Future of Music 2012: A fight over Internet radio scraps

David Lowery

From The Chicago Tribune:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — There were moments Tuesday during the annual Future of Music Summit where the conversation about revenue in the digital music industry sounded like a scrum over crumbs, a desperate fight over an increasingly shrinking pie.

“There is so much competition for so much music, and it’s all so devalued,” said one exasperated music entrepreneur, Rodney Whittenberg. He was one of hundreds of musicians, executives, attorneys, policy makers and journalists who attended the conference, presented by the advocacy group the Future of Music Coalition.

The post-Napster era is now more than a decade old, and the digital reinvention of the music industry continues with countless new tastemakers and middle men in positions of power and influence while jostling with (or in some cases stepping past) 20th Century gatekeepers: iTunes helped make Tower Records obsolete, Pandora on-line radio elbows in on the listenership once exclusively commanded by terrestrial conglomerates such as Clear Channel, and Pitchfork has surpassed the clout of Rolling Stone.

But as the Future of Music Summit demonstrated, some of the glitter and promise of the new guard may be wearing off, at least within the artist community. For many musicians, little has changed from an economic perspective. They not only remain bottom-feeders in the industry revenue pool, for some the future seems even more bleak as the pool grows more shallow. Less money is being made from recorded music, and payments from promising digital streaming services such as Spotify are doled out at a rate of fractions of pennies.

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