Rock the Net: Musicians for Net Neutrality

The internet is crucial to musicians and other creators. It lets everyone have a voice and is a powerful engine for free expression, creativity and commerce. Creators must be able to compete on a level technological playing field alongside the biggest companies. This is why we need basic rules to ensure that all users can access the lawful content and run the legal applications and devices of their choice.

In 2010, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took an important step towards keeping the internet accessible to all. Those rules were largely overturned in a court challenge, which meant the FCC had to start all over again. Along the way, musicians from all backgrounds and genres voiced their support for strong net neutrality protections.

In 2014, the FCC produced new rules to preserve a level playing field online. This is a victory for musicians and creative entrepreneurs who need the basic guarantee that their lawful products, sites and services can reach audiences.

FMC launched the Rock the Net campaign in 2007 to demonstrate the music community’s broad support for an open and accessible internet. As musicians and entrepreneurs, we understand the importance of treating all websites equally — from the busiest online music store to the smallest blog. 

Future of Music Coalition has assembled the views and perspectives of musicians who understand the importance of preserving the open internet. “Rock the Net: Artist Voices” is a colorful document featuring such artists as R.E.M., OK Go, Kronos Quartet, stic.man of Dead Prez, Franz Nicolay and more, in their own words. Download the PDF here.

Access and Innovation for Artists: A Brief History

Future of Music Coalition has long advocated for policies that help artists reach potential audiences without the bottlenecks and gatekeepers so common to the original music industry. Our support of the open internet reflects an ongoing commitment to a legitimate digital music marketplace where artists have access and fans can find the music they want.

Imagine logging on to your favorite band’s website, only to have it take forever to load on your computer because they couldn’t afford (or didn’t want) to pay a toll to powerful Internet Service Providers. All artists deserve the right to use the internet to cultivate listeners, and fans deserve to make their own choices of how and where to access legitimate content. That’s why the open internet must be preserved.

In October 2007, FMC launched the Rock the Net Campaign with founding artists R.E.M., Pearl Jam, Kronos Quartet, Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, Boots RileyOK Go and more.

Rock the Net quickly picked up steam, garnering thousands of musician and indie label supporters. The campaign has also been instrumental in demonstrating to policymakers the importance of access and innovation, with bands such as OK Go visiting Capitol Hill to testify before key decisionmakers about how the open internet benefits artists like themselves.

Rock the Net Founding Supporters

R.E.M.• Pearl Jam • Ted Leo • Boots Riley • Death Cab for Cutie • OK Go • Bob Mould • Calexico • Kathleen Hanna • The Donnas • Jerry Harrison • John Doe • Les Claypool • Kronos Quartet • Jimmy Tamborello • Street to Nowhere • The Locust • Rogue Wave • Guster • State Radio • Matt Wertz • Griffin House • Matt Nathanson • The Wrens

Rock the Net Grows

In the months following the campaign’s launch, FMC co-sponsored Rock the Net concerts across the country, with artists including Matt Nathanson, OK GO, Ted Leo and more playing shows and joining teleconferences in support of the open internet.

In July 2008, FMC’s Rock the Net CD was released on Thirsty Ear Recordings. The compilation features Bright EyesWilcoAimee MannGusterThey Might Be GiantsThe Wrens and more. Each of the disc’s 15 artists share the belief that the open internet is key to free expression, creativity and commerce. Rock the Net is available at quality record stores and online retailers such as iTunes, Amazonthe Amazon MP3 store and eMusic.

The RTN CD helped raise awareness about this issue among musicians and fans alike. Rolling Stone called it “the sexiest benefit record in some time,” and the album was written about in publications ranging from technology websites to alternative newsweeklies.

A series of events called web.illish.us took place at the Silk City nightclub in Philadelphia from November 2008 to February 2009. With its inspiring mix of live music and guest speakers, web.illish.us proved that preserving the open internet isn’t just a lofty policy goal — it’s a powerful grass-roots movement.

The Future of the Open Internet

Both the current Administration and FCC leadership have attested to the importance of preserving the open internet, yet there are concerns about how best to accomplish this goal. looks good for those who would protect the open internet from the control of just a handful of powerful ISPs.

In December 2010, the FCC issued an Order [PDF] that went some way towards establishing clear rules of the road for the internet. The rules aim to preserve the open internet on the wireline side (laptops, desktops, etc.), yet are not as robust as many had hoped.

On January 14, 2014, a federal appeals court in Washington, DC struck down the Federal Communications Commission’s rules meant to keep the internet open to free expression and entrepreneurship. By overturning the the FCC’s Order, the court in one fell swoop undid almost a decade of YOUR efforts to preserve a level online playing field.

More than four million Americans went on record at the FCC in favor of strong net neutrality rules, and in 2015, the FCC chose to “reclassify” broadband Internet service as a “common carrier”—the bedrock telecommunications principle that prevents discrimination by powerful companies control our nation’s communications infrastructure.

As expected, the new FCC rules are currently being challenged in court. Unlike the last time around, however, the FCC has chosen the best available framework for net neutrality under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, and we believe that the rules will stand.

Unfortunately, some in Congress are attempting to invalidate thes crucial protections by stripping the FCC’s ability to implement them. By eliminating key funding for the agency in a must-pass spending bill, legislators are defying the American people, who overwhelmingly support net neutrality (including a majority of Republicans).

Tell your representatives to stop messing around with net neutrality
. Creators need an open Internet for nearly every aspect of their lives and careers. We’ve proven that artists can make a difference; let’s make sure these crucial protections remain.