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In Defense Of Emily White (The NPR Intern)

image from post by Emily White (the co-founder of Whitesmith Entertainment & Readymade Records)

This morning I was scrolling through my Twitter feed and happened to click on a post by Josh Jackson that stated “David Lowery Responds to NPR Music Intern who doesn’t pay for music.” I clicked on the article and was shocked to see my name in the headline. But then I realized, the article was referring to a student who tweeted at me a few months ago saying “Oh the woes of having THE most common English name.”

I haven’t met this young lady, but when she did tweet at me in April, I was instantly impressed at what her online presence suggested. Or maybe it was more déjà vu than anything as here was a college student who shared my exact name and seemed to be kicking butt at her internships, living and breathing music the way I did as an intern (and hopefully still do).

EW2 (or ‘Emily White too’ as one of my interns referred to her today) is the General Manager of the radio station at American University, where she is a Senior. Her Twitter feed from this month alone has her spreading the word as a true music maven on the artists she’s digging from Dan Deacon on Stereogum to Fleetwood Mac on Last FM, while simultaneously seeming to be very interested in music supervision. As the world found out today, she is also an intern for NPR Music.

EW2 wrote a great blog post! I wish everyone would read it before attacking her. And I know that many people didn’t read it since I was bombarded with e-mails today asking if I wrote the post, which clearly states that she is a college student. I’m 29 and of course one can go to college at any age, but I graduated from Northeastern’s Music Business program in 2005.

In the post, EW2 talks about how her boss recently moved his entire music library into the cloud (as have I, just like I’ve been moving my businesses into the cloud, making it easily internally accessible to our multi-city team). EW2 doesn’t think any of this is weird, it’s completely the norm to her. Just like when I shipped my massive CD collection home as soon as I digitized it if for any reason other than that I moved apartments quite frequently as a young person and lugging a large physical music collection around was almost impossible. Some music addicts pore over vinyl, others consume as much music digitally as possible because we can’t not (I’m the latter). To each their own.

EW2 states “As monumental a role as musicians and albums have played in my life, I've never invested money in them aside from concert tickets and t-shirts.” As an artist manager, THANK YOU, EW2 for supporting musicians by buying most likely thousands of dollars of concert tickets and merchandise throughout your 21 years. A good portion of those funds do indeed go directly to the musicians you love so much, give or take a promoter profit and venue cut, depending on the size of the show you are attending. And I’m glad that you and your family have bonded deeply over music as much as my Mom and Dad White did with me, who were, delighted when I went totally digital as they were thrilled to inherit my massive CD collection. Until, I showed my Dad Spotify, which he happily paid for almost immediately and is obsessed with re-discovering some of his favorite artists from the 60’s, particularly the obscure ones that streaming platforms’ recommendation sections suggest. And how cool is your High School prom date? No one ever told me about Big Star growing up and despite being involved with various Big Star tribute events over the last few years, unfortunately, I was in the dark about their amazing music until Alex’s death.

I grew up obsessively organizing my CD’s as a teenager. And later, ripped them all, then obsessively organizing my digital collection (including Cracker!). And now I’m so happy to have my internal and external hard drive space freed up again now that not only is everything in the cloud, but should disaster happen with a physical hard drive, as EW2 states, streaming legally through Spotify (or Rdio!) will replace the library almost immediately.

