Future of Music panelists

Music personalities gather to look forward: Left to right, Nick Sansano, Bob Power, Harry Allen, Hank Shocklee and Steve Gordon

Odds are, you’ve had this discussion over drinks one evening, but some major names gathered in New York last night to look at the big picture: just what does the future of the music industry hold? Electronic musician Jason Kramer (see his cellphone interface for music software and homemade Ableton Live controller) was there, and offers this guest writeup for CDM:

“The Impact of New Technologies”

Well… the Future of Music panel discussion was awesome! The night was kick-started by author and entertainment lawyer Steve Gordon giving his lecture on the impact of new technologies on music and the music business. He described the current status of the music biz; largely the loss of over $5 billion in the last 10 years. Gordon went on to speak about some new opportunities for independent artists including how for only a few hundred dollars and the touch of a key you get your album world wide, where as before independent artists were limited to much, much smaller means of distribution.

The rest of the discussion was moderated by expert hip-hop activist, media assassin, and journalist Harry Allen, who doled out the topics to the rest of the panel, which included:

Bob Power: Grammy Award winning producer/writer/recordist/mixer for many amazing artists incl. Erykah Badu, Miles Davis, KRS 1, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, etc….

Hank Shocklee: producer/composer/record label exec to Public Enemy, Ice Cube, Madonna, Mary J. Blige, etc….

Nick Sansano: engineer/producer of Public Enemy, Run DMC, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, etc….

“Transfer of Power”

– As in, from record labels to the indy artists and eventually the public. It was argued that although there is this transfer of power, the capital and capabilities of the labels has not been transferred. The avenues for exposure, promotion and distribution that they have at their disposal are unmatched. Shocklee questioned what the “transfer of power” actually meant and said cooperation and trust are paramount in rebuilding the relationship between the public and record labels.

“You Can Make a Great Record”

Allen then dropped the old ‘what do you think about all the studios closing’ bomb. Citing the recent reality that the real estate and gear studios own is worth more these days than the recordings they produce. Interestingly enough Power claims it doesn’t matter, but what does matter is the big picture, if it sounds good or not and how to go forward from there. But wait, are we at the same debate that comes along every time a new media is invented, i.e. records/tapes/CD’s? Things are changing, technology is influencing art but there’s really no need to worry because digital didn’t get rid of analog, MIDI didn’t get rid of performance and synths didn’t get rid acoustic instruments so what’s different about digital music? Some people cringe when they think of the compression that is applied to their songs when they’re converted to MP3, but a good sounding mix will make a good sounding MP3. The public and audiences will always be there and they want good music, but the thing is now that they want cheap music. We need to find new ways of showcasing our music and unfortunately although independent artists have this power to record an album and make it available worldwide they just don’t have the means to get it to the public on a large scale. No publicity, promotion or tour = small bucks. These major labels are like banks and without their massive reservoir of dollars for A&R, artist development and such there just won’t be any superstars anymore.

“Rock & Roll was Built by People Doing Something Wrong”

The last debate of the night was aimed straight at the future, keeping new ideas in mind. There was a lot of big catch phrases being thrown around like “create a demand”, “start a buzz” and “gettting more creative”. Since the attention span of the audience has changed in the last few years the tactics for promotion must be reevaluated as well. New revenues are replacing old revenues. We have a lot of exciting opportunities right now and to get in on the ground floor of a new idea could potentially be very promising. Take it one night at a time, collaborate, be more honest, educate yourself about the recording process, practice arranging, write your own contracts, and get good at promoting yourself and maybe you’ll catch a marlin out there.

The night was magnanimously hosted by New York City’s own Tekserve.

Anyone else at the event with comments, please join in! -Ed.

  • bliss

    Huh? Is a major part of this article missing? Sorry, but I don't follow…

  • bliss

    Huh? Is part of this article missing?

  • bliss

    One thing's for sure, I don't know what's up with my Firefox.

  • voxish

    "there just won’t be any superstars anymore."

    Sounds good to me! That's precisely what's wrong with the music industry, it's predicated on the superstar system. Who needs it?

  • Jim

    I just don't think major labels can produce good music anymore. Sure, the promotion dollars they have can make superstars, but that's exactly the problem…major labels look for artists that they can promote, that will look good on television, and somewhere along the line making good music ceased to be a priority.

  • james

    @voxish

    unfortunately the need for superstars is an inevitable emergent behaviour arising from the meeting of the free market and a bunch of evolved apes. we're all hard-wired towards the kind of social structures that put superstars at the top of the tree, aren't we?

  • voxish

    @james

    Fair enough, I think you're right that it's inevitable. The way the music industry seems to be shaking out these days makes a lot of sense to me, though. With a few giants producing crap and a bunch of small players producing interesting music. If the big guys are having a hard time making money from selling crap, well that's just something they need to figure out. The rest of us will figure out how to make a living selling good stuff. In many ways I think these are two different business models. At this point I think the major labels and all their problems are really irrelevant to a lot of artists. Good luck to them.

  • bliss

    @ james

    Good point. Even the so-called underground has its figureheads, icons, heros, and superstars. Everywhere you look the pattern you speak of seems to eventually emerge. Though, I'm not so sure that being "a bunch of evolved apes" has anything to do with it. Seems to have more to do with humanity's need to exist within a symbolic order. This specific need does not seem to be restricted to free market societies. It also does not seem to be restricted to humans.

  • http://www.wikimusicguide.com your wiki guide

    if major labels would focus on building the artist than its music then that's not good. but i don't see it happening. there may be some cases, but most superstars of today are really producing great music, in which people love most. ofcourse, we should not forget the compositors…

  • Ethan Mahmeinntow

    I was there, I had a good time, and thanks to Tekserve and the panelists for the gathering.

    Opinion: The devil is at again

  • Funky Tradition

    The Future of Music Seminar by Tekserve was one of the most exciting

    of all the seminars they have continuosly provided free of

    charge to New York's creative community. They aren't a place that's

    just there to sell you stuff, they're also have a cutting edge

    staff with at least 50 working musicians and artists.

    The Panelists were recording industry veterans who

    inspired us with the new possibilities available to the indy

    musician with accessible tools. As one attendee, a multi-platinum /

    grammy winning recording engineer said " My million dollar

    studio is collecting dust". You can now do it on your own

    with a few good mics and a preamp…and of course good

    musical abilities that you must always work on.

  • Pingback: Richard French’s Weblog » Blog Archive » The Future of Music - debated in New York

  • Pingback: does my head look big in this