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The Future of Music Policy Summit - Two Days of Deep Discussion
Orrin Hatch - Senator, Music Fan & Songwriter - Speaks Out
By Margee Fagelson
(more articles from this author)
2001-01-18
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Allies show up in the oddest places... not to mention the oddest incarnations!! Who'dathunkit... Orrin Hatch and Margee Fagelson on the same side of an argument. At the Future of Music Coalition Policy Summit, an astounding and overstimulating 48 hours was 'christened' (no pun intended) by a keynote speech by Orrin Hatch: 'struggling artist,' head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, conservative, Mormon, republican, right-to-lifer and singer-songwriter. An additional keynote was delivered by the, once-visionary, Michael Robertson of MP3.com fame. Panelists and most moderators put on a great show and everyone left with a good feeling...

Orrin Hatch: his music has even been covered by one of my childhood faves - Mr. Donny Osmond, himself! And he is pro-Napster. But that's just the short of it. It's been a few months now that we've heard the voice of Senator Orrin Hatch as the voice of reason. And I still can't quite grasp the reality of it! Let him tell you.

Orrin Hatch, music fan: "I am a big music fan. Ask anyone who has visited me in my office and seen the stacks of CDs piled around my stereo. Some of the brave ones have even listened to a number of my songs from some of those stacks. The love of music instilled in me early has stuck with me to this day. I think it is wonderful that it is getting easier to access the music I enjoy from anywhere I go. And since I love so many types of music - I was delighted that our Committee hearings last year allowed me to be introduced to the subtle pleasures of Metallica - I, like most music fans, am excited about the possibility of having virtually any music I want at my fingertips without dragging a case of CDs with me. New digital music technology holds potential for artists as well. I have heard from many who are excited about the promise it holds for them."

Orrin Hatch, songwriter: "I know something of what it means to write a song. It's hard work, using the deepest resources of your soul to best express the truth as you feel it. But rarely does it pay off for most who make the investment. I attended an event with a number of members of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers , and I mentioned to them that I had received my own first $60 royalty check for my songwriting. Yep, sixty big ones. Luckily, I have a day job which I intend to keep for a while [or at least until I find my music on Napster and know I've made it big]. Marilyn Bergman mentioned to me that those in the room were especially impressed because most of them will never get a royalty check of any size."

Orrin Hatch, supporter of middle class musicianship: "It is a sad reality that for every Sheryl Crowe or Billy Joel there are thousands who cannot ever support themselves or their families on income from music, even though they may be equally talented. But new distribution systems may be changing that to some degree. There is such great music that will never sell at the level of Metallica or N' Sync, but I think more of it can survive in this new world. That is good for artists, and good news for music fans. The Internet is shifting the traditional paradigms for music distribution and access. New digital delivery mechanisms promise to help the artists have more control over their own destiny by providing a cheaper and easier method of self-publishing."

Orrin Hatch, ramping up: "The new technologies will allow artists who might not get played on radio or VH-1 a forum to reach out to fans. Although it may be harder to get noticed in such a crowded space, at least there is a way to get out to fans for those who have no marketing support beyond their own modest investments. I welcome the record labels into the online world, along with other large entertainment conglomerates, including cable companies and large online services. Indeed I have been encouraging them to catch up with consumer demand for online music for some time now. And they are beginning to do so, at least in experimental ways."

Even Orrin Hatch does not think the industry should remain the way it has been structured: "I do not think it is in any benefit for artists or fans to have all the new, wide distribution channels controlled by those who have controlled the old, narrower ones. This is especially true if they achieve that control by leveraging their dominance in content or conduit space in an anti-competitive way to control the new, independent music services that are attempting to enhance the consumer's experience of music. On a similar note, if those digital pipes, through which the new music will be delivered, are significantly narrowed by gatekeepers who limit access to or divert fans to preferred content, a unique opportunity will be lost for both the creators of music and their fans. That is why I think it is crucial that policymakers be vigilant in keeping the pipes wide open. I have tried to keep control of the first screen on a computer or control of wires from becoming control of content options. Fans deserve freedom to choose widely among music and entertainment options. And artists deserve a fair shake at getting space to share their creations."

