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The music business has been utterly transformed by technology. New music apps such as Pandora, Spotify, Soundcloud, Shazam and Songza among hundreds of others are driving new music revenue and employment opportunities for technically oriented musicians.

Olivia Leonardi over at Online Computer Science Degree has written an article about the intersection of music and software development and describing the rich past of the impact of technology, specifically software on the music business.  It is excerpted here.  Lets go people, tool up for careers in the music industry of the future!

Computer Science and Music Technology

You’re a heavy-duty programming dude or computer grrl, but you also love music.  Is there any way to reconcile these two interests?  Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that computers and technology play a major role in the 21st century music scene. Audio sequencers, MIDI and associated laptops are standard operating equipment for performers like PrinceKraftwerk, OK Go, international deejay Paul Van Dyk or electronic music pioneer Thomas Dolby. Indeed, popular music today – from indie rock to hip-hop to house – would not be the same without innovations in computer science and technology. The following article is an exploration of the pioneering inventions and innovations in music technology that, through the use of computers, continue to define the musical experience of today.

Making Music in the 20th Century

1930 marks the year that the technological roots of modern popular music were formed. In that fateful year the world welcomed its first drum machine while the revolutionary electric guitar took the music scene by storm. Although the drum machine wouldn’t find its way into popular music for another 40 years, the electric guitar was seen as a brilliant invention and one immediately adopted by the jazz community and early blues artists. Perhaps more importantly, however, was that these two innovations inspired and challenged others to experiment with electric instruments and to test how technology could continue to enhance the musical experience. In the years following, the legendary Les Paul would lay down the first multi-track recording in 1947 and in ‘58 Link Wray, unsatisfied with the sound his amplifier was producing, would think to jam pencils into it to distort the sound of the guitar in the track “Rumble” – a technique The Kinks pushed into the mainstream with “You Really Got Me” in 1964.

Then, in 1966, producer George Martin was faced with a dilemma. The Beatles had recorded multiple takes of a John Lennon penned song called “Strawberry Fields Forever.” John had finally settled on not one, but two takes of the song that he liked best. The problem: the two takes, numbers 7 and 26, were recorded in different keys and played at different tempos. Without the technological innovations available today, Martin ingeniously solved the problem by mechanically slowing one take while speeding up the other, then spliced the two takes together to produce one of the most celebrated popular music recordings in history.

Enter Computer Technology

Computer technology has since incorporated innovations such as Martin’s and made them a routine part of music recording. Without major advancements in computer technology, however, such would not be the case. Once monolithic, the late 1970s and early 80s saw the size of computers greatly diminish while major improvements were being made in processing power. Personal computers were made accessible for the first time in history and, watching closely, the music industry quickly responded. As the Beatles were walking Abbey Road and the Rolling Stones were licking their way to chart toping heights, brilliant innovations on old technologies would surface simultaneously that – from sampling to the drum machine to the Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) – gave rise to whole new genres like hip-hop and electronic music while altering the trajectory of popular music itself. The following is a brief run-through of some of those major developments in computer technology.

Sampling

Sampling allows musicians to borrow snippets of past tracks and even entire recordings and incorporate them into original creations. Using synthesizer technology, artists can also alter the tone of the sample by speeding up or slowing down the track; later iterations of samplers would actually come in the form of synthesizers as synths became more sophisticated and were able to adopt sampling technology.

The first sampler – the Mellatron – appeared in the late 60s and early 70s and was a tape replay keyboard that stored recordings on analog tape. Although its genius was widely recognized, it was soon improved upon with the emergence of the memory-based digital sampler. Developed by a trio of computer scientists and software engineers, the first digital sampler – the EMS Musys system – ran on two mini computers (PDP-8s), giving birth to the first digital music studio. As musicians began realizing the need and benefit of sound synthesis for sampling purposes, sampling synthesizers soon emerged. Surfacing in the late 70s, these sampling synthesizers would enable the use of percussion samples and techniques such as the crossfade and “time stretching” and are credited with advancing hip-hop away from the drum machine sound of its youth.

Today, sampling technology is either software-based or appears as part of the music workstation.

Digital Drum Machine

Beginning with the Rythmicon – the father of all drum machines, first produced in 1930 – the drum machine has had a strong impact on music through the years. The first “modern” drum machine – in the form of a programmable drum machine — emerged in the 70s with the Roland CR-78 machine and a few year later, the legendary Roland TR-808 (1980) and Roland TR-909 (1984). Both machines are icons of the early hip-hop, underground dance and techno genres. Indeed, Marvin Gaye’s classic “Sexual Healing” wouldn’t be the same without use of the Roland TR-909.

