What Happened to the Big Idea in Music Technology?

SXSW Panel Reviews

Ballroom Dancing
Photo by John Anderson

What Happened to the Big Idea in Music Technology?

Austin Convention Center, Wednesday, March 14

Moderated by Uncorked Studios' David Ewald and Dave Allen, interactive strategy director for North and former bassist for Gang of Four, this panel didn't so much answer the question proposed in its title as present a loose discussion about how digital technology serves musicians, fans, and the music industry itself. What are digital strategies in a post-label world in which listeners are now more interested in having access to music than owning it? How do we educate both artists and fans about the nature of digital cultivation, especially in streaming services? Do fans who use Spotify understand how little artists earn from the service? (Allen cited the statistic that Lady Gaga's 1.7 million spins on Spotify earned her $127.) Who takes responsibility – a word that cropped up multiple times – the content providers who, the panel argued, should include transparency about to whom the money users spend goes, or the artists, who should make something people want? Who is responsible for educating musicians on the use of digital marketing tools? How, Allen asked, do we keep creators creating when their income streams seem to be drying up? There was plenty of discussion, but few clear answers. Maybe the big idea is this, courtesy of Cash Music's Jesse Von Doom: "Make something simple that works. Don't try to revolutionize shit – no one cares."

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