7:31 pm est Chuck D, Alexakis Sign To Spitfire Tour
3:00 am pst RIAA Sets the Record Straight
She's a Washington lobbyist whose only previous music industry experience was a high school job at Sam Goody.
Yet she has helped the RIAA to push the Digital Millennium Copyright Act through Congress, to she's filed a federal lawsuit against Diamond Multimedia for its portable MP3 player, and she has led the association's fight against music censorship.
Currently, the RIAA is spearheading the Secure Digital Music Initiative, the industry's call for technology companies to help develop a new, open specification for selling music online. RIAA says the initiative will help artists realize the royalties they deserve from music distributed on the Net.
But RIAA has been attacked by advocates of the MP3 audio format, who say SDMI is an attempt by the record labels to control music distribution mechanisms on the Net, and that the labels aren't needed anymore. A lot of people purchase MP3 files or trade legitimately. Others use the format to pirate music.
Rosen talked to Wired News about online music.
Wired News: What's your vision of the future? Will MP3 just be this thing for unsigned artists?
Hilary Rosen: MP3 is just a compression technology. It's a question of which compression technology you end up using to deliver music, and MP3 could well be one of them. Bandwidth will expand and we can do better. I'm sure that MP3 fans hope that bandwidth expands and you don't have to compress as much. Some people are just religious, because they perceive that this represents something more meaningful than just compression. Which is a weird thing. I can't quite get into that.
WN: Do you think the labels waited too long to come online? Or that the market's not there yet?
HR: I think the jury's still out. There have been lots of promotions the majors have done. There hasn't been wholesale free availability [online]. Was that a mistake? I don't think so.
WN: Do you ever see the CD going away?
WN: How do you predict music files will be transferred from device to device?
HR: I think that's the key thing. MP3 is really popular with a certain user, but it's still a hassle for the average music fan. The experience of opening up a CD jewel box and sticking it in your player while you're cooking your stew and expecting your company in three seconds -- that's how people want their music. I think that when we can collectively achieve this online, that's when business will really happen.
WN: You say that the RIAA isn't at war with MP3.
HR: No. My problem with MP3 is not when it's given away, but when it's stolen. To me, there's a big difference between artists being on a site like MP3.com or GoodNoise wanting promotion, making the decision to give it away. There's a big difference between that and an FTP site that has 1,000 stolen songs on it.
WN: You're not afraid of losing out to these upstarts?
HR: I think those guys are going to have the same problem. How is GoodNoise or MP3.com going to create a star, unless they invest in promoting that artist? Then they'll be the middleman. It's going to cost them money and they'll need some return.
... How are the entrepreneurs who say they are in the MP3 business going to make money? I've seen [Wired News] ask that question a lot. But you never get a good answer.
I think that the problem with the Yahoo model [for MP3 sites, where ads, not product, are the revenue source] is that you're saying, "OK, let's take the creative work to attract Ford Motor Co., and let's sell cars using Bonnie Raitt's music. And whatever Ford pays us, we'll give Bonnie Raitt a percentage."
The only value in attracting eyeballs is in advertising. You do the artist a disservice that way. Consumers don't want to buy a car, they want to buy the music.
WN: [Sites like MP3.com and GoodNoise] say they'll give artists a bigger cut. Do you think that's possible?
HR: I think it's possible, until that artist then wants their discs manufactured and distributed and sold in Wal-Mart, and they want to be on TV with a commercial, or a video on MTV, or they want a video on BET [Black Entertainment Television], or they want to go on tour and need tour support. It's easy to say.
I think the Net will be wonderful for a lot of artists out there who both don't care about a huge audience but want to make more money selling to a targeted audience and are happy to do that online. Todd [Rundgren] has a very clever model. He has a very devoted fan base. He gives them -- for $40 a year -- a new song every month. I think the amount of artists that will be able to do that will be limited, but that's important to be able to do that.
WN: What's your experience with buying music on the Internet? Have you bought a CD?
HR: Oh yeah. I buy music all the time online. I experiment with everything that's out there. I've bought MP3 downloads, I've done Liquid Audio downloads.
WN: Is the price of music online going to come down?
HR: The smallest percentages are the actual cost of the plastic. I think it will depend. The thing the Web allows for is multiple revenue streams. You could have streaming jukeboxes, you could have singles downloads, you could have albums, you could have in-store sales. Because you have the opportunity to recoup investments over a broader spectrum of places, you can play with the economics a little more.
But the value is in the music. And I don't think anyone can argue with the statistics that music is the best value dollar-for-dollar of any consumer product. It's had the lowest inflation of any consumer product -- movies, computer software, tickets on the horse and buggy around Central Park.
WN: A lot of the press coverage portrays RIAA and the labels as worried about becoming irrelevant.... And that the Secure Digital Music Initiative is an attempt to control the distribution mechanism for digital music.
HR: Building traffic and enthusiasm for a product or an idea requires money. There's always going to be a middleman. It doesn't matter whether it's MP3.com or Sony Music. I don't think the record labels themselves ever worry about being obsolete. The marketing, promotion, and artist development that goes about in taking an unknown but talented person [is necessary].
People projecting fear on the record companies is good emotional hype, but I don't see it in the day-to-day world.
The artists and the record companies have invested a lot of their own money, time, and effort in developing a product for some return. Sending it out unsecured or vulnerable to piracy is a significant concern. People have taken very legitimate fears and turned them into, "The record companies are afraid of the Internet and afraid they'll be left behind."
Even in five years people perceive that 80 percent of all record sales are still going to be physical product. In 10 years, you're still talking about 60 percent.