Digital drum machines, otherwise known as drum computers, also figure heavily in the development of pop music in the 80s. Starting with the Linn LM-1, digital samples of drum sounds and drum sound synthesis were both used with increasing frequency, appearing in works from the soundtrack ofScarface to Prince.

In music today the physical drum machine is a rare sight, whose use was rendered obsolete by MIDI and digital music workstations.

Digital Synthesizer

The digital synthesizer produces a stream of numbers at a certain rate that is then converted to analog form, allowing speakers to produce sound. Synthesizer aided music is some of the most identifiable of the 70s and 80s. No only did the Beatles and Rolling Stones utilize its capacity to produce unique and spacy sounds, but a whole new genre arose from its use: synthpop. Today, the synthesizer is a major element of the music workstation.

    • Forms of Sound Synthesis
    • Additive Synthesis
    • Subtractive Synthesis
    • FM Synthesis
    • Phase Distortion Synthesis
    • Granular Synthesis
    • Physical Modelling Synthesis
    • Sample-Based Synthesis
    • Analysis/Resynthesis

Sequencers

Of all music technology, the sequencer has arguably benefited the most from computer science, giving birth to the very genre termed “computer music.” In modern days, a sequencer is a piece of music software that can record, edit, and play back music. The first digital sequencer emerged in 1971 from Electronic Music Studios while the first microcomputer based digital sequencer, the MC-8 Microcomposer or “computer music composer”, appeared in 1977 using a keypad to enter notes in numeric codes.

As the personal computer’s capabilities progressed, software sequencers soon emerged. The New England Digital ABLE (1973) computer and its brother the Synclavier 1 (1977) are two of the most notable with the latter being used by such artists as Michael Jackson. These two advancements were also two of the first iterations of the modern music workstations. In the current day and age, however, most sequencing is done via software through the use of MIDI.

Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI)

The development of Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) was a remarkable innovation in the history of music. The MIDI made it possible for anyone with a computer, a modicum of talent and a measure of determination to become his or her own performer and producer. MIDI originated as a means to link keyboards with synthesizers, but has since evolved to become a computer software application used to edit all aspects of music recordings. MIDI allows for the interaction of many different instruments at once through a central transceiver that the instruments are plugged into. With their memory, processing power and interactivity, computers became the central brain that all electronic instruments were connected to. From this point on, the computer became irreplaceable in music production. Sequencing software was developed to piece together the disparate musical elements received on the computer through MIDI connections in addition to the development of software synthesizers, drum machines and samplers (often coalesced into one program).

Prior to MIDI, the recording process required a sound booth, session musicians, mixers and other expensive features. Since the development of MIDI, a single musician can sing, play accompaniment and mix multiple tracks together to produce a polished, sophisticated recording using only a computer, a mike and digital recording software.

From Olivia Leonardi at Online Computer Science Degree.

Side note – this is the 30 year anniversary of MIDI.  I will be writing more about that in the weeks ahead.

My buddy Bruce Houghton at Hypebot, caught me last week for a quick interview before Rethink Music.  Here is an except from our discussion:

HYPEBOT: Your new focus is on consulting and investing. Are there any sectors, particularly within music and music tech, that particularly interest you or where you see the most room for growth?

DAVE KUSEK: Online education is one of them. This is an area that is already transforming how people learn and gain job skills and it is only going to grow as time goes on. There are big opportunities here that will effect tens of millions of people around the world. Online training is going to be huge. Job requirements are shifting and people need to be able to adapt to changing circumstances that can benefit them. The traditional model of higher education is already under pressure and there are many people and companies exploring alternative models that are very interesting.

The other area I am bullish on is live music and live events. The live concert experience cannot be digitized, yet can benefit enormously from technology. There really has not been much innovation in live music or in music merchandising beyond ticketing. I think there is a lot more that can be done with mobile technology and am actively working in this area. My investment in Tastemate is one way of digging into this potential in a meaningful way. We will be bringing our service to a venue near you, very soon.

I also think that there is potential to expand the reach of live performance using remote technologies. I am interested in ways to cut the costs out of touring to make it more profitable and to reach broader audiences. It is amazing to me that there has not been more activity in this area either, so I am looking for companies and people to work with that are thinking differently about what live music is all about and how to make it even more lucrative.

HYPEBOT: What are some of the things that Digital Cowboys has done in the past or is looking to do now?