I loved Cracker in middle school. I’m listening to them on Spotify as we speak. And I’m sorry that when David was coming up, his only option was to sign his rights away to a corporation who would later make deals on legal streaming platforms that he has no say on. It’s interesting to me that while my Twitter feed and Inbox was blowing up today with people telling me about the precocious NPR intern who I share a name with, I was busy in a meeting with Urge Overkill and their new publisher. In the meeting Eddie “King” Roeser, who comes from the same major-label dominant era of the 90’s as David, was incredibly positive about the opportunities available to him now. Was touring with Nirvana in the 90’s awesome for Urge? Of course it was! But now Eddie realizes he can record anytime he wants and that his relationship with folks like his publisher is more important than ever. In addition, when we re-launched Urge 2.0 in 2010, the band was able to retain their rights for the first time in their career and assemble a hand-picked industry team instead of getting assigned a group of folks in which we can hope that in the best case scenario, a majority of the people involved dig the band. I was fascinated listening to Eddie in the meeting today say that he used to have to do a deal just to record music. Now he can record a world-class album at home and is looking for partners who are experts in spreading his music as well as monetizing it in 2012 and beyond.

One of the many things I love about the modern music age, is that we have an infinite amount of choices on how we enjoy and experience music. No one is preventing you from listening to music on vinyl. No one is preventing the average consumer from listening to crappy quality MP3’s on earbuds. No one is preventing the Rob Zombie fan in the NPR blog comments from marveling in Rob’s gorgeous album artwork packaging. And no one is preventing Scott Stapp from playing multiple nights at The Beacon Theatre this year, so please EW2, don’t let anyone lecturing you in the comments get you down. Again, to each their own! More music than ever in history is being consumed, which is good for artists, our industry (believe it or not, whether you’re benefiting directly or not) as well as for society.

To put this in perspective, think about a parallel industry that you might not feel as emotional about. I love physical books. I cannot imagine reading one on an iPad or Kindle, mostly because the thought of staring at a screen at the end of the day to me is the opposite of unwinding and losing myself in a book. But I'm not going to fight technology, trying to convince an entire consumer base or industry otherwise. And again, no one is stopping me from buying traditional / physical books. Just like I could care less if someone is reading a novel on a mobile device next to me on the subway.

So let's embrace EW2 for filling us in on the point of view of a 21-year-old music freak in 2012 and how she listens to music.

I know that Bob Boilen has responded, coming to EW2’s defense. Which also means I hope that EW2 is not bumming tonight. It was her honesty about how her generation (+29 year old me and now my 60 year old father) consumes music that rattled the industry today. EW2: Don’t let them get you down as I found your post inspiring and I hope it never causes you to fear speaking your mind, or even better, encourages you to always voice your thoughts. Congrats young Emily White, what a great experience this is for you personally and professionally. I look forward to hearing more thoughts on your generation as your life, career, and music fandom evolves.

Which is why EW2 will probably get her wish shortly as she says, “What I want is one massive Spotify-like catalog of music that will sync to my phone and various home entertainment devices. With this new universal database, everyone would have convenient access to everything that has ever been recorded and performance royalties would be distributed based on play counts (hopefully with more money going back to the artist than the present model). All I require is the ability to listen to what I want, when I want and how I want it. Is that too much to ask?”

No, it’s not. And I’m sorry that it often takes companies and rights holders literally years to catch up with technology, what music fans / consumers want, as well as with reality.

So Miss Emily White, I admire you. I would be honored if you considered coming to intern for us (though we don't want to poach you from your sweet NPR gig). Please consider me a resource if you ever need anything. Don’t let any of this get you down. I would love to introduce you to my music supervisor and publisher colleagues as I think that could be a great career route for you, if I’m correct in my observation of your fascination with the field. Having a music collection of 11,000 songs is an amazing start. Music supervision / synch pitching is also an area that is often my artists’ number one revenue stream and is crucial to not only spreading the word on their music, but reaping financial benefits of PRS royalties, increased (often direct-to-artist) sales (!), and straight up income as all of my artists own their latest releases’ master rights. You called it like you see it and I hope you always speak your mind, without worrying or caring what others think. Thanks for being such an amazing music fan and continuing to devote your life to spreading the music you love far and wide. Please keep doing what you do and maybe I'll be lucky enough to see you tweet about or play one of our artists on your radio station(s), continuing to spread the word on music you dig far and wide, to the benefit of the artists and fans.

(Slightly older) Emily White