We’re on the road to paradise, here we go, here we go…

Well we know where we’re goin’
but we don’t know where we’ve been.
And we know what we’re knowing’
but we can’t say what we’ve seen.
And we’re not little children
and we know what we want.
And the future is certain
give us time to work it out.

And yes, it’s a different world. Not my usual one, as you would expect, but again, surprisingly easy to slide into, especially with such a fine program of panels, workshops and discussions, and more interesting breakfast and lunch discussions than you can shake a 4GB memory stick at.

The vibe is positively relaxed during the first morning, with many attendees catching up on aquaintances, sipping coffee and surreptuously checking out other people’s nametags, giving me a chance to check out a great panel on the Future (i.e post-YouTube) Of Video. Nice to see that the assembled bods attacked the copyright issue first-off, but the mentality still seems to follow the “if it’s successful, we’re sure something will be sorted out” line. Not sure where this leaves the 14-year-old with the copyright infringing animation soundtrack though.

The online video zone seems to be right on the edge of a turf-war, as competing teams start battling for good niches following the GooTube announcement. For me, naturally, JumpCut has the edge on the first batch, but there seems to be a fair amount of quality round two brainwaves that should ensure this will be the most innovative area of online media for a good while to come.

This slice of brainfood is immediately followed by the very charming Don Tapscott’s workshop on “The Net Generation”, which does a fine job of summarizing and enlarging on the coming generations (Tapscott’s def is roughly 14-29, the “Net Generation”) attitude towards the net. For me, this generation gap is neatly defined by the pro / anti MySpace line. So many first-gen webheads don’t get, or just plain don’t like MySpace, for whatever reasons – clunky back-end, geek snobbery etc… whereas many kids use it for almost exactly the same reasons. It wasn’t designed specifically for geeks or snobs, although it’s wonderful to see so many kids getting their first taste of hacking and coding through customising their pages. Whodathought?

This last point is something that is brought home in Tapscott’s research (slides here – definitely worth a look), in which he finds that 52% of N-Geners polled say they want to be able to customise the products that they consume and want to be able to develop relationships with suppliers in the same manner. Some large corps are already taking advantage of this more marketable side of remix culture, but it’s reassuring to see that the peeps polled clearly state that this freedom of choice is one of the most influencial factors on many of their online decisions, purchasing and otherwise. The remix ethos is now not only a buzz factor, it’s actually become ingrained in the decision-making process. “Does it come in Red?” has now been replaced with “How can I personalise it?”, “What are my options?”- In effect, “How can I remix it?”

Also great to hear Tapscott briefly echo one of my own thoughts about music disctribution during the Q & A. I always thought (with the benefit of just a little hindsight, natch) that it was a great shame that the connection speeds available during the time of the Napster Wars didn’t allow for easier direct streaming of good quality media (for a small subscription) – for me this would have been the smartest major-label response to their peer-to-peer problems at the time. All content, always available, all the time. Incorporate intelligent playlisting, a last.fm style community base and a Pandora-style recommendation system and no-one would ever need to illigally download the same content! (unless, ahem, say, they wanted to remix it?, ahem. But more on that one later…)

Okay, so you’d still want to get it to play on your iPod, or in your car, but once the shackles come off mobile devices (and they *will*, very soon), you’ll be able to stream content to any decent device. So why bother with owning the actual file?

As David Bowie quipped in 2002, “music will soon become like running water”. Turn the tap on. Have a drink. Have another one. No need to keep big buckets of the stuff around, just pay your water charges.

Okay, sure this doesn’t cover *all* the content (speaking as someone who only went on Napster in the first place to find the Beach Boys “Smile” sessions) but it’s a large chunk of it, and, lets face it, as time goes on, more and more music is being made available to stream for free from artists sites anyway (particularly savvy indie ones), so why use it just as an incentive to purchase DRM-ed downloads? Arse about face or what?

Unfortunately, now that most developed nations have deleveloped decent high-speed networks, the labels have already insisted on, invested in and converted to an online shop system, which is far easier for them to adapt to, as it mirrors the standard “record shop”. However, more and more industry people keep calling for the subscription model to be adopted as time goes on, so there’s some hope. Just please don’t call it a levy. Or a “Music Tax”.

(Jetlag interruption… fingers slipping off keys, although that might be the duty-free… “EK in the USA” continues right after this…. zzz)

Would you like to come along, you can help me sing this song
and it’s all right, baby, it’s all right.
They can tell you what to do, but they’ll make a fool of you…


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