DAVE KUSEK: We are focused on business development, marketing and product development, particularly in online and mobile services. We also do strategy consulting for businesses wanting to expand or enter new markets or make acquisitions. I say we, because while I am the managing partner, I also leverage a network of people around the world and with different specialties that I bring together to form a team to address the issues. For example, with a lot of the product work that we have done I brought together a team of visual designers and user experience people to execute on the product vision and do the testing. With business development projects I sometimes work with friends that have particular contacts or relationships that are beneficial to my clients. Sometimes I put together a couple different investors or strategic partners to provide capital or distribution or some other need. The main thing is to get the work done and show results, while trying to have some fun and work on interesting projects that are pushing the envelope.

HYPEBOT: There’s some talk of another tech bubble. Do you see think we’re approaching one in music and media technology?

DAVE KUSEK: I do think that some of the deals we have seen recently are off the charts, like Instagram – but who knows? That has all the earmarks of “bubble” written all over it. But Facebook is also about to go public and at their level, what’s another billion dollars?

But really I don’t think overall that we are at the point of frivolousness and excess that we witnessed in the earlier dot-com bubble, at least not yet. I believe that people are just beginning to figure out better ways to communicate and interact and learn via technology. That is having massive implications on the future of society around the world. Take a look at the stock market trend over the past 100 years and you will see that things tend to move up and people get smarter and more prosperous. I am an optimist.

There are a lot of music startups getting funded these days and certainly they are not all going to make it. I think we will see some consolidation in the DIY space as there are probably more companies addressing that market than the market really needs. The same is true for music streaming and distribution and music discovery. I think the real breakthrough companies will be formed by trying to do something completely different, rather than mimicking the past with technology. We’ll see.

HYPEBOT: Any plans to write a follow-up to the “Future Of Music” book?

DAVE KUSEK: I plan to spend a lot more time posting things to my blog and on digitalcowboys.com. This is a much better way to continue to update original thinking and way more efficient than writing another book. The music industry has gone digital and online outlets like Hypebot really do work as conduits in this business. That is a real bright spot in the transformation of the music industry. So, look for more at futureofmusicbook.com.

You can get the entire interview here.

More coverage from Hypebot here and from Billboard here.

Listen to this episode of “With A Voice Like This” where I am speaking with Jim Goodrich about the future of music.

It’s been four years since The Future of Music book came out and this radio interview starts with what has changed and what has stayed the same since the book was published. But there’s a twist. At the beginning of the show Jim asked that we not focus on the technology itself, since the book had so much more to offer than just a discussion of technology. Among other things we talk about what’s going on in China currently, the Universal Mobile Device (UMD) and of course, the Music like Water concept.

Listen to the interview here.

Download the MP3 file here.

From the Business Innovation Factory Summit, my presentation on the Past, Present and Future of Music.

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Here is the story they wrote about me for the Summit.

Back in the seventies, David Kusek walked from his freshman dorm at the University of Connecticut, down a long hill to the music department for classes several times a week. When the routine got a little stale, he began taking other routes. One detour took him past the computer science building where he quickly noted the “hot” cars in the parking lot. Naturally, he began taking computer science courses.

Great ideas are born in such serendipitous ways. When Kusek melded his deep-rooted love of music with his newfound affinity for computers, he opened up unchartered territory in the music world by inventing the electronic drum. His company, Synare, took a relatively unfamiliar technology (computers) and combined it with an indigenous musical tradition that tuned percussion to the key of the song. Kusek also knew how to start a business, develop products, and take them to market. Having the right price point added to the appeal of the electronic drum and attracted the attention of fledgling artist Donna Summers who took a chance on the new sound and propelled her career.

“For better or worse, we had our part in the disco age,” Kusek says. “We helped to define the sound of the era.”

Taking another detour for curiosity’s sake led Kusek to study animal communication in California with noted biologist John Lilly. They were trying to use sound to communicate with dolphins when the Apple II computer came to market.

Kusek was already synthesizing the sounds that dolphins make, so he devised a way to do the same with musical instruments, to “put the Apple II between the instruments.” He explains that his new company, Passport Designs, “broke music down into a language of expression, which we mapped to simple computer code and connected it to the instruments. We created a computer language for music.” Witness the birth of Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI), developed by a group of companies including Passport, which has left an indelible mark on the music industry by becoming the prototype for all music interface software.

If only they had patented it.

Kusek, along with Dave Smith and the other people responsible for creating MIDI could have made millions with MIDI, but he remains philosophical about this missed opportunity. “Maybe the reason why it took off was that it was absolutely free,” he says. “It was a compact way of representing music in a simple and cheap format.”

