Webnoize 2000 - A Digital Media Event
Webnoize 2000 was the digital media event that would have been a sin to miss. From November 13-15, heavy-hitters from traditional music companies, mainstream technology companies and companies which straddle both were in attendance.
Monday began with a 'Fireside Chat' regarding the future of Napster, featuring Shawn Fanning (Napster), Hank Barry (Napster) and Andreas Schmidt (Bertelsmann). Although attendees were anxious and interested to hear the discussion, it fell flat. No one on the panel managed to reveal anything further than had already been publicized. General feedback was that it was a reiteration of the NY press conference announcing the partnership. Through no fault of Webnoize, the panelists' were loath to admit that there were changes afoot.
Webnoize's Ric Dube lobed queries at the panelists, however, they all stayed true to their own 'Napster's gonna be great, now!' rhetoric.
The other much-anticipated panel featured Charlie Rose - the usually intrepid interviewer - as moderator for the next day's 'Fireside Chat' featuring Hilary Rosen of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Jack Valenti of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). Unfortunately, Charlie Rose decided to go easy on these two politicos. Considering the upheaval surrounding their respective mediums, there were no particularly pointed questions. Chances are that a Webnoize staff moderator would have made these two squirm in their seats, which is much more entertaining.
Probably the best panel of the conference was on Wednesday - 'Artist Facilitators: Hierarchies or Helping Hands?' The panel featured one of the more diverse lineups I've ever seen at a conference. I'm certain the mix of personalities helped give it the spark!
Panelists included: Tom Chernaik of All Indie, which is an artist development company in New York City, Matt Farber, CEO of Tonos - the online music insider's network founded by Oscar/Grammy winning lyricist Carole Bayer Sager, Grammy winning producer/composer David Foster and Grammy winning singer-songwriter/producer Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds. Also, Cameron Sears of Garageband, Marc Geiger of ArtistDIRECT, John Schuch of Licensemusic.com and the oddball, Matti Leshem of AntEye.com rounded out the panel.
Although it would have been refreshing to see a woman among the panelists, Webnoize assured me they had originally asked Julie Farman of ArtistDIRECT but she insisted that they choose Geiger instead.
Not surprising. Marc Geiger seems like the sort of guy who would tow a party line and unequivocally ally himself with the powers that be. He has a long music industry history and even his contribution of the Lollapalooza concerts didn't sway me from my assumptions. I assumed wrong…more about that later.
All Indie has an interesting business model whereby they actually provide marketing, distribution and promotion to developing artists, in a non-exclusive agreement. Their hopes are that their artists grow too big to need what All Indie has to offer.
Tonos has had a lot of press lately, by virtue of its songwriting contest with Warner-Chappell, as well as being the one music company who got another round of funding after the deaths of AtomicPop, Pseudo, Pop.com and SpinRecords.
Garageband hit the scene quietly, though, Sears' history with the Grateful Dead and the appointment of George Martin - Beatles' producer - has made many of those 'in the know' turn a watchful eye on their progress.
John Schuch, of Licensemusic.com, is one of the select people in the music industry whose been around the block and in and out of the scene - he even worked for SubPop - who has never carried his ego in his back pocket. Licensemusic.com is a library of pre-cleared music available for use in productions.
Damon Lee, President of Production and Development at Urban Entertainment was in questionable company with AntEye. Though Lee has some stellar offline credentials on his side, he didn't contribute much to the conversation.
Matti Leshem of AntEye.com was by far the most exciting panelist. His vitreous manner and endless sarcasm lent the panel a certain 'Jerry Springer Show' air that it might not have otherwise had. Perhaps he felt outnumbered, as Damon Lee was relatively quiet. AntEye is a film/video content site. Anyone can upload their production and Anteye guarantees they it will preview it on their main screen. Anteye members vote and the highest voted projects are considered for development deals.
Schuch and Chernaik often had to sit tight until Leshem was done attacking Farber, while Geiger got the most airtime for our buck.
Marc Geiger spoke candidly and articulately about the obstacles facing sites like ArtistDIRECT, in both the financial climate and the way the industry is structured. He also spoke about the general apathy of artists, though he did not exactly phrase it that way. Geiger's take is this: artists are so involved in whatever they want to be involved in and whatever they can automatically see results from that a personalized webchat or one on one greeting is the least of their concerns, much as the AD people try to convince them otherwise.
To have a panel of truly artist-centric philosophers was enlightening altogether.
The conference as a whole was truly…civilized. Every attendee was treated like a VIP and it was architected well enough to be an easily, workable couple of rooms. Although I'm a big fan of CMJ and SXSW, it was nice to be somewhere where digital entertainment was the focus, not just music. And in direct contrast to Plug-In, there was no dry technology to wade through.
Some label members expressed distress that they did not get their due. I wasn't looking from that perspective. As a music/technology person, there was no place better nor more important to be than Webnoize 2000.
All Indie - www.allindie.com
AntEye.com - www.anteye.com
ArtistDIRECT - www.artistdirect.com
Bertelsmann - www.bertelsmann.com
Garageband - www.garageband.com
Licensemusic.com - www.licensemusic.com
MPAA - www.mpaa.com
Napster - www.napster.com
RIAA - www.riaa.com
Tonos - www.tonos.com
Urban Entertainment - www.urbanentertainment.com
Warner-Chappell - www.warnerchappell.com
Webnoize - www.webnoize.com
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» Continuing Music Coverage from Los Angeles: Webnoize '99 (1999-11-18)