Thursday, February 17, 2011

Radio Berkman - Rethink Music Podcast Series I, II & III

I've spent today catching up on some podcasts from Radio Berkman which are being released as a Rethink Music series.

The first of theses was an outline of the Rethink Music conference to be held in Boston later in the year and being run by the Berkman Centre and Berklee Music. Allen Bargfrede, a digital music lawyer and Assistant Professor in the Music Business Department at Berklee, and Chris Bavitz, Assistant Director of the Berkman Center’s Cyberlaw Clinic and Clinical Instructor and Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School discuss the nature of the conference as being solutions oriented. They talk about how digital distribution is becoming the default for the music industry, and note that the decision to be a musician these days is very different to what it used to be with the need to be committed to engaging with fans and developing an online community. They note that in the past ten years there has been around 120 music start ups on the web with only 5 of these currently being profitable. As such the conference and the associated competitions for a new business model and policy proposals seek to establish the road for musicians in the future and this is what sets them apart from the other conferences that are run in this field.

The second podcast was an interview with two artists, Amanda Palmer and Donald Glover. Palmer outlines her past with the Dresden Dolls and reveals that their signing to a major label was never seen as being financially beneficial but rather opened opportunities to develop a wider audience through promotions. She notes that these days as a solo artist she gives away her music for free because viral marketing leads to more people at her concerts. She states that musicians need to be realistic about making money and does not believe they can demand payment - she says that downloading her music is not a negative thing and it does not cost her any time and energy. When she released an album of Radiohead cover songs she charged 84c for the album - 54c of this went to Radiohead with the other 30c covering paypal transaction charges. She sees success as being able to support herself without a day job rather than the superstar lifestyle and encourages other artists to define their goals in this way. Donald Glover also releases music for free having released 11 albums without charge. He states that he is just happy to get his music out there for others to hear and does not believe there is any money to be made from selling music but rather that live concert performances are the best option for this. He believes information is fluid and comments on the reuse of music as being a positive, cyclical thing.

The third podcast is an interview with Nancy Baym of the University of Kansas on building genuine relationships with fans and the development on online communities. This is an interesting interview which explores participatory models where fans are encouraged to part take in decisions with respect to various musicians. Baym states that these days musicians are expected to be technologically literate and enabled and must be good at socialising online. She states that while there is no easy formulaic model for transforming an online community into something that can be monetised that it can be achieved in some cases. She would like to see further developments in online communities in the future - in particular the acceptance of decentralisation in the music industry enabling more remixes of songs, downloads, competitions for alternative videos for songs, fan fiction and fan based merchandising.

These were three great podcasts and worth the short time to listen to them - below are the addresses for each of the podcasts.

Further Listening
Radio Berkman 168, Rethinking Music, Part I – Creativity, Commerce, and Policy (19 November 2010) < > at 17 February 2011

Radio Berkman 173, The Portrait of the Self-Published Artist (Rethinking Music II) < > at 17 February 2011

Radio Berkman 174, Radio Berkman 174: The Neverending Concert (Rethink Music III) < > at 17 February 2011

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