Monday, June 18, 2007

Knock Knock The Future of Music was awesome

What a great time I had in Arhus in Denmark at the Knock Knock conference and accompanying SpotFestival. A fantastic conference, interesting speakers and content, great venue (Musikhuset - a bit like the South Bank in London), top atmosphere, yummy food and lots of music. A winning combo!

[If you don't want to read the whole post, but look at the webcast instead, then here are the links:

Morning: Nicolai Wammen, Eric de Fontenay, Les Ottolenghi, Henrik Bodker and Anne Holst
Afternoon: Steve Gordon, Claus Pedersen, Magnus Eriksson, Mirai, John Buckman, Pieter Betist, Richard Heidenreich, Tue Lund-Christensen, Martin Buck, Steve Myer, me and Martin Spenner.

And pictures on flickr from Innovation Lab and my own pix]

Right, back to the post. The day before the conference, I arrived to be greeted by a radio journalist who wanted to interview me for Danish Radio (their BBC equivalent). They were covering the conference and festival and interviewed some of the speakers. You can hear the stream live here and also download the podcast of the whole radio programme here as an MP3. How exciting to be on the radio! Then it was a quick freshen up and off to a local restaurant for a speaker's dinner where we got to know each other a bit better. I love the Danish way of restaurant dining where the waiting staff actually announce what's in everything that you're eating thus building up the anticipation and the tastebuds.

The the day of the conference we (I was there with my pal Gillian) headed down to the venue ably guided by a man with a map and another man with a GPS and both of them got lost so we ended up asking a local anyway! So much for men, maps and technology ;) When we get there, we are greeted by coffees and nibbles and a DJ mixing choons. There was also a small exhibition going on alongside showcasing innovation in music.

Then the conference began. About 200 or so delegates live and another 1000 or so following the conference's live web stream on the internet. All kinds of topics were covered from piracy, new business models, challenges and issues that artists face, music and mobile and lots more besides. The webcast is live for two or three weeks, so if this subject matter interests you, then it's well worth a look. Particular highlights for me were Eric De Fontenay from MusicDish, Steve Gordon, author of The Future of the Music Business, and Les Ottolenghi from Intent Media Works.

I was also very intrigued by the "downloan" service offered by Danish Libraries. Of course, it makes perfect sense. Libraries have been loaning music for many years so why not loan MP3s too and it seems to be a success so far. I wonder if we'll see something similar in the UK. I hope so.

I was also interested in the variable pricing model that John Buckman discussed, formerly founders of Lyris and now run their own record label, Magnatune. As a MP3 buyer, you can choose which pricepoint you want to pay for something. That means, if you're a real supporter, you pay the artist more money. And if you don't have the money, you don't have to. A neat idea.

And Henrik from Aarhus University was spot on when he said there was no 'one big thing' to look for but lots of small but important things that were part of the future of music (and IMHO can be equally applied to the world of web 2.0 and/or mobile).

Just before lunch, we were treated to a performance from Mirai, Ras and Keely (Ras had to leave as he was playing a gig with the Pet Shop Boys or something). Mirai was showcasing some new music technology which allows you to play different instruments just by moving different parts of your body. Think a Star Trek version of the old-fashioned one-man band routine but hooked up to a computer rather than having to carry a bass drum on your back.

In the afternoon, there was more talk about piracy, peer to peer and issues around DRM, Pim from Sellaband introduced us to his concept of fans being able to help finance a band without the need for a big record company. A real example of people power. Then later in the afternoon, Steve Myers from Theta Music in Tokyo and myself talked about the world of mobile and what impact it might have on music. And I'm quite sure I've missed a few things - it's not intentional, just a lot going on.

After that was another wonderful networking dinner and then the opening concerts of the SpotFestival with the Marybell Katastrophe and The National Bank.

The next day, Friday, was a gloriously sunny day, spent lazing around the festival, drinking, eating and chatting and listening to the odd band, but mainly putting the world to rights with Anna and the Icelandic Music crew. Then it was dinner with the gang - me and Gillian, Eric, Steve, Ricky G (a bona fide jazz musician and composer of music for Spike Lee), Rick and Lynette. Then underneath the very posh restaurant we were in, there was a ragga/dancehall club where we headed to afterwards and got into the groove (or whatever these youngsters do these days). When that closed, the American Boys were hungry so we headed to a late night pizza place, got chatting to some friendly locals, and ended up having a party back at their gaff. I love that kind of spontaneity on a road trip.

On Saturday, I managed to get up and explore a bit of Arhus and do a bit of shopping and picked up a few bargains. Then it was a lovely dinner with Gillian before heading back to the festival for the last night. We were tipped off that we should go and see Spleen United (think Kraftwerk meets Kaiser Chiefs), which we did, and they were great. So good, in fact, that I have bought the CD (couldn't get the downloads anywhere using English money). Then we headed to the after party, and as we were 'VIPs' we were able to jump the queue. Keith Harris had turned up over the weekend and I got to spend some time with him at the after party (he chaired a music tank panel that I was on recently) and eventually, after more chatting, we all headed home.

Sunday was spent packing, travelling and being delayed in the wi-fi-less Billund airport and reflecting on the previous days. I learned stuff, I made great new friends and thoroughly enjoyed myself (well you know me, I *do* like a good music festival and the Spot Festival is a rather good one).

I eventually got home in the early hours only to have to get up early the next day to go to Monte Carlo for MEM/Global Mobile Messaging Forum. I don't recommend back-to-back trips. It's a killer.

Anyway, a big-up to the guys at Innovation Lab for running the conference, Anders and his team did a marvellous job and made us feel extremely welcome. Keep an eye on this team, they're doing good stuff. I know a few organisations who would do well to take a leaf out of their book.