WN: Will the SDMI specification be submitted to some sort of official standards body?
HR: The jury's still out on whether it's necessary to submit it as a standard. Because whether it's a standard or an open specification, it's obviously voluntary.
It's in Technics' interest to sell CD players that work for consumers, the same way it's in Sony Music's interest or MCA Music's interest to make their disks to fit those specifications. Because everyone wants the consumer to have an easy experience.
WN: Will it be free to use this technology? Or would companies pay a licensing fee?
HR: The hope is the architecture itself will be open and royalty-free. So that lots of different companies can build products to it.
There are many different ways to achieve those parameters so that individual codes can be proprietary, but the bigger architecture will be compatible. We're trying to have this working with nonproprietary technologies. Or, if they are proprietary, then they are open and easily licensable. MP3 is a proprietary technology, it's just that it's available for free.
They're still in the process of deciding. If the person with the best idea wants money for it, it might be worth it. But I don't think that's the plan.
WN: Some people I've talked to are upset about the [US$10,000] fee to join SDMI.
HR: Fees are very common in standard-setting processes like this. It's a very results-oriented process, and there are costs associated with managing it. It's not a profit center. It was a deliberate way to make sure that people were at the table because they're serious about it.
WN: What do you think of Chuck D? He's constantly trashing his label.
HR: He and I are good personal friends. We both serve on the Rock the Vote board. He had a very bad experience with his record company and an unhappy parting. I think that a new model for Public Enemy is a good idea. It doesn't mean that it will work for everybody.
... He's trashing the record companies, he doesn't trash me. Don't you have friends you have differences of opinion with? He's passionate and energetic. We always agree on censorship, and we agree that if artists are willing to take the financial risks for their own work, then they should be entitled to greater financial gain.
I think part of [Public Enemy's] problem was they were in a contract several years ago that paid them advances, and they gave up more rights than they wanted to.
It's very common for artists to want large advances. And often in order to do that companies want some guarantees. The opportunities for a better deal exist.
On some level Chuck is the kind of person that has to be in control of his own life. I think he's a brilliant activist and he's never afraid. He's sometimes a convenient fact-forgetter. He rewrites history to fit his rap. He says things for effect that sometimes I think he even questions.
(Second) Autobiography Of Mista Chuck!
It will follow Fight The Power: Rap, Race And Reality, which was issued in paperback last year.
The book, entitled Anatomy Of A Rap Circus Within: The Rise, Fall And Rise of Public Enemy, will be published in the autumn. Amongst other things, it will detail the reformation of rap's most celebrated group and their world tour last year.
Chuck D is expected to make a series of lectures to help promote the book. Music365 will bring you more details of them as soon as possible.
3:02 am est Public Enemy's Flavor Flav
Public Enemy have also announced plans to start their own Internet-based record label. As in the past, Public Enemy are going where no rap group has gone before.
One of Public Enemy's founding rappers, Flavor Flav was born William Drayton 40 years ago today in Long Island, N.Y. Flav came together with the other members of Public Enemy in 1982 -- Chuck D (Carlton Ridenhour) studied graphic design at Long Island's Adelphi University and became friendly with fellow student Hank Shocklee, who recorded a track, "Public Enemy No. 1," on which Chuck D appeared.
Another school friend, Bill Stephney, had a radio show on which Chuck D started rapping. Def Jam Records co-founder Rick Rubin heard Chuck D's act and signed him. Chuck D began Public Enemy with Shocklee as producer, Stephney as marketer, and DJ Norman Rogers, later known as Terminator X. Chuck D added his friend Flavor Flav, who would become the "Costello" to Chuck D's "Abbott" in Public Enemy's vocal team, and his Nation of Islam pal Richard Griffin became the coordinator of the combo's dancers.
Yo! Bum Rush the Show was Public Enemy's 1987 debut. The LP generated little interest beyond a few critics, but its follow-up, 1988's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, was a pop smash and changed the face of rap.
The album showcased Chuck D's political rhyming and the group's innovative sound (the noisy, siren-laden, sample-heavy, turntable scratching that would soon be copied by many other groups). It was produced by the Shocklee-led team known as the Bomb Squad.
The single "Bring the Noise" was Public Enemy's first stab at controversy, featuring Chuck D calling Black Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan a prophet. The album also included "Don't Believe the Hype," which criticized the allegedly white-controlled media.
Many non-rap fans first heard Public Enemy when their song "Fight the Power" was used as the theme to Spike Lee's groundbreaking 1989 film "Do the Right Thing." Around this time, Griffin was fired after ranting against Jews in a Washington, D.C., newspaper and then criticizing his bandmates.
Public Enemy's first top-10 LP on the Billboard 200 albums chart was Fear of a Black Planet (1990), which dealt with white racism on cuts such as "911 Is a Joke," a top-20 R&B hit. The group called for black unity on tracks like "Brothers Gonna Work It Out." The following year's Apocalypse 911 went top-5 on the pop charts.
Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age (1994) was released as Public Enemy were taking a backseat to the newer rap acts which had begun to explode on the pop scene. In the meantime, Flavor Flav served jail time for assaulting a girlfriend and was charged with attempted murder in 1993 for allegedly shooting a neighbor. Flav underwent drug rehabilitation and the charges were dropped.
year, Public Enemy again teamed with director Lee for the music to the
film, "He Got Game." The soundtrack album was the first record in a decade
to feature Public Enemy's original lineup: Chuck D, Flav, DJ Terminator
X and Griffin.
Also in '98, Public Enemy participated in the rap-based Smokin' Grooves tour, during which Flav sang "A Hot One," a track off his still-unreleased solo LP.
