The music industry injects about $4 billion annually into the Nashville economy and employs tens of thousands of residents, but piracy is crippling an industry where only one out of 20 songs is purchased legally.
In an effort to find ways to combat the rampant problem, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke met with Mayor Karl Dean, Gov. Phil Bredesen, Congressman Jim Cooper, and a who’s-who of the music industry at Belmont University on Monday for a town hall-style discussion.
Juxtaposed with tales from the crowd of the financial effects of illegal downloads on Nashville residents, Locke, Obama’s chief adviser on intellectual property issues, assured the administration’s commitment to global enforcement of laws protecting intellectual property.
But while veteran songwriters cried for federal enforcement of copyright laws over the Internet, Locke noted that the primary change must be in the perception of illegal downloads. Bredesen advocated for a change in semantics from “piracy” to “ stealing music.”
Big Kenny, of country hit-making duo Big & Rich, echoed the governor’s sentiments in a much cooler fashion: “I don’t like to give good pirates a bad name — it’s [illegal downloading] stealing.”
There was also a good bit of anger at the music industry’s failure to be progressive with the rise of digital media over a decade ago. Mark Montgomery, who serves on Dean’s Commission on Music, was vocal about the need to adapt to an evolving marketplace rather than try to stop the bleeding with traditional industry models.
The commerce secretary agreed.
"We need to enforce against big-volume distributors, and at the same time look at a new business model that adapts to changing technology," Locke said.