You don't have to be a super-genius to notice that the music economy isn't exactly stable at the moment. (Then again, neither is the rest of the economy). One thing is certain -- sales of compact discs continue to plummet, and it's tough to predict which of the new music services will thrive "or even survive" in this period of transition.
Check out this article in Digital Music News for a thoughtful look at the state of digital music in 2009, and a few salient predictions of where things might end up a little further down the road.
Launching a music site or service that's simultaneously affordable, appealing to music fans and fair to rightsholders is clearly difficult, especially in today's economy. It's a tough time for many of these new sites and services, but articles like the one above always get us thinking about those who create the music itself. From the beginning, FMC has stood for the right of musicians to be paid for their work, so we want make sure that artists aren't overlooked in the ongoing experimentation with new music business models.
This is why today we're releasing "Principles for Musician Compensation in New Business Models" (or "Artist Principles") -- a set of guidelines for ensuring creator compensation in an evolving music landscape. Crafted by Ann Chaitovitz with input from over a dozen industry experts, the Principles represent an important first step in ongoing discussions about musicians' revenue streams.
We're called the Future of Music Coalition, so we like to look ahead. In fact, the Principles are primarily meant to apply to music services that have yet to be brought to market. But, FMC also knows it's important to learn from the past. The majority of the Principles are based on what we've observed from the launch of existing services. For example, you might recall our earlier post about the launch of MySpace Music, which saw the major labels enter a joint venture with the social network that reportedly included a cut of the advertising and equity stakes in the enterprise. Yet it remains unclear if or how the labels plan to share that equity or ad dollars with their artists.
And that's just one example. With music moving beyond the physical (and even download) model, it becomes increasingly important to make sure that musicians are fairly compensated. Regardless of the system, artists deserve to be paid for their work -- especially considering it's their music that's attracting listeners (and hopefully, dollars) to that service.
But without reasonable guidelines, creators could be excluded from any revenues generated by these new models. Hence, the Artist Principles. We've even drafted a point-by-point explanation of each principle, offering examples and what we think are possible ways forward, which you can read here. Just trying to be helpful.
Clearly, there's no silver bullet solution to the challenges currently faced by artists, musicians and entrepreneurs. Yet, as always, we think the best thing to get a conversation going. And the Artist Principles surely will.