Have you heard about "OneWebDay" It's an international celebration of the internet. Held annually on September 22, this worldwide event calls attention to the exchange of information and ideas the internet inspires. From the connectivity between musicians and fans to grassroots organizing and civic participation, the web gives everyone access to the most important communications platform of our time.
At least it should.
In some parts of the world, like China and Iran, the open internet is not an everyday reality. Even in the United States, access to quality affordable broadband is lacking in many communities. Then there's the fact that the open structures upon which the internet was built are in danger of being compromised by a handful of powerful telecommunications and cable companies. (For more info on the importance of Net Neutrality, check out our Rock the Net campaign).
For this year's OneWebDay, FMC has been asked to talk about a "big idea" having to do with the internet. Actually, we probably have a few! One thing we've definitely been thinking a lot about lately is increasing broadband access for more Americans. We think this is incredibly important to musicians and fans. Here's why.
A recent article in Washington Post shows that, although music is rapidly transitioning to online platforms for access and delivery, many people in this country can't participate in the legitimate digital music marketplace. Country music fans, many of whom reside in rural areas, are especially affected by this lack of connectivity:
With the Internet becoming an increasingly dominant way for fans to discover and purchase music, a survey of 7,500 people by the country music industry's trade organization revealed a sobering fact: Only 50 percent of core country fans have Internet access at home. That statistic, released in March, is far below the national average. A 2008 survey by Nielsen Media Research found that 80 percent of all U.S. homes have a computer, and almost 92 percent of those homes have Internet access.
Cost and availability were among the most prominent reasons cited for not having an internet connection at home (or having dial-up, which, when we're talking about the delivery of audio files, is almost the same thing).
Now, there are plenty of reasons to want to get high-quality, affordable broadband to more Americans: education, economic development, civic engagement, health resources, etc. So much of our daily business is now conducted online that it's tough to imagine staying competitive without this vital resource. From the farmer who needs to compare prices on equipment to the would-be-entrepreneur starting a home business to the budding tech innovator coding the next great app, the open internet is the gateway to a viable future for Americans of all backgrounds and walks of life.
Musicians, in particular, would benefit from broadband expansion. As we continue the shift to digital, it's increasingly important that artists can utilize current innovations and fans can lawfully access the music they want. But it's not just about consumption: tomorrow's music industry is being built before our very eyes. In order for it to be sustainable, we need an informed network of mutual interest. This will involve education about the value of art in American culture, how to protect and nurture it. It will involve experimenting with new digital business models that benefit creators. It will involve more attractive systems for the legal consumption of music. It will involve systems for grassroots information-sharing so bands can book tours, network and more by "crowdsourcing" information. It will (and already does) involve direct communication with fans. And it definitely involves getting broadband to more communities so people interested in careers in music don't have to move to another city to access the basic tools to get them started.
Along the way, we need to make sure that we protect net neutrality, which lets independent artists and labels compete on the same technological playing field as the biggest companies. With so much of our day-to-day lives taking place in the online realm, it's crucial that artists, entrepreneurs and innovators can use the internet to help create the future of music.
Currently, many groups and individuals are working to ensure that we have a National Broadband Plan rooted in competition, affordability and quality of service. Our friends at New America Foundation's Open Technology Initiative are committed to making the internet more available through wireless and wired technologies -- particularly community-based networks. The FCC is currently putting together a strategy for getting broadband to more parts of the country. And groups like Free Press, Public Knowledge, Media Access Project and FMC continue to advocate for net neutrality.
And that, in a nutshell, is our "big idea."
To learn more about OneWebDay (and to join a celebration near you), visit the official OWD site.