A few months ago, Public Enemy's ongoing battle with Def Jam over music ownership rights received more visibility when the group blasted the record industry on a new song made available on the band's website (www.public-enemy.com).
The song, "Swindler's Lust" echoed Chuck D's recent criticism of Def Jam for earlier removing other unreleased tracks from the band's website.
"Do You Wanna Go Our Way" is scheduled to be the first single from Public Enemy's next LP.
9:34:18 am MusicNewswire
The Awards, which pay tribute to Hip-Hop's independent spirit and the Webmasters who help create an understanding and appreciation of Hip-Hop online, will take place live at 8:00 PM on March 30 at Tramps in New York City. Proceeds from the ticket sales will benefit M.O.U.S.E. (Making Opportunities to Upgrade Schools and Education), a New York City-based non-profit organization that wires inner city schools for the Internet.
The event will also be broadcast live over the Internet on SonicNet (www.sonicnet.com), the official broadcaster partner of the OHHA; twec.com (The Web's Entertainment Center), the online arm of music retailer Trans World Entertainment; and www.onlinehiphopawards.com, the official Web site for the OHHA. Trans World, the nation's leading urban music retailer, will also promote the event in its more than 500 retail locations nationwide.
The OHHA was created by Support Online Hip-Hop, a portal and virtual clearinghouse for all aspects of Hip-Hop culture on the Web. Many members of the online Hip-Hop community consider SOHH a place for rising stars to build an online following and the OHHA to be the Internet's version of the Grammy Awards.
Felicia Palmer, executive producer of the OHHA and founder of SOHH said, "When we created SOHH, our goal was to provide a virtual Web community for people to congregate and share their appreciation of Hip-Hop culture. Now, three years later, we have an opportunity through the OHHA to create a bridge back to the 'real world,' Hip-Hop community and support the worthy cause of M.O.U.S.E."
"Support Online Hip-Hop would like to thank Chuck D, Grandmaster Flash and all of the artists, record labels, Hip-Hop magazines and most importantly the Webmasters and fans who are using the Internet to keep Hip-Hop culture alive world wide," said Palmer.
"twec.com is proud to recognize the stars and fans of Hip-Hop who have helped to build and nurture the relationship between the nation's most popular music and the world's most pervasive new medium," said Bill Tynan, general manager, twec.com. "To show our support, twec.com is conducting free CD giveaway contests and offering sales on its entire Hip-Hop catalog on the Internet."
Beginning on February 1, more than 40,000 Web sites were submitted for nominations in 12 categories at www.onlinehiphopawards.com. SOHH estimates that by the time the voting closes at midnight on March 22, more than 300,000 votes will have been cast for the following awards:
Hip-Hop Award of the Year
Support Online Hip-Hop (SOHH), established in September 1996 by new media startup 4CONTROL, is the largest Hip-Hop community online and comprises more than 30,000 active members worldwide. Acclaimed in WIRED Magazine, Seventeen, ESSENCE and BET, SOHH is the premier Hip-Hop portal where enthusiasts from around the world come together to share resources, gather information or simply find the latest scoop on the world of Hip-Hop.
These are the Hip Hop artists scheduled to appear at The 1999 Online Hip Hop Awards on March 30
3:03 am est Free MP3s Seen As Key Marketing Tools
The rocker didn't make a dime from all those free downloads of "Free Girl Now," but he may have gained something more valuable, said Michael Robertson, CEO of MP3.com Inc. Petty got a list of fans' e-mail addresses and ZIP codes, which he can tap into when his album, Echo, is released April 13 and when he goes on tour.
"Imagine a global map where every green dot is someone who bought your CD, every red dot is someone who downloaded your song," Robertson said. "With one mouse-click, you can e-mail everybody within a 45 mile-range [of an upcoming concert.]"
Robertson gave one of the keynote addresses this weekend at the New York Music and Internet Expo, a gathering at which Internet music experts got down to the brass tacks of business. What was once something of a protest movement against the established music industry is turning into an industry of its own, according to many of those who spoke.
Another keynote speaker, rapper Chuck D of Public Enemy, said he's not sure there's money to be made in sales of MP3s -- the near-CD-quality, downloadable music favored by Public Enemy and many other artists posting songs on the Web.
But, he added, MP3s can be both a promotional tool and a stepping stone for new artists trying to get noticed. "If the majors are like the NBA," Chuck D said, "the Internet is like college basketball. They make money, just in a different way."
Organizers said 1,500 people attended the expo, none of them an official representative of any major label, though all the labels were invited. The majors have clashed with such artists as the Beastie Boys and Public Enemy in recent months over the posting of MP3 files on the Web; now they are developing technology for downloadable music that can't be freely copied, as MP3s can.
Some attendees said the major labels' absence amounted to a boycott. A spokesperson from the Recording Industry Association of America Inc., which represents the major labels, said Monday (March 8) their absence was strictly a scheduling issue. There was a music retailers' convention in Las Vegas and other industry events in Los Angeles, she said.
"The time is right for technology to really change the whole business of music," MP3.com's Robertson said.
The Internet can replace not only the manufacturing and distribution muscle of the major labels, he added, but also their promotional power. Using the Web and e-mail, artists can track their fans more effectively than ever before, according to Robertson.
Chuck D, whose band recently released an otherwise-unavailable song, "Swindler's Lust" (RealAudio excerpt), in MP3 form and plans to make its next album available free for several weeks in the same format, said he thinks of MP3 as promotional giveaways that encourage fans to buy concert tickets and more CDs.
