Copyright issues top Music Week keynote


TORONTO -- The future of the global music industry in the digital age lies in monetizing consumer behavior, not controlling or criminalizing it, veteran Canadian music promoter Terry McBride of Nettwerk Productions said Thursday.

"The minute you release something, it's public property," Vancouver-based McBride, whose stable of acts includes Avril Lavigne, Sarah McLachlan and the Barenaked Ladies, told music executives during a keynote address at Canadian Music Week in Toronto.

"The only control a manager or label has is when music is first introduced. After that, you're trying to monetize their (consumer's) behavior, or force their behavior. I prefer monetizing their behavior," he argued, taking aim at staunch defenders of digital rights management (DRM) to protect copyright holders.

McBride insisted he is less interested in selling CDs than in selling music in every form and every global market imaginable.

For example, Avril Lavigne's third album, "The Best Damn Thing," is due out April 17. The first single, "Girlfriend," was recorded by the Canadian artist in eight languages, including Mandarin, Spanish, Japanese, German, Portuguese, French and Italian.

Why Mandarin and Japanese? McBride said Nettwerk had tracked the consumption of Lavigne's music and found it greater in Asia than in all of the Western hemisphere combined.

Next on tap are ringtones and, beginning March 8, the release of a Manga, or Japanese-style comic book, storyline about Hana, a fan of Avril Lavigne.

"We've created a compelling piece of commentary that's episodic. We went to Japanese Manga animation, and asked artists to write compelling stories where Avril is a character, and not a real person," he explained.

The comic book-style episodes, which feature Hana eventually living out her dream to meet Lavigne, will be wrapped around advertising on YouTube and delivered weekly to cell phones.

"We'll have millions of people consuming it on a weekly basis, That behavior can be monetized," McBride argued.

In all, 24 episodes of the Avril Lavigne-themed soap opera will be released in the near future, and in a graphic book from Random House on April 8. McBride also foresees releasing music tracks with the Japanese Manga so that Lavigne fans can make their own music tracks by lip-synching, and upload homemade videos to YouTube and other video Web sites.

"I don't want to control it. That's the idea. We've moved on from this," he said of the animated story-line. Instead, McBride said he was looking to possibly sell a movie script based on the Japanese manga cartoons, or develop a clothing line or other ancillary streams.

But Mitch Bainwol, chairman and CEO of the Washington-based Recording Industry Association of America, while seeing value in exploiting all possible revenue streams, argued that DRM and other protections for copyright holders remain vital to the survival of the industry.

"Creativity is important. But you can't give up on the notion that music is property. If you do, you will diminish the supply of new music. Avril will do fine. But the question is how to develop the next Avril Lavignes," he told Canadian Music Week delegates.

Bainwol insisted that protecting existing revenue streams was as important as developing new ones.

"We've got to find every bit of revenue we can to sustain investment in new bands. But that doesn't mean we will throw out the notion of sales and watch everything else go away," he said.

Graham Henderson, president of the Canadian Recording Industry Assn., argued for the continuation of DRM, despite criticism from consumer rights advocates.

"DRM is a method for allowing us to identify tracks and control to an extent the usage of those tracks," he argued. "It (DRM) has to be done in a way that, if people choose to protect their copyright, they have a way to protect that copyright."

Canadian Music Week continues through Saturday.