NARAS ReceptionDriskill Hotel Ballroom, Wednesday 13
"I promise I won't do a Grammy speech here." That was one of the first things out of Michael Greene's mouth Wednesday night, which was too bad from a news-mongering standpoint. The Recording Academy President and CEO really stirred the pot with his televised rail against illegal downloading at the Grammy's last month. "The illegal file-sharing and ripping of music files is pervasive, out of control, and oh so criminal," Greene said, as though some of music's biggest fans were runners-up to Mohammed Atta on the Scale of Evil. But on Wednesday, Greene focused mainly on the opportunities presented by the sea changes taking place in the way music is distributed and listened to. He pointed to the O Brother, Where Art Thou?
soundtrack, currently No. 1 in Billboard
, as an example of an album that has skirted the traditional rubric of airplay=sales. Then Greene brought up the Internet's role in the emerging paradigm. "We have a rough time right now visualizing how the Internet will allow us to connect to our audience," he said, "but we're going to emerge on the other side with the ability to connect with fans on a smaller scale." Greene said that right now was the best opportunity in years to "shake the shackles of a system that's never really rewarded our people." And yet, in addition to screwing artists, the music industry has a long history of screwing consumers as well. The real test for the music industry is developing a simple, easy-to-use system of downloading music for a fair price that compensates artists fairly. If Greene can navigate that maze, perhaps musicians and consumers both can benefit from the shaking of shackles.