The MP3 format, shorthand for Motion Pictures Expert Group Audio Layer 3, provides high-fidelity sound at a bit rate of only one megabyte per minute. Several attendees said sales of MP3 sampler discs would be a good way to get customers who now get MP3s free to get used to paying for them.
During the expo, MusicMatch Inc., which runs the "MusicMatch" website, announced a digital-audio subscription service to be run with "songs.com," a Nashville, Tenn.-based MP3 site specializing in folk, blues and country music. For $5 a month, subscribers will get 25 new tracks a month on a CD in the MP3 format.
Artists will receive only a few cents per copy. However, since the service is being offered to a million people who have downloaded MusicMatch's MP3 software, payments could rise into the tens of thousands of dollars, the companies said.
Ken Hertz, an entertainment lawyer who represents singer/songwriter Alanis Morissette and rapper/actor Will Smith, among others, said the MP3 format will affect the roles played by DJs and music writers. He said "MP3.com" features tracks by 6,500 artists, but most are unknowns and visitors to the site need some sort of guidance.
"What we'll be willing to pay for in the future is the filtering," Hertz said. Listeners will find tastemakers they trust, and rely on them for pointers to new music and artists, he said, adding, "Once the trusted relationship is in place, then the money shows up."
Internet label GoodNoise (goodnoise.com) is starting a weekly tip-sheet service that will ask visitors what they like, then point them to similar tracks by bands they might not know, president and CEO Gene Hoffman said. He said his company will have to learn to walk a fine line between providing advice and spamming users.
"Screen real estate may be for sale, but I don't think editorial should ever be for sale," Hoffman said. He was responding to a question about Internet book-selling giant "Amazon.com," which was criticized recently for recommending titles in exchange for payment from publishers.
Jeremy Kagan, president of "Ezcd.com," said online music sites need to make recommendations according to customers' tastes. Merely posting thousands of MP3 tracks online "may have worked at one point," he said, "but now there's such a glut of people putting up music in an MP3 format that the opportunity for an independent artist to stick out is dwindling."
New York Music & Internet Expo
But this was the opening day of the 1999 New York Music and Internet Expo, a party to which everyone was invited. Anyone working for a major record label, however, may not have felt particularly welcome.
"Record labels are middle-men," copyright attorney and NYU professor Ashwood Kavanna said at one panel discussion. "Middle-men on the Internet are road kill."
The overflow crowds at the expo were a mix of MP3 acolytes, businesses promoting their online music innovations and artists promoting themselves. In the two ballrooms, MP3 music companies such as GoodNoise, MusicMatch, and Xing shared cramped space with exhibitors like custom-cd makers CDuctive.com and webcaster Spinner.com.
Diamond Multimedia offered portable-MP3 Rio players for $179.99 while nearby, representatives of Creative Technology demonstrated beta versions of its answer to the Rio. The Nomad, when it becomes available this spring, will allow external recording, have a digital display and will ship with 64 MB of memory. Although competing companies vied for attention, one unifying theme resonated throughout the hotel - independent online music is a viable movement. The strong media turnout indicates that Internet music is also becoming a major story.
"You can stop being an audience and be a participant," Chuck D said during one of two keynote speeches. "Nothing more exciting than that."
Addressing a rowdy standing-room-only audience, Chuck D described Public Enemy's travails with Def-Jam Polygram that resulted in the band breaking its contract in January. After the label relented in releasing PE's "Bring The Noise 2000" remix collection, the band offered cuts from the record as MP3s on their Web site, www.public-enemy.com, in November 1998. When Polygram's lawyers threatened legal action, PE removed the MP3s, then broke from the label.
"We didn't sell a copy, we gave it all away," Chuck D said. "What's the difference between that and promotional copies of albums that labels give away? At least MP3s went to the people that wanted them."
In the section of his address entitled "Pimps get Jacked by the Ho's," Chuck D described his M&M theory. In it, a 500-pound man representing the record industry, stands on a crowded corner with a big bag of M&Ms, each representing a record deal. He doles out candy, one at a time, to artists. "Suddenly, there's a hole in the bag," Chuck D said. "Now everyone's picking up candy for free. Nothing but bent backs. The record labels are saying, 'Stop, that's my candy.' But they can't stop it. That's what MP3 is about."
Chuck presented his vision of the online music industry. He believes radio will become obsolete and the single once again will gain importance, since music listeners often purchase 14-track CDs only to listen to a few songs and skip over the rest. "Technology made consumers lazy," Chuck said. "Give them less and charge them less."
In his view, record labels would still exist, but would be forced to share the market with independents. "Corporations aren't the bad guys, they're just corporate," he said. "They have jobs. Artists have businesses."
Chuck D also pointed out that while some revenue streams would disintegrate with the rise of online music, others would increase. "Mechanical rates might go down," he said, "but with each download, performance rates go up."
In his keynote address earlier in the afternoon, MP3.com's Michael Robertson refuted the argument that the Internet has not yet produced any stars. Robertson offered the cartoon series "South Park" as an example of a little-watched program that became a national sensation due to incessant discussion on the Net.
During his speech, delivered extemporaneously due to a malfunctioning laptop, Robertson depicted IBM's Madison Project as another attempt by the established record industry to control its music distribution system.
Robertson acknowledged the role of record labels in promoting and marketing artists, but also praised the work of independent artists using the Net to circumvent the traditional record industry. "Revolutions don't start at the top," he said. "You don't go to the king and say, 'Hey I have this idea. Let's overthrow the king.'"
As an example of MP3.com's success with promoting artists, Robertson described how his site accelerated the career of MP3 artist Mickey Dean and his Talking Guitar. Dean signed up with MP3.com on a Monday and had a record deal three days later.
