Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Music and Podcasting

Had lunch yesterday with Ben London, exec director of The Recording Academy in the Pacific Northwest. Don't know what The Recording Academy is? They are the group that produces The Grammy Awards. Besides the Grammys they do a lot of outreach with local artists and schools, promote music, etc.

Ben and I had a lengthy discussion about music and podcasting. We were fixated on a couple themes. First, how can podcasting help independent bands distribute their music and "get discovered." Second, how does one ensure that podcasts don't lead to pirated music. Needless to say both are topics that are starting to get more attention as the intersection between music and podcasting becomes more pronounced.

To the first point, podcasts are becoming a leading method for independent bands to distribute music and get noticed. Events like Podcast Hotel are dedicated to this effort. One of the things Ben told me is that the Recording Academy is looking hard at how they can bring their influence to bear on this topic. While it feels like a bit of an oxymoron to have an industry player behind a fiercely independent music push, I think this is what it's going to take to drive independent music and the convergence with podcasting. Remember that lots of these bands don't have the resources to get into podcasting.

Podcasting and music piracy is a thornier issue. There's no question that there is pirated music in podcasts today. I posted on DRM and podcasts last week. Currently the major labels are choosing to look the other way in many cases for a couple reasons. First, the music is mostly in the background. Second, the quality isn't good enough to prompt someone to pirate it. But that's going to change, and when it does the labels are going to get involved. I think an umbrella organization like the Recording Academy can help get ahead of this issue by developing a position on what podasters need to do in order to be sure the music they use is legal, and by working the labels to take a stand that is different from the hardnosed, all or nothing position they have today. Personally I believe an artist should be paid for their work, but would hate to see the same narrow-minded approach that the labels use in the current online world continue.

Have no doubt - music and podcasting is converging and I think that's a very cool thing. I'm happy to be part of it. I hope we've all learned something from the mistakes and missteps that we've seen these past few years to get it right this time.

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