In the lead up to this past weekend’s Newport Folk Festival, reports surfaced on social media of an all-too-familiar tale: a musician once again encountering problems while attempting to board a flight with a musical instrument. Last Wednesday, it was John McCauley, singer, guitarist, and songwriter of Rhode Island-based Deer Tick who was refused entry to his flight in Philadelphia by U.S. Airways. The reason? He wanted to take his guitar on board with him. 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.
Last week, beloved musical humorist “Weird Al” Yankovic dropped his new album Mandatory Fun. Propelled by a set of eight viral videos, it quickly rose to the top spot on the Billboard charts, his first ever #1, with over 104,000 album sales. Al recently told the New York Times, “I wasn’t thinking, ‘Oh, I’m on the bleeding edge of marketing, this is going to be a business model that will change the world.” But as a longtime (possibly obssessive?) fan of Al, I’d suggest there’s still a few things we can learn from him. read more
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.
Earlier this month, Bloombergreported that streaming music host SoundCloud was close to finalizing licensing deals with the three major labels. The deals would reportedly grant each label an ownership stake in SoundCloud of 3-5 percent in exchange for their agreement not to sue over copyright infringement on SoundCloud. Meanwhile, a mini-controversy has erupted over Soundcloud’s implementation of its copyright enforcement procedures, making it important to separate fact from fiction.
You may have heard that the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) is investigating potential anticompetitive behavior by major music publishers and Performing Rights Organizations (PROs), which collect and distribute royalties to songwriters and publishers for the performance of musical compositions. These “blanket licenses” are made possible by DOJconsent decrees and cover all forms of broadcast as well as concert venues or other establishments that publicly perform music (think bars or restaurants).
Make no mistake, PROs are crucially important to songwriters. They provide leverage to artists who wouldn’t otherwise have it in rate negotiations with music services; they pay their songwriter members directly under fair splits (50-50 between artist and publisher); and they allow music to be efficiently licensed to AM/FM, Internet and satellite radio, which means listeners have more opportunities to hear music, and songwriters have more opportunities to get paid.
There’s a reason FMC is so often aligned with independent labels: this community, representing a diverse array of genres and business models, typically does right by artists. Today’s news that more than 700 indies are backing fair treatment of musicians is further proof that indies have a different way of doing business than major labels.
Independent imprints including Domino, Cooking Vinyl, Epitaph, Glassnote, Nettwerk, Ninja Tune, Secretly Canadian, Saddle Creek, Sub Pop, Tommy Boy, XL Recordings and the Beggars Group (which includes indie powerhouses 4AD, Matador and Rough Trade) and many more signed on to the “Fair Digital Deals Declaration,” a commitment by the labels to treat artists fairly and equitably on today’s digital distribution platforms.