Meet an FMC fan: Bertis Downs

FutureBlog readers probably know Bertis Downs as longtime manager of R.E.M.  An attorney from Athens Ga, he is enjoying his “active retirement” in a number of ways— keeping up with the ongoing legacy of R.E.M., spending more time with his family (really), teaching and engaging in various professional and educational settings (like Future of Music Summits and the like), and pursuing his passion for public education as he considers the future of education for his own kids, and other people’s kids, in our country’s underfunded and increasingly besieged public education system (among his heroes are Diane Ravitch and Linda Darling-Hammond, who stick to the facts and don’t mind calling out wrongheaded “solutions, ” whether they are mean-spirited or just misguided).

Bertis has been a fan, advisory board member and supporter of the Future of Music Coalition for years. As part of our Summer of Love profile series, Bertis graciously agreed to chat with us.

What’s your earliest music-related memory?
—My first recorded music memory is listening on my parents’ hifi stereo to Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, and my favorite song was Petula Clark’s “Downtown”
—My first live music concert was The Allman Brothers Band in Atlanta (post-Duane) my junior year of high school—1973, I think.
—My first Neil Young memory was at the softball field in ninth grade when I heard “After The Gold Rush” and that was very significant to me, for some reason.
—My first R.E.M. memory was hearing Bill and Peter had started a band so a bunch of us left the law library and went down to their first show as R.E.M. on April 19, 1980.  We got into it with the cops when they shut down the evidently illicit show— enjoying the fourth amendment discussion that ensued.
How’d you get involved with FMC?
I first became involved with the Future of Music Coalition when I met Jenny Toomey and Michael Bracy and attended some of the early summits and policy days. I always admired how they are a DC-based alternative to the posturing — right at the intersection of art/content/technology/institutions. And how they seem to keep a pretty cool head when others don’t, all the while staying focused on identifying sustainable business models in the face of massive change and helping the “middle class of musicians” find a way in this digital landscape.
What’s one of the biggest issues facing musicians today?
Being able to quit their other job, if that is their goal— making music pay enough to have a career. That’s never been a particularly easy, much less guaranteed, path, but there are ways of doing it even with all the shifting variables and changes afoot.
What would you tell FMC friends who haven’t yet donated to the Summer of Love campaign?
Come on— get real. Consider it as a charitable donation, sure, but also an investment in helping build an infrastructure for future generations of creative and worthy musicians.
What’s your favorite summer album?
—Summer morning record: Erik Satie, “Trois Gymnopedie”
—Summer afternoon record:  Radiohead,  “The Bends”
—Summer evening record: Big Star, “Radio City”
—Summer nightime record:  Nick Drake, “Bryter Layter”
—Summer softball record: Neil Young, “After The Gold Rush”
—Summer London Olympics record: The Clash,  “London Calling”
—Summer underrated R.E.M. live record: “Live at the Olympia”
You can hear more from Bertis Downs in this video clip from our 2011 Summit.
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Submitted by kevin on July 30, 2012 - 11:55am


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