It's 9:30AM on a Monday in a hotel ballroom that is filled to the brim with people eager to hear what Al Franken has to say. Last night, Austin was overflowing with parties, so I figure most people dragged themselves here with hangovers. Al Franken is sober. With appropriate gravitas, he warns people straight up that the indie party is over for the Internet. Corporate interests are moving in and bringing bags of cash and controlling mindsets, Franken says.
Franken wants big telecom to, "Leave the Internet alone!" And he cracks up the tweeting audience. He explains the coming pricing intentions of major telecoms who will create a paid class system. First class service gives people a fast lane. Coach class is a throttled, slow, low-res dirt road of service.
Other warnings from Franken:
Higher prices are coming. Comcast is looking to kill Netflix. Corporations want control over distribution to give the content they own the biggest audience. This will kill the Long Tail. (I'm wondering if Wired has a reporter here and what Chris Anderson would say to his producer.)
Indie creative content can be created, but will have trouble getting seen. This will choke American creativity. Corporately owned distribution systems serve up a certain kind of content. Predictable, mainstream, vanilla.
Franken says he wants two things:
1. For artists to get paid for their work
2. To have access to open and free distribution platforms to reach audiences.
Franken urges Internet "job creators", as he sees the audience gathered at SXSW, to call their Congressmen and speak up. "As tech entrepreneurs, you create jobs and in this economy legislators want to hear from you." And, yes, he says--"You will get your call returned." He mentions Bandcamp, a service beloved by the Culture Scout Blog from its inception. Bandcamp is a platform that helps indie bands promote themselves to audiences and manage their fan base. One band grew a 12 person staff as they grew an audience through Bandcamp.
"Let's not sell out. Let's keep the Internet weird, let's keep the Internet free."
Audience goes wild!