MP3 summit upbeat

Artist warns: Beware the major labels

SAN DIEGO — MP3.com CEO Michael Robertson opened the MP3 Summit on Tuesday by declaring the “digital music space has been through its darkest hour.”

But despite the recent settlement of lawsuits and the legal steps being taken to prevent piracy, panelists following Robertson’s upbeat keynote said that the complicated dynamic among music labels, artists and Internet music companies is still far from being clarified.

What form the next generation of digital music will take was debated among the 1,500 attending the confab, which runs through today at UC San Diego.

Celestial jukebox

Panelists spoke of a celestial jukebox, where Netizens can download any music anytime and anywhere — all within the boundaries of copyright law.

“The Internet is supposed to be a medium of efficiency,” said Richard Conlon, veepee of business development at BMI. “Sites we’ve teamed with can tally all of their songs, and even it’s just a fraction of a cent, that money is going to go to the right people.”

Artists, on the other hand, claimed that the major problem is not between the talent and Internet companies — it’s how the major labels are trying to implement their standards in the new media.

“All you Internet companies who think you’re going to go up against the majors: The majors will eat you and destroy you,” warned rapper Ice-T. “They can sue you and make you compromise. Get ready to work for the man again.”

Wider availability

Robertson glossed over the recent settlement among MP3.com, Warner Music Group and BMG, saying that as he envisions it, his company will eventually provide the backbone technology to make digital music available beyond the computer.

“Opening the door to music access is the key to making it ubiquitous,” he said. “I think 12 months from now we’re going to see some really amazing technologies.”

Of course, it wouldn’t be an Internet confab without a bevy of announcements: Netcaster TuneTo.com announced it has teamed with broadband carrier U.S. West to be part of the company’s Online Avenue portal for high-speed Internet users; in addition, Web site CNet bowed its own music portal, which will compete with MP3.com.

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