When Record Store Day got started in 2008 as a celebration of the culture of independent music retail, it certainly had its fair share of naysayers. “The world has moved on,” they decreed! “Why fetishize the past when you could be embracing the digital future”? At the time, new LP sales in the previous year hovered at a little under a million units. Big box stores and online retail had been causing many beloved local shops to close their doors.
It’s hard to really gauge how much RSD is a direct factor, but by 2013, annual LP sales were up over 600%, topping six million units annually. And that’s a Soundscan figure, so it doesn’t include retailers that don’t report to Soundscan or many DIY mailorder operations. While this certainly hasn’t been enough to offset the decline of CD sales, the repopularization of the vinyl format has been extremely helpful in keeping many indie retailers afloat.
That alone is cause for some serious celebration (and we’ll be in line Saturday morning hoping to score that REM Unplugged 4XLP) but it’s also worth asking what we can learn from this success. Here’s a few ideas:
At FMC we’re all about artists getting paid for the use of their work, particulary when the music is used by large, publicly traded companies. But if the labels are so keen to make sure that performing artists (or their heirs) are being properly compensated, there’s a better way to do it.
Every rising garage rock band or upstart emcee knows that when you’ve got a bunch of untested new material, one of the smartest things you can do is to load up the van and take your new stuff out on the road to see what the audience thinks.
Well, that’s exactly what the United States Patent and Trademark Office(USPTO) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) are doing. Last year the Internet Task Force at the Dept. of Commerce authored a massive “Green Paper” addressing a wide range of digital copyright issues and asked for public comments. After an initial round of feedback, now they’re taking it on the road, hosting four roundtables around the country for the purpose of soliciting more public feedback to inform the agency’s recommendations. And you’re invited!
As nearly two hundred artists, producers, engineers, and music professionals traveled to Washington DC for “GRAMMYs On The Hill” last week, now is a great time to review the status of an important and recurring issue facing recording artists. Artists and record labels, large and small, do not get compensated for the use of their recordings on AM/FM (“terrestrial”) radio. The recording industry would like to see a change in this area, so that working musicians (not just the superstars) can make a fair living making recordings that we as fans want to hear on our local radio stations. It costs money, time, as well as talent, to create great records.
High costs, crappy customer service and speeds well below what’s advertised. How much do you love your Internet Service Provider (ISP)? If you have Comcast or Time Warner Cable, chances are not a lot. These two cable behemoths consistently come in at the top of “worst companies ever” lists, and we’re sure plenty of musicians can count themselves among the frustrated. Now these two companies wanna get married. But will the government allow it?
That’s something that Washington, DC is grappling with as we speak. On one side of the debate you’ve got well-heeled corporate lobbyists working on behalf of ISPs keen to make more money from controlling even more of the broadband marketplace. On the other, you’ve got regular Internet users, consumer groups and creative entrepreneurs who are tired of being promised one thing and paying out the nose for another.
Musicians are a very adaptable bunch, particularly independents. We’re the ones who turned the original MySpace into a powerhouse of music discovery; we’ve made Twitter an important platform for conversations about music; we continue to drive eyeballs to YouTube. Unfortunately musicians have also experienced the hassles of having a once-dependable platform disappear or transform into something that isn’t so useful, like when MySpace went Murdoch or the recent changes to Facebook.
Musicians’ needs in the digital realm might not be simple, per se, but they should be recognized. Although artists are generally enthusiastic about digital tools to reach fans, raise capital and sell stuff, we’re less thrilled when an online service goes away or is modified to the extent that its less useful. When news broke recently that streaming on-demand site Beats Music had acquired Topspin—a well-liked, direct-to-fan commerce solution for musicians—many wondered what this would mean for artists who had come to depend on its suite of services.
You might think a two-time Grammy-nominee more than once named America’s Best DJ by DJ Times would be immune to label pressures. But as DJ and producer Kaskade explained in a series of tweets last month, that’s not the case. The frequent festival headliner (real name: Ryan Raddon) announced he is “in between labels,” leaving behind former label/publisher/mangement company Ultra Music (part owned by major label Sony): read more
Congress’ ongoing review of the Copyright Act continued Wednesday when the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet convened a hearing on “preservation and reuse of copyrighted works”
Committee chairman Howard Coble (R-NC) began the hearing with a nod to his love for bluegrass music—a genre he acknowledged has limited commercial potential in the contemporary marketplace, but remains an invaluable part of America’s cultural history. It’s actually a pretty good example of what’s at stake in these debates, particularly with orphan works.
It’s been said that Jazz is “America’s greatest gift to the world.” So it’s only right for America to preserve and protect that gift for generations to come. That’s why were glad to see Rep. John Conyers (D-Mi) reintroduce his jazz appreciation bill, H.R. 4280, the “National Jazz Preservation, Education, and Promulgation Act of 2014.”read more
Today’s the last day to sign up for the Health Insurance Marketplace at healthcare.gov, and if our Facebook feed is any indication, there’s no shortage of musicians out there who’ve waited till the last minute and are now getting covered. Don’t forget: we’ve put a page of artist-friendly resources together over at health.futureofmusic.org, and if you need some last minute assistance, our friends at Headcount are still manning their hotline at 1-919-264-0418.
Last-minute shoppers should also know that if they run into any technical problems related to the surge of traffic, they won’t be penalized, and will be given a little extra time to enroll. You can also call 1-800-318-2596 to sign up over the phone.