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Back From the Future

I’m just back from the Future of Music Coalition Summit, which had a couple of major themes: Fan-financed recordings are becoming a major driver in the DIY world (check out new player kickstarter.com); the music industry is rapidly moving from being product- oriented to service-oriented; Spotify, a U.K. Internet-and-mobile-device music-delivery company, is going to change everything when it gets here in the next year or so; Sen. Al Franken rocks; and the traditional music industry, represented by a slick RIAA flak who embarrassed himself repeatedly on a Monday panel, is pathetically arrogant and disingenuous, and increasingly irrelevant. But we already knew that. Here are some money quotes from the conference:

“If you can’t get people to take your music for free, don’t focus on how to get people to pay more for it.” —Jed Carlson, ReverbNation, quoting Eric Garland, Big Champagne.

“Now we’re living in a time where every musician is DIY, no matter how big they are.” —Greg Kot, Chicago Tribune/Sound Opinions.

“I feel so old-fashioned, having a record label.” —Mac McCaughan, Merge Records.

“The Internet is one big file-sharing program. It’s what it does.” —Bertis Downs, R.E.M. management.

“The music business was built by Rube Goldberg, and it was designed by Kafka.” —Bertis Downs, quoting Rob Glaser.

“I like how the Future of Music Coalition provides exposure for up-and-coming musicians like Mike Mills. Watch that Athens, Georgia, scene. There’s a group of youngsters I think’s gonna be big called the B-52’s.” —Sen. Al Franken, after being introduced by R.E.M.’s Mike Mills.

“As far as I’m concerned, free speech limited or free speech delayed is the same thing as free speech denied.” —Sen. Al Franken, advocating for net neutrality.

“This year, the music business is shifting from blocking content to connecting fans with artists.” —Joanna Sheldon, Google.

“Copyright didn’t come from Adam and Eve. It was concocted, and I think there’s a reasonable argument to be made that it’s outlived its usefulness.” —Peter Jenner, Pink Floyd’s manager.

“It took the labels 10 goddamn years to figure out that people wanted MP3s.” —Tim Quirk, Rhapsody.

“You should’ve negotiated a better deal to start with.” —Steven Marks, RIAA, addressing Tim Quirk’s complaint that the major labels demanded more money after Rhapsody’s iPhone app was accepted.

“That was a very, very stupid thing to say.” —Tim Quirk, responding to Steven Marks.

“It’s asking a terrific amount to get the turkeys to vote for Christmas.” —Peter Jenner, commenting on getting the labels to change their business model.

“I start every music story from the perspective that ‘people aren’t going to like this’ and then try to give people reasons to care.” —Bob Boilin, NPR.

“Every time I open up a CD I realize I’m holding someone’s heart in my hands.” —Bob Boilin.

“Jazz is not dead. It doesn’t even smell funny.” —John Davis, NPR.

“The radio stations say they shouldn’t pay artists because they promote their music. But, then, so does everything else.” —Congressman Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) on Big Radio’s resistance to the performance royalty bill before Congress.

“I’m not sure why the record companies should get any of that money.” —Mike Doyle on the bill.

“We’re aiming for the end of this year or the beginning of the next.” —David Ek, Spotify, on when Spotify will be introduced in the United States.

“Don’t worry about making a pristine recording; just make sure it’s good.” —Ian MacKaye, Fugazi/Minor Threat.

“I still record on an eight-track cassette machine. I want less options, not more.” —Ian MacKaye.

“If you can get fan respect and build some trust, you can get heard above the noise.” —Brian Message, Radiohead management.

“We should try to address this huge problem now, before it becomes an overwhelming problem.” —Peter Jenner, on the lack of uniform and accurate metadata tagging on digital music files.

“If someone names their band Various Artists, they’ll make a lot of money from SoundExchange.” —Barrie Kessler, SoundExchange.

“Monitizing anarchy means losing your house.” —Jim Griffin, Choruss.

“People ask me about the future of the music business, and I say I hope my infant son someday gets laid to a mixtape.” —Jim Griffin.

—Paul Rapp


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