Robertson also downplayed the significance of security in digitally distributed music. "Artists do need protection," Robertson agreed," but not from consumers. They need protection from record labels. If you don't believe me, I encourage all of you to watch VH1 - Behind the Music."
Besides speeches, the expo crowd also heard several panel discussions. During the technology panel, GoodNoise CEO Gene Hoffman advised musicians that they need to consider themselves a business as well as a band to make it in the online music industry. "This could actually be the rise of managers, "Hoffman said.
During the Artists and Producers Panel, musician Gary Bartz described record labels as "plantation owners" and said musicians came in three varieties - "house, field and free. The free musician owns all of his work. The field musician might own some. But the house musician owns nothing."
Producer and engineer Joe Alexander, who has worked with artists as diverse as AC-DC and Boyz II Men, advised new artists not to rely on technology. "The sonic quality of MP3 is not what it should be," Alexander said. "Technology does not replace art. Set your standards high and make good music. Don't let the technology lower your standards."
Between discussions and forums, there was, of course, music. Live acts like King Norris, featuring Fred Norris of the Howard Stern Show, and jazz sextet 21st Century reminded the expo audience that ultimately, the purpose of the day was the promotion and celebration of music. Steve Zuckerman, chairman of the NY Music and Internet Expo, plans on bringing the expo on the road to help spread the message that the online music movement has arrived.
Revolution Number 3 - Chuck D preaches to the converted.
was the perfect setting for revolution-rock rhetoric. Crammed into a few
rooms at the New Yorker Hotel in midtown Manhattan, a healthy crowd of
anti-corporate music and Internet fans -- rock and rap artists, Web site
producers, media types and everyday people -- lambasted the major record
labels, vented about the artistic injustices perpetrated by said labels
and invoked the "power to the people" polemics reminiscent of the Sixties
"I think it's great that the revolution is happening," said Hock Leow, vice president of Creative Technology's multimedia division, before introducing his company's new portable MP3 player (due out by summer and code-named Project Nomad). Leow was one of only a handful of executives from major music or technology corporations present at the expo. There were no Microsoft, Intel or Apple representatives -- nor any from the major record labels. Instead, the CEOs and presidents of Goodnoise, MP3.com, Webnoize, Spinner.com, Billboard TalentNet and other companies promoted their sites, networked like crazy, and praised the power of MP3, the compression technology that allows people to shrink music files into a format small enough to e-mail or download quickly without significantly compromising audio fidelity.
Whether artists sell directly to their fans or sign up with a Net-based record label/distributor, the agenda seems to be clear: Artists deserve a higher percentage of sales, the rights to their own music, and more input into how their music is released and marketed. And consumers deserve more music options (not limited to major-label rosters) at lower prices. While it's hard to argue with these noble goals, it's too bad no major-label executive was present to defend current industry practices.
"I went to the majors and the majors didn't want to get involved with this," said Zuckerman. "Then, all of a sudden it got really big. And when they wanted to jump on the bandwagon, I couldn't accommodate them."
Zuckerman did land keynote speaker Chuck D of Public Enemy, who has become the ubiquitous MP3 poster-boy ever since he riled his former label, Def-Jam, by posting unreleased tracks on his band's Web site (www.public-enemy.com). Chuck entered with an entourage including Flava Flav, and then spoke to a full house, launching into a humorous diatribe against the music industry peppered with clever catch-phrases, exasperated expletives and a great deal of insight into the plight of artists forced to sign their rights away. In a similar vein, legendary jazz musician Gary Bartz suggested that there are "house musicians," "field musicians" and "free musicians" -- only the latter actually own their master recordings and publishing rights. Both artists hope the Net can grant them more control over their music.
But lest these artists forget, not all Internet companies will be progressive defenders of artistic rights. "I got a little bit of a suspicion that [these Net evangelists] are just gonna replace the record companies," said Les Sampou, a folk artist attendee researching Internet options while waiting to see where her contract with Rounder Records takes her. "They're all vying for our buck and our art -- it's just a whole new crew. Everyone says the artists will have power now. Do they really mean it or are they just saying, 'Come with us ... we're just another wolf in sheep's clothing?'"
Those who missed the expo can still catch it as it travels across the country. Zuckerman plans to "take it on the road," starting with a trip to Los Angeles in August of this year. Until then, he plans to repay the loan his father gave him for the event, take a week off, and rethink the logistics of the next expo. After a full weekend of watching bands squabble over stage time, he's got one idea already: "Next time, I'd have less bands."
Chuck D., MP3.com CEO Rally Artists at NY Expo
The Expo, packed to the brim with artists, new media entreprenuers and music industry types hailing from the independent sector, provided both MP3 converts and the uninitiated a chance to rally around the movement's rising stars, namely rap artist Chuck D. and MP3.com CEO Michael Robertson [see Webnoize coverage of the Silicon Alley '99 conference: Silicon Alley Event Uses Music As Benchmark for Convergence].
Providing keynotes for the first day of the two-day event, Chuck D. and Robertson hammered home a shared anthem -- that technology is unstoppable and so, too, will be the resulting music industry revolution.
"If you can pay $5 to get your music in your own crib, why the fuck are you going to go to Virgin and pay $15?" asked outspoken Public Enemy leader Chuck D., who also applied the same argument to radio.
Chuck D.'s sentiments about giving away music took on a Zen feel. "I don't care about bootleggers, they're doing my promotion for me," he said. "If I can give 10 million joints away, I know something's got to give back; that's just karma."
