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Digital Thought Leaders @ MusicTech

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Copyright Panel

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Audience @ Copyright Panel

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Tech Talk

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Tech Talk

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Paul Lamere

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Search Inside the Music

Today I attended the SanFran MusicTech Summit. The name says it all: this conference brings together technologists, musicians and business people to discuss trends and challenges at the intersection of music and technology. What follows is a brief run down of the highlights of the talks I was able to attend. I haven’t had much time to digest any of the talks, so there isn’t much insight here – just the interesting tidbits as I saw them.

Legal Issues in Searching, Linking & Blogging

Panelists: Howie Cockrill, Esq (BEAT LAW), Andrew Bridges, Esq (Winston & Strawn), Mark Palermo, Esp (ASCAP). Moderated by Joe Gratz, Esq (Keker & Van Nest)

The twenty minutes I spent in this talk made me super super stoked I didn’t chose law as a career. The talk focused on the nitty gritty details of the legal implications involved in maintaining music blogs – interesting from an intellectual perspective, but rather mundane in implementation.

Digital Thought Leaders

Panelists: Michael Petricone (Consumer Electronics), Ty Roberts (Gracenote), Tim Westergren (Pandora), Aza Raskin (Mozilla). Moderated by Brian Zisk (SF Music Tech)

Aza Raskin had some great comments on the need for better utilities for search and discovery of music (I think, I didn’t take notes).

Tim Westergren made some interesting observations about how musicians might better take advantage of the new music landscape. He suggested bands might add a member whose sole responsibility was to deal with the emerging technological aspects of the band – blogging, marketing, promotion, and all the various social networks and publishing channels now available. “The 5th Beatle” he called it.

There was a great question asked by an audience member regarding music metadata, and why Gracenote feels entitled to build a business model off other peoples’ data. Ty Roberts effectively brushed off the question, but it does raise the ongoing question of why this kind of data should be proprietary to begin with, and if it is proprietary, why a third party could own it. There were also some interesting points made on the problem of the metadata standards and normalization. While it wasn’t explicitly raised, the MusicBrainz model provides a very compelling counter model to Gracenote: At its core it is an open source, user moderated, better designed alternative to Gracenote.


Copyright Issues in Music Law

Panelists: Richard Idell, Esq. (Idell Seitel), Fred Von Lohmann, Esq. (EFF), Zahavah Levine, Esq. (YouTube), Maia Spilman, Esq. (INgrooves). Moderated by Whitney Broussard, Esq.

This was a great talk about the challenges of building a business given the terribly murky legal issues surrounding music distribution. It was nice to hear some of the newer problems arising in this space, particularly around the differences between purely audio tracks (like MP3s) and audio visual works, which have entirely different licensing requirements.

I really enjoyed listening to YouTube’s counsel discuss some of the ridiculous requirements and challenges she confronts trying to be sure YouTube’s content is legitimate and rights holders are compensated.

I don’t always agree with the EFF, particularly on the music/copyright issues, but this was one of the better talks I’ve seen Fred give over the years. There are clearly some new emerging problems at the intersection of music & technology, and he was a great advocate for the little guy and the disruptive technologies that make this intersection of music and technology so interesting. I left with a much greater appreciation for the value that EFF contributes in this particular arena. They are very good at thinking about, advocating for and articulating the problems that other lawyers, technologists and the “in” businesses might not care about or think about. Overall a great panel, with some good Q & A afterward as well.

Tech Talk

Panelists: Tom Conrad (Pandora), Marc Urbaitel (In Ticketing), Not Ethan Kaplan (Warner Bros.), Jack Moffit (Chesspark / Xiph), Jeremy Riney (Playlist.com). Moderated by Colin Brummelle (Rilli).

This was basically just serious music tech geek goodness. All the panelists talked about the technology behind their sites. Most were fairly straightforward, Drupal or other PHP implementations. An interesting conversation on Amazon’s EC2 cloud computing app and S3. On balance, Tom Conrad’s discussion of what Pandora’s tech stack took the cake. Their challenges and subsequent solutions are truly unique and worthy of more discussion. Tom did a great job of describing their infrastructure and the numerous challenges of storing a serving up a complicated set of music, playlists and recommendations all in a dynamic, highly scalable, high availability environment. Pandora’s technology: Java, Postgres, C, and Flash for the front end, among other technologies. In another life I’d work on their backend systems.

Individual Presentations

Presenters: Paul Lamere (Sun Labs – Search Inside The Music), Mike Troiano (Matchmine), Paul Anthony (Rumblefish), David Gratton (Project Opus).

I was eager to hear Paul’s talk on the Search Inside the Music project, as this is an area I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about. His lab at Sun is doing some really promising work in making use of audio data to power visualizations and recommendation engines. His talk covered the basics on the SITM features, as well as some of the future directions the project may go in. Most exciting was his statement that this technology will be open sourced and available by September. This folds in wonderfully with my research needs. The rest of the presenters were interesting as well, although I had to leave.

There’s a lot more to talk about and see here. For more info, check out the sfmusictech tag on Flickr & Twitter, and the sites of the people who presented.

Major thanks to Brian and Shoshana Zisk for putting this together!