Earlier this week I attended the latest version of the always excellent SF Music Tech conference
, that always tries to bridge the gap between the music industry and the tech industry. The two sides are often seen at odds, even though I think that's a simplistic (and often just incorrect) assessment of the situation. Whenever I attend events like this, I try to wait until the end of the day to see if there were any particular themes that became clear over the course of the event. This time, what struck me, is how much technologists are in demand from the music industry folks. On one of the early panels, someone spoke of the need for better communication between techies and music folks (and someone else mentioned the general culture clash, and the inability to understand each other). However, where it really became clear was in the various meetings and one-on-one conversations I had throughout the course of the day. It was really stunning. I've never had so many "music" related companies all ask me (variations on) the same question: "Do you know any good technology people who might want to come work for us." By the end of the day I was laughing every time someone asked me that question. It seems clear, these music startups are all desperate for tech help.
I'm curious as to why this was so pronounced. It could be that (as always!) good techies are hard to find. These days, there's tremendous demand, and the magnetic pull of jobs at Google, Facebook and Twitter often feels like it's sucking dry available technologists for startups. But, at the same time, I also wonder if the music industry's history in the tech world is impacting things as well. The history of music-related startups is littered with companies sued by record labels or crushed by overly burdensome rules. I would bet that a lot of smart techies recognize this, and don't want to touch anything that might involve having to go up against (or even "partner") with the legacy music industry. There's plenty of interest in music, but working in music innovation just seems like a hassle that's probably not worth it for many technologists who have other options.
It seems like yet another unfortunate legacy of the industry's decision to treat the changing marketplace as an "us vs. them" sort of thing.