In some ways, I’m the perfect target for U2’s big new release partnership with Apple. U2 was my favorite band all through junior high and high school. I dutifully collected all their singles, and I still have my ticket stub and sweatshirt from the 1998 Popmart tour. Yet my interests drifted elsewhere as I got older; I’m part of the reason their last record sold relatively poorly, as I still haven’t heard it. Theoretically, a free copy of Songs of Innocence might rekindle my fandom.
But: it’s complicated. U2’s avowed commitments to social justice were a big part of what got me interested in activism and policy at a young age. It feels a bit jarring now to see the band whose liner notes got thirteen-year old me to join Amnesty International so closely associated with a company that’s facing protests both for inhumane factory conditions abroad and low contractor wages domestically.
The ambivalence doesn’t stop there. The Apple/U2/Universal Music Group partnership has also prompted some unexpected backlash. Still, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been successful on the most basic levels; the band was reportedly well paid (over $100 million in marketing, plus a flat royalty fee), at least 36 million people have accessed the music, the new iPhone has set new sales records and everyone’s still talking about U2 and Apple two weeks later. Including our own Casey Rae, who joined Chris Richards of the Washington Post and Catherine Mayer of TIME Magazine—both of whom have recently written about U2—on the Kojo Nnamdi Show on Sept. 23. (Listen to the archived broadcast).
You may be feeling some U2 fatigue, but we think there’s still a need to ask deeper questions about what this deal means, and what it doesn’t.
The very first music festival probably took place in a small clearing, just a pterodactyl’s throw from the main cave; the manufacturers of crude stone implements no doubt sponsored the one after that.
Woodstock came later, demonstrating huge demand for music, drugs and the communal experience. With recorded music revenue in a protracted free fall, the live space has become an even greater industry obsession…
If you’re seeking lyrics to your favorite songs online, you now have two fewer sites to choose from. That’s because back on May 21, the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) filed lawsuits against two unlicensed lyrics sites, SeekLyrics.com and LyricsTime.com, as the latest step in an ongoing effort to ensure that publishers and songwriters get compensated when lyrics are reproduced and transmitted online. Since then, these offending sites have disappeared from the internet. But don’t worry; you probably won’t notice they’re gone, and you can instead choose from one of the plethora of licensed and legal alternatives.
Today, news broke that Merlin—a global rights agency representing independent labels—entered into a deal with Internet radio leader Pandora that seems to align the incentives of both parties while maintaining direct payment to artists.
Overall, we are glad to see a major music service commit to better serving indies using technology, and with a shared goal of growing audiences for that music (and thereby generating more revenue).
WASHINGTON, DC—In official comments filed with the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division, Future of Music Coalition argues that the consent decrees which currently govern ASCAP and BMI, the nation’s two leading performance rights organizations (PROs), serve an important purpose for songwriters and independent publishers, along with small and noncommercial broadcasters.
The filing is in response to a request for public comments on competitive concerns that arise from the licensing of musical works by Performance Rights Organizations, as part of the DOJ’s review of existing consent decrees.
The following statement can be attributed to Casey Rae, VP for Policy & Education: read more
FMC is pleased to submit the following comments to the Department of Justice (DOJ) Antitrust Division regarding the agency’s review of the Antitrust Consent Decrees for the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI).
Moreover, FMC appreciates the opportunity to address the persistent issues songwriters and independent music publishers face under the Consent Decrees, particularly a lack of transparency and failure to balance interests in the licensing of musical works for public performance, as well as barriers of entry for independent songwriters, publishers, and music platforms.
FMC commends the DOJ for reviewing the Consent Decrees and also commends the agency’s commitment to maintaining healthy competition within the licensing of musical works for public performance. Despite some differences with ASCAP, BMI, and the major consolidated music publishers, we are encouraged that many in this space have expressed their desire to nurture songwriters and expand transparency. We see the DOJ’s review of the Antitrust Consent Decrees as an important opportunity to highlight issues with consolidation of the music industry, the need for fair compensation and stronger protections for songwriters, as well as the importance of ASCAP and BMI to a functional music industry that serves the needs of creators.
FMC’s comments will address the specific questions raised by the DOJ in soliciting public comment for the review.
General Comments for the Review of the ASCAP and BMI Antitrust Consent Decrees
Do the Consent Decrees continue to serve important competitive purposes today? Why or why not? Are there provisions that are no longer necessary to protect competition? Are there provisions that are ineffective in protecting competition?read more
It used to be that big companies were able to define the parameters for debate about music industry issues, and make all the big decisions. What was good for corporate media and big money, we were told, was good for the artists, and for the music industry as a whole.
The desire to tell a more complete and accurate story centered on the needs and experiences of musicians was a big part of why Future of Music Coalition got started 14 years ago. By now, more people understand that the agendas of a handful of giant music companies may sometimes align with artists, but not always. In fact, these companies are very capable of misdirection when it benefits their bottom line. And tech companies don’t have a lot of experience working directly with artists, in part because the existing structures so often compel big-money negotiations with the major rightsholders. Today, we’re thrilled to see more and more artists speaking openly about the issues that impact their livelihoods. Independent labels are getting bolder too, in demanding fair treatment and respect for their different way of doing business.
The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet held its second hearing on music licensing on June 25, welcoming input from a variety of interest groups and organizations as a continuation of the ongoing reexamination of our country’s copyright system. You can find our coverage of the prior hearing here.
Nine witnesses testified before the committee, offering opinions that varied in focus but all highlighted major areas of potential reform. Witnesses for this hearing included singer/songwriter Rosanne Cash representing the Americana Music Association, Cary Sherman (CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, or RIAA), Charles Warfield on behalf of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), Darius Van Arman on behalf of the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), Ed Christian of the Radio Music License Committee (RMLC), Paul Williams as President of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), Chris Harrison of Pandora, President of SoundExchangeMichael Huppe, and David Frear, CFO of Sirius XM.