Drop that MP3 – Musicians Sound off on the Web was the first panel I attended today. It featured Kevin Arnold of Noise Pop, Scott Andrew LePera of scottandrew.com, Annie Lin of annielin.com and Chris Wetherell of massless.org. They all seemed to agree that no model for music downloads will ever completely eliminate free file sharing by whatever means. At the same time they praised efforts such as Apple iTunes and Magnatune as finding good methods for downloading music online and getting money to the artist in the process. Wetherell is in three bands and also works for Google. He said that musicians need some format where venues and bands can aggregate information and share it to make booking easier. Openmikes.org was mentioned as an example of this concept. Lin is a law school student studying intellectual property law and also a singer and musician. She said that blogs by musicians were very helpful in building a fan base and in getting attendance at performances. Arnold talked about music subscription services that would allow you access to any music anytime and it wouldn’t have to be stored on your own hard drive.
I went to the Bruce Sterling presentation, or what Sterling called “The Bruce Sterling Rant-a-thon” because he basically is given 45 minutes to rant about whatever is on his mind. His rants are always well-attended and are a SXSW tradition. I don’t know if that is because he is so right on-the-mark with his musings, or because he always invites the entire audience to his house for free beer the evening of his talk. Sterling is now writing a periodic column for Wired Magazine, and also has a new nonfiction book about the future as well as a recent novel. He talked about globalization and about computer security and about the horrifying torrent of scams that pour into our inboxes every day.
The keynote speaker today was Jonathan Abrams of Friendster. Even though Friendster claims to still be in beta, it has six million members now. It is not anonymous. People use their real names. And people take their real-life social set and bring it online, where they connect to friends through friends through friends. Abrams said they have used a very simple design to appeal to a mainstream audience and that the site has proven the six degrees of separation theory. In fact, Abrams said in some places it might be four degrees of separation.
In the trade show today I talked to Mike Slone of inknoise, which is providing the SXSW blog site and has all kinds of personal publishing tools. When I reached the inknoise booth an woman from Baylor University was there ahead of me and I watched her build and configure a blog on the spot with Slone’s assistance. The interface was wonderfully easy and powerful.