FMC staff just got back from several whirlwind days in Austin where we experienced the music and madness of South By Southwest.
We had a blast, and even managed to accomplish a few things in between the rocking and partying.
The panel sparked discussion about how difficult it is to get rights cleared for digital streams/downloads, and the differing license requirements from service to service and country to country. Also addressed was the conceptual leap consumers have to make between “owning” versus “renting” digital music, with Rhapsody‘s Tim Quirk emphasizing that subscription services give listeners access to all the music they can listen to, whenever they want to, for one price. For real music fans, access to millions of tracks means all they have to spend is their time. In contrast, users of eMusic and Napster currently have universal portability because their content is downloaded rather than streamed. Fascinating stuff that inspired extended discussion on what the future of musical discovery might be.
FMC co-founder and “serial entrepreneur” Brian Zisk moderated the lively “Resolving Webcasting Fees” panel, which saw John Simson of digital royalty distribution organization SoundExchange discuss the pros and cons of percentage vs. fixed webcasting royalty rates with smaller online broadcasters. Nothing really got resolved, but the conversation remained civil and, dare we say, hopeful.
Meanwhile, FMC’s Health Insurance Navigation Tool (or HINT) worked the convention center like Lucy from the Peanuts, staking out a table and talking to all passers-by. Our resident health insurance expert (and musician) Alex Maiolo was on hand to raise awareness about the importance of health insurance for musicians, and conducted dozens of free, one-on-one consultations with artists about their options.
Deputy Director Jean Cook pulled double duty as an FMC representative and a performing artist. Jean played several gigs in Austin, including sets with the Waco Brothers, Jon Langford and a special guest appearance with Langford alongside the Sadies. She was probably pretty beat by the end of the weekend, but busy is good, right?
Communications Director Casey Rae-Hunter ran around to various showcases and tried to sneak Rock the Net materials on merch tables. Well, first he asked politely. Thanks to the bands (including Boston’s Pretty & Nice) who cleared some space in support of net neutrality.
Events organizer Chhaya Kapadia attended lots of panels and performances, and got to reunite with musicians who attended our annual Artist Activism Camp, including Patrick Hallahan and Jim James of My Morning Jacket. Other AAC alumni were in Austin as well — Tom Morello and Kimya Dawson played the “Body of War” show, and Mike Mills rocked with R.E.M. at Stubb’s on Wednesday night. Mills supposedly namedropped FMC in an on-site radio interview, but we can’t seem to find the archived audio. Can anyone assist?
Finally, FMC advisory board members Sandy Pearlman, Peter Jenner and Jim Griffin appeared on the well-attended “Mobility, Ubiquity and Monetizing Music” panel, which discussed, among other things, how rights holders can get paid in the brave new digital world. Our newest board member, Bryan Calhoun, did his best to keep things reined in as moderator. FMC’s Kristin Thomson remembers being one of about twelve attendees at a panel during SXSW 2003, Sandy Pearlman first started promoting this idea.. Now, with five years of germination, the concept of monetizing the millions of music transactions has finally gained some momentum and a much higher profile, though a workable solution has yet to be reached.
Here’s a link to some pics Chhaya took of the action.
Thanks, Austin. See you next year. . .