February 15, 2008

Music industry future is topic of panel discussion

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A panel of music industry experts will gather at Southern Illinois University Carbondale next week to discuss several issues facing the music industry.

"Good Times, Bad Times For the Global Music Industry," is set for 4:30 p.m., Monday, Feb. 18, in Kleinau Theatre in the Communications Building. SIUC's Global Media Research Center and Digital Dog Records are sponsoring the discussion. The event is free, and the public is invited.

"Music file-sharing is one aspect of still wider issues of intellectual property. At stake today is affordable global access to using genes, seeds, plants, medicines and an array of constructive technologies," said John Downing, Global Media Research Center director.

"Communication researchers, legal experts and technologists urgently need to collaborate on solutions. This event, the center hopes, will be one useful push in that direction," he said.

The discussion examines technology issues and trends in the music industry, and the response by major record labels to developments in distribution, said Todd Herreman, an assistant instructor in the Department of Radio-Television, who is serving as panel moderator.

The discussion also looks at the Recording Industry Association of America's legal attacks dealing with file sharing, and provides perspective on the music business from Nashville and Los Angeles-based industry professionals, he said.

The panelists are:

• Dan Keen, award-winning vice president of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.

• Don Grierson, a legendary artist and repertoire executive, who has worked with artists including Heart, Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Sheena Easton and Celine. He has also been involved with the launch of several record labels, and was involved promotionally with the launch of The Beatles label, Apple Records.

• Rob Chiarelli, a mixer, producer, engineer and re-mixer, who has worked with artists including Madonna, Christina Aguilera, LeAnn Rimes, Paula Abdul, Ice Cube, En Vogue and The Temptations.

Distribution developments have created "vast opportunities" for independent labels and unsigned artists, Herreman said.

"In particular, an unsigned artist can sell 10,000 CD's a year and create a six-figure income, while a signed artist on a major label can sell 500,000 records and still be in debt to the label," he said.

Other topics include the alternatives that RIAA uses to combat piracy, and whether suing infringers is an effective strategy, said Herreman, noting a federal jury in Minnesota handed down a $220,000 civil judgment last fall against a single mother for downloading 24 songs from a P2P network.

The music's industry biggest issue now, compared with 20 to 30 years ago, relates to distribution of protected material, Herreman said.

"Our copyright code does not handle the digital copying and distribution very well," he said. "While concerns of illegal copying and distributing were apparent in past decades, the impact on the industry was insignificant by comparison to today's digital distribution channels."

Another difference in the music industry is the Internet. If an artist wanted their record out there 30 years ago, it required a major label to make and distribute the record into stores and on the radio, Herreman said.

That is no longer the case, he said. Recording options are inexpensive, meaning most people can record their own records. Distribution through a major label is also no longer an issue because of the ability to offer downloads from a variety of sites.

"The entrepreneurial artist can utilize numerous social networking sites to promote their material," he said. "Some of the top music supervisors for film and television find unsigned acts to license music from by scouring the Web."

For more information about the panel discussion, contact the Global Media Resource Center at 618/453-6876, or Herreman at 618/453-3266, or by email at toddh@siu.edu.