I just came home from an interesting discussion: the "tesla salon" had a session at club Podewil with the topic "verwertungsgesellschaften im digitalen zeitalter" (roughly: "collecting societies in the digital age"). The event was organized by Radio 1:1.
They had a well-chosen group of participants: Tim Pritlove in his role as podcaster and "discordian evangelist", Julian Finn as a representative of FairSharing (i.e., the culture flat rate), and two netradio guys whose names I haven't written down and who sadly aren't mentioned in the program.
Update 2006-05-04 -- Igor writes to ask if the session will be published as podcast or MP3. As far as I'm told it will be both broadcast on Radio 1:1 and published on their website, but I don't know when. Their website is still void of content and they currently don't offer any feeds, so if you want to keep track of this I suggest you subscribe to the feed for this article instead.
Update 2006-07-09 -- the MP3 of the session is now online, check out the announcement on Radio 1:1's blog with download link. I don't quite understand the website navigation, so I can't say when they'll broadcast it over the air.
In the Right Corner...
My original reason to go was the participation of a representative of the German GEMA, but apparently he excused himself hours before the event because he "was ill". (Due to my past experiences with the GEMA I don't believe this for one second.)
But no harm done: Despite the now quite homogenous group of speakers there was enough disagreement to spark a series of interesting discussions.
It was also exciting to see that the audience participated to a level rarely seen in these discussions (maybe because of the intimate setting), sometimes with really good arguments or anecdotes, so that at some points it nearly felt like an Unconference.
I'd like to share some of the discussion topics with you, but as I didn't make notes and have a sucky memory (and feel a little lazy right now) I'll simply write down some random comments.
Let Us Play
It was insightful to see the reaction to a question I posed to the speakers at the very end -- "If you are producing radio (or podcasts), are you OK with having to pay license fees for the music you play?"
The first speaker to answer was one of the netradio guys, and the question clearly hit a soft spot of his. He delivered a fierce, emotional rant about the senselessness of this license model ("I have to pay for advertising their music, for bringing attention to forgotten musicians?") which came to me as a surprise -- because throughout the preceding discussion the two netradio guys usually held more conservative positions, and didn't seem that different from traditional radio. (They even used the obligatory "podcasting is just a fad" non-argument.)
But everybody in the room clearly shared the vision of a society where the "small guy" is able to produce broadcast culture, be it a netradio station for five listeners or a podcast, without having to pay big bucks for music licenses.
The Ghettoization of Mass Culture
During the whole discussion it also became clear that in the far future we won't have one licensing model for music, but many.
The immediate future will probably reveal a fight between competing models that is messier (and more complex) than VHS vs. Beta (or HD-DVD vs. BluRay), but in the end a positive outcome will hopefully be the coexistence of and compatibility between commercial and non-commercial rights management models, which is something we don't have right now (at least in Germany, where you can't be a GEMA member and a Creative Commons artist at the same time).
It'll take a while, but we'll get there. Because the alternative, imo, would mean the ghettoization of mass culture -- where everybody would like to play Justin Timberlake, but can't because it's too darn expensive.