The Music & Technology Truce
[Following is a transcript of Recording Academy President Neil Portnow's remarks at the GRAMMYs on the Hill event in Washington, D.C., Sept. 6.]
Good evening. It's a pleasure to be back in Washington among so many friends from our music and congressional communities. A number of us have the opportunity to gather together at music events throughout the year. But for many, this first week in September is a sort of annual "reunion," at which we can catch up on the year just passed.
And what a year it was.
The last 12 months have seen great achievements (such as the industry's settlement with Kazaa) and challenges (such as a dispute with one of our most promising partners —satellite radio). But regardless of the result on any issue our music community faced, one theme has consistently emerged. We have seen it referenced in the media, in our industry, and even in Congress. That theme, as Business Week put it, is "the collision of technology and intellectual property."
Rhetoric on both sides too often tends toward the extreme or simplistic. A recent consumer electronics publication wrote that the music industry is asking Congress to restrict innovation and consumer choice. An inflammatory cliché no doubt, as all we seek is compensation for our members when their music is used. But as clichéd as those comments about us can be, quotes from the music community have painted the tech community with equally broad — and simple — brush strokes.
Within The Recording Academy, one segment that most clearly sees the irrationality of this "collision of technology and intellectual property" is our Producers & Engineers Wing. This community of leading studio professionals includes many musicians who are simultaneously copyright owners, music creators and technologists. They push musical boundaries and technological boundaries, and they comfortably exist in both worlds of content and innovation.
Perhaps we have something to learn from them.
After all, artists, songwriters and all music professionals have a stake in advancing technology. We need it to capture the live or studio performance, and we need it to deliver our music to fans in convenient and engaging ways.
And naturally, the tech community needs — in fact requires — us as well. It is music that drives consumer demand for music devices, not vice versa. And ironically, the tech community's very own foundation lies in intellectual property; they protect their patents and trademarks with vigor, but then tell us we are being anti-consumer when we seek to protect music copyrights.
So how did these two mutually dependent industries become entangled in what author Howard Rheingold called, "the war over innovation?" Or more importantly, how can we become disentangled?
Well, if we really are in the midst of a war over innovation, then it is time for a truce. A Music & Technology Truce.
Tonight, I am asking leaders from our Producers & Engineers Wing to be the frontline ambassadors in this effort. The Wing consists of tech-savvy music people who are already actively involved in bridging the gap through numerous programs, such as their enlightening roundtable at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.
This Music & Technology Truce will not be easy, and no one should expect an immediate end to litigation or legislation. But there are three steps we can take immediately to increase the harmony of our two industries.
First, reduce the rhetoric. How many times have you heard that we in the music community are "anti-consumer?" Or "anti-innovation?" How many times have we accused technology companies of being "anti-copyright?" Or of "stealing our music?"
Now I realize we live in a world of soundbites, and this type of posturing is par for the course. But we can go a long way by agreeing to tone down the verbal divisiveness.
Second, increase direct communication. For the most part, our two industries communicate with each other through the media, or on opposite sides of a negotiating table. There is a better way. For example, this past year, the RIAA and NMPA participated in the consumer electronics show, finding common ground with CEA by sponsoring a legal downloading area of the show. This sets a great example for all of us, as do the productive negotiations currently underway between the Digital Media Association, publishers and other stakeholders on copyright reform. To take this type of interaction further, The Recording Academy will host leaders of our industry and leaders of the tech industry at a music and technology summit, and we look forward to having the same type of constructive dialogue with the technology community that we have within our own Music CEO summits.
And finally — perhaps most importantly — the voices of artists and songwriters must be present in all discussions and negotiations with technology companies. We all understand that copyright owners have the ultimate authority to negotiate on behalf of the music creators they represent. But it will serve all our interests to ensure that artists and songwriters are informed of and included in those discussions. As current negotiations continue — with broadcasters, satellite services, and others — I encourage all parties to include the creator's perspective at the table. This inclusiveness can only serve to help the process — and remind the parties who we all really work for.
These three steps — reducing the rhetoric, increasing communication, and including the creators' voices — may sound simple, but the Music & Technology Truce can only be implemented if both sides are willing to end the battle and work toward cooperation. We all know that the next five years will set in motion new policies and business models that will guide our industry for decades to come. How we approach building the new music world is up to us all. The technology and music industries can continue the quote-endquote war, with each playing a zero-sum game in which one side must win and one must lose. Or, we can work together toward an environment in which we all can win. An environment in which artists, songwriters, producers and engineers can rely on both a music industry that works to develop talent and promote the music to the widest possible audience — and a technology industry that works to develop new and efficient models of distribution that respect creators' rights.
I thank our Producers & Engineers Wing for accepting this challenge to bridge our two industries, and I challenge all of us to prove that we can be both pro-copyright and pro-technology. Let the truce begin.