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SXSW Day 4 report: Rachael Ray, and finally some solutions (thanks, Neil Young)

March 21, 2009 |  3:44 pm

Rachaelray_mmc_57018916_400 As music biz execs have spent the last three and a half days at the South by Southwest music festival and conference in Austin, Texas, debating new models and how to survive in the economic downtown, few tangible solutions had been presented. That was, of course, until this afternoon.

At a panel designed to showcase Neil Young's upcoming 10-disc package, "Neil Young Archives Volume 1 [1963-1972]," something else was revealed: innovation. While much of the details on the set had been announced before SXSW, it's a fascinating package for fan, and one being released in three formats -- Blu-Ray, DVD and CD. The Blu-Ray set will run $299, the DVD package will sell for $199 and the CD set will carry a $99 price tag. Each piece of the package also will be available individually on June 2 -- including the discs and the large booklet.

Perhaps most enticing to fans, however, is the ability of the set to be continually updated, at least for those with the Blu-Ray edition. The interactive content on the Blu-Ray version will allow for downloads of new content and songs as they become available. Granted, it's a concept more fit for an established artist than an up-and-coming one, but it was one of the few panels in the Austin Convention Center that revealed some workable ideas to give fans more value.

The Neil Young discussion was running concurrent with a debate on collective licensing for peer-to-peer file-sharing. Bouncing between the two, I spent the majority of my time at the latter. It's an intriguing idea: Charge users a small fee -- added to a cable or Internet bill -- that allows users to download whatever they want. But it's one that still doesn't appear close to becoming a reality.

Jim Griffin is working with the Warner Music Group on Choruss, which is speaking with universities on a solution to enable Internet service providers to develop a way for students to download whatever they want for a small fee -- with some restrictions.

"It's not a, 'Oh, you'll never get sued,' " said Griffin. "There are always parameters to be drawn." Downloading unreleased albums or film or television content is an example of what may be left out -- if it ever becomes a reality.

There's still a debate as to whether users should be able to opt in or opt out of such a program, and there's the more thorny discussion of how such fees are distributed to labels and copyright holders. Rates would likely have to be established by the government, and lengthy discussion as to whether or not downloaders could utilize the music for user-generated content would also loom.

Attorney Dina Lapolt had a another suggestion. She pointed to France, which has talked-up a "three-strikes" policy. In effect, ISPs could ban a user for a period of time if he or she is found infringing copyright laws three times.

She suggested a "three-strikes, you're in," program. Rather than have ISPs cut off a user's access after the third time, their rates would increase. Griffin dismissed such a policy, noting that advanced peer-to-peer encryption would make enforcing such a rule impossible.

Other notes from this afternoon in Austin:

-- The hottest party in Austin today was hosted by Rachael Ray. Lines stretched more than a block, and those who got in could come for the bands, and stay for the food -- or vice versa. Ra Ra Riot and the New York Dolls played on separate floors in the midafternoon, while guests sampled fancy burgers and mac-and-cheese dishes. Ra Ra Riot proved the ideal mojito-sipping soundtrack, with bouncy, string-enhanced power-pop.

-- There's plenty of retro, synth-driven pop here at SXSW. We've already discussed Little Boots and missed other acts such as Tigercity. Add the Casio Kids to the list, whose afternoon performance was their 10th in the last four days. They didn't look any worse for the wear, with colorfully light and sweetly infectious dance pop. More live than sampled, the Casio Kids shot vibrant keyboard tones through slicing guitar lines.

-- Todd Martens

(Photo: Rachael Ray and Matthew McConaughey tape a segment. Credit: WireImage)