The Economics of Copyright

Copyright generates more than $1 trillion annually in revenue in the United States alone, and intellectual property activity contributes nearly 20% of America’s GDP. Worldwide, copyright and creative works account for tens of trillions of dollars annually in economic activity, but in a in a world without borders for content, it’s still amazing that copyright law remains a regional regime and very few are calling for global reform, or a substantive update to the Berne Convention (the most widely adopted international treaty for copyright protection.) Today, local country laws still largely define the licensing and royalty collection processes for music and film, leaving distributors to spend large sums of money trying to legally offer their services.

With such an antiquated system, cross-border collection of royalties remains unduly complicated (fortunately, tracking payments has become easier (theoretically) in a digital world of big data and micro-payments from a streaming world.) However, licensing has not become any easier, as those wishing to use music in different territories must still adapt to local laws. This leads to the familiar “Netflix/Pandora/etc is not available in your country” error message when outside the United States, leaving opportunities on the table in places like France, where demand for Netflix is high and no alternatives to illegal downloading exist for those who want to watch American TV shows like Game of Thrones or House of Cards.

Change won’t be easy. Embedded cultures and favoritism for local artists will lead many countries to stall or refuse real reform if their traditional protections and ideas for copyright are not included in any new legal reforms. The EU’s recently announced Pan-European licensing directive is a step in the right direction for music licensing in Europe, but its passage and implementation have been fraught with challenges.

It’s time for us to think strategically and push lawmakers to adopt full global copyright reform. In the interim, multi-territory regional agreements, as well as technology, can drive new business models for collection of royalty payments and increased revenues for artists, companies, and the industry as a whole.

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Rethink Music in 2014

Rethink Music has announced a series of events for 2014, including Venture Days in Los Angeles and repeat of our annual Venture Day in Berlin. We’ll also be hosting Innovation Summits and Public Policy workshops in Europe and America later in the year.

More information to come soon!

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The Power and Future of Music

2014 is finally here, and with it is lot of optimism for our economies and the overall health of the music industry. In the last few months of 2013, we saw the passing of the great Lou Reed, the announcement of a YouTube music subscription service that will integrate video (Goodbye Spotify?  Where are you Beats?), and further funding for Applauze, an event recommendation service. Spotify released their DJ Mixer app, which allows users to mix tunes from the service if you have a paid subscription. Music keeps changing and seemingly every day new apps are created and released, as the music business continues its evolution into a technology business.

This evolution, however, often leaves many forgetting that music is more than “content.” The social connections and healing powers of music are well documented.  Numerous sites and apps have purported to match potential dates based on music preferences, and studies have shown that emotions can be regulated by music. Dan Levitan, in his great book “This is Your Brain on Music,” demonstrates how music impacts individual neurochemistry and can change our mood almost instantaneously through pitch, timbre, anticipation, and resolution. Music helps patients with Alzheimer’s disease as well. (See a great example at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fw7Y78aqf_I)

Going forward, to sustain and grow, the industry must remember the importance of their core product. We must also anticipate problems and their solutions, something at which the music industry has never been particularly successful. (Remember Napster? The service that came around a full 5 years after the birth of the commercial Internet?) There are many creative ideas out there today, but who is really thinking beyond tomorrow? In a world of augmented reality and 3-D printers, what does the future hold? Imagine the ability for a band to make its own merchandise on the road, or even further, the ability to print your favorite band t-shirts at home on your MakerBot. What about live concert hologram performances in your living room using already available 3-D technology?

Cynthia Turner, a conductor and professor of performance at Cornell’s department of music, is working on integration of augmented reality into orchestral performances. She envisions a totally different orchestra experience, where a conductor uses Google Glass instead of reading sheet music, and believes metronomes and other key music tools can be incorporated into Glass via applications. Tod Machover has been widely renowned for his work on the “Opera of the Future,” allowing amateurs and professionals to collaborate through new techniques, design of contemporary performance spaces, and creation of interactive touring concepts.

Conceptual thinking like this is our hope. Let’s start thinking about what the world looks like in 2020, and begin to envision music’s role in it. This should be the music industry’s resolution for 2014.

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Rethink Music @ BIME/Bilbao

Rethink Music hosted a workshop on the business models of music and video gaming at BIME in Bilbao, Spain yesterday.   Some great ideas came from the “marshmallow challenge”!

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Short film documentary of Rethink Music Venture Day

Rethink Music hosted our first-ever Venture Day in Berlin on October 24th, with the goal of supporting young music entrepreneurs and fostering innovation in our music economy.   This video is the story of the event.

Rethink Music Berlin

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Upcoming Events
  • Rethink Music @ SONAR
    Barcelona, Spain
    13 Jun 2014 15:00
  • Rethink Music Venture Day
    Berlin, Germany
    23 Oct 2014
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