Welcome to the Big Apple. New York City's Jacob Javits Center to be exact. Come join me in discovering all the new possibilities in interactive media including cool new CD technology, CD-ROM programs, and of course MP3. The Interactive Music Xpo (IMX) attendees include such luminaries as Thomas Dolby of Beatnick.com and famous musician in his own right, and also Hilary B. Rosen who is the President and CEO of the RIAA. Of course many various manufacturers were well represented such as ASCAP, The recording Academy (NARAS), Microsoft, RioPort, Liquid Audio, CDNow, and many more.
Thomas Dolby gave the Keynote address. Thomas opened with a story about the movie "Singing in the Rain" and about how in this movie they were saying that movies would never take off. He spoke about how Lee Deforest discovered how to stripe sound onto film. How the discovery of the ability to record sound and never needing to repay the musicians for repeated live performances again won over producers because they could save money. Of course this was the also possibly the first time musicians got skewed out of their rightly deserved money says Dolby.
Thomas Dolby feels that we will buy music in the future like we buy cellular phone service today. Although this utopian vision may come true, identifying when this will happen is hard to say. "The truth is this won't happen overnight" says Dolby. He continues "The big surge in sales.. will come from the web due to promoting their conventional sales." He feels more companies (varieties thereof) will be making direct downloads of music available.
He discussed how the Big 5 labels also don't want to "bite the hand that feeds them" by putting their entire catalog online. There are still retailers, distributors, etc. which earn their living for literally decades from relationships with the Big 5. Thomas has personally seen how some of the employees from the Big 5 have left and started their own ".com" music websites! Thomas looks forward to the day when he can put up , say, three new songs he wrote unlike the 12-song package which is standard with CDs today. He feels there will soon be a number of disgruntled, world-class artists leaving to start their own .com website to distribute their music. Thomas feels this is a better deal for both the artist and the music lover.
It's about the fact that the record industry has desensitized the connection between the music/musician and music lover says Thomas. How the commercialism has desensitized the primal instinct about music. The web has an advantage here as it has mailing lists, newsgroups, etc. It allows people to feel closer to the musical artist. In fact Thomas feels like he is on the same plane as his fans when he surfs his own website. Thomas continues by saying that when MTV came along it was the first promotional tool for an artist. MTV was a launch pad for musicians. "The web is the best tool since MTV for promotion music.". Thomas also announced the launch of his company's partnership with MTV. Beatnik sends over the web a "description of the music". Beatnik's new technology allows people to enjoy a preset personal play list where the web surfer can also play to it! This is MIDI-based music so therefore the sound quality is quite high at literal CD-quality sound and as an added benefit, it is also interactive! Sun Microsystems, Microsoft, Oracle, Intel Car PC, to name a few, have the Beatnik system preinstalled into their base systems according to Thomas. He also feels this is a pivotal time that points to a very bright future for both musicians and the music lover.
Thomas hopes that the fruits of the internet and musicians posting their music has brought great joy to them (musicians). Thomas likes the fact that internet radio allows people to not just hear music, but also find out who the musical artist is and therefore buy it. Regular radio doesn't always announce who the musician/song is. Someone asked Thomas if big labels going to be forced to give artists better deals due to internet labels cropping up. Thomas feels it will because there will be say, U2 or REM who don't care about quantity of sales per se as much as just being available. Thomas also feels that "creative book keeping" and the long (2 year) delay in paying artists by the Big 5 is also going to have artists go web instead of with them. Thomas feels there will be an existing eroding of the major labels and that contracts to benefit bands will change.
Tuesday's Keynote address was given by none other than the President and CEO of the RIAA Hilary Rosen. The RIAA has been under much fire recently with the loss to the courts over the Diamond Multimedia Rio player and other MP3 issues.
According to Hilary, 95% of all the music in the USA are also members of the RIAA. She discussed protecting their copyrights of music from piracy. She feels that people posting entire albums for thousands to download, just to be cool, is wrong. She is proud to say that the RIAA will actively go after those who illegally post copyrighted music on the internet.
She also recognizes how some of the public see the RIAA since losing the MP3 lawsuit. "The artists should be able to create their own fate" says Hilary. Soundgarden is releasing one of their songs on MP3 for free access. This is fine as the artist did this. It was their choice.
Hilary also said that 98% of traditional music is sold through "brick and mortar" stores. She agrees that music may one day be more of a service (subscription) than purchased as it is today. "The #1 reason why identified lovers say they don't buy more music is because they don't know what to buy" said Hilary. The trick is in finding ways to better organize music (filtering process) which in turn allows consumers to find new music they enjoy. "The key for all of us is to get the (music) fan to a website to begin with." said Hilary. "We have to expand our own horizons... we need to bring forward new cultural sensitivity. It is about delivering the experience." On the web there are 25,000 "radio station" choices unlike regular FM/AM radio.
During the questions and answer session with Hilary Rosen some interesting points were made.
Does SDMI create additional formats and therefore more confusion in the marketplace?
SDMI is merely an overlay that can attach to existing formats. The consumer will see that they have access to various other types of formats.