Kusek has learned to appreciate and even extol the benefits of free and open access to music. He helped create musical notation software and was instrumental in developing enhanced CDs for the commercial market. He supports the creation of a music utility to “monetize” the immense wave of file-sharing that has become standard operating procedure in the industry. He reasons that Internet users already pay for access to a network that supplies the music, so why not add a nominal fee to the ISP bill and allow for legal trading? With approximately 80 million households using the Internet, a monthly music utility fee of $3 would generate almost $3 billion in annual music sales from households alone.

“If you tracked what was downloaded,” Kusek says, “you could create a system where the money flows exactly to the people who are listening. It could be a 30 to 40 billion dollar business again, as it was in the nineties.”

Admittedly, this system would spread those billions among a larger base of artists, establishing an unfamiliar sense of parity in the music industry. But Kusek says that the megastar is gone, anyway: “In the last four to five years, new artists coming to market are not making anywhere near what artists like Madonna made. I think that happens because of file-sharing, but also because the music industry was taking its eye off what was important. In the mid-nineties, the record companies thought their customers were WalMart and Target. They had no connection to their audience at all.”

File-sharing may have killed the megastar, but not the art, Kusek insists. “I think it’s a great time to be an artist,” he says. New performers may have smaller audiences, but they also have a more efficient way of finding that audience and staying connected to it through online chats, newsletters, and blogs. And instead of the record industry’s marketing machine pushing music at fans with an $18 plastic CD case and the elaborate promotion attached to it, word of mouth is shaping the musical tastes of the rising generation.

As it should, according to Kusek. He has brought technological innovations to the music industry by accepting such change and using it to open up the possibilities of sound. He envisions music flowing in a clean stream wherever people communicate, allowing artists and fans to express themselves freely.

The full script of the speech everyone is talking about in Cannes, as made by U2 manager Paul McGuinness at Midem.

McGuinness: “Good afternoon and thank you for giving me this opportunity. I don’t make many speeches and this is an important and imposing occasion for me. What I’m trying do here today is identify a course of action that will benefit all: artists, labels, writers and publishers.

I have been managing the best-known of my clients, U2, for exactly 30 years. Sure we’ve made mistakes along the way but the lineup hasn’t changed in 31 years. They are as ambitious and hardworking as ever, and each time they make a record and tour, it’s better than the last time. They are doing their best work now. During that time the music business has been through many changes.

At the beginning U2’s live appearances were loss-making and tour support from our record label was essential for us to tour and that paid off for the label as U2’s records went to No.1 in nearly every international territory starting in the mid ’80s and I’m happy to say that continues to the present day. They have sold about 150 million records to date and the last album went to No.1 in 27 territories.

U2 own all their masters but these are licensed long-term to Universal, with whom we enjoy an excellent relationship. With a couple of minor exceptions they also own all their copyrights, which are also licensed to Universal. U2 always understood that it would be pathetic to be good at the music and bad at the business, and have always been prepared to invest in their own future. We were never interested in joining that long, humiliating list of miserable artists who made lousy deals, got exploited and ended up broke and with no control over how their life’s work was used, and no say in how their names and likenesses were bought and sold.

What U2 and I also understood instinctively from the start was that they had 2 parallel careers first as recording and songwriting artists, and second as live performers. They’ve been phenomenally successful at both. The Vertigo Tour in 2005/2006 grossed $355m and played to 4.6m people in 26 countries.

But I’m not here to brag. I’m here to ask some serious questions and to point the finger at the forces at work that are destroying the recorded music industry.

People all over the world are going to more gigs than ever. The experience for the audience is better than ever. This is proved by the upward trend in ticket prices, generally un-resisted. The live business is, for the most part, healthy and profitable. Bands can gig without subsidy. Live Nation, previously a concert and venue company is moving into position with merchandising, ticketing, online, music distribution as one of the powerful new centres of the music industry.

So what has gone wrong with the recorded music business?

More people are listening to music than ever before through many more media than ever before. Part of the problem is that the record companies, through lack of foresight and poor planning, allowed an entire collection of digital industries to arise that enabled the consumer to steal with impunity the very recorded music that had previously been paid for. I think that’s been a cultural problem for the record industry — it has generally been inclined to rely for staff on poorly paid enthusiasts rather than developing the kind of enterprise culture of Silicon Valley where nearly every employee is a shareholder.

There are other reasons for the record business’s slow response to digital. The SDMI (Secure Digital Music Initiative) of the ’90s pan-industry, was a grand but ill-fated plan to try and agree rules between the content and technology industries. It went nowhere. SDMI, and similar attempts at cooperation by record companies, have partly been thwarted by competition rules. The US government has sometimes been overzealous in protecting the public from cartel-like behaviour.

