The SanFran MusicTech Summit is on today. This event is fast becoming an important hub of conversation about the state of the digital music business.
I'm covering the event for ReadWriteWeb, primarily looking at the overall impacts that policy developments and the economy are having on the music industry. But also how these forces may affect the underpinning structure of the industry and the artists who create the music. I'll be shooting video, too, interviewing speakers and conference participants. To kick off our coverage, here are five important online music biz people we plan to track down at the conference...
Tim Westergren, Pandora founder: Pandora laid off 20 people last week, reducing by 14 percent the total number of employees. Pandora is considered as one of the brightest stars among start ups in the digital music industry and so its layoffs have greater significance.
This startup depends on advertising revenue. With the recession underway, the revenue picture is unclear. Tim is here to discuss policy issues, one he is quite familiar with. Westergren became the defacto spokesperson in the long running battle in Congress over webcasting royalty rates.
Discussion point: What's the next hurdle for Pandora in the public policy debate about webcasting rates?
Josh Brooks, vice president of MySpace Music. The jury is out on the MySpace venture with the big labels. Last week, MySpace Music scrapped its equity deal with the labels. The labels had hoped for a big payday with that equity stake. They're now looking at an advertising share, which is a big question mark considering how much the market appears to be slowing. Josh is being pretty mum about how thing are going at MySpace Music.
Discussion point: Some have criticized that independent labels are being treated as second tier citizens by MySpace Music. Additionally, there had been some expectation that the indie artists would receive an equity stake much like the big labels were going to receive. What now?
Derek Slater, Google: Derek works in public policy at Google. Slater is formerly with the Berkman Center.
Discussion point: Google's public policy strategies and how it relates to the new platforms in development by music technology companies.
Gary Greenstein, Wilson Sonsini: Greenstein is a former attorney with the RIAA. He played a major role in establishing webcast rates when he worked with Sound Exchange.
Discussion point: How does Greenstein see licensing models changing and what are his views on the RIAA position concerning "making available."
Ethan Kaplan, Warner Bros Records: Ethan began his career in the music industry developing a fan web site for REM. The band hired Ethan to develop its web presence. Ethan is now vice president of technology at Warner Bros. Ethan is a huge advocate for open source. He has created a Drupal network for artists on the Warner labels.
Discussion point: What is the state of open source development in the music industry?
We have a few more people we plan to talk with here at the conference. We'll be back this afternoon. In the meantime, leave us your comments and perhaps questions for the 5 people listed above.