Berklee Online prepares for a back-to-school entrepreneurial jamboree on Wednesday, August 28 with music business entrepreneur Peter Gotcher (founder of Digidesign, chairman of Topsin & Dolby) and Berklee President Roger Brown for a 'musician-focused' conversation on the 'state of the music industry'. The half-hour online event is free of charge and open to all registered users.
So where should the discussion begin? If the song (or the composition) is the core of the music business, one would presume that it should harbor a healthy base for the entire industry to stand on. The evidence suggests otherwise; songwriting is the least lucrative small business in the U.S. and the current copyright laws have a lot to do with this fact. How can this be addressed from an entrepreneurial, legal and technological standpoint?
Billboard continues to report on the current legal battles between a deceased music legend, his inheritors and current hit-makers like Robin Thicke, T.I. and Pharrell. Marvin Gaye's Got To Give It Up and the Robin Thicke song Blurred Lines are being compared for a possible copyright infringement lawsuit. Many expensive public lawsuits have plagued the already struggling music industry for decades and although the intellectual property rights have to be protected, they are only as valid as the health of the creative industry they were meant to support.
The current Robin Thicke case is unlikely to be in favor of Marvin Gaye's publishing inheritors; simply because the difference (and the distance) between the two songs imply a gravitation towards banking on an 'influence' that may have shaped a song's composition. The flawed copyright system is by no means derived from an exact science; the music industry has to come up with a better synergistic (and realistic) approach to copyrights.
Being one of the few exigent industries that actually sued its own (young) clients when the digital file-sharing craze emerged (remember Napster?), the music industry's inability to adapt to technological developments, its underestimation of musicians in legal matters and its greedy leveraging of catalog that led to a global licensing chaos have to be acknowledged.
Suggestions? Johanna Blakely suggests a peek at the fashionistas. Some may call it a frivilous industry but we cannot overlook fashion industry's financial success. The sagacious fashion world thrives on creative influence and has no copyright protection; the courts decided long ago that individual designs cannot be copyrighted, yet brand names can (and should) be registered. This led to a broad understanding, discussion and application of design marketing. It generated an open platform where the lesser creatives were exposed in editorials, reviews and industry sales trends. The brand names banked on hard-to-replicate innovation and memorable designs, while being able to financially support talented designers with their crews. As they were told by the courts, it would be too broad a definition to copyright the 'skirt' or the 'color red'. Musical texture is an 'audio color' and it must be used sparingly; but freely.
Berklee Online Event: The State Of The Music Industry
Wednesday August 28 at 4:00 p.m. ET.
To register for the free online event, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org