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Ballroom Dancing: SXSW panels

Reviewed by Michael Chamy, March 19, 2004, Music

SXSW Roundtable: Policy, Legislation & the Next Music Business

Austin Convention Center, Thursday, March 18 Mark Cuban is not your typical SXSW panelist. As the Dallas Mavericks' owner and No. 1 superfan, the controversial and outspoken Cuban is one of pro basketball's most recognizable courtside figures. Thankfully, he spared attendees the sight of his typical tight-fitting Mavs T-shirt, donning a black shirt that left a little more room for circulation. He also radiated the brash attitude and iconoclastic viewpoints that made him one of the Internet age's most successful entrepreneurs when he sold the company he founded,, to Yahoo! for billions of dollars. Showing up about halfway through the panel, Cuban brought a spark to a roundtable – featuring IRS Records' Jay Boberg, among others – that was a generic discourse on the digital revolution and its economic impact on the record industry. Grassroots artists and indie labels were lauded; radio and big labels were lambasted. The rarely successful artist-development models employed by the majors were discussed and critiqued. "The No. 1 job of a label head is to keep his job," said Cuban, stating that labels had made digital piracy into a scapegoat rather than answering to their own failings. As he revealed that he had at one point considered purchasing Napster, the Mavs owner and founder of fast-rising high-definition television network HDNet grabbed some ears. His pointed critique of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the RIAA drew a hearty round of cheers. No real brainstorms were had, and there was no concrete discussion of the Next Music Business, but thanks to Mr. Cuban, the discourse was lively and pointed.

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