The senior director of The Recording Academy Producers & Engineers Wing serves as an advocate for quality recordings and the professionals who make them.
How has the role of the P&E Wing changed in response to new music business models and to the changing economics in our industry?
We've become more politically and educationally active. In general, we're working hard to be more relevant and valuable to our members' lives. As the streams of income shift and new revenue areas open, it's important for producers and engineers to have a seat at the table. Years ago, when some of the decisions were made about revenue distribution, they did not have that seat. The main reason producers have not been paid performance royalties in the U.S. is that in the past, including in 1995 when the digital legislation was passed, there wasn't an organized voice speaking for them.
We also work to inform our members regarding items they might want to include in their employment agreements and to help them keep up with what's happening, both in terms of revenue streams, and also technology in general. For example, with technical seminars, like in Miami where recently the Florida Chapter sponsored seminars on hardware versus software, with equipment shootouts where people got hands-on opportunities to hear the differences, see what the pros and cons are, and make their own informed decisions.
You wrote a feature for us last year about the use of metadata (see “Digital Track Sheet,” October 2008). Can you summarize what the P&E Wing's metadata project will accomplish?
We're a partner with BMS/Chace and the Library of Congress in developing a recording data-collection tool that will travel from the very beginning of a project to the end points of sale and filing copyright. It would help ensure that those who work on music get credited accurately and paid accurately.
This issue of
tries to address the “value of free,” how to give music away to generate interest but still make a living. What do you see as the potential sources of revenue for engineers and producers in the age of free music?
There are so many new concepts; I don't think anybody knows the answers yet as to what will work. Some people think the 360 deal is a good model, but nobody knows exactly how to cut these deals. What does your 360 deal cover and how long is it? Does it run for what you determine to be the life cycle of a specific album — or for some other length of time? We don't know the answers, but we need to be aware of the possibilities so that we can ask the right questions and, when appropriate, negotiate for an equitable share. If you're working on a project and it could be given away as a freemium or sold as Prince did, giving [Planet Earth] away with the Daily Mail newspaper in England for a large sum of money, producers and their managers should be able to take this into consideration when they're negotiating compensation.
The first step for us is to identify what these different models are and then try to figure out what's fair for those who have participation in a project. It's not just about what you can get for yourself; it's also about how you grow the industry and figure out equitable distribution of the new streams of income.
Producers we interviewed for this issue talked about how their jobs have evolved into doing a lot of A&R, owning their own labels, having a stake in more aspects of a project.
Just getting a nice clean project sent to you to mix, or just getting a project wrapped, sealed and delivered to you with a generous budget is now not really the norm. Producers may own labels or be part-owners or find talent themselves and put together investors. But that's really how the industry started! If you look at many of the major record companies, they originally grew out of that entrepreneurial and independent spirit.
We're certainly seeing a reversion to a D.I.Y. attitude, but these indies have the Web and the rules are so different.
I had an argument with a friend of mine who is a vice president of the Consumer Electronics Association when the Live Nation/Madonna deal happened. I said, “What do they know about distribution or putting out a record?” But she said, “What do you mean distribution? You put up a Website.” And I thought, “She's right!” Someone of that stature may not require the same infrastructure that they used to need to sell music. So if you can get the word out, you can sell that way. But, and this is kind of a mantra of mine lately, to have sales and payments tracked properly for everyone, it still comes back to the metadata systems operating in a standardized, open-source way. Companies are starting to realize that when you could sell a piece of media like a CD for $26.99 or $18.99, it wasn't quite so crucial that you accounted for every fraction of a cent. But now that, in many cases, we're selling music for such small amounts of money, everybody needs to get onboard so we can have accurate, efficient and interoperable systems in place.