But Hatch is no rebel. His interests lie straddling both sides of an argument that few people approach from both directions: "Let me be clear that I believe it is of fundamental importance that we recognize that copyright grants rights and imposes responsibilities on makers and users of music for the benefit of both. I think both sides in licensing disputes need to sit down and resolve their differences in creative ways that will provide benefits for artists and music fans, while allowing the intermediaries to add value along the way. I expect to see the market provide fair, non-discriminatory licensing of music, not just cross-licensing among major labels. We must keep in mind that when all is said and done, we must continue to respect intellectual property rights and ensure that we continue to provide incentives for artists to create and share their creations. That is our constitutional mandate."

Orrin Hatch, cheerleader: "As all this experimentation shakes out, I hope that overall artists and their fans will be able to say that this time of change eventually made things better for both of them. Without the artist, there is no content to convey; and without the consumer, there is no business to convey it. Let's roll up our sleeves and work together to make it happen."

But Hatch was just the biggest name there. His former co-worker, Manus Cooney who gave up a position as Chief Counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee, was a panel participant. Cooney's new gig? Napster, baby! Although Cooney was straightforward, he was not entirely well-informed. Or at least opted to use that as his smokescreen to avoid any pointed questions. In all fairness, it only was his third day on staff. Most learning curves are at LEAST three months.

Lester Chambers, of the legendary Chambers Brothers, was there not only to soothe our savage breasts but also to share his incredible story about one of the most incredibly blatant, lubricant-free servicings that has almost never hit the wire. The Chambers Bros.' music is so prevalent that you've heard it a million times and never realized it. Realize this. They don't collect a penny in royalties for it.

Kristen Hersh, of Throwing Muses fame, spoke eloquently and blamelessly about the industry system today. Hersh perceives herself as a creator. She likes to create and likes to get her songs out there. She is not looking for fame and fortune, but for a channel to spread her word.

David Fagin is a singer-guitarist with The Rosenbergs, who also graced the attendees with an afternoon acoustic solo bit and a house-rocking, crowd-pleasing Wednesday evening in Gaston Hall. Fagin does a fair bit of public speaking, writing and interviews. What usually happens is that the listener(s) sit back and wait for him to bash the major label system and bash it hard. The Rosenbergs made a newsworthy buzz for themselves by saying 'No' to a Farmclub contract and then emailing a few of their friends about what had just happened. Fagin and The Rosenbergs make no claims of evil against Farmclub or Universal. They plainly say that they did not like the deal the contract offered them and chose to refuse it. Period. End of story. Sort of. The deal is that The Rosenbergs are willing to share what they've learned. They don't consider themselves in competition with other ascending or unaffiliated artists. In fact, their attorney was at the same firm that the attorney for Fisher - another Farmclub story - works with. Certainly there had to be some benefit to Fisher based on The Rosenbergs' experience.

The Rosenbergs are doing fine now. Fagin was candid about their new deal with Robert Fripp and Discipline Global Mobile, and the band was excited about their new album. Fagin had no harsh words to say about any of the current construct, just civil and constructive criticisms. Anyone looking for a rabble-rousing rant had better look elsewhere.

Giovanna Imbessi is a musician and composer who "has never worked a day job." Perhaps the biggest success story of the conference-goers, Imbessi composes for and sells her music to films and simultaneously manages her business, her website (Tuttomedia), and all the various technologies in her house. An audience member asked her to share her secret for juggling all those hats and Imbessi sighed, smiled and said she just tries every day to find her balance and judiciously advised the audience to do the same.

The most exciting part of the panels is always the fights and the interesting characters!! Leonardo Chiariglione, Executive Director of SDMI, tried to deflect blame from himself and his project by making a big stink about...well, everything. Chiariglione instructed people not to use SDMI if they didn't like it. He very emotionally (if seemingly irrelevantly) informed the audience that "good was good and bad is bad and some people use good for bad and some people..." with arms flailing and pitch rising, and onward with an indiscernible rant until he finally came upon a moment where he likened the SDMI group to being victimized like the Inquisition. Realizing he was in the chapel at Georgetown University Medical School, he looked chagrined but obviously enjoyed his own little 'smoke and mirrors' drama. Poor Leo. He just gets no respect.

