October 27, 2011
Previewing The Futures of Music at FoE5

Futures of Entertainment Fellow Nancy Baym will be moderating a panel on "The Futures of Music" at our Futures of Entertainment 5 conference Nov. 11-12. Nancy recently had a chance to talk with her five panelists about their background, their current projects, and what they hope to discuss at the conference in two weeks.

First, a brief introduction to Nancy.

Nancy Baym: I'm a professor of Communication Studies at the University of Kansas. I study relationships and the internet and, in the last few years, have been working in the area of music. I did one project about Swedish independent music, looking at how fans spread the music online and how labels and musicians embrace file sharing and audience creativity as a means of fostering community and expanding their audience. Recently I've been interviewing musicians (including Erin McKeown, one of our panelists) about their perspective on their audiences and the roles of social media in those relationships. My website is here.

Q: Can you tell our readers a bit about who you are?

Erin McKeown: Howdy readers! I'm Erin McKeown: a writer, musician and producer. For over a decade, I have made albums and toured, both independantly and with labels. I also do some activist thinking about the music business and larger political issues.

Brian Whitman: I'm the co-founder and CTO of the Echo Nest, a music intelligence company I started in 2005 after my dissertation work at MIT at the Media Lab doing "machine listening" -- teaching computers to understand music. We now power almost every music service out there, from MOG to MTV to Clear Channel to hundreds of independent music apps. I have an academic background in natural language processing, machine learning and information retrieval, and was a relatively active electronic musician before packing it in to start the Echo Nest.

João Brasil: My name is João Brasil, and I'm a musician, music producer and DJ. I'm a Berklee grad. I produce Brazilian Guetto Tech music (Baile Funk, Tecnobrega and Electronic Forró) and Mashups (Sound Collages). My main music source is the internet. In 2010, I made a project where I made one mashup per day.

Chuck Fromm: I'm a catalytic networker helping people to connect, collaborate, create and circulate resources, primarily around Christian religious organizations. I work extensively with church leaders, music industry and independent producers and executives, artists, scholars and writers. I am an adjunct professor in the academy in communications and publisher of Worship Leader Magazine, which allows for connection between writers, leaders and communicators.

Mike King: I'm an instructor at Berkleemusic.com, the online extension school for Berklee College of Music. I've been teaching here for close to five years, and I've written three courses that are music business and music marketing-focused. I'm also the director of marketing for Berkleemusic. I currently teach one course at Northeastern University on music marketing and promotion, and wrote a book called Music Marketing: Press, Promotion, Distribution, and Retail in 2009. Prior to working at Berklee, I was a product manager at Rykodisc, which at the time was a large independent record label in Salem, MA. I was the managing editor of the Herb Alpert Foundation-funded online musician's resource www.artistshousemusic.org for three years.

Q: What have you been working on lately?

Erin McKeown: I've got two albums cooking: my latest singer-songwriter effort, done in the spring. and a record of anti-xmas carols, out just a few days before the conference. This year, i am also a fellow at the Berkman Center, where I have a number of projects simmering around artist revenue streams and policy.

Brian Whitman: Besides the everyday drama and excitement of being the co-founder and CTO of a 35-person startup, I've been focused on two core Echo Nest technologies: our audio fingerprinting and music resolving systems and our "taste profiles" -- recommendation and playlist generation at the listener level. Both involve taking our massive database of music (the biggest in the world, we are pretty sure) and figuring out ways in which we can make people's experience with music better. I have a lot of misplaced bitterness towards the way the tech industry has handled music technology and the music experience for musicians and listeners. I think they've not given it the care that it deserves, and I'm hoping to fix that.

João Brasil: I'm working on my new album for Man Recordings (German Label). I just finished the soundtrack for the Copacabana Beach NYE fireworks. I was invited to be the Brazilian representative DJ for the J&B Whisky Start a Party project, and I'm producing the track for the Nike Run 600 Km project Brazil.

Chuck Fromm: I'm in an intense learning environment as to how media spreads. A small story about a Bible study at my house and local city government spread from local, to national and international in less than two weeks, and so I've been personally experiencing the power of broadcast and social media firsthand.

Mike King: Lately, I've been working on my second book for Berklee Press, which will be focused on online music marketing and the direct to fan approach to marketing. I've also been working on raising a new son, Sam, who is three months old.

Q: What do you hope to talk about in this panel?

Erin McKeown: The time that starts just after today: the Future. Just kidding. We have existing compensation structures that have quite a few flaws. How can artists maximize a broken system? In the bigger picture, how can music benefit from, say, the lessons of the local food movement? Or even #occupywallst?

Brian Whitman: I get a lot of musicians approaching me after talks asking how they can do better in this new world where most everything is available for free -- one way or another -- and there are millions of artists all fighting for the same overworked listeners' attention. I'd like to discuss the importance of data to musicians and how it affects them, even if they've never thought about it.

João Brasil: I hope to talk about internet X music, mashup culture, Worldmusic 2.0, Tecnobrega revolutionary music business in Pará, Youtube X MTV.

Chuck Fromm:

  • How any pig can fly in a hurricane; I've flown in several of them.
  • The development and promotion of early Christian hymns composed in the 2nd and 3rd century, remediating and circulating via networked communications.
  • Working in and with new folk culture created by Internet communications.
  • Key trends that are emerging in the promotion, creation and distribution of music over the past 5 years, based on my own work in music and entertainment as a participant/observer.

Mike King: I'd like our panel to be a discussion on how the music industry is continuing its massive shift - both the positives and negatives - for consumers and artists. I'd like to cover streaming music, social media, direct to fan options, and revenue options for artists.