Macworld iWorld Pumps Up Volume for Music Fans, Artists and Companies
Macworld iWorld Pumps Up Volume for Music Fans, Artists and Companies

Public Enemy founder and Bomb Squad producer Hank Shocklee evangelized for Apple's disruptive effects on the music industry, then performed on some Apple products of his own during a headlining gig at the 27th annual MacWorld | iWorld expo Friday afternoon in San Francisco.

"Music today is the biggest it's ever been," Shocklee told Billboard.biz. "But you have to understand, we're not in Kansas anymore."

The Grammy-nominated producer talked up the democratizing power of digital technology for artists and consumers, complementing a three-day schedule stacked with music-related programming.

Macworld GM Paul Kent said artists have always loved the end-to-end elegance of Apple products, from recording in GarageBand to distributing on iTunes. But "we're definitely ramping up with more performances and more panels to help artists and individuals who want to become artists," he said.

Billed as the "ultimate fan event," Apple had divorced Macworld in 2009, but the expo is still expected to draw upwards of 25,000 acolytes to its showroom floor, concerts and classes.

Of the more than 270 vendors in the exhibit hall, more than half are geared towards the mobile market, where Apple has developed a "pervasive mobile lifestyle," Kent said. Macworld hopes to embody that lifestyle by becoming "iWorld," and iWorld is blasting tunes powered by Apple's music software and hardware, and a fleet of third-party companies.

According to Apple, more than 315 million iOS devices have sold as of Jan. 24. Apple's cloud-based music service iCloud with iTunes Match launched in November, and has garnered 85 million users. There are now 225 million active iTunes users and 20 million songs on iTunes. Users have downloaded 16 billion songs from iTunes, and Christmas Day 2011 alone saw more than 140 million downloads from iTunes.

Shocklee said he foresees artists using the cloud as a simple virtual studio, checking in and out audio files and collaborating with others around the world. Companies that help artists and consumers organize their vast content collections stand to profit, he said.

One company mining the space: 30-person San Francisco music file-cleaning service TuneUp.

TuneUp CEO Gabe Adiv said TuneUp -- which has eight million users -- saw a sales bump when Apple announced iCloud. Consumers started cleaning up their music libraries in preparation for the big upload, and Adiv said users report easier uploading and match to iCloud with a cleaner music library.

"Apple has flipped the music industry on its head," Adiv said. "We think that brought it's own set of high-class issues that we're trying to solve."

Another company exploiting the shift is Germany-based Soundcloud, with offices in San Francisco. The audio platform received a reported $50 million investment from Kleiner Perkins on the success of its slick recording apps for iOS and Android. The company just passed 10 million users and has moved to HTML 5, spokesperson Kristina Weise said.

Henrik Lenberg, VP of platform at Soundcloud wrote to Billboard, "every iPhone user has a great recording device in his/her pocket which opens up a range of exciting possibilities -- people can tell their stories, capture moments, send messages and more. We believe sound is becoming essential in a similar way people use text and photos to share their experiences."

"The iPad has generated a lot of innovation in the music app space. More music is being made on mobile devices and more people are making music -- people who never made music on a PC. Music making apps are among the most popular in the AppStore and by integrating Soundcloud sharing into the apps, we add that sweet social experience."

Shocklee preached a future like the ancient past -- where everyone makes music and everyone shares it -- and an industry whose hierarchy has been flattened.

"It's been a historic time, not just for artists but for creative people, where Apple is blurring the lines between professional and consumer and we're seeing the emergence of the prosumer. There's easier access to entry into the creative field."

"The producer is also now an artist, the producer is now a DJ, the producer is now a video director, the producer is now an engineer. Producers have to be more business-minded and handle their own agreements. We never had to worry about that before," he said.

"Look at super-producer Skrillex, five-time Grammy nominee who did his record on a laptop in his bedroom. He tours, DJs, lead singer -- he's everything. And he's just one of many others. Everybody has changed. Dre is doing better selling headphones and speakers than he does selling records."

Shocklee said the major labels agreeing to Apple's iCloud deal, wherein they get paid when Apple hosts a user's music, no matter its provenance, represents "a raised level of consciousness" at the major labels.

But those labels are obsessed with short terms gains, "because a 10 percent shift in sales can mean life or death for a label."

Shocklee said, "they're just trying to find a way and they'll get through it, because there is a need for international record companies -- if they benefit the artist, not just take advantage of them -- for publicity, touring, accounting for all these web revenue streams. We're just now starting to figure out how to work together, and we're having growing pains."

Lamentations that digital revenue has not replaced record sales are premature, he said. "Digital revenue has grown by leaps and bounds, and we haven't even scratched the surface. We're looking for something very young to bear fruit right away."

A longtime remixer, Shocklee said the outdated copyright system -- which made Congressional news in January -- is hurting creativity, not helping it. "Technology is a tool for liberation, but it's just a tool, it can also be used as a tool for repression. Remix culture is not a fad, it's part of all of our vocabulary."

And Shocklee expressed disappointment by the music labels' thin presence at Macworld. "The music industry doesn't get it. Everybody's holding onto an old concept."

"People ask me, 'Why are you at Macworld?' I turn it around on them, 'Why aren't you at Macworld?' I went to NAMM. That's like listening to old Led Zeppelin records. Great music. Great scenario. But that was a different time. This is the future."

"This place should be packed with artists and musicians. This is a revolution. It's fucking amazing. I'm here to tell everybody that you're all free. That's it."