From the Future of Music RSA event (London): Machover shows new possibilities, Kennedy shows how to become the next China, I am the problem!
I attended the RSA / Royal Society of the Arts Future of Music event in London on November 11, and was treated to a great presentation by composer, inventor, educator and MIT professor Tod Machover who showed us a whole new world of how making music has changed, and how the joy of music can be shared by everyone, going forward. TedTalks has a great video with Tod, here, btw.
Then, making the audience feel like they were dropped into a bucket full of ice cubes, the IFPI's (the International Federation of the Phonographic Industries, the sister organization of the RIAA) CEO John Kennedy followed right after Tod, and was given a painful 40 minutes to present his views on where the music industry is going (i.e.... back to the past) and predictably asking for more sanctions and tougher laws to make sure the money keeps on rolling in for his member companies, no matter what those pesky users want.
While Tod's speech was inspirational and eye-opening (as usual), Kennedy's speech was disturbing and deeply troubling (also as usual) because of his steadfast refusal to listen to face and consider the realities in today's music economy and his scary way of pounding away on old power-rhetoric that I thought had been buried for at least 10 years ("stealing a song on the Internet is exactly the same as stealing a Mercedes").
Despite the fact that the European Commision has rejected (more details here) the proposal spearheaded by the united (or shall I say universal) brotherhood of Kennedy, France's Sarkozy and U2 manager Paul Mc Guinness which is proposing to disconnect internet users that are suspected of sharing music online (the so-called 3 strikes and you're out proposal), Kennedy talked about this idea as if it was the holy grail of the troubled music industry. Let's take a good look at what all of these people are doing online, inspect their every move and communications, and if we think there's illicit music-trading involved, let's just pull their plug. If that doesn't sound like Chinese-style censorship and a bizarre Orwellian understanding of basic democratic principles, I don't know what does!
In good old Universal Studios, Universal Music and Lew Wasserman fashion, Kennedy was also not shy in making clear that no resistance would be tolerated. When I (speaking from the audience) asked Kennedy if what he is proposing does not amount to censorship and would basically take us onto the road of becoming the next China as far as intervention and control and lack of free speech is concerned, he responded by saying "the problem is not China, Gerd, it's people like You". Ah - I see, now we know. If 'people like me' would only shut up and let them get on with their plans, than it would all be just fine. Where have we heard this before - you tell me.
Frankly, when listening to John I can't help thinking of George Bush and his huge success in destroying everything good that America has ever stood for, or that the American spirit has accomplished. 8 years of Bush and the country is a huge mess; everything that could possibly go wrong, did...! Similarly, after ~ 10 years of IFPI vs the Internet, everything that could go wrong, has, as well: consumers and music fans sued, jailed and fined; the record industry universally hated by the digital natives; revenues falling off the cliff; innovation stifled by lack of cooperation and useful licensing schemes; startups shutting down because of lack of industry support; a computer company (Apple) the #1 player in digital music, the major labels bought up by private equity (see EMI) and / or deserted by their share-holders (see Bertelsmann and SonyBMG)... and on and on and on. Congrats, guys, well done!
I think we need the Obama of the music industry, NOW. And yes, we also need some people to be impeached because they are doing a disservice to everyone. The industry's Iraq & Vietnam -like war against the Internet is pathetic, wasteful and deeply wrong, and we don't need their Generals any longer.