Why Us, Why Now: Convening the Open Music Initiative
In so many ways, this should be the best of times for anyone in the music business.
For those music geeks like me who grew up in the pre-digital era, today’s state of music listening sounds like a cool Jules Verne novel: all the world’s music accessible from our phones, our watches, our TVs, and soon our virtual reality goggles, personal robots, and wireless-AI gadgets that play music according to our moods and environments. There’s more music produced and consumed in more ways, through more channels, and on more platforms than ever before.
Yet, incomes for all those involved in the music-making and producing process have dropped precipitously in the last two decades. There are many reasons for this—most of which many of us in the music and media industries will likely not agree on—but one thing is clear: the infrastructure on which our business has operated for the last century is not adequate to address the new ways in which music is being produced and consumed today—and even more so, tomorrow.
Shaping a Prosperous Future
To those of us at Berklee, this is less of an insurmountable problem and more of a unique opportunity—an opportunity to jointly modernize the framework on which our business operates so that we can all reap the benefits of tomorrow.
This rebuilding for a shared prosperous future must begin at the root, which is the framework that’s related to identifying and compensating music creators and rights holders. Nearly everyone in the music and media business agrees that the lack of a shared, secure, and trusted way of knowing who owns what and who’s owed what results in hundreds of millions of dollars in lost or misdirected rights-related revenues every year—and perhaps in billions of dollars in opportunity costs as well.
This is exactly what we aim to address with the Open Music Initiative (OMI): to use our neutrality as an academic institution (along with our working group partners) to help create an open-source, shared ledger of rights owners and creators.
Timing Is Everything and the Time Is Now
For the first time since the advent of the digital era, there is consensus from nearly every organization and entity involved in the music industry—record labels, publishers, performing rights organizations, streaming services, managers, artists, and startups—that addressing this one matter is ground zero.
This consensus, coupled with the emergence of new technologies (such as distributed ledgers that introduce new opportunities and possibilities) and amplified by the collective will to make a change, make this moment a unique one for the music business—a once-in-a-generation opportunity to proactively design the future rather dwelling on the failings of the past.
Change only happens by collective action. OMI is exactly that.
Panos Panay '94 is the founding managing director of Berklee's Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship (BerkleeICE) as well as a passionate entrepreneur and active startup mentor in the creative media space. As the founder of Sonicbids, he created the leading platform for bands to book gigs and market themselves online.