I love the record business, and though I may be critical of the ways in which the digital space has been faced by the industry I am also genuinely sympathetic and moved by the human fall-out, as the companies react to falling revenues by cutting staff and tightening belts. Many old friends and colleagues have been affected by this. They have families and it is terrible that a direct effect of piracy and thievery has been the destruction of so many careers.

Nonetheless there is one effective thing the majors could do together. I quote from Josh Tyrangiel in Time Magazine: – “The smartest thing would be for the majors to collaborate on the creation of the ultimate digital-distribution hub, a place where every band can sell its wares at the price point of its choosing”. Apple’s iTunes, despite its current dominance, is vulnerable. Consumers dislike its incompatibility with other music services, and the labels are rebelling against its insistence on controlling prices. Universal the largest label in the world has declined to sign a long term deal with iTunes. “There’s a real urgency for the labels to get together and figure this out,” says Rick Rubin of Columbia Records.

There is technology now, that the worldwide industry could adopt, which enables content owners to track every legitimate digital download transaction, wholesale and retail.

This system is already in use here in Cannes by the MIDEM organisation and is called SIMRAN. Throughout this conference you will see contact details and information. I recommend you look at it. I should disclose that I’m one of their investors.

Meanwhile in the revolution that has hit music distribution, quality seems to have been forgotten. Remarkably, these new digital forms of distribution deliver a far poorer standard of sound than previous formats. There are signs of a consumer backlash and an online audiophile P2P movement called “lossless” with expanded and better spectrum that is starting to make itself heard. This seems to be a missed opportunity for the record industry — shouldn’t we be catering to people who want to hear music through big speakers rather than ear buds?

Today, there is a frenetic search for new business models that will return the record business to growth. The record companies are exploring many new such models — some of them may work, some of them may not.

Sadly, the recent innovative Radiohead release of a download priced on the “honesty box” principle seems to have backfired to some extent. It seems that the majority of downloads were through illegal P2P download services like BitTorrent and LimeWire, even though the album was available for nothing through the official band site. Notwithstanding the promotional noise, even Radiohead’s honesty box principle showed that if not constrained, the customer will steal music.

There is some excitement about advertising-funded deals. But the record companies must gain our trust to share fairly the revenues they will gain from advertising. Historically they have not been good at transparency. Let’s never forget the great CD scam of the ’80s when the majors tried to halve the royalties of records released on CD claiming that they needed this extra margin to develop the new technology even as they were entering the great boom years that the CD delivered. It’s ironic that, at a time when the majors are asking the artists to trust them to share advertising revenue they are also pushing the dreadful “360 model.”

As Allen Grubman, the well-known New York attorney said to me recently… “God forbid that one of these acts in a 360 deal has success. The next thing that will happen is the manager gets fired and the lawyer gets sued for malpractice.”

Maybe it would help if they were to offer to cancel those deals when they repair their main revenue model and the industry recovers, as I believe it will.

But that’s an issue for the future, when we’re out of the crisis. Today, there’s a bigger issue and it’s about the whole relationship between the music and the technology business. Network operators, in particular, have for too long had a free ride on music — on our clients’ content. It’s time for a new approach — time for ISPs to start taking responsibility for the content they’ve profited from for years. And it’s time for some visionary new thinking about how the music and technology sectors can work as partners instead of adversaries, leading to a revival of recorded music instead of its destruction.

It’s interesting to look at the character of the individuals who built the industries that resulted from the arrival of the microprocessor. Most of them came out of the so-called counterculture on the west coast of America. Their values were hippy values. They thought the old computer industry as represented by IBM was neanderthal. They laughed at Bell Telephone and AT&T. They thought the TV networks were archaic. Most of them are music lovers. There are plenty of private equity fund managers who are “Deadheads.”

They were brilliantly innovative in finance and technology and though they would pay lip service to “Content is King” what many of them instinctively realized was that in the digital age there were no mechanisms to police the traffic over the internet in that content, and that legislation would take many years to catch up with what was now possible online.

And embedded deep down in the brilliance of those entrepreneurial, hippy values seems to be a disregard for the true value of music.

This goes back some decades. Does anyone remember Abbie Hoffman? He was one of the “Chicago 7,” the ‘Yippies” of the Youth International Party who tried to disrupt the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago and got beaten up and put on trial by Mayor Daley’s police. He put out a book with the title “Steal this Book”. I think he has a lot to answer for.

