Pennies From The Celestial Jukebox

SXSW panel reviews

Ballroom Dancing
Photo by John Anderson

Pennies From The Celestial Jukebox

Austin Convention Center, Friday, March 16

As the first royalty checks rolled in from the launch of Spotify and other music streaming services, many artists were left wondering what happened to the promise of the cloud. The answer, not surprisingly, is complicated, as evidenced by the volume of South by Southwest panels this year trying to decipher digital streaming rights, royalties, and repercussions. Digging into the data from invoices of the artists they represent, the Pennies panel still waxed optimistic for the potential payoff as these nascent services scale with more subscribers and plays. "It's a different game now, a different world, and a different math," stressed R.E.M. manager Bertis Downs, noting that the streaming market is one of accumulated fractions over time. While all saw potential in the long run for streams to generate revenue comparable to paid downloads, major labels were still the scapegoats among the panelists for the tightly sealed deals cut with the streaming companies. The pervasive theme of all the discussions this week has been preventing artists getting lost in that digital black box, emphasizing the need for better rights registries to facilitate payment. The next decade will be a battle to determine whether the new boss is the same as the old boss.

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