Ric Dube, moderator for the digital performance royalties' collection panel, tried valiantly to get John Simson of SoundExchange to give us some straight answers about the future. Unfortunately, John's shoulder was occupied by the venerable Hilary Rosen who is not quite the yente she likes to appear to be. Not only was Simson unable to publicly state the nature of SoundExchange's future plans regarding artists, but rumor had it that Ms. Rosen actually placed a call to one of her 'hipper' own - a small but admirable label president - and suggested it might not be a good idea for him to attend the conference of the enemy.

And what can we do to eradicate that projection? The Future of Music Coalition board members have done nothing so much as try to make sure that every voice is heard. Period. Yes, they want to make sure that there is a voice for unaffiliated and independent artists and labels, somewhere in the vicinity of Capitol Hill. Yes, they want to make sure that the unaffiliated get their fair shake as well as those under the gilded umbrella of the major label system. Both in their professional affiliations and especially at the conference, all exaggerated gestures and efforts to get as many voices represented as possible was met with this: of the major label Vice Presidents, only the noble, fearless and savvy Ted Cohen of EMI and Peter Standish of Warner/Reprise attended. Lots and lots of RIAA representatives and staff members were floating around as well as Jay Cooper, Esq., leader of the Recording Artists Coalition, in very visible attendance. But those whom these organizations represent were yet again behind the times. And where was Michael Greene of NARAS???

Unfortunately, themes were skewed toward stories of less than favorable outcome with the powers in this industry. Brad King moderated the first panel: Music/Tech State of the Union. I am an old fan of Liquid Audio - Gerry Kearby felt attacked and could not keep up with the discussion on his panel once it got to be less about branding and more about functionality. Although invited, both Microsoft and RealNetworks declined to attend. More cheers for the brave Gerry Kearby.

This was not a lynching and it was not a sting. The Future of Music Policy conference was the first conference that was NOT about the SWAG. We've all got quite enough already. This was a conference where everyone got so involved with the discussions that they often forgot to exchange business cards! Imagine that!!

Nonetheless, some attendees were less than pleased with the constant rumination on disastrous major label histories. They were distressed at the fact that (in their perception) the theme of the conference was, 'Throw away your dreams of making money. Just make music to make it.' Perhaps it was. But for a first time conference and the first time all the disparate voices were in the same room together, the Coalition did a pretty good job. Perhaps this will be incentive to them to continue this event. For surely no event since has yielded both the positive and exhaustive press coverage and feedback. And perhaps this was just an organic progression. Right now, today, though we hope to create an artists' middle class, we are stuck with few options and none of them promise the life of Yo La Tengo and Ani Difranco for all of them. Right now, we still have a polarity. Some musicians/artists/singers/songwriters make it HUGE! A few more than that are able to quit their day jobs and get work as session musicians or play out enough that they don't have to wait tables, or whatever the options are. But the bulk of musicians/artists/singers/songwriters are screwed. Sure, some of them may not have a nano-ounce of talent, but some of them do. Most musicians work more than one job and have to constantly balance that with the need to run off on tour or stay up all night in the studio. We don't know, yet, how to make life different for the undervalued but devastatingly talented. So all we can talk about today is what we know. We're working on it, though. Perhaps there will be a FMC Policy Conference '02 and we'll be able to stop looking at the what we can do today because we'll have seen an answer for tomorrow.

Linkography


ASCAP - www.ascap.com
Discipline Global Mobile - www.disciplineglobalmobile.com
EMI - www.emigroup.com
Farmclub - www.farmclub.com
Fisher - www.fishertheband.com
FMC - www.futureofmusic.org
Hatch Music - www.hatchmusic.com
Liquid Audio - www.liquidaudio.com
Metallica - www.metallica.com
Microsoft - www.microsoft.com
Napster - www.napster.com
NARAS - www.grammy.com
RealNetworks - www.real.com
RIAA - www.riaa.com
Senator Hatch - www.senate.gov/~hatch
SDMI - www.sdmi.org
SoundExchange - www.soundexchange.com
The Rosenbergs - www.therosenbergs.com
Tuttomedia - www.tuttomedia.com
Universal - www.umusic.com
VH-1 - www.vh1.com
Warner/Reprise - www.repriserec.com
Yo La Tengo - www.yolatengo.com
Throwing Muses - www.throwingmusic.com

Related MusicDish e-Journal Articles:
» The Future of Music is Everyone's Concern (2001-01-15)
» An in-depth look at the Future of Music Coalition - Interviews with the six board members (2001-01-04)


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