I’ve met a lot of today’s heroes of Silicon Valley. Most of them don’t really think of themselves as makers of burglary kits. They say: “you can use this stuff to email your friends and store and share your photos”. But we all know that there’s more to it than that, don’t we? Kids don’t pay $25 a month for broadband just to share their photos, do their homework and email their pals.

These tech guys think of themselves as political liberals and socially aware. They search constantly for the next “killer app.” They conveniently forget that the real “killer app” that many of their businesses are founded on is our clients’ recorded music.

I call on them today to start doing two things: first, taking responsibility for protecting the music they are distributing; and second, by commercial agreements, sharing their enormous revenues with the content makers and owners.

I want those technology entrepreneurs to share their ingenuity and skill as well. Our interests are, after all, steadily merging as lines get more and more blurred between the distributors of content, the makers of hardware and the creators of content. Steve Jobs is now in effective control of the Walt Disney Studio and ABC Television so his point of view may be changing now that he owns content as well as selling those beautiful machines that have changed our world. Personally I expect that Apple will before too long reveal a wireless iPod that connects to an iTunes “all of the music, wherever you are” subscription service. I would like it to succeed, if the content is fairly paid for. “Access” is what people will be paying for in the future, not the “ownership” of digital copies of pieces of music.

I have met Steve Jobs and even done a deal with him face to face in his kitchen in Palo Alto in 2004. No one there but Steve, Bono, Jimmy Iovine and me, and Lucian Grainge was on the phone. We made the deal for the U2 iPod and wrote it down in the back of my diary. We approved the use of the music in TV commercials for iTunes and the iPod and in return got a royalty on the hardware. Those were the days when iTunes was being talked about as penicillin for the recorded music industry.

I wish he would bring his remarkable set of skills to bear on the problems of recorded music. He’s a technologist, a financial genius, a marketer and a music lover. He probably doesn’t realize it but the collapse of the old financial model for recorded music will also mean the end of the songwriter. We’ve been used to bands who wrote their own material since the Beatles, but the mechanical royalties that sustain songwriters are drying up. Labels and artists, songwriters and publishers, producers and musicians, everyone’s a victim.

For ISPs in general, the days of prevaricating over their responsibilities for helping protect music must end. The ISP lobbyists who say they should not have to “police the internet” are living in the past — relying on outdated excuses from an earlier technological age. The internet has moved on since then, and the pace of change today means a year in the internet age is equivalent to a decade in the non-internet world.

Remember the 1990s, when the internet was being called the Information Superhighway? At that time, when the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the EU Electronic Commerce Directive were drawn up, legislators were concerned to offer safe harbours restricting the responsibilities of ISPs who acted as a “mere conduit”. This was a different era: only a few hundred thousand illegal files could be accessed from websites. There was no inkling
at that time of the enormous explosion of P2P piracy that was to follow. If legislators had foreseen that explosion, would they have ever offered immunity for so-called “mere conduits” and, in doing so, given ISPs a decade of excuses for refusing to protect our content?

And as it turned, the “Safe Harbour” concept was really a Thieves’ Charter. The legal precedent that device-makers and pipe and network owners should not be held accountable for any criminal activity enabled by their devices and services has been enormously damaging to content owners and developing artists. If you were publishing a magazine that was advertising stolen cars, processing payments for them and arranging delivery of them you’d expect to get a visit from the police wouldn’t you? What’s the difference? With a laptop, a broadband account, an MP3 player and a smartphone you can now steal all the content, music, video and literary in the world without any money going to the content owners. On the other hand if you get caught stealing a laptop in the computer store or don’t pay your broadband bill there are obvious consequences. You get nicked or you get your access cut off.

It is time for ISPs to be real partners. The safe harbours of the 1990s are no longer appropriate, and if ISPs do not cooperate voluntarily there will need to be legislation to require them to cooperate.

Why does all this matter so much? Because the truth is that whatever business model you are building, you cannot compete with billions of illegal files free on P2P networks. And the research does show that effective enforcement — such as a series of warnings from the ISP to illegal file-sharers that would culminate in disconnection of your service — can address the problem.

A simple “three strikes and you are out” enforcement process will see all serial illegal uploaders who resist the law face a stark choice: change or lose your ISP subscription.

Fortunately, there has recently been some tremendous momentum to get ISPs engaged — notably in France, the UK, Sweden, Norway and Belgium. President Sarkozy’s plan, the Olivennes initiative, by which ISPs will start disconnecting repeat infringers later this year, set a brilliant precedent which other governments should follow. In the U.K., the Gowers Report made it clear that legislation should be considered if voluntary talks with ISPs failed to produce a commitment to disconnect file-sharers. I’d like to see the U.K. government act promptly on this recommendation.

