Blog Post

@Mobile Content World: Chuck D Knows What Time It Is

I’ll start with my traditional conference gripes. First off, I’m going to boycott conferences with no wireless network. Judging by the turnout here, other people have had the same idea. Secondly – no delegate list. Thirdly – everything ran late from the first session. The conference director opened today saying “the market thrives on innovation and fun”. Yeah, well I thrive on properly organised conferences. Sort it out.
– Alas, no Ted Cohen, so Toby Lewis of MusicAlly was roped in to chair. We open with Chuck D, who I know as a hip hop legend from back in the day but who’s now an evangelist for digital as a way of empowering artists. He set up the music site Rapstation.com (I would explore it and tell you more – but as I write this I don’t have a web connection…), web radio station Bringthenoise.com and the next project is Chuck D Mobile, launching in December. (More on that when we get it.)
– He wasn’t too keen to use his own name, but understood the marketing logic: “This is a cat that can believe in you like you can believe in him,” as he puts it.
– Chuck (real name Carlton Ridenhouer) became disillusioned with the music industry despite massive success with Public Enemy – he described that success as almost too selective, at the expense of other artists doing great work in the hip hop community. He was also wary of delivering his content to middle men preoccupied with making money for shareholders, and hated the corporate treatment of hip hop.
– “We were MySpace before MySpace – because I understood the need to get our artists straight to the public. In 1996 I first thought the internet would be viable… that there was a big chance we could be the programmers of our own content.” He described wireless as a kind of human remote – a platform like Chuck D Mobile provides a structure to house them that allows them to share their music and ideas, and he doesn’t use the word consume because he wants users to engage and participate.
– He’s still disillusioned: “Making a killing and making a living are diametrically opposed.” He’s adamant that good content can be produced for mobile at little cost, and actually that big business attitudes and big budgets don’t transfer well to the (very) small screen.
– The Beatles revolutionised music in the sixties, he said. “But Sean Fanning [Napster] revolutionised music too and doesn’t get credit for it.”
– His parting salvo was that phone operators should also invest in laser eye surgery because small screens are such a problem – especially for 35-50 year-olds. He reckons content for that age group will be a huge growth market and is bringing on board artists like George Clinton and Bootsy Collins accordingly.

This article originally appeared in MediaGuardian.