Take a break from dismal economic news. Check out indie economic news at the Future of Music Coalition’s Policy Day 2009.
Inspired by the possibility of a “Middle Class of Artists” on Web 2.0, a stellar panel discusses a range of legal and policy issues that will be addressed in coming months and years - and will set a course for the telecommunications industry for generations to come - in areas including radio, broadband, copyright, creative commons, and others affected by the ongoing transformation of music industry business models. There’s no guaranty you’ll make any money, of course, but at least you will be better-informed in your approach to the business of music. Segments of the sessions, held February 11, 2009, are available via webcast on the FMC Blog and on web.illish.us. A few tip-of-the-iceberg highlights:
- The FCC authorized low power FM (LPFM) local radio stations in 1999. Commercial broadcasters, which had consolidated many stations in the 1990s, raised various objections to the LPFM Platform, but an FCC study was completed in 2003 that addressed those objections. The new political climate in DC provides a forum to create local LPFM radio, and allow local non-profit and commercial broadcasters to recapture radio’s place as the voice for local culture, including - of course - local music. The challenge for Congress and the FCC will be to balance public and private rights, duties and responsibilities in the airwaves, and create regulatory structures that allow local commercial LPFM radio the opportunity to compete in commercial markets, and non-profit LPFM radio opportunities and support in serving local culture. The future of local radio will be determined largely by - you guessed it - you! Drop a line to your representatives in DC and tell them where you stand on local radio. While you’re at it, make sure to tell them you want each LPFM station to broadcast on the web.
- The regulatory framework for telecommunications - including such things as broadband deployment, network neutrality, and spectrum reform - has been identified as a priority for the Obama administration. FMC panelists seemed to agree that broadband is the “key enabling application” for independent artists, and it has the potential to create an artist middle class of indies with successful business models. Panelists saw centralized control over spectrum allocation to be a real threat to use of the internet as a creative and business medium for indie artists, and argued that regulatory models created 75 years ago - that hampered open access to radio in the 1920s, television in the 1950s, and cable in the 1980s - should be changed to promote both social and economic interests, and to prevent disenfranchisement of users of the internet. There is a lot of activity in this area, and now is a good time to get involved in policy discussions if you want to have an impact.
- The transition documents of the Obama administration state an intent to “. . . update and reform our copyright and patent systems to promote civic discourse, innovation, and investment while ensuring that intellectual property owners are fairly treated. . . .”. Most of the media attention given to the decline of record labels, artists going out on their own, P2P file sharers being prosecuted by the RIAA, Facebook being sued for copyright infringement, etc., etc., etc., arises from conflicts between content creators (e.g., songwriters) and users (listeners), and everyone in between (e.g., performers, publishers, record labels, performing rights societies, etc.). There is a lot of litigation going on these days as established music industry business models and laws are challenged by rapid advances of the internet, and by an expanding global apprehension that music on the internet is free. Legal and policy issues are being actively defined in both the Courts and the Congress, as new technologies are typically applied and adopted so rapidly (e.g., P2P, YouTube) that the law governing rights of content owners and their representatives under former technologies and applications is under constant challenge and revision. Future posts will address copyright, copyleft, creative commons, and related matters. For now, if you’re an indie artist, why not protect your ownership interests in your work so you will be free to either make money on it or give it away, as you choose? Learn as much as you can, protect your rights, and become involved however you choose in ongoing legal and policy debates.
- Imagine you’re sitting on a planter on a downtown street corner in your home town, playing your guitar, and your old brass spittoon is on the sidewalk in front of you, and maybe 100 people walk by while you’re playing and maybe one-of-every-ten of them drops a buck in the spittoon, so when you pack up you have 10 bucks. Now imagine your buddy, who has a (part-time) day job at a local Web 2.0 start-up, drops by and sets you up on a live webcast, and your audience is now, let’s say, 6 billion, and you ask your buddy if he knows how to set you up so one-of-every-ten of the 6 billion (i.e., 600 million) can drop a buck in your spittoon, and your buddy says, “Done deal, dude,” then disappears. Now imagine you go to the FMC panel on the Digital Music Marketplace and you hear how the web is an awesome opportunity for indies, and you hear some great ideas, some of which worked and some of which didn’t, and you hear there’s no single proven solution for making money with your music on the web, so you have to be creative, maybe even give free downloads so you can sell Ts, etc., etc. - and you wish you could find your buddy because he made it sound so simple and he seemed so sure . . . .
Get involved. Change your world.