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Feature: The shaky music industry

By GARY GRAFF   |   March 17, 2003 at 12:33 PM
The shaky condition of the music industry -- challenged by diminishing sales and Internet downloading -- is a primary topic among those attending the annual South By Southwest music festival and conference last week.

But Grammy-winning producer Daniel Lanois sounded a positive note in his keynote speech Thursday.

"You hear a lot of stories about the state of the music industry," Lanois told a morning session with the musicians, media and other members of the music industry at the conference. "But at any given moment there's a lot of opportunity. It's up to the innovators to find it. Kick the door open!"

Lanois is the acclaimed producer of award-winning efforts by U2 ("All That You Can't Leave Behind"), Bob Dylan ("Time Out of Mind"), Peter Gabriel ("So") and Emmylou Harris ("Wrecking Ball"). He's also worked with the Willie Nelson and the Neville Brothers, among others.

Lanois was speaking and performing at South By Southwest to promote his third album, "Shine," which is due in stores April 22. He performed two songs from the album -- the pedal steel instrumental "Transmitter" and "Sometimes," on which he accompanied himself with electric guitar.

In his speech, Lanois recounted his career, which began with a makeshift recording studio in the basement of his mother's home in southern Ontario, where he recorded his own music and also songs by a young Rick James. Lanois said that his creative charge has not changed over the years, to create "a sonic signature that will allow all of us to recognize that song from across the street."

He also urged those attending the conference to "ignite, re-ignite or just turn up the flame in what you believe in. It's called passion."

Asked by one attendee to name a favorite from the albums he produced, Lanois reluctantly referred to Dylan's "Time Out of Mind."

"There's the sense of presence, a great depth of feeling," Lanois explained. "At the time when there was a youth (movement), Bob wrote songs from the perspective of his age."

South By Southwest continues through Sunday and features performances by hundreds of artists from around the world, ranging from unsigned newcomers to veterans such as Willie Nelson, the Yardbirds, Joe Jackson and Sponge.

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