In Sweden, the Renfors Report commissioned by the Ministry of Justiceg ISP cooperation. And in the courts, the Sabam-Tiscali ruling spelt out, in language as plain as could be, that ISPs should take the steps required to remove copyright-infringing material from their networks. The European Union should now take up the mantle and legislate where voluntary intra-industry agreement is not forthcoming. This is the time to seize the day.

ISPs don’t just have a moral reason to step up to the plate — they have a commercial one too. IFPI estimates say illegal P2P distribution of music and films accounts for over half of all ISP traffic. Others put the figure as high as 80%. This is traffic that is not only destroying the market place for people who are trying to make a legitimate living out of music and films, it is hogging bandwidth that ISPs are increasingly going to need for other commerce, especially as a legitimate online market for movies develops.

I think the failure of ISPs to engage in the fight against piracy, to date, has been the single biggest failure in the digital music market. They are the gatekeepers with the technical means to make a far greater impact on mass copyright violation than the tens of thousands of lawsuits taken out against individual file-sharers by bodies like BPI, RIAA and IFPI. To me, prosecuting the customer is counter-intuitive, though I recognise that these prosecutions have an educational and propaganda effect, however small, in showing that stealing music is wrong.

ISPs could implement a policy of disconnection in very quick time. Filtering is also feasible. When last June the Belgian courts made a precedent-setting ruling obliging an ISP to remove illegal music from its network, they identified no fewer than 6 technologies which make it possible for this to be done. No more excuses please. ISPs can quickly enough to block pornography when that becomes a public concern.

When the volume of illegal movie and music P2P activity was slowing down their network for legitimate users recently in California, Comcast were able to isolate and close down BitTorrent temporarily without difficulty.

There are many other examples that prove the ability of ISPs to switch off selectively activity they have a problem with: Google excluded BMW from their search engine when BMW started to play games. This was a clear warning to others not to interfere. Another show of power was Google’s acceptance of the Chinese Governments censorship conditions. The BBC has spent a fortune on their iPlayer project and the ISPs are now threatening to throttle this traffic if the BBC doesn’t “share costs of iPlayer traffic.” All this shows what the ISPs could do if they wanted. We must shame them into wanting to help us. Their snouts have been at our trough feeding free for too long.

Let’s spare no effort to push the ISPs into taking responsibility. But that’s only one part of the story. There’s a huge commercial partnership opportunity there as well. For me, the business model of the future is one where music is bundled into an ISP or other subscription service and the revenues are shared between the distributor and the content owners.

I believe this is realistic; the last few years have shown clear proof of the power of ISPs and cable companies to bundle packages of content and get more money out of their subscribers. In the UK, most ISPs offer different tiers of services, with a higher monthly fee for heavy downloaders. Why are there “heavy” downloaders? Isn’t that our money? News Corporation offers free broadband to light users if they take at least a basic Sky Television package for £16 [$31.78] a month.

Looking at the events in the last year, this revenue-sharing model seems to be taking hold in the music business.

Universal — U2’s label — recently struck a deal with Microsoft that sees it receive a cut of the revenues generated by sales of the Zune MP3 player. It’s unfortunate that the Zune hasn’t attracted the sort of consumer support that the iPod did. We need more competition.

Under the agreement, Universal receives $1 for every Zune sold. When you consider Radio Shack sells Zune players for $150, you’ll see that Universal has asked for less than 1% of revenue — for a company that is supplying about a third of the U.S. market’s chart music at the moment. This isn’t really enough, but it’s a start, I suppose, and follows from the U2/Apple deal, the principle that the hardware makers should share with the content owners whose assets are exploited by the buyers of their machines. The record companies should never again allow industries to arise that make billions off their content without looking for a piece of that business. Remember MTV?

Nokia has announced it will launch “Comes With Music,” a service that effectively allows consumers to get unlimited free downloads of songs for 12 months after they buy certain premium Nokia phones. At the end of the 12 months consumers will be able to keep the songs they download. Nokia gets to supply premium content and Universal gets to boost competition in the digital marketplace, to make it more competitive and open new channels to customers. A proportion of the revenue generated by sales of the handsets will flow back to Universal. The question must be asked; will they distribute that revenue fairly? Do artists trust the labels? Will artists, songwriters and labels trust the telcos and handset companies?

