RB 198: The Community Supported Musician (Rethinking Music VIII)

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Is there room in the music industry for middle-class musicians?

Friend of the show Nancy Baym brought together three career performer/songwriters who all stumbled on the same analogy for how musicians can “make it” in the digital age: that of Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs). Kristin Hersh, Zoe Keating, and Erin McKeown discuss what models have worked for them, and the unorthodox ways they’ve learned to make a living as artists.

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Radio Berkman 181: The Management (Rethinking Music VII)

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In our last episode we talked about how artists can feel besieged from all sides. Fans, promoters, labels — when you’re talented and famous everyone wants a piece of you.

Today’s guest is one of the most important people in a musician’s life. He’s the guy that keeps the vultures at bay, and makes sure the artists can focus on their music. He is The Manager.

Michael McDonald is the founder of the boutique artist management company Mick Management, home to artists like Brett Dennen and Ray LaMontagne.

One of Michael’s most popular artists, John Mayer, has gone from a small-time musician with a street team to a multi-platinum artist with an amazing fan interaction on twitter. John Mayer later abandoned Twitter (and nearly 4 million followers) when he decided it was too limiting.

Michael talked with us about how artists experiment with promotion and social media (sometimes with mixed results), and how managers help deal with the demands placed on artists.

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Radio Berkman 180: No Such Thing as a Free Sample? (Rethinking Music VI)

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Musicians often feel besieged on all sides. Promoters, labels, publishers, radio stations, and venues can make an artist feel exploited and overwhelmed. But in the digital age it might feel like fans and fellow musicians are taking a bite out of them, too.

Second to piracy the phenomenon of fan created content is the greatest irritation to professional musicians and their stakeholders. From the upload of a song to YouTube (which involves almost no creative effort) to sampling, remixing or creating a fan-made music video — many artists feel fan initiatives show disrespect for their rights. And some are using the tools of PR and the law to make their voices heard.

Jay Rosenthal is the General Counsel for the National Music Publishers’ Association with decades of experience working with music industry organizations on the legal side, and representing artists like Salt n Pepa, Thievery Corporation, and Mary Chapin Carpenter.

We talked about professional musicianship, and what kind of threat sampling and remix projects (like Girl Talk’s “All Day” and DJ Danger Mouse’s “Grey Album”) pose to the music industry.

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Radio Berkman 178: Whirled Music (Rethinking Music V)

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From the wax cylinder to the MP3 tracking global trends in music has changed a great deal over time.

In 1933, the Lomax family of ethnomusicologists and folklorists traipsed around the world with a 315-pound phonograph recorder to collect the music and stories of dozens of cultures. Today, it might be more useful to fire up YouTube or MySpace to see what bubbles up.

But the digital music revolution has also made it easier for music to cross boundaries, for trends to spread, intermingle, and evolve much faster than ever before. And musical recordings, along with many of the tools used to share and create music online have often been victim to the impermanence of the web, making the job of the modern ethnomusicologist harder than ever.

Ethan Zuckerman sat down with one such ethnomusicologist, Wayne Marshall — a blogger, DJ, and post-doctoral scholar at MIT working on a book about global youth culture and digital music — to talk about his work.

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Radio Berkman 176: Label Success (Rethinking Music IV)

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Did you ever wonder how artists become rock stars? Sure, talent is a big part of it. But behind almost every successful musician — from the platinum selling pop idol to the quirky regional artist who only sells records by the handful — you’ll probably find at least one person, if not a team of people working hard to make sure the business side of the music business stays going.

And if you think that’s changed with the digital revolution, you’d be surprised. Sure, technology has made the recording process easier, and artists can connect directly with fans and promote shows easily through the web. But putting together a hit and sharing it with the world is hardly a solo effort.

Today we sit down with two of the folks who help keep the music flowing. “Big” Jon Platt is President of EMI Music Publishing’s North American creative team, and responsible for signing Jay-Z among countless other chart-topping artists. Kim Buie is the Vice President of A&R for Lost Highway records out of Nashville, the home of artists like Lucinda Williams, Willie Nelson, and Tom Jones.

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Radio Berkman 174: The Neverending Concert (Rethink Music III)

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Musicians are increasingly becoming their own managers, promoters, bookers, and agents. And with YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, BandCamp, and dozens of other ways of staying in touch with their audience, the concert never stops.

There’s no way to put a dollar value on this engagement, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not worthwhile.

How are artists building an audience, completely outside of their music, simply by opening up online?

Nancy Baym — author of the recent book Personal Connections in the Digital Age, Professor of Communications at University of Kansas, and all around music aficionado — joined me this week to talk about how fans are building genuine relationships online and how artists are able to thrive because of them.

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Radio Berkman 173: The Portrait of the Self-Published Artist (Rethinking Music II)

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Big music publishers may be worried about declining CD sales and the inability of digital purchases to make up the difference.

But independent artists have continued to create, innovate, connect with fans, and even make a pretty decent living on their own, without big budget promotions — or even physical copies of their albums in stores.

For today’s show we were lucky to be joined by two amazing artists:

Amanda Palmer sat down with David Weinberger to talk about her latest self-release, Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under, and her mission to redefine what success as a musician means.

And Donald Glover chatted with us about the wonder of his quintuple threat career — star of NBC’s Community, writer, standup comic, remix artist, and rapper — his most recent release, and how he makes a living making music that is free as in beer, and free as in speech.

Amanda Palmer (left) and David Weinberger point out exactly where musicians' ability to make a living lies

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Radio Berkman 168: Rethinking Music, Part I – Creativity, Commerce, and Policy

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A lot of e-ink has been spilled about how the Internet has fundamentally altered content industries. TV, film, news, books; all are still experiencing growing pains.

But, no other industry has experienced more trauma and volatility than music. One of the first victims of the electronic piracy epidemic, music companies, along with artists and policymakers, have been scrambling to find new solid strategies for success.

Meanwhile, innovation has flourished in the form of new means of delivering content, new ways of connecting artists with fans, and evolving models for digital music sales and touring, all of which present countless opportunities and risks.

Next spring, the Berklee College of Music and MIDEM, in association with the Berkman Center, are hosting the Rethink Music Conference, bringing together artists, industry representatives, policymakers, educators, and innovators to discuss this very issue: the future of creative works, their distribution, and the laws that regulate them.

Berkman and Berklee have also announced a Call for Papers seeking innovative proposals to amend US policy regarding creation and distribution of musical works. And, Berklee and the Harvard Business School are offering a $50,000 award for the best new music business model.

We sat down with two people who have been very involved in preparing for the event—Allen Bargfrede, a digital music lawyer and Assistant Professor in the Music Business Department at Berklee, and Chris Bavitz, Assistant Director of the Berkman Center’s Cyberlaw Clinic and Clinical Instructor and Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School—to discuss what the Rethink Music Conference is all about.

This is just the first installment in our Rethinking Music podcast series, which will cover the entire spectrum of music and the music industry! Check back, or subscribe, to catch all of our upcoming interviews running through next spring.

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