Thursday, April 07, 2005

DRM Hearing Not The Only Apple No-Show

Much has been written the past couple of days about Apple's absence from a congressional hearing on the idea of legislating only one "approved" DRM scheme for web music downloads, and Apple's failure to appear there. Instead of beating that same drum, I want to make a few comments about another recent event Apple chose to miss.

This past Tuesday, April 5th, a large conference was held in Nashville, Tennessee with the announced intent of bringing together leaders from the digital music technology world with leaders of the music industry. Called the "Digital Summit 2005," the event was very professionally promoted, and was hosted at Belmont University, one of the nation's leading music industry business colleges. I attended, so, this is a first-hand report.

No Discussion. Just Commercials.

The day started with an encouraging welcome speech by Nashville's mayor, Bill Purcell. But, the next portion of the program told the tale of what would be the norm for the remainder of the day. The first segment was a half-hour commercial for MSN Music, delivered with artificial enthusiasm by Ms. Sarah Lefko, MSN Music Product Manager. While about 400 music industry attendees (who had paid $150 apiece to be there) sat in the bleachers, Ms. Lefko simply sat and sang the praises of Microsoft's unsuccessful music download service. At the end of her promo, the floor was opened to questions. The only question from the audience was, "Will songs from MSN Music play on my Dell DJ?"

The rest of the day was filled with small panels talking about music and wireless technologies from the stage, or other individual speakers, delivering self-serving commercials similarly to Ms. Lesko. There were execs from a variety of second tier tech operations (Liquid Digital, Virgin Digital, MusicNet, and others...), and, Napster's Chris Gorog highlighted the afternoon with his own 50-minute commercial about the amazingness of Napster. No substantive audience interaction took place all day. And, the 'luminaries' who comprised the expert panels and gave the various speeches were all wisked away side-stage, never bothering to mingle with the paying attendees.

What A Wasted Opportunity

I glanced at a lot of the name badges being worn by attendees through the course of the day. The promoters succeeded: The place was full of real, high level music company management and execs. And, by lunch break, most of them were simply looking tired of the entire charade. Many simply left.

There were iPods and iPod shuffles in plentitude. But, with no Apple representation there, the messages from the stage rang hollow, all day. It was obvious that the crowd was wondering, "Who are these people, and why should we care what they say?" I know that was the question in my mind.

So, a rare gathering of tech and music leaders has come and gone, with no real conversation among the parties, and no new information presented from the stage. And, no Apple.

Lunch was okay. So, perhaps the $150 wasn't a total waste. But, even so, I will not be going to the 2006 version of "Digital Summit." I can pick up lunch at McDonalds for $6.00.


Blogger fixyourthinking said...

Good first hand report ... well written.

The issue is this though ... Apple (for the first time) is on top with something. How often do you see Microsoft advertising Windows?

Point is ... neither NEED to ... word of mouth, and overall user experience, not to mention fashion statement is driving iPod sales so high that Apple is really having a hard time keeping up. This coming Wednesday's financial report will indicate ANOTHER blockbuster quarter for iTunes/iPod and in small way - Garageband (from indications of peripherals/ upticks in iLife sales).

Besides ... as you mentioned ... this seemed to be a way for people to get paid to deliver silly "all about me" presentations. When Apple participates in such an event ... usually the whole show is "all about Apple".

4:05 PM, April 09, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First time? Apple was a leader (many times) in the past and now is again.

7:12 PM, April 09, 2005  
Blogger fixyourthinking said...

Never has Apple been greater than 50% with any product. Of course they have 100% Mac Market Share ;-)

The iPod/iTunes represents the 1st time Apple has a virtual monopoly (which 75% or < is)

7:17 PM, April 11, 2005  

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