FMC Newsletters

FMC Newsletter #120 | March 12, 2014


Greetings, FMC friends! After a long and cold winter, many of us are excited to be escaping to the sunshine of Austin, Texas this week for great music, excellent tacos, and a jampacked SXSW schedule. Meanwhile, there’s plenty of excitement heating up in the world of policy. Read on for all the latest happenings.

Table of Contents



FMC on the Road: SXSW

We’re already knee-deep in another edition of Austin’s signature conference, and gosh, it sure feels good to be surrounded by thousands of musicians.  Amidst all the fun, chaos, and incredible performances, we’ll be talking about issues that matter to working musicians, from the impacts of the Affordable Care Act, to compulsory licensing, to copyright enforcement online. 

We’ve put together this handy cheat sheet of panels, workshops, and showcases where you can be sure to find FMC staff, board members, and friends.  If you’re in town, don’t hesitate to track us down!  

Artist Revenue Streams: Background Vocalist Case Study

The recent Oscar win for the documentary 20 Feet from Stardom turned the spotlight on musicians whose work typically keeps them out of it: background singers.

Now, FMC’s Artist Revenue Streams project provides another glimpse at the fascinating world of session singers, through a financial case study of a busy Background Vocalist, who performs regularly on TV and in widely-released films. The case study highlights the importance of “mailbox money”, as well as the critical role played by unions in negotiating rates and managing residuals.

This case study is just the latest piece of our work to document the diverse ways that musicians make a living, and the opportunities and challenges they face in a rapidly evolving marketplace. Read the full story and explore the rest of our growing library of case studies and research reports.

On February 12, 2014, news broke that Comcast, already America’s biggest Internet service provider and video distributor, would attempt to buy Time Warner Cable for 45.2 billion dollars. The deal would impact everything from internet access and pricing to how media is delivered.

Over the years, we’ve had a lot to say about ownership consolidation in various forms, from major label mergers, to broadcast radio, to ticketing, and we’re hard-pressed to think of a time when massive ownership concentration has ultimately benefited musicians or music fans.

Musicians and other media-makers require affordable, high-quality internet service for everything from selling music and merchandise to booking tours to staying in touch with fans. Our livelihoods depend on being able to reach audiences in the ways that make the most sense for us. This proposed deal would give one company incredible influence over how music and other media is accessed and under what conditions.

As Interim Executive Director Casey Rae said in our press statement, “We all know what it’s like to be annoyed at our internet provider for bad service, even as we’re paying increasingly outrageous prices to connect. This is particularly hard on artists who need to make every dollar count. Then there’s the ever-present danger of a huge corporation like Comcast—which already owns a major content company—disadvantaging competition or locking creators into unfair economic structures.

Over the coming months, we’ll let you know how to make your voice heard on this merger.

This Thursday, March 13, the House Judiciary Committee will continue its comprehensive review of the Copyright Act starting bright and early at 9:30 AM EST.  This hearing will cover the topic of notice-and-takedown provisions under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and as always, we'll be watching and tweeting live, and sharing our recap and reflections on our blog.  For more background , check out all of our coverage of this series of hearings, including video archives and FMC testimony.

There are just a couple weeks left before the March 31st deadline to enroll in the newly created health care marketplace. Our 2013 survey (in partnership with AHIRC) found that artists lack health insurance at more than double the rate of the general population, and many musicians don’t know how the Affordable Care Act impacts them.  That means we need your help getting the word out.

If you’ve been waiting till the last minute to get covered, now’s the time to get informed about your options. Our task force has updated our resource site at health.futureofmusic.org with the latest artist-focused workshops and seminars, both at SXSW and across the country. And don’t forget that our friends at Headcount are offering a free hotline so you can get personal answers to your health care questions: email healthcare [at] headcount [dot] org or call 1-919-264-0418. 

FutureBlog is your destination for analysis of the latest news in music/tech/policy; here’s a selection of our most popular recent posts:

Artists’ Pay for Radio Play: A View From The Green Room
FMC’s Kevin Erickson joined David Byrne, John McCrea of Cake, Marc Ribot, Mike Mills of REM and many more for a rally/concert in support of a performance right for AM/FM radio. Here he outlines how this issue affects even artists who don’t get radio airplay, and why direct deals aren’t the answer.

Why Musicians Don’t “Like” Facebook Changes
As the social network struggles to monetize its userbase, bands that can’t afford to pay for ads are having a harder time reaching their fans. 

250 Days, 2500 Responses
More than 2500 people have taken our Music & Copyright quizzes, testing knowledge of the laws and business practices that control how money flows back to creators.  Here’s what we’re learning. 

FCC Takes Up Net Neutrality (Again)
A level playing-field online is crucial for musicians making a living in the contemporary marketplace. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has announced his plans to issue new rules to protect net neutrality, but some (FMC included) have concerns that this approach might not be sufficient.

De La Soul Gives Away Catalog, Highlights Challenges of Sample Licensing
Frustrated by a long struggle to clear their back catalog for digital services, the pioneering hiphop trio presented fans with a surprise Valentines day gift. But this giveaway comes with a complicated backstory that is emblematic of challenges facing artists in an environment of corporate ownership and legal ambiguity.

Think you have what it takes to join our team of music/tech/policy wonks here in DC?  We have internships open for the summer term. Think you’ve got what it takes? Check out the full details. Applications are due April 1.

The SF MusicTech Summit will take place May 20 in San Francisco and brings together visionaries in the evolving music/business/technology ecosystem, along with the best and brightest developers, entrepreneurs, investors, service providers, journalists, musicians, and organizations who work with them at the convergence of culture and commerce. There will be panels, parties, presentations, elevator pitch and speed networking sessions, and tons of opportunities. View the current list of speakers and attendees! For more information, please visit http://www.sfmusictech.com and use code “FoM ” for $25 off your ticket.

You can always contact us at suggestions [at] futureofmusic [dot] org if you have any questions or feedback.