When I started getting gigs, just north of ten years ago, I got them by mailing a cassette tape to someone. The intervening decade has seen technological invention and Cultural Revolution to the power of Gutenberg x John Glenn, giving rise to a teeming forest of creativity and problems. Making sense of the spread is a kind of heroic undertaking that only people crazy enough to be in music can attempt. Fortunately for these damned souls there are pow-wows like the San Francisco MusicTech Summit to help survey the forest floor.
Organized by Brian Zisk, co-founder of the Future of Music Coalition, the conference brought heavyweights from all corners of the emerging technological and music worlds to the Hotel Kabuki in Japan Town. My condolences to the family of any attendee that did not gain great insight while at MusicTech because that attendee is most probably dead. Panel topics included legal and copyright issues, online video, artist activism, social networking, mobile strategies, audio streaming, marketing, and cash flow issues (can I get an “Amen” to that one?) After a thoroughly enlightening day I can honestly write that the only bad thing about MusicTech was that I couldn’t be at every discussion.
Just as impossible would be to decant a narrative in 500 words or less about all the illuminating ideas I encountered last Thursday so I’ll humbly attempt to condense some of the best nuggets of wisdom as well as recall some of my favorite moments:
Nugget: “You should add another non-musician member to your band that does nothing but digital marketing.” Tim Westegren, co-founder of Pandora, speaking in the “Digital Thought Leaders” panel.
Moment: Sitting next to Derek Sivers, founder of CDBaby, while he ate sushi in the lobby of the Kabuki and being too tongue-tied to introduce myself.
Nugget: “If you have a website with original content, copyright it every 3 months.” Andrew Bridges Esq, litigator for Google and CNET.
Nugget: “With digital distribution, labels are an option not a necessity.” Tim Quirk, VP of Music Programming for Rhapsody.
Moment: Hearing Dave Allen, bass player for the Gang of Four, announce his departure from the band at the “Record Labels and New Technologies” panel only hours after announcing it on his website (a fantastic site btw).
Moment: Listening intently for an entire hour while Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Work Week, describe how much of a badass he is when the entire talk could have been condensed into one sentence: “I speak six languages, am a lecturer at Princeton, hold a world record in tango dancing, am a Chinese kickboxing champion, operate a multi-national company, and own Berkshire Hathaway stock. Oh, and I’m almost 30 years old.” I guess that was two sentences.
Nugget: “It’s not content. It’s music.” David Katznelson, Birdman Record Group.