Thursday, February 5, 2009

Meet the Policy Day Panelists: Peter Jenner

We definitely have an interesting Policy Day panelist to tell you about today: legendary manager and artist advocate Peter Jenner (you can listen to an earlier FMC podcast interview with Peter here).

Hailing from across the pond (that’d be the UK), Peter serves as Emeritus President of IMMF (International Music Managers’ Forum) — an organization that represents worldwide music managers and their acts. Comprised of fifteen managers’ forums around the world including France, New Zealand, South Africa and Norway, this organization aims to ensure the respect and rights of a global community of managers and talent.

Peter’s story kicks off when he became the 21 year-old Lecturer at the London School of Economics. His four-year stint ended when he resigned to manage a daring young band that had caught his ear. That group was Pink Floyd, who subsequently went into "interstellar overdrive" (that one's for the fans!). Peter’s voice can even heard on Floyd’s 1967 song “Astronomy Domine” from the classic album Piper at the Gates of Dawn.

It was during this time that Peter and his business partner Andrew King formed Blackhill Enterprises and began putting on free concerts in London’s Hyde Park, which concluded with the famous Rolling Stones appearance in 1969 (the group’s first gig following the death of founding guitarist Brian Jones). From there, Peter went on to manage a long list of successful acts such as The Clash, Ian Dury, Robyn Hitchcock and Baaba Maal. Peter currently represents British folk firebrand Billy Bragg.

Peter is doggedly persistent in his fight for musicians' rights, and is a true artist champion. He also embraces technological change, particularly when it comes to creators getting paid. He’s been a strong advocate of the “music access charge” — a small fee on consumers’ internet bill that would let them legally obtain music from file-sharing services. (FMC hosted some of the earliest discussions of this idea at our 2004, '05 and '06 Policy Summits.) Peter's background in artist rights and representation makes him particularly well-equipped to understand the benefits and challenges of implementing such a plan.

Recently, a proposal was floated by the government of the Isle of Man — a small island in the Irish Sea — to allow the Isle’s 80,000 citizens to download unlimited music from P2P services for a nominal fee from their internet service provider. (The Isle of Man has a forward-looking history when it comes to technology; it was the first place in the world to offer 3G cellular service and broadband is available in every home.)

When asked what his role in all of this is, Peter says, “I’m an evil genius. I’m Doctor Strangelove.” (He’s actually a consultant.) Although the music access charge currently faces opposition, Peter believes it might eventually become commonplace. “If it happens, it sets a huge precedent,” he says. “If the sky doesn’t fall in it becomes more and more possible for the record companies to see it as a way to bring in revenue.”

He dismisses claims that an ISP surcharge would set a permanent price for digital music, calling it “absolute f**king nonsense.” (In a British accent, of course.) “By that logic, it means that if you listen to radio you won’t buy another record,” he says. “That’s what they said about cassettes; Disney said it said it about the VCR. It’s probably what the stagecoach companies said when the trains came along. If they’re clever they’ll figure out how to work with the new technology.”

Peter stresses that this structure would not upset existing digital music services and their own artist compensation mechanisms. “This is only an access charge for non-commercial use — commercial services will have to pay extra,” he explains. “The service providers, the ISPs and the music providers should all benefit from developing new services and new commercial services. This should make licensing very much easier; currently there is not a sensible licensing system. The dam is bursting — the industry can’t go on living a fantasy.”

So why the Isle of Man? “Because they wanted to do it,” Peter relates. “They already have a really strong tech infrastructure, and they hope people come in and try new services. They wanted another string to their bow.” (The Isle of Man is well known as a online gambling destination and tax haven.)

Peter will appear on a Policy Day panel called “Fair Trade Music: Toward a Legitimate Digital Music Marketplace” alongside David Beal (President, National Geographic Entertainment), Alec Ounsworth (Clap Your Hands Say Yeah), Justin Oullette (founder of Muxtape) and moderator Derek Sivers (founder, CD Baby). The conversation will focus on how technology is changing the marketplace and the ways to ensure fair compensation to creators.

This is just one of several fascinating panels at Policy Day 2009. The clock is ticking on registration — reserve your spot now!

DC Policy Day
When: Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Time: 9:00 AM — 6:00 PM with cocktail party to follow from 6:00 - 8:00 PM
Where: National Geographic Music and Radio and National Geographic Live!
Registration: $50 through February 9 11:59 pm ET.
Registration with 6.0 CLE credits: $200 through February 9 11:59 pm ET.

Onsite registration and onsite CLE sign-up will also be available.

This event has been approved in Virginia for 6.0 hours of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credit. Additionally, CLE credits from Virginia can be claimed in the states of New York, California, Delaware (additional fees apply), North Carolina, Pennsylvania (additional fees apply), and West Virginia.

Have you already registered but want to upgrade your registration to qualify for CLE credits? Click here to upgrade.

Can't make it to Washington, DC? This event will be webcast live on February 11.

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