These are obviously commercial deals driven by self-interest. But there is a moral aspect to this too. The partnership between music and technology needs to be fair and reasonable. ISPs, Telcos and tech companies have enjoyed a bonanza in the last few years off the back of recorded music content. It is time for them to share that with artists and content owners.

Some people do go further and favour a state-imposed blanket licence on music. Let me stress that I don’t believe in that. A government cannot set the price of music well any more than a rock band can run a government. The market has to decide. The problem with the global licence proposed in France two years ago was that it would not have worked in practice. But it is in France recently that legislators have been most innovative and have shown most willingness to act to support recorded music rights. France leads the world on this.

So far I’ve focused mainly on the role of ISPs. But there are similar issues in mobile too. The mobile business accounts for half the world’s digital music revenues and, crucially, is starting out from a much better position than the internet music market. You only have to look at a market such as Japan to see the amazing potential of mobile music for getting to the young demographic.

I believe that in mobile music we have the chance to avoid the problems that have bedevilled the recorded music industry’s relationship with ISPs: and I’m not talking just of their tolerance of copyright theft. Other problems, like the lack of interoperability between services and devices; the lack of convenient payment mechanisms except via credit cards — which of course are not available to all music users; the hacking and viruses that have undermined people’s trust in online payment. All these problems can be avoided in the mobile sector, this is a task that should command the support and cooperation of labels, artists, publishers and writers. We’re all in the same boat here.

That’s a lesson for the mobile industry internationally. Don’t go the way that many of the ISPs have gone. Mobile is still a relatively secure environment for legitimate content — let’s keep it that way.

So, to conclude — who’s got our money and what can we do?

I suggest we shift the focus of moral pressure away from the individual P2P file thief and on to the multi billion dollar industries that benefit from these countless tiny crimes — The ISPs, the telcos, the device makers. Let’s appeal to those fine minds at Stanford University and Silicon Valley, Apple, Google, Nokia, HP, China Mobile, Vodafone, Comcast, Intel, Ericsson, Facebook, iLike, Oracle, Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo, Tiscali etc, and the bankers, engineers, private equity funds, and venture capitalists who service them and feed off them to apply their genius to cooperating with us to save the recorded music industry, not only on the basis of reluctantly sharing advertising revenue but collecting revenue for the use and sale of our content. They have built multi billion dollar industries on the back of our content without paying for it.

It’s probably too late for us to get paid for the past, though maybe that shouldn’t be completely ruled out. The U.S. Department of Justice and the EU have scored some notable victories on behalf of the consumer, usually against Microsoft. They have a moral obligation to be true, trustworthy partners of the music sector. To respect and take responsibility for protecting music. To work for the revaluation, not the devaluation of music. To share revenues with the community fairly and responsibly, and to share the skills, ingenuity and entrepreneurship from which our business has a lot to learn.

And the message to government is this: ISP responsibility is not a luxury for possible contemplation in the future. It is a necessity for implementation TODAY — by legislation if voluntary means fail.

There’s more exciting music being made and more listened to than at any time in history. Cheap technology has made it easy to start a band and make music. This is a gathering of managers; our talented clients deserve better than the shoddy, careless and downright dishonest way they have been treated in the digital age.”

(Paul McGuinness delivered the above speech January 28 at Midem, Cannes.)

Doug Morris on the state of the music industry. The problem, he says, is that “there’s sympathy for the consumer, and the record industry is the Shmoo.”

Oh my God.

Wired writer Seth Mnookin interviews and skewers Universal Music Group Chief Executive Doug Morris in the latest issue, which speaks for itself. You just got to read this interview.

“There’s no one in the record company that’s a technologist,” Morris explains. “That’s a misconception writers make all the time, that the record industry missed this. They didn’t. They just didn’t know what to do. It’s like if you were suddenly asked to operate on your dog to remove his kidney. What would you do?”

Well, for one, maybe – instead of suing the technologists from Napster 1.0 – perhaps you should have considered hiring them. Just a thought…

Unbelievable. No wonder we are in the situation we are in.

Total Music. Hmm… Why do they think they have it figured out now?

For another great history lesson on how the major music labels ignored change and tried to impose their will on the masses, read this. Disturbing and painful. Great work Seth.

It is one thing to talk about the impact of technology on the music business, and it is another thing to actually do something positive with it. The video clip below describes some of the work that we have been doing here at Berklee to address the opportunities brought about by technology on the business of music education.

http://www.artistshousemusic.org/player/flvplayershare.swf?file=http://www.artistshousemusic.com/video/berklee/berklee.flv

Check out the online music school Berkleemusic.com

See other similar video clips at ArtistHouseMusic.