Keynote In Vancouver


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  • good afternoon.

    today I want to talk about change. specifically technological change and its impact on the music business
  • Ethan Kaplan
    30 years old
    live in Burbank

  • i run the technology department at warner bros records
    i was in newspapers from 1994 to 2001
    i got an mfa at UCSB in between
    huge REM fan
    a geek (if I wanted I could shut all the lights off in my house right now from here, but it’d irritate my wife)
    a fan in the truest sense, just managed to get a job being one
  • I run a department with these philosophies.

    We believe in small pieces, loosely joined, and that the best technology is technology made together.

    However I’m not going to talk about technology in use, but more in theory.
  • music used to be linear. put a record out, get into stores, rinse repeat
    a pretty easy process. company was lots of promo, radio, marketing, tour people
    lots of parties and offsites
    now complex
  • talking to a million people....only to one, or one to a million
    emperor without an empire because we can’t tell where it is
    audience disengaging and fragmenting, we end up chasing
    chasing from platform to platform, tool to tool.

    industry is in in the ending state of panic, no approach to the change...
    best approach to change - a boat slowly being pulled in. but how?
  • not a simple world.
    its complex, can’t take any given thing (media, event) and trace back to one definable part.

    no motivation->action->reaction distinctions. everything is everything. flattened.
  • everything is complex. entangled.
    small scale events can become large scale, large scale can mean nothing.
    fractal state of being. micro-sphere of influences (twitter, etc)
    does not reward reaction without thought.
  • technology has created this.
    reduces things down to being the same (binary), onus only on representation
    has no fundamental concept of scale.
    big is small, small is big....

  • interesting point in history
    externalization of product of humans exceeds the ability of the cumulative intellect to process
    delegation toward technology to reduce noise to math, process and let us make sense
    determinism and probabilism are mutually dependent but not exclusive. they collide (air port security, etc)
  • difficult word for businesses rooted in primal sensory inputs (art, music)
    music is personal, not math

    business of music is effected by post-info tech

    technology converges while music (reverse bable), speech, etc diverge. an uneasy exchange

    technology reduces the primacy of the artifact. quality is sampling, etc. music has always been dependent on that. (song, album, bar, beat, movement)

    how do we reconcile the need for hegemony to protect the concept of an atomic artifact with the tendency of tech to reduce and converge?

    how do we make Music with a capital M when technology reduces everything to 0’s and 1’s
  • media used to be dependent on hegemony and top down power
    no longer the case
    people in a circuitous relationship with those that with those that attempt to define our relationship with the world
  • these circular reactions happen at such a small scale that the patterns that used to take years take minutes.
    no institutional memory in culture. cultural movements (punk, post-structuralism, dada) play out daily. the latest meme.
  • the role of the artist is as much a part of our lives, even more so with much more access
    no single point of entry or exit to the relationship.

    relationships are not predicated on any controlled entry, or fulfilled by a controlled exit

    relationship is all there is, shallow. monetization is secondary toward maintenance.
    maintenance involves the infection of all media possible.
  • not enough to create a relationship or devotion.

    to translate to investment you have to take interest (passive) toward active relationship which rises above transactional maintenance.

    you can’t just lead toward the purchase, the relationship (on going) replaces a single transaction.
  • what technology altered was that the relationship is through computer mediated communication

    informed by the abundance of discourse that is both the cause and the product of the relationship. a level playing field.

    CMC provides a universal filter with a unified ontological space.

    Means marketing vs. spectatorship, advertising vs. editorial, professional and amateur: all the same ontological foundation.

    the difference is a matter of perception rather than actualization

  • So given all of these predicates, and after four years in the music business, six in newspapers... where I’ve seen what’s happening.....

    Can’t rely on cacophony marketing, can’t be hasty or reactionary

    Came up with these adages after looking at obama campaign, apple, advertising and media. And mistakes.

  • So given all of these predicates, and after four years in the music business, six in newspapers... where I’ve seen what’s happening.....

    Can’t rely on cacophony marketing, can’t be hasty or reactionary

    Came up with these adages after looking at obama campaign, apple, advertising and media. And mistakes.

  • So given all of these predicates, and after four years in the music business, six in newspapers... where I’ve seen what’s happening.....

    Can’t rely on cacophony marketing, can’t be hasty or reactionary

    Came up with these adages after looking at obama campaign, apple, advertising and media. And mistakes.

  • So given all of these predicates, and after four years in the music business, six in newspapers... where I’ve seen what’s happening.....

    Can’t rely on cacophony marketing, can’t be hasty or reactionary

    Came up with these adages after looking at obama campaign, apple, advertising and media. And mistakes.

  • Deliberation....

    technology will change, not expected

    technology is the great leveler.. takes edge cases, makes them less edge.
    makes it easier to do things

    tech minimizes the distance between producer and consumer

    reducing the hierarchies imposes no formal difference between consumer and producer

    onus of representation moves to those that produce to the consumer
    movie on iphone vs. theater

    innovation will happen and has to happen

    the difference is how you react to them. panic or deliberation?
    disruptive tech are scary and forces those with comfort to panic
    like waking up and your home is different
    do you bump into walls and flail, or find the light switch?

    music industry = panic. deliberation is a new behavior.

  • leads to adaptability.

    go with the flow.... something industries in seismic shifts never do proper

    too little reaction, too much, too late, too little or too much deliberation. the balance is difficult.

