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Ted Cohen (TAG Strategic), MidemNet’s founding figure and digital music industry reference, is already looking forward to the forum’s 10th anniversary next January…

First of all, I’m very excited to once again serve as Chairman of the MidemNet Visionary Committee. This year is MidemNet’s 10th anniversary & I’m proud to have been involved since its inception.

Over the years, we have presented some of the best & the brightest:  Anssi Vanjoki of Nokia, Legendary Producer Bob Ezrin, RIAA head, Hillary Rosen, MP3.com’s Michael Robertson, RealNetworks founder Rob Glaser, EMI Chairman Eric Ncoli, YouTube’s Chad Hurley and many, many others. The 2009 edition will, appropriately, raise the bar. I look forward to an amazing anniversary event.

Over the past 12 years, I’ve spent time on ALL sides of the table. In the late ’90s, I consulted for a variety of stakeholders and innovators. My clients included digital pioneers like Rioport and LiquidAudio, disruptors such as the original Napster and the
oft-besieged RIAA (at the same time!). In 2000, I went to EMI Music to join Jay Samit to shake things up & I still believe we did. During our two years together, we broke the rules, made some ground-breaking deals and tried to get our co-workers to think digitially & to explore the possibilities. Our goal was to transform and evolve EMI from a record company into a music company (and, yes, to make some money for EMI along the way!). For us, the digital tranformation of the music industry wasn’t a possibility, it was inevitable.

I served at EMI for 6 years, departing in June 2006 to start TAG Strategic, a digital advisory that specializes in business development acceleration, strategic partnerships and licensing assistance. Our approach is unique, we must believe in our clients’ potential to go the distance.

Now, to the matter at hand. I believe that it is time that rightsholders and innovators join together to hasten the Summer of the digital revolution. The Label mindset of “we can’t do that, it would set a bad precedent” can no longer be tolerated. Similarly, the mantra,
“it’s a great consumer experience” doesn’t justify anyone, no matter how innovative, appropriating an artist’s or writer’s work without acquiring permission, whether through direct negotiation or through compulsory licensing. Start-ups need to respect the right of creators to be compensated, Labels need to get past what was the norm 10 years ago.

To accomplish this, we need to respect the persons across the table. The deals that are impimented over the next 2-5 years have to be sustainable, with the necessary sound financials to go the distance. Leveraged, front-loaded deals aren’t the answer, well-executed long-term partnerships are the only way to avoid an industry melt-down.

The events of the past week in the Financial markets illustrate how greed can destroy an industry. The demise of a Lehman Bros. was unthinkable, yet the unthinkable happened. Let’s learn from this and approach our digital future in a smarter, more collaborative manner.

A wise man once said to me that if you negotiate a deal so that it doesn’t matter which side of the table you are on, the deal will work for both sides. It’s time that we were all on the same side of the table, there’s a feast in front of us


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