Sunday, March 22, 2009

FMC's South-By Drop-By

South By Southwest has rightfully earned its reputation as one of the most raucous music conferences in the country. Held yearly in Austin, Texas, SXSW is an over-the-top celebration of music, booze, and networking that can take a while to recover from (in a good way). In between the live sets and Tex-Mex, there's also panel discussions about where this whole music dealie might be headed.

FMC is no strangers to these discussions, having been going to SXSW for years. This year saw FMC technologies director and founding Board member Brian Zisk appearing on two panels — "Fan Based Marketing" and "Policy Trainwreck: How Copyright Law Failed the Digital Age," while FMC General Counsel and co-founder Walter McDonough spoke at a discussion called "Is Collective Licensing for P-2-P File Sharing a Future Source of Income for the Music Industry?"

The latter just got written up by Wired's Eliot Van Buskirk, who called it "among the more interesting panels I've attended." We can see why. In addition to Walter, the conversation included FMC advisory board members Sandy Pearlman, Jim Griffin and Rick Carnes, as well as entertainment lawyer Dina LaPolt.

Pearlman is a legendary producer whose visionary predictions about the music industry have a tendency to become focal points well after they're originally introduced (case in point: collective licensing, which he was talking about at the beginning of the decade.) Is Sandy the Nostradamus of music? Well, he does sometimes speak in prose, but we're not ready to call it either way.

In addition to his work with FMC, Walter is also an entertainment attorney in Boston, a professor of copyright law at Suffolk University Law School, and a SoundExchange Board member. (Walter moderated one of the most feisty and interesting panels at our February 2009 Policy Day — check out video and audio archives here.)

Jim Griffin is managing director of OneHouseLLC, and is currently working with Warner Music Group to help universities and then ISPs license music so that college kids can download tunes (without getting sued) for a small monthly fee. Proceeds would be split among rightsholders, but as LaPolt puts it, "the devil is in the details." In other words, this subject is gonna be debated for a while yet. For its part, FMC hopes that this system — if implemented — properly compensates musicians. We'll keep continue to keep our eye on this and other developments in how artists would get paid in emerging digital models.

Rick Carnes is the president of the Songwriters Guild of America, and often appears on panels to discuss the impact of filesharing on his profession, as well as offer his views on possible solutions.

So yeah, there's some brains there.

SXSW often archives panel discussions; our advice for the curious is to keep checking their site. In the meantime, you can read Buskirk's take on the collective licensing discussion. (We also think it's time to get Walter and Brian on another podcast interview, so watch this space!)

If you're interested in music and technology issues (and why else would you be reading this?), you won't want to miss Brian's next SanFran MusicTech Summit, which takes place at the Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco on May 18, 2009. SFMT brings together the best and brightest developers in the music/technology space, along with the musicians, entrepreneurial business people, press, investors, service providers, and organizations who work with them at the convergence of culture and commerce. Space fills fast, so get your tickets now!

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