This Afternoon at NX35: Digital Downloads Are Ruining Everything!

What: From the Physical to the Digital Panel
Where: Dan's Silverleaf
Time: 3 p.m.

In his keynote, Steve Albini mulled the ephemeral nature of digital media files over physical. It is on this point that the 3 p.m. panel at Dan's Silverleaf elaborated.

The panel featured May Megan Carpenter (associate professor of Law at Texas Wesleyan), Greg Hardin (reference librarian at Texas Women's University), Chris Schlarb (of Asthmatic Kitty and Sounds Are Active) and Stewart Sikes (music producer and engineer with Katey Margolis moderating).

The panel featured interesting tidbits on the state of the digital transition and how it effects producers and archivists. Greg Hardin pondered that online-only releases are not available for library collections.

"Previous contracts never accounted for this track-by-track model of music distribution" said Carpenter, referring to the recent case between Pink Floyd and EMI on selling Dark Side of the Moon by individual tracks instead of the whole album as the band intended. (Pink Floyd won that case, by the way.)

Sikes mentioned that he doesn't even meet most of his clients in person when mixing and producing. Producers and bands just send files back and forth.

Scharlb was probably the most pessimistic of the transition to digital files, saying that he can't do much when music from his label appears on an mp3 downloading site. However, he did concede that he was getting work offers through Twitter. As a result of the emergence of digital media, Schlarb said he puts out fewer CDs and LPs, while trying to sell at lower prices.

Carpenter pointed out one plus of digital music, though: More people are listening to classical music than ever. Oh, joy!

On the topic of college radio, things again got negative: The panel agreed that music blogs had undercut the role that the stations had before. Exceptions are stations that had made a jump to on-demand music, like KRCW and WMFU.

"No one cares about CMJ anymore!" said Scharlb, bemoaning the long-running college radio play charts.

Margolis, a reference librarian at The Colony Public Library took a few points to encourage attendees to employ their public libraries. It was a little unsurprising on her part, but, if I'm not mistaken, Albini said that also in the keynote.

I think I'll be off to the library now.

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Shahryar Rizvi
Contact: Shahryar Rizvi