Music and the digital world have been deeply entwined for some time now. A good enough reason for us to organize the first re:cord music day which premiered at the re:publica 2015 last week. On the third and last day of the digital conference, on 7th May 2015, the discussion revolved around big data, streaming services, open source and more. For everyone who could not be present, we made a short summary. Would you like to listen to the talks again? Our partner Voice Republic has made all sessions available as an audio podcast here.
Rainer Henze was the first to speak. In his talk "The UX of Music", he advocated an open source music system which offers a customizable user interface and works with open meta data. According to Henze, this is the only way that a user experience of digital music will once again be appreciated by enthusiasts. At present, current streaming services look like "Excel spreadsheets" which have little to do with a love for music.
The presentation that followed, "Pop will eat itself" by Georg Martin Butz, revealed illuminating insights. The fundamental question of the talk was "Is everything a remix?" Here, Butz hinted at "making music with music" which played a role in every period and tradition. There are, for example, parallels in different pieces from different eras; a choir of monks may eventually find itself in a Hollywood soundtrack. Butz, a freelance writer for radio programs, had no intention to review 750 years of music history but to show through its development that oftentimes many piece are dismissed as plagiarism too soon.
The panel "Spotify, Deezer and Co. - Why users love streaming services and musicians hate them" was received very well. Lutz Knappmann (deputy editor-in-chief from the süddeutsche.de) debated with Marie-Luise Heimer (Senior Label Relations, Spotify), Michael Bartle (Head of Music, Bayerischer Rundfunk/Zündfunk), Maurice Summen (musician and label operator, Staatsakt) and Florian Drücke (manager, Bundesverband Musikindustrie). Maurice Summen could not imagine how streaming services could equalize sinking sales of CDs. Marie-Luise Heimer noted that the claim to live off the income of streaming is fundamentally wrong but that its income can offer added value to the artist. As an exampe, the Spotify manager named Country pop star Taylor Swift who no longer works together with her streaming provider in order to spread her music. Even though Taylor Swift has 70 million fans on social network Facebook, only 8 million bought her latest record. According to Marie-Luise Heimer, the remaining 62 million fans switched to peer-to-peer network BitTorrent and to the platform YouTube after Swift opted out of Spotify. Now she receives less earnings. Label operator Maurice Summen countered: "Labels profit way more from streaming services than artists."
The re:cord music day continued cheerfully: Kevin Schramm's presentation was very amusing. He talked on how big data changed music and presented his analysis of which artist used the broadest German rap vocabulary. He had done a lot of research beforehand for his talk and conversed with artists, music managers and label operators. He wanted to find out how data was deployed in the music industry. Schramm presented different aspects in the deployment of big data such as the prediction of a song's potential to become a hit. As an example, he cited the app Shazam which recognizes songs and can predict future hits based on the aggregation of all requests. So how does big data change music? Artists are discovered quicker and therefor may have less time to develop. Also, music may become more plain because the software can meticulously determine at which point of the song the user stops listening.
In her keynote speech, Michaela Magas, founder of the "Music Tech Fest" in Stockholm demanded that "copyright in the music industry must be loosened". Only then will a real chance for new business models in this field become possible. Loosening the copyright would also awaken the interest of "gunks" (punks and geeks) who as creative tinkerers enjoy experimenting and discovering. In the last few years, this form of innovation in the classic music industry has ceased to exist, she says.
The grand finale of the first re:cord music day at the re:publica 2015was the Schlagerlyrik-Gala with Italo Pop. There was Bingo and singing as Ramazotti, Lambrusco and Tequila were handed out to the audience. The listeners outdid one another in donations to obtain the original CD single "Eins, Zwei, Polizei" from the 1990s dance project "Mo-Do". The profits went to the "Lampedusa" project from Hamburg and the show was accompanied by the Berlin italo pop band "ITACA".
This was a great premier for the re:cord music day which will definitely not be the last one at re:publica! The audience and the speakers were all extremely enthusiastic. But that was merely a prelude to the many interesting topics and presenters. There's a lot more to come – we are looking forward to #rp16!
photo creadit top image: re:publica/Gregor Fischer (CC BY-SA 2.0)