    Example - newspapers. 1994, 1997.

    Record companies: exist to nurture talent and create a market
    Invest in the belief that music can change people, and be a valid commercial product.

    We have had to reinvent in 3 years.
    What we do doesn’t change, but how we apply the basics of what we do will change constantly

    Worst mistake one could make of constant change is to loose the core of what makes your business tick

    Record companies can’t loose site of what they are and the ultimate goal:
    to make others feel the same about we are passionate about, and want to invest in them as much as we do.

    At the same time, we can’t loose site of what consumers want from us, we can’t make them the enemy.

    the only way to adapt is to innovate in mutually beneficial ways and listen to the drive for innovation from those that need it.
  • the web caught newspapers by surprise, like ethernet did in colleges
    newspapers - loss of hegemonic control and no clear path to $

    tell story about new directions for news and dave winer

    Reaction of newspapers - make it harder to read!

    in the music biz, every day is something unexpected
    any tech that can play an audio file is disruptive.
    a history of missteps in response

    no change happens without moving into an area that is rooted in the here and now
    changes move things forward, unexpected serve to complicate
    reasonable and measured reactions to disruptions become deterministic in the end

    changes BENEFIT when approached without flippant reaction
  • but this is not an easy world.
    gets bigger as it gets smaller, and smaller as it gets bigger. global and hyperlocal

    making things work is a challenge. contradictions.

    the easier it is to communicate, the harder it is to be heard.

    the flatter the hierarchies, the harder it is to elevate to impose rather than just expose
    always has to be room for imposition

    easy to talk to 1000000, but might be only talking to 1, that 1 could be a business, but is it?
    the illusion of influence is often at odds with the reality, which is difficult to actually measure

    building a business is difficult..
    infinite ways to enter the web, but at the end is always a human, no matter how algorithmic their ontology

    the needs for contact, culture, etc are as prescient as ever
    the difference is inversion of the importance of the aesthetic with the pragmatic

    pragmatic . given infinite choices of pragmatic fulfillment, we go with the one that makes us feel best (apple, etc)

    we subjugate the pragmatic under the pleasure. we can drive any car, but we choose the one that makes us happy.


    with pragmatic to the default, aesthetic is differentiating.
    tech is freeing creatively. combined: ART becomes the pragmatic.
    can’t mire ourselves in chasing modes, and instead new means.

    end of the day, sound is sound, but what people feel through it and other media is infinite and amazing. focus on that.
  • in the end, people still hear, people see and people feel.

    the core of what we do as a business has not fundamentally changed really.

    someone saw talent, someone saw a way to exploit that to expose it.
  • what happened is that when there was an explosion of ways to transmit, receive and reproduce content. people panicked.

    we panicked over the loss of control, and in the mix, forgot what it is we are actually supposed to do. what people want us to do.

    people still remember what it was like to discover something and be moved by it.
    our role should be letting that happen.

    I remember the first time I heard R.E.M., patti smith, talking heads etc. I have Ian Copeland, Clive Davis and Seymour Stein to thank for that.
    we need more ian copelands, clive davis’ and seymour stein’s

  • newspapers tried to hold on to the medium while loosing the media and the message to those they derided

    over taken by people they hated

    they are novelty acts
  • we don’t want music to be a novelty.

    to do so the industry must wake up to what it really should be

    reduce it back to the art, back to the fundamentals of what makes us stand up and listen and makes us want others to do the same.

    anything we do with technology, marketing, etc needs to be rooted around that fact.
  • the reality is, technology wont’ slow down

    for every step of prediction there are kilometers ahead of chaos

    you can’t predict the results of infinite possibilities
    2 months, 2 days, 2 years: things will fundementally change

    Only effect your reaction to it.

  • Keynote In Vancouver

    1. 1. change is what I believe in or a general overview of how the music business is reacting (or not reacting) to technology and a world in motion
    2. 2. who I am
    3. 3. • Vice President, Technology, Warner Bros. Records • Formerly in newspapers • MFA from UC Santa Barbara • Run an R.E.M. fan-site for 13 years • Geek • Fan
    4. 4. • Open source • Transparency • Collaboration • Innovation • Agile • Fast to fail, fast to build
    5. 5. the music industry
    6. 6. million : 1 :: 1 : million
    7. 7. there is no edge, there is no center
    8. 8. complexity
    9. 9. complexity through technology
    10. 10. where we are
    11. 11. music and math is “like” a number?
    12. 12. top down vs. side to side
    13. 13. institutional cultural memory
    14. 14. cycle of the musician - waiting, performing, writing cycle of the fan - twitter, twitter, twitter
    15. 15. relationships and investments
    16. 16. say something once, please say it again
    17. 17. 2009 Adages
    18. 18. 2009 Adages • Deliberate
    19. 19. 2009 Adages • Deliberate • Adaptable
    20. 20. 2009 Adages • Deliberate • Adaptable • Measured
    21. 21. 2009 Adages • Deliberate • Adaptable • Measured • Determined
    22. 22. deliberation
    23. 23. adaptability
    24. 24. measured approach
    25. 25. determination
    26. 26. music will provide the light you can not resist
    27. 27. the followers of chaos, out of control
    28. 28. the paper wouldn’t lie, wisdom got lost to mankind
    29. 29. this song is here to keep you strong
    30. 30. don’t panic
    31. 31. skype/aim/gtalk: ethankap all photos by ethan kaplan
    32. 32. QA