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Day 2: Future of Music Coalition's Policy Summit 2010

The second day of The Future of Music Coalition’s Policy Summit covered a ton of topics for musicians and music entrepreneurs alike. On paper, some of the sessions may have seemed unrelated, but it was great to see how it all wove together by the end.

Rocco Landesman, the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts and a powerhouse Broadway producer”who pleased many in the art world when he took on the new role”gave a terrific keynote speech about the value of arts in both the cultural and economic communities.

Landesman’s talk was followed by a closer look at the spread of broadband to rural communities, housing for artists and opportunities for musicians to perform overseas as part of cultural programs organized by the US Department of State. The session featured presentations from Jonathan Adelstein (Administrator, Rural Utility Service, US Department of Agriculture), Maura Pally (Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Professional and Cultural Exchanges, US Department of State, Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs) and Ron Sims (Deputy Secretary, US Department of Housing and Urban Development) and a subsequent conversation with attendees at the summit. The session helped explain why the current administration’s support of broadband expansion into rural areas matters to musicians (more online reach, more potential fans), cultural exchange programs (reaching new audiences while traveling the world and representing the US as peaceful musical representatives) and affordable housing (recognizing that not all musicians or artists can afford fair market prices”even if neighborhoods often like to tout their artistic population). The session helped connect the dots about why we, as citizens, need to be support public servants and representatives who understand the value of the arts in our greater culture. Subsequent conversation featured some fascinating stories (that would make any musician jealous) from Amy Blackman, the manager of Ozomatli, about the joys and challenges of their trips overseas to Asia and Africa.

The FMC is all about creating a “middle class of musicians” that is more sustainable. In continuing the thread of “musicians running themselves as a small business,” sessions covered subjects like managing and understanding all the data available now for anyone who has a web site or manages their presence on third party sites. This particular panel included Danah Boyd, the Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research; Eric Garland, Founder/CEO at BigChampagne Media Measurement (a new media and data measurement site) and musicians Erin McKeown and Tim Quirk.

In “Who’s Your Ticket Master Now? The Magical Mashup Between Live Music and Social Networks,” attendees learned how quickly Ticket Master”and its service fees”is being out-maneuvered by web ticket start-ups like Ticketweb, Ticketfly and Tickets.com. There was also talk of an interesting idea from Australia called Posse, where musicians and venues can utilize fans to help sell tickets and receive a commission. The session included Ian Hogarth, co-founder and CEO of Songkick, a free service where you can track bands who are coming to your town. One of the most interesting comments came from Donna Westmoreland, the COO of Washington, DC’s 9:30 club about how many of their concerts are selling out simply by being announced to their email subscribers, reducing their need for additional advertising or marketing.

The latter part of the day included two interviews and conversations. First was Kara Swisher of All Things Digital speaking with Tim Westergren, Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of  Pandora about his company’s strategy and where people will likely be using the service in the near future”from desktops to laptops, iPhones and Android, to iPad and tablets to cars and seemingly everywhere in between. Westergren laid out the company’s plans more as an advertiser-funded model than any other source, and acknowledged that the platform’s success.  According to a third-party study, the site simply helps sell more recorded music”43% of users bought more music after they used Pandora while only 1% bought less music, which is a great stat for those who assume online music is cannibalizing other music revenue sources.

The second conversation was a great reality check amid all of this digital change. Greg Kot, music critic at The Chicago Tribune and co-host of Sound Opinions interviewed T. Bone Burnett, the musician, composer and producer who has worked with Bob Dylan, Robert Plant, Alison Krauss, Sam Phillips, John Mellencamp and many more. Burnett, as a consummate audio producer, is weary about how online delivery of music has greatly degraded the quality and experience of the music we consume and provided a great reminder that the most important thing in being a musician is to make great musicš to aim there first and let the marketing be secondary as you make great art. You can read more about the interview from Kot’s page in The Chicago Tribune.

Learn more about the Future of Music Coalition’s 2010 Policy Summit speakers. Find more links and follow us live at The Future of Music Coalition’s Summit 2010. Search the hashtag #fmc10 to read up on this and more.

Scene & Heard: Washington DC

The first thing most people think of when they hear Washington, DC isn’t usually music. Think stone monuments, war memorials and politics. No one would expect anything else from our nation’s capital. Of course, sometimes people forget that DC is a major metropolitan area. And, with a large population and a urban environment comes a vibrant music scene.

In the case of Washington, DC,  its music history is almost as old and diverse as its politics. Fittingly, one of the first famous musicians hailing from DC was John Phillip Sousa. He founded the Marine Corps band and even wrote some of the most famous military/patriotic marches of all time. The scene has impressive roots in the jazz/blues department thanks to artists like Duke Ellington, Jelly Roll Morton and Bo Diddley. DC also puts itself on the map in the soul genre with famous artists like Marvin Gaye and Roberta Flack. Hardcore punk legends Minor Threat also hail from DC. But DC’s most recent claim to fame is go-go music, which is a characteristic brand of dance/hip hop music.

Naturally, it’s important to mention a scene’s classical roots. DC contains three of the most famous US orchestras: The Washington Symphony Orchestra, the Washington National Opera and the National Symphony Orchestra. The symphonies play at the historic Kennedy Center where they feature standard repertoire and new works every weekend. The Kennedy Center also features many multi-purpose spaces for pop/rock acts in addition to the more classical/modern performances.  Over the summer, you can catch the NSO performing at Wolf Trap for their thematic concert series.

Mambo Sauce at State Theatre

Moving on to nightlife, DC has a handful of notable rock clubs. My two recommendations for a nightly stop are The Red & The Black Bar and Rock & Roll Hotel. These places offer nightly entertainment from typical bar fair (like trivia and cover bands), to all-out weekend productions with some of DC’s finest new original rock acts.

Of course, DC has much more to offer than just standard rock clubs. I caught up with OurStage hip hop/funk band Mambo Sauce to see what they thought about the vibe of DC. The band combines full instrumentation, gritty distorted guitars, impeccable emcee flow and powerful female R&B vocals all in one versatile package. Their sound, landing somewhere between The Roots and Black Eyed Peas, is aptly accompanied by the name Mambo Sauce”a clear reference to the complex flavor of the fried chicken dipping sauce made famous in the DC area.  The band told me, “The music scene is really picking up compared to the years of the past¦[It] used to be dominated by go-go music but as of late, the cit has really been embracing variety. This embracement, however hasn’t changed the fact that DC can be a tough scene to break into, as is the case with many of the major markets we’ve looked at. Mambo Sauce refers to the audiences’ tendency to be critical of live acts as them being stuck in the cool zone. However, much like any major city though, if you bring your best, the crowd will respond.

Mambo Sauce frequents many DC venues including the State Theatre, 930 Club and The Santa Fe Café. They recommend any of these venues to a touring band or an eager visitor of the DC area. With such an impressive list of accolades, the band is certainly a DC music authority. They’re song Welcome to DC has had a plethora of placements including being in the rotation for MTV, VH1 and BET, being used for Washington Wizards Commercials, Comcast Redskin’s highlight reels and BET 2009 Hip Hop Honors awards.

It’s only fitting that on July 18th, Mambo Sauce played a show with Quest Love of the Roots at the famous Kennedy Center in DC. Check out their OS profile to hear their music and get the true Mambo Sauce, DC flavor.