Our intrepid reporter offers up more compelling CMJ panel coverage from the wild, untamed conference rooms of NYU’s Kimmel Center. In this installment, he listens in as Pere Ubu’s David Thomas leads a spirited discussion on the “Masonic craft” of music, and whether the fruits of said craft have become devalued.
Panel 1 – Oct. 18, 11:45 a.m.
Has the availability of affordable recording equipment and the permeation of the Internet devalued music? Do the benefits outweigh the costs? This panel is an exploration of how technology has changed the core value of musical content.
Well, this came out as the most enjoyable panel I’ve been in so far, but that should be expected from any panel in which Pere Ubu’s David Thomas serves as moderator. On the panel were Anthony Batt of Buzznet, Bob George from the Archive of Contemporary Music, Marcy Wagman of MAD Dragon, and “Steve,” the GM of Domino US, in a last-minute, pulled-from-the-audience substitution for slated panelist Adam Farrell of Matador/Beggars.
Bob George opened up the panel with a 10-minute historical timeline of recorded music since its birth (back in ’77 (that’s 1877)), cued by David Thomas’ lead-in statement, “Music is a Masonic craft…[and]…Edison is the father of Rock & Roll.”
After the history lesson, Thomas took immediate control of the proceedings, and emphatically tore loose with some of the brilliant pre-written mini-dissertations he had prepared (there were some real gems there– and dammit, I wish I could’ve typed fast enough to get some of ‘em down for you). A rhythm eventually settled over the panel: Panelist says something, Thomas vehemently disagrees with said statement, then moves onto his next (exceedingly entertaining) prepared response.
At the heart of the whole “disposable” debate here was the question of whether or not new technologies, coupled with music’s new ubiquity (and also the new contexts in which it’s used) have devalued music, and sort of “brought it down” culturally. In the end, there was no clear, simple consensus amongst the panel (“things aren’t necessarily ‘bad’ now; they’re just ‘different’”/”the ubiquity of the music is acutally a good thing”/”I’ve always said the solution to this whole problem is to forbid teenage girls from buying music”), but I can say that some healthy debate ensued here, and I’d certainly like to see this topic taken further in places like, oh, yer blogs, and yer ILMs, and yer Idolator comment sections, for example.
Oh, and aside from that “teenage girls” comment above, I did manage to get just one other Thomas quote down… it’s a prescription for how to combat this slide toward the disposable, I believe:
“Fuck the audience. Fuck the artist. Preserve the art.”
Panel 2 – Thursday, October 18, 2:30 p.m.
The New A&R
Music supervisors, bloggers and international music fans are beginning to replace the traditional label-based A&R system. This panel explores the new ways in which artists are being discovered and includes discussions about advertising agency A&R, commercial placement of music and the nuances of Internet buzz.
You know those situations where you get lured in by a promise of something really desirable, but when you actually get there, it turns out to be some sort of pitch for, like, a time-share or a pyramid scheme? That’s what this panel felt like. It didn’t “explore the new ways” so much as it provided 15 minutes for each of the panelists to pitch the business or service they represented.