Why did the RIAA sue Diamond?????
Approximately 18 months ago there was a definite mindset in the technology community guarding creative rights. The time Diamond announced the Rio Player, literally 98% of the music online were unauthorized files. For legitimate reasons, this is why this lawsuit occurred.
In the end i gained much more respect for Hilary as she had made some very valid points. As it sits now, SDMI should solve most of the industry's concerns while those who want to share their music freely can do this as well.
During the IMX show there were many different conference discussion topics ranging from home recording techniques to music in the year 2010 perspective. i attended many conferences myself and learned a great deal. The conference titled "Where Technology's Headed" on Monday afternoon there seemed to be a major conflicting opinion of whether people are happy with the major distribution of music today. It seems that major labels so narrowly pick and choose artists is upsetting the public whereas there is so much more available on the web today. They also discussed how the independent sector has grown and flourished, partially due to the internet. Ultimately, the real challenge will be in marketing. It is in leveraging the ability in having an artist strictly on their website that will play a key role in the future. In turn, these websites will need to spend money in getting the eyes and ears of the public. Promotion costs must be made.
The internet has already had an affect on the record industry. Simply having a web presence is good management. Getting one's music out there is seen as a good thing to A&R people on the major labels. There is more to life than getting and selling the music. Building a culture and following is key too. Marketing, building/developing a culture around your music can become a successful promotion in and of itself. It is in also understanding how the college student lives/thinks/etc. that plays a key role as well.
What hard lessons have the record labels learnt?
The one major claim that selling music online doesn't work. www.sec.gov even tells you how little music is sold online. With over 12,000,000 CD Burners being sold yearly, surely there is a good portion of people using them for making their own MP3 CDs. Music as a product vs. music as a service is a big challenge. It seems that the majors are now looking to offer more of a culture thing and away from pure marketing. Still, i can not help but wonder if this is just a new face to the marketing plan to churn and burn though more musical artists. What ever happened to truly building an artist like they did many years ago?
Both the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (Grammy Award folks) and ASCAP had booths at the show. Ok, i admit i am a member of the NARAS myself. Good folks, good fun, and you are supporting musical artists and science too Join today!!!
Of course how can you have an MP3-type show without good ol' Rio being there. Showing their all new Rio 500 which comes in various translucent colors, it features 64MB of base memory and can be expanded with 96MB more memory via flash memory card. An all new display makes it easier to read and give more track information that the first generation unit. An automatic book marking feature is included for those who have downloaded audio books! Great feature! This new unit also includes upgradeable firmware and is therefore compatible as future innovation occur. Street pricing should be around $269.
Coming right on the heel of the popular Rio is the all new I-Jam. The I-Jam also includes the new, very small 32MB SanDisk flash memory. The I-Jam comes in 10, count 'em, 10 colors. This no frills unit has a basic 10 digital display. It also includes an FM radio too by the way for those who have more time than MP3 stored in their unit. The I-Jam works with both Apple and Windows based system. Songs are transferred to the memory by using the included "Jam Station" (white with blue lettering device).
For those who have been wishing for a home unit, well, here she is! The new Brujo by netDrives is sold direct from their website and retails for $299. It features playing not just CD-ROMs with MP3 files, it also plays home CDs! i personally checked this baby out and she was mighty fine! Oh yeah baby!!! netDrives also claims their new Brujo is "PC Free" because all you need to do is burn your CD-ROMs and then simply insert the disc into the unit for hours and hours of forbidden MP3 musical pleasures (heh heh). Remote control is also included for all you couch potatoes by the way. They did send me a unit for review, yet the drive was so loud it interfered with the music.
AMP3.com was at the IMX in full force giving out MP3 CD-ROMs and having fun. They claim to be the web's fastest growing MP3 website on the net. Meanwhile Musicmaker.com entered an agreement with Tunes.com network of websites to offer secured music downloads. These websites include RollingStone.com, TheSource.com, and DownBeatJazz.com. Meanwhile Liquid Audio is touting their new Liquid Affiliate program where they promise a "turnkey solution" for promoting and selling your online music.
One of the coolest devices i saw at the show was the Audio ReQuest. This is basically a home CD player which will record your music into MP3 or Windows media files for future replay. The hard drive is claimed to be large enough to store upwards of 300 compressed songs. Both analog and digital inputs allow encoding from DAT to vinyl. The internal software is fully updateable for future compression schemes.
Out in full force was SoundsBig.com who have their own music community website to help link musicians with their adoring present and future fans. Founded by former Cakewalk executives Tom Cook and Chris Albano, SoundsBig.com is looking to give more exposure to unsigned bands as well as musicians on both indie and major labels too.
There were many live bands i also enjoyed while at the IMX show which performed all day in front of the John Lennon bus (far right in the photo above). At night there were various bands playing on various stages setup at the IMX show. A great time was had by all. See you next year in LA at IMX 2000!
Bonus Photos From Interactive Music Xpo '99
Thanks for reading my Interactive Music Xpo '99 show report. As always, in the end what really matters is that you...