Be sure to check back with Randomville ALL WEEK LONG as we will be giving daily reviews of the CMJ Music Marathon in NYC!
Greetings readers my name is Ken Grand-Pierre and for the rest of the week you will be joining me as I give you the rundown of the 2009 CMJ Music Marathon. Basically you’ll be receiving a rundown of whats been going on the previous day, right now starting with the first day of the festival: October 20th, which features some insight panel discussions and a look in the amazing music scene happening down under.
After picking up my press badge at the NYU headquarters I was slated to attend two very interesting panels. Both dealing with the current change of the way music is not only being made but also being distributed.
NOTE: Photography was strictly prohibited during the panel exhibitions.
Panel # 1: But how will I get paid? Reimbursement in a digital world.
John Lippman, EVP/COO/CFO, Evergreen Copyrights
Dan Pifer, EVP, Operations & Technology, The Orchard
Gary R. Greenstein, Of Counsel
Richard Barone, Recording Artist/Producer/Author/Frontman
The Panel went into an in-depth discussion on how royalties of copyrighted mechanics (aka music) is distributed. What seemed to be the main issue of the discussion is that so many record labels rely on various publishing companies. For those scratching their heads at what a music publisher is than prepared to become shocked and perplexed. Just because you own a song and have gotten it distributed does not mean you alone are the sole owner. To be distributed to the masses, Music publishers are needed. To sort out the copyrighting, overall distribution whether itâ€™d be digital or physical, and of course are the middlemen between the labels, managers, and musicians themselves. In short: They are the ones who divide and distribute royalties to musicians and labels. Now what makes this difficult is that of course they must be paid too, so when it comes to spreading out the royalties of such material it has been a growing issue of finding the artist and also finding out who exactly owns the copyrighted material. For example say you record a song and a band contacts you to cover it, to do so not only must they ask for your permission but they must also gain approval of everyone who was involved (this includes when artist collaborate), your management, and than the money has to split through them AND the thousands of publishers working in one office. Of course it is obvious to see how this has become a problem, but surprisingly enough panelist Gary R. Greenstien told the audience â€œthe big issue isnâ€™t distributing the money, but better yet finding who the money should go to. These publishing companies are sitting on thousands of dollars that belong to the song writers and song crafters, which FIY are a big difference folksâ€. The panelist proceeded to urge anyone in the audience who is a musician or aspires to be one to know how all this works. They decided to end on the question of â€œIf there is one thing you can change in the industry to get rid of these issues what would it be?â€ the panelist answered:
â€œThere needs to be a central database of artist and publishers to make all these struggles a thing in the pastâ€ â€“ Richard Barone
â€œI believe this whole idea of â€œstealing musicâ€ needs to be dropped. There should be an overall service that music buyers can spend three dollars for a track and than can do whatever they want with it, but after the purchase a code in the songs that will transmit information back to the labels, agencyâ€™s, and etc. By doing this the music buyer is happy and it makes gaining royalties for songs much more simple and efficientâ€ â€“ John Lippman
â€œThese are very good ideas, and I really agree with Richards idea. However for such a database to be complied and built, we need data collecting to be much easier. So if there was anything I could change in the industry itâ€™d be data collecting” â€“ Dan Pifer
Panel # 2: Hey man! I Know my rights! The Future of Intellectual Property
John Simson of www.soundexchange.com
Brett Tolpin (A lawyer)
John Giacobbi of Web Sheriff
Peter Asbil of www.amystreet.com
Jim Griffin of project chorus (a new way to distribute music which will be released January 2010)
The main question of this panel was â€œshould an artist have overall control of what happens to their music?â€ whether a person gives it to a friend, or listens to it while burning a house, the big heat of the debate was should/will the artist ever gain their say? Simson was quick to inform that according to US law, the second something is distributed to the masses, people are allowed to do as they please with it (hence all those Youtube covers). This of course led the debate of â€œillegalâ€ downloading which Griffin was quick to defend with â€œItâ€™s a fact that the artist is the one who wins when their music is easily accessible, but once the middleman is cut (AKA the labels) thatâ€™s when the government has a problem.â€ This stemmed to a heated argument between Griffin and Giacobbi, whose job at Web Sheriff is to shut down such sites that promote illegal file sharing (a prime example would be Piratebay). The group did go into the alternatives of illegally downloading, which also led to the question of how artists can control their material. One prime example being www.amystreet.com, Created by newly college graduate Peter Asbil. The concept behind amystreet is that people buy music based on how popular it is. Meaning a track will start at a low price, and as more and more people download it the price will rise (to a reasonably rate) leaving buyers with a more personal feel of the fact they dictate the direction the music goes. The discussions went on about the future of technology and distribution, but ended on an interesting note when Griffin stated â€œcollege is the new China! Meaning if record labels want to try new things to save themselves than they should be looking towards the college audience.â€
So pretty interesting stuff but lets face it: we all come to CMJ for one thing and one thing only: The music. Now I was very split on what to do last night. Option A. Shoot at my favorite venue (Bowery Ballroom) and see the acts Care Bears on Fire and Lights Resolve. Or option B. see bands I’ve never heard of before that all hail from New Zealand? Yeah I went with…
After talking to various college radio representatives the first band took the stage. Surf City, A band that took the NYC stage and completely made it their own. Playing a psychedelic display of guitars and synths allowed them to have a sound that was more than infectious throughout the room. It goes without saying that Surf City promise to swoon your heart and make you beg for more.
Now talk about a great way to start the night. Next up were Motocade, a band with equally high confidence and a Bloc Party esque to them (you know back when Bloc Party knew what Bloc Party were).
Now the next band to take the stage weren’t my cup of tea (they have a hardcore/pop punk thing about them) but despite that the overall no-holds-barred to their form was an extreme pleasure to watch. The singer was completely mental and practically peed territory onto that stage.
With such a good vibe going around the venue, it’s no surprise that the next band would not only attempt to embrace the energy but amplify it. One of New Zealand‘s most famous exports, Kingston, features a highly energetic front-man, a guitarist who clearly loves his craft, a hot bass player, a drummer who carries tracks on his back with utter ease, and did I mention a hot bass player?
So the next (and last band I was able to see) had a heavy task ahead of them. How to make an inventive, energetic, and overall amazing performance to excite the crowd just as their peers have done? Trio band Die! Die! Die! do this with impeccable ease. The front-man seems as though he was literally born to shred on guitar. They have A Place To Bury Strangers sound to them but manage to sound immensely fresh and something you’d love to divulge yourself in.
and there you have it. For my first CMJ I couldn’t imagine a better night to kick it off. I am a advent fan of the Northern Irish music scene and for the past year I would never have dreamed any other countrie’s music could even compare, but the bands of New Zealand showcased at this year’s CMJ not only have more skill than most bands you’d find on TV, but also confidence that’s impossible not to marvel at.