How do you catch Craig Finn, Damian Kulash, and T. Bone Burnett all in the same day without getting overpowered by the B.O. of thousands of sweaty music-fest attendees? You put on your sport coat, grab your laptop, and head to The Future of Music Coalition’s annual summit in D.C., of course. At least, that’s what I did.
If the fate of an entire art form sounds like a tough topic to adequately address, it is, but the conference provides a solid platform for policymakers, entrepreneurs, musicians, and managers to talk about their latest gadgets, gripes, and tangentially related celebrity anecdotes. From what I gathered at the various panels I caught, the future of music looks a lot like the present, with slightly less downloading, a lot more streaming (especially if Spotify makes it to the States), and no way to replicate that magic era of the compact disc. Social media and digital distribution have replaced most of the traditional functions of a record label, except that coveted financial start-up capital and the still-useful curatorial stamp of approval. Business is rough but not impossible. Bands that write really great music and work really hard still have the best shot at making a living. These are not revelations, especially for the folks who follow this stuff seriously enough to go to a conference about it, but getting individual takes from panelists deep into their respective fields still makes for a stimulating discussion