As with nearly all the speakers at the Expo, Chuck D. agreed labels would not go away, although he was insistent that they will have to change, even suggesting they leverage their assets to form a new kind of record club.
"I would like to see more joint ventures between artists and major labels," he said. "I'm not saying they will be obsolete; they will just have to learn how to share."
Covering similar ground, Robertson talked about the "broken" music industry and the opportunities being ushered in by emerging technologies, but he also took advantage of the opportunity to provide more details about MP3.com's business strategy and to pitch the service to the artists in the crowd.
"MP3.com is the next MTV, only it's going to be way bigger than MTV," he said. "It's going to have millions of visitors a day."
Robertson went through a laundry list of the issues he's been asked about over the past few months, including:
- MP3.com's business model (as a new, hybrid new media label, Robertson claims to be signing a thousand artists a day);
- MP3.com's approach (changing the label model "from one where we're owning intellectual property to one where we're providing artist services");
- MP3.com's deal to artists (at-will contract termination; 50% of profits to artists before MP3.com's expenses; exposure through the MP3.com portal, which, according to Robertson, logs 250,000 visitors a day);
- MP3.com's answer to the breaking-an-artist-in-the-'net debate (after citing a Korean artist whom Robertson said is selling 500,000 songs per month, he said, "A revolution starts at the bottom, not the top.");
- MP3.com's loyalties to the MP3 format ("if it's MP98, or anything out there, it's all about giving the consumer what they want").
On the issue of security, a hot-button topic among those supporting the Recording Industry Association of America's Secure Digital Music Initiative, Robertson, who believes that security interferes with how the consumer uses the music, was blunt.
"We don't believe security will have a viable long-term future with the digital music industry," he said. "Artists don't need protection from consumers, they need it from an industry that has treated them pretty shabbily."
Beyond the keynotes, the Expo featured an exhibit hall packed with new media ventures, all angling to win over the many musicians milling about. The low admission fee, $15 at the door, made the ticket an easy purchase for anyone even remotely curious about the online music space.
Artist performances and a handful of panel discussions rounded out the Expo's offering. And while the event occasionally suffered from over-extension -- many programs had to be cut short and were delayed due to over-scheduling, while three of the four panels featured at least 11 speakers (many representing sponsors who doubled up on other panels) -- overall, the Expo definitely tapped into the undeniable enthusiasm of a modern-day media revolution.
Musicians Want a Revolution Waged on the Internet
Visionaries, hopefuls, hucksters and self-described geeks mingled over the weekend at the first New York Music and Internet Expo, a convention held at the New Yorker Hotel. While Web pages flickered on monitors and cellular phones beeped, musicians and computer entrepreneurs swapped business cards and ideas about how the Internet could revolutionize the music business.
Optimists, in the majority, saw it as a force that would inevitably democratize the market, a way to bypass recording companies and radio stations and offer music directly to listeners. "The Internet has made it possible for people to get consistently what they want, their way, without censorship," said Steve Zuckerman, a former music journalist who organized the event and plans to produce another one in Los Angeles on Aug. 7 and 8. "Artists, for a change, have hope. The people here all want something similar: creative control of their products and their companies."
Chuck D, the rapper who leads Public Enemy, gave a keynote speech and predicted that there would be "a million artists out there and 500,000 labels or more." He added, "Major labels will not be obsolete, but they're going to have to learn how to share."
It was a convention aimed at the grass roots. The Internet expo cost $15 a day to attend and $700 for exhibitors, considerably less than more established and expensive events like the CMJ Music Marathon. Mr. Zuckerman estimated that 2,000 people would come to the two-day event. Speakers included musicians, software and equipment makers and Web site operators. Absent were representatives of most major labels or their trade group, the Recording Industry Association of America, which is playing catch-up with the Internet. It is working to set a standard for digital distribution of music that will prevent unauthorized copying. The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which presents the Grammy Awards, had a booth to promote its programs for emerging musicians.
Michael Robertson, the chief executive of the Internet site and company MP3.com, said: "We think the music industry is broken, no matter how you look at it. We need to change the whole business of music."
Mr. Robertson's company, and many other Internet sites, offers music in the form of MP3 files, which can be sent quickly over the Internet and copied at will. Because delivery via the Internet eliminates the need to package, manufacture and distribute a CD, it allows musicians to send their latest work out immediately. "An artist can have a creative urge at 2:30 A.M., upload it at 3:30 and have it on the Web at 4:30," Mr. Robertson said.
Established stars have begun giving away music on the Internet to promote themselves. Last Monday, Tom Petty made a new song available free on the MP3.com site; during the three days it was available, it was downloaded 157,699 times. In return, Mr. Petty and his recording company have a marketing tool: E-mail addresses for fans, who can be reached when his next album is released. Alanis Morissette made a new song available through AT&T's a2b Music (www.a2bmusic.com), which does not allow copying; the free song was downloaded 285,000 times, while links to the song sold 22,000 tickets to her concert tour.
Last year Public Enemy made songs available as MP3 files, but was stopped by the threat of legal action from its label at the time, Polygram, which owns the master recordings. Now, Public Enemy's contract with Polygram has expired, and it has a new MP3 song, "Swindler's Lust," on its Web site, www.public-enemy.com. Chuck D said that in future contracts, Public Enemy would keep its rights to master recordings and enter joint ventures with companies to release the material on disks and tapes. "I'm an Internet presence first, and everything else follows from that," he said. Public Enemy's next album would be available in digital form on the Internet before appearing as a CD, he added.
