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Chirping with Will.i.am

Maggie Shiels | 16:33 UK time, Thursday, 15 April 2010

Chirp - Twitter's first-ever conference for developers - attracted a wide and varied band of geeks and engineers from 28 countries. Co-founder Biz Stone said that around 1,000 people flocked to the Chirp event.

Chirp logoSerial angel investor Ron Conway told me that "today it was 1,000 people; in five years it will be 10,000".

He has invested in a number of developers building for Twitter and said that the conference shows that "real-time data is really in its infancy and the number of people here tells you what an awesome opportunity it represents".

Another person who thought the conference was "dope" was the hip-hop artist Will.i.am.

He appeared on stage for an informal chat and wandered the floor at the Palace of Fine Arts to discuss music and technology with anyone who wanted to talk. What he was really here for was to learn from those at the cutting edge of the social-media revolution.

Screenshot of sketch of TwitterIn the space of four years, Twitter has evolved from a sketch to a service that has over 105 million registered users who have played key roles in world events from the Mumbai bombings to the Iranian elections and from the Haiti earthquake to the downing of a passenger jet in the Hudson River.

Biz Stone called all of this a "triumph of humanity, not technology in how people use Twitter". That is also how the Library of Congress views these tweets given its move to archive every single one of them every posted since March 2006.

Will.i.amFor Will.i.am, the significance of Twitter is how it has affected the world of music.

"Right now, the companies responsible for content (in the music industry) haven't accepted the new way of distributing stuff because there is no way to monetise it."

Twitter-watchers may agree, given that the same question has dogged the company for years and is one that has been playing out at this conference. Will.i.am told me that "Twitter gives a hint of what is coming tomorrow" and that "the music industry is gone, but Twitter will inspire the next industry".

He believes the service will influence the types of songs he and others will write because it is like watching a stream of consciousness and you can see what parts of the world are engaging with the music and the bands.

"Now you can surf people's thoughts and it's scary but it's also pretty dope."

Talking of which, Will.i.am also reckons that the very nature of the band will also be changed forever by social media like Twitter and Facebook.

"The band of the future is not going to be a singer, a guitarist and a bass player. It will be a singer, a guitarist, a bass player and a code writer - the guy who does apps, computer animation. That is a group. It is going to be about self-contained content-providers."

Will.i.am suggests some implications for those moguls who currently control the billion-dollar music industry.

"It's not music that is dead. It's the people that house it that are dead. The industry I came from ain't there any more, but it's pretending to be."

As someone who is getting to grips with social media and learning how to code, Will.i.am relished his star status at this conference. Even though he stuck out like a sore thumb as the coolest dude in the room, he seemed very comfortable mingling with the coders and engineers.

"You know what's dope," he told the crowd "I am the only person from the music industry here."

They liked that.

Comments

  • 1. At 8:42pm on 15 Apr 2010, Ho-Man Yau wrote:

    At last, somebody from the music industry who understands

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  • 2. At 11:50pm on 15 Apr 2010, marcdraco wrote:

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain

  • 3. At 5:15pm on 17 Apr 2010, Andrew Thomas wrote:

    I couldn't understand if "dope" meant it was a good thing or a bad thing. Maybe Mr. Am would like to elaborate.

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  • 4. At 01:18am on 18 Apr 2010, Ross wrote:

    He knows little about music; being in a pop band hardly makes him a musical/business genius, merely a tool.

    "The band of the future is not going to be a singer, a guitarist and a bass player. It will be a singer, a guitarist, a bass player and a code writer.."

    For a start, surely someone important is missing in here? Hint...Phil Collins, Bill Ward, Charlie Benante, Ringo Starr, Mike Portnoy...

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  • 5. At 9:41pm on 19 Apr 2010, The_Hess wrote:

    @4 Very true, clearly shows how little pop music has to do with actual talent! Mike Portnoy is more than just a talented musician, he is a virtuoso! And he regularly updates his Twitter with tour news. Although, as a guitar player I am more of a fan of John Petrucci.

    What Will.i.am fails to understand that whilst things like Facebook etc are important, they don't make the band any better and they don't really require any skills.

    Proper music will continue to be made in the same way, with pop music filling the radio airwaves with its irrelevant messages and cheesy talentless singing.

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