Ted Cohen, TAG Strategic; chairman, MidemNet Visionary Chair Committee
Twenty-five years ago, in May of 1982, I was called into a meeting at Warner Bros. Records, where I worked in Burbank, California, to take part in the launch of a New Media group composed of Warner employees, some Atari staffers, a couple folks from HP, Bob Stein, founder of Voyager and others I strain at night to remember. At that time, I was part of Warner’s legendary Artist Development department, where the careers of Prince, Van Halen, Randy Newman and many others were encouraged, supported and nurtured. Stan Cornyn, who was a true creative visionary at WB had been contacted by Alan Kay of Xerox PARC fame (he brought us the GUI!!). Alan had left Xerox & arrived at Atari a few months earlier and delivered this pronouncement: the impending debut of the CD in early ’83 combined with the eventual adoption of the personal computer were going to have a significant effect on the future of music industry, and a profound effect on the relationship between the fan and the music.
While the computers were primitive, bandwidth virtually non-existent and storage cost astronomical, we talked about where it could go when the tech and the tools were mature. We came together to discuss the possibilities, to explore the potential and plan for the future. Well, even the best-laid plans go awry. While the tech evolved, the music industry vision did not keep the same pace. Business models remained, for the most part, stuck in time. The music consumer was changing, the music industry began to struggle, a major fall-out became inevitable.
So, we now find ourselves in a bit of a mess. Personal computers run at lightning speed, bandwidth is plentiful and you can get a terabyte for under $400. This has created the age of the empowered music fan, where whatever he/she wants is available at literally the click of a mouse. The friction is gone, instant gratification has truly arrived. In this new paradigm, the challenge has become, how do we monetize the disruption, how do we extract value out of “free”? This has become one of the main topics of debate on chat lists, on college campuses, in entertainment company board rooms, world capitols and at global forums such as MidemNet.
MidemNet 2008 is just 2 1/2 months away, it seems like it was just a few months ago that Mitch Bainwol, head of the RIAA and Gary Shapiro, the Consumer Electronics Industry czar traded their viewpoints with an electrifying passion that defines MidemNet as the place to be every January. I’m honoured to have had a hand in crafting its direction for
all nine years.
Each year, we try to raise the bar, dial up the quality, bring in new ways to elevate the dialogue and always strive to keep it real. This year, we’re going to shake it up some more.
On Sunday morning, January 27, I’m going to lead what I believe to be the first totally user-generated panel held at a major conference. Here’s how it’s going to work:
Over the next six weeks, I invite you to submit topics/issues for discussion. They can be on any aspect of digital and/or mobile music, issues that are affecting the current and future state of affairs: DRM, sideloading, fair use, wi-max… whatever you believe would make for a timely and lively discussion. Additionally, I invite you to submit yourself or others for consideration as one of the six panelists participating in this session. Your viability for this role will be judged, in part, by the discussion ideas you put forward. Three of the panelists will be selected through this process, while I will pick the other three from conventional submissions and people that I’ve identified as thought leaders.
That’s the plan, let the discussions begin. I anxiously await your input and participation.
Ted Cohen is Chairman of the MidemNet Visionary Chair Committee