Mr. Robertson said that distributing music through the Internet could restructure the recording business. In a typical recording contract a label finances and promotes an album, and the performer receives a 10 to 15 percent royalty after costs are recouped — $1 to $2 for each album sold — while the label owns the master recording. Musicians who finance their own recordings and distribute them through the Internet could receive more for an album, making a profit without blockbuster sales.
"The record deal up to now has just been the engine that drives the tour bus," said Ken Hertz, a partner in the law firm Hansen, Jacobson, Teller & Hoberman who represents Ms. Morissette, Hole and others.
A few skeptics warned that the unchecked distribution of music on the Internet could rob musicians of income from recordings. "Today everyone's happy and everything's beautiful and everything's free," said François-Xavier Nuttall, whose company, Audiosoft, makes software to track copyright and royalty information. "But in the future we will need an economic model."
Other panelists noted that the sound quality of music transmitted over the Internet was inferior to CD's. "It's a lot easier for people to make records now," said Joe Alexander, a producer. "I might be able to do it on a wristwatch in a taxicab. But it's not the same as going in and taking the time to make the sound you've worked a lifetime to develop. Don't let this technology lower the standards." Other speakers insisted that appearing in cyberspace was no substitute for hitting the road, and that most of the free music on the Internet was not worth hearing.
"A lot of people envision this friction-free future, where everybody has access to everything immediately," Mr. Hertz said. "But if you have to spend your whole day figuring out what's good, you're not going to have time to listen to it." He predicted that filtering — sites and formats that winnow the choices, as recording companies and radio stations do now — would be a profitable Internet service, paid for through advertising or subscription fees.
For musicians, meanwhile, the promise of the Internet was simpler. "We just want our music out there," said Ricky Byrd, a songwriter.
3:30 pm pst Chuck D Keys on Notes
The two-day conference, held in the Grand Ballroom of the New Yorker Hotel, was a wild mix of unsigned musicians hoping to learn more about the Net and the audio format MP3, together with entertainment lawyers, producers, jaded artists, and music-based Net business representatives.
During the weekend, speakers were both skeptical and evangelical of the controversial MP3 format, but everyone was discussing just how to make money with downloadable music on the Net.
However, Chuck D, of the rap group Public Enemy, has become a highly quotable advocate of the MP3 audio format, but he qualified his views just a bit.
MP3 "won't destroy the record companies. [It] just will split the market" into a world with something like "a million artists and 500,000 labels," he said. The Net opens up the way for artistry and entrepreneurs.
MP3 or Motion Picture Experts Group, audio layer three, is a format used for compression of audio to send files at near-CD quality over the Net.
Tons of people use it online, but most big record labels have not embraced it for fear of piracy, since the format also allows for widespread copying of illegal files. The recording industry is working on developing a specification with more security, and hasn't sold much music online to date.
Chuck D's talk was animated as he peppered his lecture with imitations ranging from Casey Kasem and record label lawyers that were cracking up Flavor Flav, also of Public Enemy, who sat next to him.
Lawyers at record labels "are like, 'Sire! Sire! There is an MP3 on the horizon! They are coming quick!'" he said.
Chuck D's appearance on the MP3 scene broke big late last year, when he posted some songs from an unreleased album called Bring the Noise 2000 in the MP3 audio format on his band's web site. Chuck D says he was frustrated that the release date for the BTN 2000 album was repeatedly pushed back, but his distributor at the time -- Polygram -- forced him to take down the tracks, since they owned the rights to the songs.
Chuck D compared posting MP3 files to sending out a promotional CD to a DJ at a radio station. "At least our MP3s went to the motherfuckers who wanted them."
"New technology [in] present day contracts [is an] oxymoron... your contract holds your ass back" from trying out different online ways to hype your music, he said. "If I get on a shuttle and go to Venus with my CD, those motherfuckers [the labels] have the rights."
Chuck D said the recording industry similarly feared the dawn of FM radio, but today the big labels "can't pay a radio station enough to play their shit," he said.
Chuck D echoed other Expo panelists, charging that the big labels cause artists to remain broke at the end of their recording contracts.
The Internet offers the promise that consumers won't pay for so many middlemen that drive up CD prices, he said. Chuck D got tired of hearing that "millions were being spent" on artists' "behalf." "Well how about giving me a million-dollar check, motherfucker?"
The biggest pirates are the accountants, lawyers, record companies and retail stores, he said.
As for the future, Chuck D said the recording industry has to change. He suggested that record labels could become the "modern day record clubs" of the Internet, where people pay for a subscription to their "wealth of material." He also suggested that artists' material should be sold in smaller units, such as a five-track album for five dollars online, or promoted by giving away certain songs to sell others.
The buzz at the conference was that Chuck D is looking to get involved with more music-based Internet ventures. But he was tight lipped about his more immediate Net plans, only saying, "everything I do is Internet first," and that he's looking into "different deals with different things."
According to his Web site, Chuck D is in the process of launching a Web based rap radio station called Bring the Noise, and is starting new music projects like the band Confrontation Camp, an "aggressive funk-rock combo band."
Flavor Flav has been working on his own solo album, and said he needs to discuss Internet and label options with Chuck D. "We'll sit down, open a couple of lobsters" and talk, he said.
Chuck D Speaks in Digital Music Forum
The main topics of the discussion revolved around how consumers will pay for digital downloading, how record companies and artists can make money through digital downloading, and how the new practices will effect emerging artists vs. more established ones.
During the two-hour debate, the underlying theme revolved around the conflicts between the record industry and the artist, as well as the relationship between the consumer and the record industry. It was ironic that Chuck D. was seated right next to Matt Oppenheim of the RIAA.
