A Digital Conversion

Ex-music industry exex praise online distrib'n

SAN DIEGO — Dubbed the “Benedict Arnold” panel by some, a slew of former music industry execs defended their dot-commie conversion at the MP3 Summit on Wednesday.

The standing-room-only aud that attended the panel was wholeheartedly supportive and cheered almost every time the traditional music industry was attacked.

Geoff Siegel, a former A&R exec at Giant Records who recently left a post at EMusic.com, said that progress is the name of the game at dot-coms — a feeling he didn’t get when he was with the traditional industry.

“This industry is going to change, but right now in my life I’d rather be part of the Wild West. The major labels are like the Smithsonian to me,” Siegel said.

This clarity of communications — and the stock options — give people employed in online music delivery a push to succeed and a love of the work that faded in the traditional industry, said Ray Santamaria, a former exec with Interscope and now with Scour.Net.

Moderator Joe Fleischer, a former senior editor at Hits magazine who is now an exec at MP3.com and is charged with introducing the Internet company to major music labels, said the process “was like explaining a sundial to a bat.”

During other events held on the final day of the digital music chatfest at UC San Diego, there was even a glimpse of a music industry future where copyright law is nonexistent.

“I don’t think the terminology of theft and the terminology of piracy is really appropriate for sharing music,” said Ian Clarke, 23, founder of FreeNet, an anonymous-file-swapping network. “I’m much more concerned about the artists than the music industry itself. If you’re selling water in the desert and it starts to rain, you need to find a new business model.”

Although he declined to give specifics, Clarke said he is working on Upriser, a program he hopes will serve as a digital music distribution system that is an alternative to Napster and Gnutella.

“If you actually talk to musicians, very, very few are getting a good deal from copyright,” Clarke said. “I would challenge the fact that musicians are well served with the current distribution mechanism in place. I think almost any change would be for the better.”

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