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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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