Cum on Feel the Webnoize

The Music Industry Turns to the Tech World for a Boost

For others, the thrill of working on a killer app doesn't quite match the ragged glory of strumming a guitar turned to full volume, though there's the obvious financial benefit. "There's no better thing in the world for me than to be a musician," admits Steve Mack, a RealNetworks executive producer who spent the late '80s and first half of the '90s playing in the bands That Petrol Emotion and Anodyne. "But it doesn't pay the rent."

Other musicians at Webnoize weren't so willing to make the leap from the right brain to the left, but they're equally concerned about getting paid. Amid all the talk of Internet radio, copyright protection, digital downloading, and business models, artists on one panel expressed concerns about the music industry's sudden willingness to spring ahead to Internet time.

The controversial rapper and actor Ice T has become a fixture at these tech-music conventions since he signed with the online record label Atomic Pop earlier this year. Artists like Ice T see a big advantage to working with online labels rather than traditional ones—they typically offer a bigger cut on sales. At Webnoize, he compared the rapid convergence of the music and tech industries to a spacecraft that may lift off without him or any of his fellow musicians on board.

illustration by Limbert Fabian

Ice T counsels his peers that the familiar dream of becoming a hit major-label artist is a fading, possibly outdated hope. "My artist friends are still saying, 'Ah, I wanna get me a record deal,' " he says. "But I'm like, 'They're building a spaceship!' "

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