I was part of a Music Tank panel about new strategies for music in London last night. Apparently people are just giving the stuff away!

Music Tank

I was invited to come and speak at an event in London, organised by CIDA with assistance from Music Tank. I’d taken issue with some promotion in the past that Music Tank had put out, and was expecting a fairly frosty reception, but everyone was very nice.

While I’m on that, I should say that I maintain that the promotional piece itself was preposterous (“epic industry war against the global menace of illegal filesharing”?), but happily concede that this is not Music Tank’s stock-in-trade. Which I offer here as apology for over-reaction. Sorry, guys.

The seminar was about the problem (opportunity?) of free music, and was keynoted in brief by Guy Parsons. He pretty much ticked all the boxes: Free as in ‘beer’ vs Free as in ‘speech’; Creative Commons licensing; confusing ‘music’ with ‘recordings’… and he had lots of parallel insight from the software startup and gaming world, which I think illustrated some good points.

Nice powerpoint style too. Broadly minimalist (though not nearly as sparse as mine) with some good visual puns in the pictures. I appreciate a good presentation-as-performance. So many people make interesting topics fantastically boring through bad powerpoint. I recommend a visit to Presentation Zen before you go anywhere.

The panel consisted of me, Kieron Concannon from FDM Records (and the Dad in the Nizlopi JCB Song) and Davey McManus from The Crimea, who have been giving their album away for free online, rather successfully. Ghizela Rowe from The Copyright Group moderated.

It was a fairly wide-ranging discussion, and left the bounds of ‘giving it away for free’, veering towards ‘so how can I be famous?’, ‘the retail problem’ and ‘economics in an environment without scarcity’ (I think that last one was probably me). For some reason, I was bracing myself for an argument, but it turns out that far from being provocative, the things I say these days are pretty much the same old thing everyone else is saying (might have to do something about that…).

It was nice to meet Davey whose band I’ve been a bit of a fan of since I heard ‘Lottery Winners on Acid’ on John Peel’s show four or five years back, and his fellow band member Joe, who did their website and managed the download thing. And I’d spoken to Kieron on a number of occasions in the past, but it was good to finally have a decent chat. We’re more in alignment than I would have expected on a lot of things.

But best of all, I met some interesting people from the audience (about some of whom, more soon) and had some very interesting conversations. But I think most interesting was what seemed to be the consensus that the question of whether recorded music SHOULD be free is now pretty much redundant. The more interesting question is now that it pretty much IS free, what then do we do?

And I think there are some creative and interesting conversations now going on amongst people who were in that room (and I’ll certainly be continuing the conversation with some of them) to discuss what that could mean.