So I went down to Carlton House Terrace for a MusicTank conference called Beyond the Soundbytes. Fascinating. There’s a sort of melancholy thrill to be had from watching an industry nervously coming to terms with its possible extinction. Media orthodoxy says that new forms don’t replace the old ones, they just amend and inflect them, adding to the rich tapestry and all that.
I’ve always assumed that would be the case with recorded music but this time I’m beginning to think the orthodoxy may not apply here. The music business – or at least the part of it whose income depends on the ownership and exploitation of rights, is seriously contemplating its own annihilation. Music will, whatever happens, survive and probably thrive in the networked environment. The music business, on the other hand, may really be doomed.
Here are the main points from my notes, some of which I found very surprising from a music business audience:
• Essentially universal acceptance of the failure of DRM and TPM
• Something close to an admission of defeat on illegal downloading
• Readiness to accommodate the old enemies from the technology world: ISPs, manufacturers, portals…
• No interest at all in copyright term extension
• Enthusiasm for proposals to rework copyright for the networked age
• Plenty of interest in a move to a subscription model of some kind (mostly out of desperation, I guess)
The event’s main purpose was the launch of MusicTank’s report on the state of the UK music business, written by Peter Jenner.