The “L” in DLD stands for “Life”. And what is life without music? Yet, one of the most powerful aspects of our culture was well on the road to ruin at the start of the digital revolution. Rampant, unchecked piracy raised the spectre of a decimated industry. Artists were no longer certain of being able to make a living from their work.
With the rise of paid-for music services over the last decade, things have changed dramatically. But there is so much more that can be done. The new web isn’t just a place to sell music but an opportunity to find new fans, engage old ones and create a whole community based around music. That was the message of this afternoon’s session, entitled “Communities and Entertainment”.
Ilya Buts, Billboard Russia’s editor, put it best: “Facebook has become a working tool for people in the media industry. Acts now have much more of a chance to break through. Newcomers have been on the first terrestrial channel in Russia, which used to be a very conservative medium. Earlier, it would take artists 10-15 years to get there.”
Moderated by Benjamin Costantini of Reed Midem, the discussion was a rich multimedia experience. As each speaker said his piece, DJ Spooky, who was also on the panel, brought up their videos or homepages on the giant screen behind them. A wall of light illuminated the faces of the audience as they listened to Matt Michelsen talk about The Backplane, his new social network. Mr Michelsen is an old friend of DLD, having presented the idea for The Backplane earlier this year at DLD Munich. It is easy to see the progress in those few months. Backed by Google and Lady Gaga, the platform builds upon existing networks such as Twitter and Facebook. Users upload images, vote them up and down, and share their stuff on other networks. They can create communities, buy gig tickets and engage interest-groups both large and small.
The power of communities in borne out in Lady Gaga’s engagement with her fans, called Little Monsters. Mr Michelsen played a video made up of user submissions. The team received 80,000 entries within 24 hours of their announcement.
DJ Spooky approaches the internet from a slightly different angle. He sees it as a rich source of inspiration. “You can make music out of the connections people have with other people. Any data set can be a sample,” he said. The archive has become shareable he said, pointing out that at one time your music collection was inextricably tied to physical artefacts – records, CDs, cassette tapes. Now, your relationship with music is much more intangible. In a sense, he said, the app cover is the record cover of old. It is the only thing tying you to the experience.
Mr Buts, on the other hand, was much more practical about the effects of communities on entertainment. They are the bellweather for change and it would be silly to ignore them. “Anything that is a hit on Facebook today will be on older media tomorrow,” he said.