A panel named Reinventing Payment Models for Digital Music sounds pretty boring, doesn't it? In fact, the SXSW panel was infinitely more entertaining than the Ultimate Music Recommendation Smackdown. Shocking, I know. But the entire audience was cracking up for the majority of the session. It's rather hard to get the comedic interactions of the panelists across in this medium, so you'll just have to bear with my relative lack of humor as I try to relay the meat of the information.
The gist is that the majority of artists make very little from music downloads because the contracts they're under are outdated and based on physical media and the stipulations that go along with that (such as container fees, pressing, and so on). Changing the way artists are compensated is an understandable concern, seeing as how the future of music likely rests in the digital landscape. However, it's also important that an appropriate pricing scheme is set for the consumer. For one, when it comes to music downloads, the consumer is both the distributor (which pays for the required broadband connection) and the manufacturer (if burning discs), so we should not be charged the same as we would for physical media. Plus, if the consumer thinks the pricing is unfair, we're more likely to not purchase the music...and might even feel compelled to steal it.
One thing I'd like to bring up here that was mentioned several times throughout the panel is the idea that buying music is now seen as "unhip." I don't really agree with that statement. Personally, I think stealing music is unhip. I for one don't want to be thought of as a thief. Further, it seems to me that buying vinyl is considered pretty hip, though I may be biased due to the prevalence of DJs in the San Francisco Bay Area. But what do the rest of you think? Is buying music unhip?