The Future of Music

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From Tekserve’s email invite:

Special Event: The Future of Music, A Panel Discussion on Where the Music Industry is Headed

The panel will explore a host of music topics: What have we gained, what have we lost? What are we going to hear in the next ten years? What are we going to feel? How will music be sold? How will it be produced? How will it be performed? Prior to the panel discussion, you will hear from Steve Gordon, author of THE FUTURE OF THE MUSIC BUSINESS: How to Succeed with the New Technologies, A Guide for Artists and Entrepreneurs. In addition, you’ll have the chance to pose your own question to the panelists at the end of the discussion.

Moderator of the Discussion: Harry Allen is a famed hip-hop activist and journalist for Vibe, The Source, The Village Voice, and others. As an expert covering hip-hop culture, Harry has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, on National Public Radio, MTV, VH-1, CNN, the BBC, and other information channels.

Here is a list of our panelists:

Bob Power, Award-winning, multi-platinum record producer, mixer, engineer, musician. Credits Include: A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul, Erykah Badu.

Hank Shocklee, Long Island based hip-hop producer. Credits include: Public Enemy, EPMD, Ice Cube.

Nick Sansano, New York-based engineer/producer. Credits include: Public Enemy, Ice Cube, Galactic, Sonic Youth.

Steve Gordon, New York based entertainment attorney, author and lecturer

Below: Mixer Cake

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My Notes:

Steve Gordon’s Presentation on the Future of the Music Business

  • The traditional music biz is in crisis due to digital downloads, Napster and Kazaa, but there are many new opportunities
  • Gross music recording sales are in decline – peaked at $15 billion in 1999, now down to $10 billion in 2006
  • With modern technology, it is now possible to produce a commercial quality album for less than $10,000 and set up a promotional website for only a few hundred dollars.
  • Case study : Assuming that an artist records an album for $15,000. If she sells only 3000 units online through self-distribution, she can start to turn a profit. At a major label, she would have to sell over $15,000 units just to recoup costs, before starting to receive a paltry %3 on each unit sold.
  • iTunes was a step in the right direction. Great deal for Apple – over 90 million iPods sold, but for record labels, digital sales have not compensated for losses in CD sales.
  • Why DRM? Labels for Apple to use it, but Apple uses DRM too. iTunes purchases only play on your computer or on an iPod.
  • New AAC Format (Apple and EMI partnership). Offers higher quality sound at a greater cost. But once again, it only plays on an iPod.

Panelists’ General Observations

  • There has a transfer of power from labels to independent musicians and producers, but not a transfer of money.
  • The business is in crisis, but MUSIC is still good
  • Consumers have a choice now. Need for new curators, gatekeepers and aggregators of content to help music listeners make more informed choices.
  • Just because we have new digital tools doesn’t mean we should use all of them at once. Talent and acquired skills are still needed. One needs to have a firm grasp of musical history and how to arrange. Good, cheap technology does not necessarily translate directly into a great record. But Rock and Roll was born out of doing things wrong.
  • In the new digital age we are still children. We are now free, but how do we take advantage of our new found freedom? Most people don’t know what is means to be free – so most people go back to the plantation.
  • PROMOTION IS KEY! People need to not only promote their own stuff, but cross promote with other artists and producers as well.
  • Currency is viewership and visibility, NOT SALES! Audio and visual elements are even more interconnected than ever.
  • Big expensive studios may still sound a bit better than a home-studio recording, but it doesn’t sound 1 million dollars better.
  • Labels will stay around in one form or another – just as radio did not replace television. Labels still have means to promote and place an artist. Labels still command trust with distributors and media networks. The oldest form of trust is $. Labels are like banks.
  • There is now a lower ramp of entry into the biz. But artists have an even greater responsibility to create their own buzz now.
  • There will be no more superstar artists – only celebrities and good artists.
  • Profits will be more evenly distributed. More variety in the ecosystem, with everyone getting a fairer piece of the pie.
  • Keys to success – REFINEMENT, SKILLS, and LEARNING.
  • MySpace is great, but don’t forget that face-to-face meetings and networking is still important.

