Neil Portnow's keynote speech at the 2007 GRAMMYs on the Hill event
How does it feel to turn 50? For some in the room, it may be a fond memory. For The Recording Academy and the GRAMMY Awards, on our 50th Anniversary, we're using the tagline: "For some it's a milestone — but we're just getting started."
To a large extent, what that means to us is looking ahead to the next 50 years, and that includes preparing to turn over the reins to the next generation. And for that next generation of music makers, creators, executives, legislators and fans, these next 50 years will define the future of the music industry and indeed, the future of our entire cultural landscape.
As I travel, I meet students from our GRAMMY Signature Schools from all across the country and I can tell you, they make me very optimistic about the future of the music industry. They are bright, passionate and who knows — maybe one of them even dreams of growing up to be a music lobbyist.
For all these reasons, I want to particularly recognize our guests from Chesnee High School's music department, whom you just met. To them I say, keep up the great work, use this grant and recognition wisely, and know that the current generation of music leaders is relying on you to carry the future of our business to even greater heights. As I add my personal congratulations to each of our GRAMMYs on the Hill honorees for their impressive achievements which have allowed all of our lives to be enriched through music, I’d like to direct my comments tonight to music students everywhere, and particularly to the music students of Chesnee High School and the students from all of our GRAMMY Signature Schools, each of whom will receive a podcast of these remarks.
I know to many of you in high school music programs, it looks like we don't have a clue. Technology is changing faster than we can manage it, and you — the young music lovers — have mastered it far better than we have. It may even appear as if we are fighting new technologies, trying to hold them back. And I can certainly understand how it might look that way.
But let me assure you that every music industry leader in this room, every member of Congress here tonight, every technologist present, and every legislative staffer here with us, is working as hard as they can to prepare for and adjust to the new world of music.
We may not always get it right. But our overriding concern is a noble one — protecting the intellectual property of music makers and copyright owners so that music creation can and will continue. And if it appears that we are treading too slowly into the new world, it is because that concern is paramount in our minds and certainly is not easy or simple to address.
You should also know that technology entrepreneurs and music industry leaders are working together each day to solve these issues and hasten the digital transition. And I'd like to share with you — publicly for the first time — one such place where this occurred at an entirely new level.
Last year at this podium, I spoke about the so-called music and technology war. Rhetorical battles were creating an environment in which cooperation was difficult. I called for a truce, and offered The Recording Academy as the facilitator of a high-level summit between music and technology leaders.
That summit actually took place this summer — at George Lucas's Skywalker Ranch in Marin County, Calif. Why at Skywalker? No, it wasn't because each side saw the other as the evil empire.
It was because Lucas's operation is one that seamlessly — you might even say "magically" — melds content and technology to produce results that are at once artistic, popular — and profitable.
Sitting at a conference table in the cavernous Skywalker soundstage where so many innovative films were scored, we were inspired by what can happen when music and technology work together toward a common goal.
So, we gathered our participants for a two-day retreat. To keep us honest, we mixed in four music creators: Ronnie Dunn of Brooks & Dunn, Leslie Ann Jones of Skywalker Sound, and two of the industry's most successful producers — who are here with us tonight — Jimmy Jam and Phil Ramone.
Guided by our expert moderators, technology guru Ted Cohen and digital entertainment attorney Bobby Rosenbloum — and, I should disclose, under the watchful eye of an antitrust attorney — the participants set out to find common ground.
Presidents, CEOs and other high-level leaders dedicated significant time to this unprecedented discussion. Executives from digital music services such as Rhapsody, Napster, eMusic, SNOCAP and Pandora; from technology manufacturers such as Microsoft and Sandisk; from retailers including Best Buy and Amazon; from major and independent music publishers; and from all four major labels came to Skywalker for the retreat.
Many of these executives were meeting face to face for the first time and to us, that alone was important. That they engaged in such an honest and open dialogue was even more fulfilling. That they all agreed to continue the discussion beyond the retreat was gratifying all the more. But perhaps paramount was their contributions to several guiding philosophies, which we're calling the GRAMMY Music & Technology Principles. These include:
First and foremost, music creators are the foundation of the music business and must be adequately compensated regardless of the technology. We must ensure that whatever technology is used to bring music to the public, creators are paid, period.
Similarly, meeting the needs of consumers is critical, and the music and technology industries must provide a wide array of business models that appeal to consumers and value compensation to creators and copyright owners. Ultimately, consumers will tell us how they wish to enjoy music. Our job is to provide them with legitimate choices that value creators' rights.
Third, new technologies are essential to the future of the music business, therefore an environment for experimentation and innovation — that respects copyright and music creators — should be fostered. Content providers must give entrepreneurs the freedom to explore new and untested business models — but in return, those innovations must build in an appreciation and respect of copyright.
Fourth, interoperability across hardware and services is essential to the consumer experience and should be a priority in the digital music space. We cannot continue to frustrate and confuse our customers. They know any DVD they buy plays on every DVD player, and every CD plays on every CD player. Music files must do the same.
Fifth, the best defense against music piracy is a vibrant, complete and legal digital marketplace. Yes, legislation, litigation, and education all play important roles. But without giving the consumer legal options that provide the same deep catalogue as pirate sites, we will never solve the problem of piracy.
Sixth, the industry must make faster rights clearances a higher priority in order to grow the legal digital distribution of music and to more effectively compete with the volume of titles available through illegitimate sources. Now, we all recognize that music licensing is complicated by nature, and streamlining the process would help grow the business. Since the retreat, rights owners already have started to compile a "roadmap" document to make the process clearer.
Seventh, the music economy is not a zero-sum game; music and technology sectors can both benefit as the business grows. Perhaps the biggest disservice of the rhetoric wars is framing the debate as though if content wins, technology loses and vice versa. The leaders at our retreat understood that this truly can be a win-win game.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, continued dialogue among music and technology leaders is essential to facilitating growth in the marketplace. That these very busy leaders of their industries left the retreat committed to continuing the dialogue is perhaps the most gratifying principle of all.
Now, we realize that these principles are just a first step in greater cooperation between the music and technology sectors. There will continue to be hurdles and challenges ahead as we adapt to the new marketplace. But I have great respect for these leaders who came to Skywalker to build consensus, and I believe the entire industry should follow their example and the standards they have set forth.
So, to the music students listening: know that we are working to create an environment for music that recognizes the value of both creators and consumers, an environment that rejects a winner-take-all approach, and one that encourages innovation and experimentation. Even though the music industry you will manage will look very different from the one we have today, these concepts will remain constant.
Our generation will do its part to live by the GRAMMY Music & Technology Principles, and we hope you will too. We're counting on all of you to ensure that in another 50 years, the GRAMMYs' centennial will be a time to rejoice and celebrate a music industry and a culture that we all can be proud of.