talks because they are both idea-rich and visually interesting, and I always feel smarter by the end. Can’t wait to see this one.

The Evolution of Radio and Digital Music

Jim Rondinelli, Slacker.com

The Future of Music

Drew Larner, Rdio

Digital Music ADD – Streaming, Clouds and Stores

Dan Maccarone, Hard Candy Shell

Clearly, this year’s hot topic: how the jukebox in the sky changes the landscape of music consumption. From the (admittedly brief) descriptions, it sounds like Rondinelli’s will have a bit more emphasis on what it means for artists, Larner’s on what it means for companies, and Maccarone’s on what it means for consumers.

Digital Music Smackdown: The Best Digital Music Service

David Hyman, MOG.com

Spotify, MOG, Pandora and Rhapsody executives will mud-wrestle for your amusement. Well, not really. This presentation is billed as a “fiercely competitive discussion” in which the four companies battle it out for the the title of “Best Digital Music Service.” Bring your tough questions.

Music & Metadata: Do Songs Remain the Same?

Jess Hemerly, UC Berkeley

If your iTunes library looks anything like mine, there is a jumble of songs at the bottom that are missing titles, artist information, and the like−missing good metadata, in other words. But bad metadata is more than just an inconvenience: every year, hundreds of thousands of dollars in song royalties from music streaming services go unpaid for lack of information about who to send the cheque to. And music recommendation, discovery, social sharing and purchasing all rely on good metadata, from tags on up. This panel will also discuss legal issues around metadata (and I  hope they will also look at some future directions).

We Built This App on RocknRoll: Style Matters

Hannah Donovan, Last.fm and Anthony Volodkin, The Hype Machine

Dear music developers: make your apps look cooler. And if we see another damn headphone girl, we’ll laugh at you and then go elsewhere. A discussion of why design is important from the people behind two of the coolest-looking music sites on the web.

Something good that I missed? Let me know in the comments. Voting is open until August 27th.

EDIT: Check out Paul Lamere’s complementary picks over at Music Machinery.

[and a bit of off-topic self-promotion: I've proposed a panel related to my day job - please check it out too!]

Image: Music Hack Day Stockholm by Flickr user paulamarttila, used here under its Creative Commons licence.

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Another round-up of SF MusicTech

June 9, 2009

SF MusicTech audience

Jason Feinberg, writing for PBS’s MediaShift website, just posted a good summary of the SanFran MusicTech Summit. He hit the nail on the head as to what made it an engaging conference:

The tired meme that holds the industry screwed up by not embracing Napster in 1999 may be true, but after 10 years the discussion needs to move forward….The panel discussions were focused on specific actions we can take to boost revenue, enhance fan engagement, foster social network interaction, and evaluate digital delivery options, as well as talk of how artists can take active roles in their (digital) careers. … I found the focus at each panel to be on working solutions, data that has shown results, and fostering discussions between opposing viewpoints.

Read more of what he has to say about some specific panel discussions here.

(Thanks to Simon Owens for the heads-up!)

Image credit: Julie Blaustein

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Upcoming: SanFran MusicTech Summit

May 11, 2009

hotel kabuki

Next Monday, May 18th is the SanFran MusicTech Summit, and it’s shaping up to be pretty interesting. Speakers include Dave Allen (of Pampelmoose), Terry McBride of Nettwerk (who gets around), and Fred Von Lohmann of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, with panels on social networking, digital delivery, monetization (with the description, ‘idealism in practice,’ which sounds promising), and more. It’s at the Hotel Kabuki in Japantown, and full conference and registration details are here. I’ll be heading down to SF for the weekend, and there’ll be a report-out on z=z. If there’s something you are particularly interested in hearing about, let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best.

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Report: MEIEA conference

April 9, 2009

goldberg

The Music and Entertainment Industry Educators Association 2009 conference was held last weekend at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Roving reporter Joe Kendall filed this report for zed equals zee.

Prior to this past weekend, my last visit to the Berklee Performance Center involved listening to Dave Brubeck play “Blue Rondo à la Turk”, so it felt a bit strange to sit in the same concert hall listening to industry players discuss ways to make money in the music business. I quickly discovered that the Music and Entertainment Industry Educators Association (MEIEA) International Conference was not going to be as focused on music as I thought. (It might have helped if I had paid more attention to the title of the conference: The New Entertainment Economy.) Panels on music in gaming or the worth of a song were considerably more focused on methods of licensing and distributing music than they were on the creation or use of music.

Overall, it’s clear that the industry has accepted that things will be different in the future, and panels focused around music publishing and other licensing opportunities were well attended. These panels and the keynote address each stressed the importance of taking risks and exploring new options for making money with music. A few highlights:

Last October, the Copyright Royalty Board set new rates for the amount songwriters and music publishers are paid for each song use. Putting a song on a CD or downloading it now earns the songwriter or publisher 9.1 cents per use. Downloading a digital ringtone earns songwriters 24 cents per use. [press release]

With the ability to download content to music-centered games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero, musicians have a new channel to connect with their fanbase. Less-established musicians are getting more exposure through these games, and more established musicians are using these games to increase marketing opportunities. [previously: Videogames and the music industry]

There was considerable discussion around the role of the Internet but, as Danny Goldberg (pictured; former manager of Nirvana and president of Gold Village Entertainment) said in his keynote address, “the Internet is not magic.” The panelists representing the music industry said they were using the advantages of the Internet, but not relying on them to create new opportunities.

Goldberg also called on President Obama to increase government support for the arts once he had addressed the economic and housing crises. He also asked educators and students to start a national conversation on the devaluation of intellectual property caused by non-monetized distribution of music.

With the diminishing importance of record companies and an economic recession, attendees seemed apprehensive about the survival of the industry. That apprehension didn’t disappear as panelists pointed towards growing live-performance sales and new growth opportunities in video games as signs of health;  the economic nature of the questions exposed the mood in the concert hall to be hopeful but anxious. Goldberg expressed the view that the industry had shifted over the past twenty years from focusing too much on the music side to focusing too much on the business side. It’s a difficult time and a difficult transition, but let’s hope the music industry can balance the two.

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