Watch the The Future of Music videos on YouTube.

Avaaz G8+5 Climate March – Rostock, Germany

Video slide show of Avaaz.org’s G8+5 Climate March in Rostock, Germany.


The background music is an instrumental piece by Hepnova. The inspiration for the piece came from my travels in the Nordic countries. In the piece, I attempt to evoke the awesome powers of nature, as well as the fragile balance of the polar regions.

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Omakase Dinner at Morimoto NYC (1 June 2007)

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When my family was in New York last week, we dined at Morimoto NYC. Everyone had the Omakase Dinner (Chef’s tasting menu). Here’s what we had and my comments:

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Course #1: Toro (Tuna Belly) Tartare

The toro was delightfully fresh and rich tasting. I loved the little rice cracker balls. They added a nice crunchy textural contrast, and wish there was more of them.

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Course #2: Kampachi Sashimi with Shiitake

The flavor profile of this dish tasted a bit Chinese to me, like the Cantonese steamed fish finished with hot oil on the top. The fish was great, but the sauce and mushrooms were a bit overpowering for the delicate fish. By the way, “Shiitake mushroom” is redundant because “take” means “mushroom” in Japanese.

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Course #3: Microgreen salad, salmon, cranberry beans, asparagus, yogurt mousse and matcha (green tea) dressing

This dish is a winner. It’s visually interesting, with wonderful color contrasts and effective positive use of negative space (small modular elements on an enormous plate). It also perfectly captures the essence of the season and of this time of year – very important in Japanese traditional cuisine.

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Course #4: Kumamoto oysters steamed with foie gras, uni (sea urchin), and teriyaki glaze

Oysters, foie gras, and sea urchin together in one dish is like trying way too hard to be luxury and ending up tacky and nouveau riche. In any case, the teriyaki glaze pretty much covered up the taste of the ingredients anyway. Although presenting the oysters on rock salt mixed with whole spices (cardamom, cloves, peppercorns) was innovative and added to the olfactory interest, this dish just seems like a waste of potentially fabulous ingredients.

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Course #5: Sushi: Chuu-Toro, Tai, Mirugai, Kohada, Amaebi

Fresh ingredients well executed. You can’t mess with tradition here. This one gets an “A”. “A+”s don’t come easy around here 😉

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Course #6: Intermezzo – “Matcha” (Powdered green tea used in tea ceremony) and Coconut Macaroon

This course sounds great conceptually, but failed in execution and ended up gimmicky. The waiters came around with bamboo whisks and performed a mini tea ceremony by whisking the the powdered green tea together with hot water. The green tea was not nearly strong enough to stand up to the super-sweet lingering taste of the coconutty macaroons. The macaroons at Bouley Bakery are much better. The green tea used in a real tea ceremony is supposed to be very thick and bitter to contrast with the sweet. No need to skimp on matcha powder when people are paying over a hundred bucks for an omakase dinner!

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Course #7: Garam Masala Encrusted Lobster with Lemon Foam

Finally, the Iron Chef hits a home run! I wanted to lick and suck every crevice of that lobster carcass clean. Clearly pushing the boundaries of “Japanese cuisine” here, but very New York with the interethnic borrowing of the garam masala to produce something new. In any case, it works and that’s why he’s still an Iron Chef.

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Course #8: Wagyu with Japanese Sweet Potatoes

Nice, but underwhelming. To be fair, I have always been underwhelmed by Kobe beef/wagyu. So what if the cows get massages and get to drink beer? I would rather not pay the premium for pampered cattle and drink the beer and get the massages myself.

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Course #9: Dessert – Red Bean (Azuki) Bean Cake with Apricot Sorbet

The cake was a bit dry, but it provided a great contrast to the sorbet, which tasted lively and fresh. A pleasant finish to a roller-coaster of a meal. Restrained enough as to not make you forget the previous 8 courses.