At the center of the digital downloading controversy is the issue of artist vs. record company. Proponents of digital downloading see it as a way to shift the balance of power away from the record companies and toward the artists and consumers. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the "rift" that has arisen between the artist, represented on the panel by Chuck D., and the recording industry, represented by Matt Oppenheim, is the RIAA's spearheading of SDMI (Secure Digital Music Initiative), a call to establish a standard of copy protection for online music transmission. Many artists and digital downloading supporters merely see this as a Big Brother-styled attempt by the record companies to gain control of the Internet. Oppenheim, who took a fair amount of negative heat from the audience, stated that it was merely a way of addressing the far reaching implications of digital distribution and that the record companies have everyone's best interests at heart. In this regard, Audio Explosion president Arnold E. Brown noted that companies on the Net are forcing the record companies to get involved, because they don't want the current situation of bootlegging and copyright violations to become the norm.
On a similar note, both Chuck D. and IUMA president Jeff Patterson agreed that one of the major pluses to digital downloading is that it allows artists to truly take their music to the global community. Not only that, it also provides an added promotional tool and a new way to move music, which should be seen as a complement to the more traditional avenues of promotions and sales. Their view is that the digital age puts the music back into the hands of those who created it in the first place, effectively eliminating the middle man — in this case, the record companies.
Another area that was discussed was the personalized music choices that digital downloading can offer the consumer. As more songs become available for downloading, the consumer will essentially be able to pick songs off the Net, burn their own compilation of songs onto a CD, and create a personalized music collection specified to their tastes. To this end, Patterson stressed that since convenience is the main factor, he has no doubts consumers will be willing to pay a convenience fee if the catalog of music they desire is out there. Chuck D. concurred, calling it the updated record club, saying that if labels were smart they would offer a subscription fee which would enable consumers to access their catalog and create their own CDs.
As for what the future holds in store, the general consensus of the panel was that the relationships between artists and labels is going to change as a result of digital distribution. Additionally, economic models and copyright laws will have to be re-examined and redefined. But despite the differences in the panel members' opinions, all agreed that the digital revolution is, in fact, a good thing and an exciting prospect in terms of the future of the music industry.
Chuck D Speaks: Online Event And Album News
In his most recent 'Terrordome' column at www.public-enemy.com Chuck has also given more hints about the forthcoming PUBLIC ENEMY album, 'There's A Poison Goin' On'. "Correct distribution avenues are being assembled and are about in place," Chuck says on the site. "It's gonna be an event for sure and the cuts are gonna be brutal... PE is the closest thing to non-conformist in rap, urban music guerilla terrorists to the fullest."
In earlier columns, as already reported here on Music365, Chuck has stated that the album will be available via the band's website before appearing anywhere else. This move to Net-based distribution follows the band's parting of the ways with the Def Jam label and the posting of new songs in MP3 and MP4 formats on the website.
7:55 est Joan Osborne, Chuck D, Peter Buck To Make Music With Cuban Artists
The American and British contingent will fly to Havana, Cuba on March 21 to spend a week writing songs and jamming with their Cuban counterparts. The sessions will conclude with a concert at Havana's Karl Marx Theater.
U.S. citizens are still not allowed to fly into Cuba without the permission of the U.S. government.
9:31 pm est Chuck D finds space to jam online
His record company, Def Jam, objected to his posting tracks from an unreleased Public Enemy album on his www.public-enemy.com site. The resulting uproar saw Public Enemy leave the label and set up a series of ventures, including Slam Jamz, a music label that will concentrate on online releases, and Rapp station, a planned online radio station.
A longtime advocate of technology, Chuck D has been making the rounds of industry conventions. He'll give the keynote speech at the New York Music and Internet convention Saturday.
The topic: taking control of your musical destiny, particularly by using the promotional power of the Internet.
The record industry's attempts to develop a secure digital music system are "not going to stop the people from getting products free through MP3 and other ways," Chuck D says.
Free promotional copies that are passed to radio and retail outlets "will be spread among the Web and pirated just like it is now, even more so," he says.
One beneficiary will be Chuck D's music niche. About 90% of rap music doesn't get radio play or much attention, he says. He says that will change as more artists migrate to the Net.
"Right now, it's a beautiful time, and we're all going into this bold new world with our hands out in a dark room," he says. "But the biggest barrier is legal paranoia. The lawyers don't really know how to call it. They don't know if they're embracing a grenade or something that's going to benefit the art that they do control."
He likens the situation to the arrival of FM radio. "Everybody was arguing whether this would hurt album sales, and it proved otherwise. Although people could have taped off the radio, they still wanted to possess that particular piece of art within their own jurisdiction. To me, I believe if I have a piece of product and I make it available to 10 million people, something has to come back."
Chuck D plans Internet music label
Last year, Public Enemy made tracks from the Bring The Noise 2000 remix album available via their website, prior to its release. This sparked a disagreement with Def Jam records, the group’s label since their debut album, who forced the removal of the tracks. Public Enemy have since split with Def Jam and now plan to release an entire album, There’s A Poison Goin’ On, via the internet.
Chuck said that the project is, "85 percent finished" and will be, "out there for a limited time totally free and then people can do what they wanna do." The format in which the material will be released has not yet been announced, though the first ‘single’ is known to be called Do You Wanna Go Our Way.
the material in this way will put Chuck in a powerful position, especially
where his war on commercial radio is concerned, he pointed out: "I might
be the first artist to sue a radio station for playing my stuff." This
will compliment the rapper’s assult on the airwaves through his own, recently
launched, Internet radio station, bringthenoise.com.