Ballroom Dancing

SXSW panels

Ballroom Dancing
Photo by Gary Miller

SXSW Interview: Rob Glaser

Austin Convention Center, Wednesday, March 12

The music industry's moving faster than you can rip the shrink-wrap off a jewel case, so it's time to pick a side. Either roll with the relics or buy yourself a ticket (literally) to the future, a route conducted partly by Rob Glaser, CEO of RealNetworks Inc. and founder of Rhapsody. Glaser's not vehemently opposed to CDs and vinyl. Rather, it's his belief that "labels need to come to their senses" and understand the days of the hard copy are numbered. Fourteen years ago, Glaser envisioned a "jukebox in the sky" and has since been fine tuning that digital-spinner to create a virtual world in which consumers feel a sense of ownership over their product ("paying money shows an allegiance to the music"), unsigned acts are given a previously unrealized chance for discovery ("membership encourages experimentation"), and money-hungry labels don't have to worry about anyone stealing their music ("pirate phenomenon will become a persistent, low-level annoyance"). The only problem he foresees in his quest for complete harmony? Major labels. While indies exhibit a certain spirit of experimentation, RealNetworks must cater to even the most conservative of record labels to get everyone on board.

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