On February 26, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) moved to adopt strong net neutrality protections in a 3/2 vote that was a huge victory for musicians and indie labels who want a fair shot at reaching audiences online.
This article is second in a series of guest posts exploring the streaming issue from multiple angles, with a focus on how independent players are impacted. For another take, check out this post from Joe Steinhardt, owner of independent label Don Giovanni Records.read more
It’s no secret that debates over the role and structure of on-demand streaming services continue to be a source of ongoing controversy. Unfortunately, too often, these debates are framed in terms of the impacts on the largest commercial players or net industry revenues. This can be valuable as an entry point, but it can also be flattening; streaming critics and supporters alike may have a diverse range of reasons for the opinions they hold. Part of what we try to do at FMC is encourage a deeper understanding of the full breadth of independent perspectives, and to that end, we’ll be hosting a series of guest posts exploring the streaming issue from multiple angles. To kick it off, here’s some thoughts from Joe Steinhardt, owner of independent label Don Giovanni Records and a PhD Candidate in Communication at Cornell.
We write to you at a crucial moment for net neutrality, as we probably don’t have to remind you. We understand that your position can be thankless and that it is difficult to take a stand for what is right when there is so much pressure from powerful interests and their political allies. As musicians and composers, we want to thank you for moving forward with strong net neutrality rules. As so many creators have already noted, reclassification under Title II is the best way to ensure that the Internet remains open for us to build businesses, reach audiences and earn a living in what is a challenging marketplace for creative content.
You certainly have our appreciation. And we urge you to remain steadfast in your efforts to keep the Internet a viable platform for creative entrepreneurs. Without clear and enforceable rules that let us compete alongside the biggest companies, our ability to create and innovate will be threatened, if not extinguished.
It’s pretty weird when you think about it: when you hear “I Will Always Love You” performed by Whitney Houston on AM/FM radio in the US, neither the Houston estate nor her label get paid. But songwriter Dolly Parton does receive compensation, along with her publisher. We love Dolly a ton, but this seems unfair. That’s because it is.
Things look much different in the rest of the world, where performers, labels, songwriters and publishers ALL get paid for radio play. Consider how certain genres of music—like jazz and r&b—are powered by performances. “Respect,” belted out by Aretha Franklin. “My Favorite Things” as interpreted by the great John Coltrane. Yet due to a weird loophole in US law that exempts radio stations from paying performers or labels, countless American artists have been unable to collect money owed to them for airplay here and abroad. The problem is particularly acute for performers who aren’t in a position to tour, such as older, so-called “legacy” artists. When it comes down to it, the lack of a public performance right for over-the-air broadcasting amounts to the government giving away music to the rest of the world for free.
These are exciting times at FMC. After 15 years at the intersection of music, technology, policy and law, we’ve taken some bold steps to better serve you well into the future.
As musicians, songwriters, managers, indie publishers and labels ourselves, we know that it’s a challenge to stay on top of the many issues that are reshaping music. But with so much happening in the policy arena and the marketplace, this is a crucial time for artists and their teams to get involved. In FMC’s next next phase, we’ll be coming up with new and innovative ways to help you crack the code of an evolving industry. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss an opportunity. read more
Today, the United States Copyright Office released Copyright and the Music Marketplace, the result of last year’s Music Licensing Study—a project that combined roundtables in various cities with opportunities for written comments from stakeholders and the public. (FMC participated in the roundtables and official docket; see our initial comments here; reply comments here.)
There’s so much in the 245-page report that it’s impossible to offer a full breakdown of the recommendations in a single blog post. In fact, we’re still making our way through it, but the Executive Summary provides an overview of many of the key provisions. We certainly respect the effort it took to produce such a detailed report, and commend Register of Copyrights Maria A. Pallante for taking the initiative with such a thorny and complex issue set.