LOS ANGELES Rapper Ice-T, Spearhead frontman Michael Franti, and songwriter/producers Jimmy Jam (Janet Jackson) and Patrick Leonard (Madonna) are among the digital-music enthusiasts who'll convene here next week for the online-music-industry conference Webnoize '99.
"In the last year, everything I've done has had to do with the Web," Ice-T said Wednesday. "I just want to come there and share what I've found out."
The conference, which will be held at the Century Plaza Hotel on Nov. 1517, revolves around panel discussions, presentations and showcases.
Ice-T, Franti, Jam and Leonard with singer/songwriter Jonatha
Brooke will participate in an artist panel.
Ice-T, whose songs include "Original Gangster" (RealAudio excerpt), made his latest album, The Seventh Deadly Sin, available through Atomic Pop and online retailers in September before it arrived in stores.
"I just think [the Web is] something that people need to get into now," Ice-T said. "It's not the type of thing that you want to wait on the Net moves so fast. You have to get your teeth in ... and you just gotta know that the best is yet to come."
Plenty of others in the rapidly expanding digital-music industry will be on hand to compare notes, duke out differences, announce deals and creations, and hobnob.
Microsoft vice president Jim Allchin, EMI vice president Jay Samit, RealNetworks chief executive officer Rob Glaser and MTV Interactive president/CEO Nicholas Butterworth will give keynote addresses. (SonicNet is a division of MTV Interactive.)
"My big goal is to get people to really talk ... to bring their brains
and a willingness to speak openly," Webnoize '99 Chairman Ted Cohen said.
"I really stress with everyone that attends that they be willing to share
ideas and to educate the people who have traveled a long distance to come,
or invested a lot of money because they felt like they were going to walk
away from this learning something."
Speakers include Al Teller, president of Atomic Pop; Fred Ehrlich, head of new media at Sony Music Entertainment; Robert Kohn of the MP3 retailer EMusic.com; Jim Griffin, CEO of Internet entertainment consultant Cherry Lane Digital; and David Watkins, president of RioPort.com, which developed the Rio portable MP3 player. (SonicNet's parent company, MTV Networks Online, owns a portion of RioPort.)
"Although we're primarily focused on reaching consumers, Webnoize is great place to connect with all of our brethren in the online music space to discuss partnerships and see what people are doing," said David Pakman, co-founder of the online music service myplay.com, which offers a locker where users can organize their digital-music collections.
Cohen predicted that among the hot topics will be the ongoing battle between online music formats vying for listeners' attention. "The question is how do all of these coexist in the moment, and ultimately what is the shake-up," he said.
Another hot topic, he said, is the issue of shifting business models
among companies involved in the online music field. An example was
Universal Music Group and BMG Distribution's launch of Get Music, which
makes the companies online retailers.
"Everyone is shifting what they're doing, who their target is, and at
the same time that they're making the shift they're complaining about
other people moving into their business," Cohen said. "There's a lot of
collision of business plans and business models and a lot of collisions
Cohen said that one of the biggest changes from last year's Webnoize is less resistance on the part of the traditional music world and more participation. "There's less rebellion and more interest in how everyone's going to play together," he said.
Pakman said that piracy-fighting developments will clear the way for more productive discussion. Companies' user feedback, he said, will help that discussion move forward.
"There [are] enough consumers doing things now that we can see how
frustrating and annoying the whole experience is for them," he said. "We
have enough feedback to say, 'OK, guys, this stuff doesn't really work let's start making things easier for the customer.' "