Lots of news in net neutrality-land over the past couple of weeks. In fact, there’s so much going on right now, that’s its kind of hard to summarize. But we’ll give it a shot.
As you may recall, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Tom Wheeler recently revealed that the agency would bring new net neutrality rules to a vote on February 26. In a January 7 interview at the Consumer Electronics Showcase in Las Vegas, Wheeler hinted that the rules would be crafted under Title II of the Telecommunications Act—something that FMC and our artist allies have pushed for because they offer the greatest degree of protections for musicians and other content producers, within the strongest legal framework.
That same day, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Representative Doris Matsui (D-CA) reintroduced legislation—the Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act—that would unambiguously authorize the FCC to issue net neutrality rules under whatever framework the Commission deems appropriate. (Check out the details in our legislation tracker.)
House Republicans are rumored to be crafting their own bill, which for the first time would recognize the need to prevent Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from discriminating against lawful online content. This is significant in the sense that it represents a sea change for a party that has long fought against any form of net neutrality. However, it is likely that the proposed legislation is really just a way to stall the FCC from doing what it should and must do: issue clear rules of the road under the light-touch regulatory framework that is Title II.
In other words, this bill might make ginormous ISPs like Comcast happy, but it’s not what is needed to ensure that artists and independent labels have a shot at reaching audiences on their own terms. If Congress is to write a law enshrining net neutrality—which has always been in its purview—the legislation would have to mirror what the FCC already has complete and total authority to do under Title II. So once again to quote Public Enemy: don’t believe the hype. (And tell your Congresspersons not to, either.)
Probably the biggest news this week is a letter to the FCC from mobile telecommunications provider Sprint saying that light-touch regulation under a Title II framework will not harm investment or deployment. This is huge, especially considering the misinformation that has been spread by other telcos about reclassification under Title II—including made-up stories about higher taxes that have been soundly and routinely debunked.
It’s been nearly three years since the law was passed by Congress, but the Federal Aviation Administrationhas finally taken action to implement new rules to require airlines to allow musicians to carry their instruments on board commercial flights.
The new rules, which go into effect on March 6, allow you to stow a guitar, violin, trumpet, or other instrument in the overhead compartment if there’s room at the time you board. Before this rule, individual airlines may have had different policies, and enforcement could be subject to the whims of whatever gate agent happened to be working. Many musicians were forced to check their instruments, sometimes resulting in damage or mishandling. Now touring artists can make travel plans with a higher degree of certainty and security.
Welcome to Part Two of FMC’s look at transparency and why it matters to musicians and composers. In Part One, we described three different types of transparency, and outlined why each matters to anyone who wants to get paid in the digital age:
1. structural transparency: how different services function and how they compensate artists
2. rates and revenue transparency: how money is split, who gets paid what and why
3. repertoire transparency: readily available ownership information to facilitate more efficient licensing and accuracy in payment
Today, we’re going to look at a current hot topic—direct deals for performance rights in music publishing—as a case study.
Let’s say your metal band is playing a headlining club gig. At the end of the night, the promoter hands you an envelope containing $200. Is that a fair share?
Or say you’re a R&B singer with a CD released by an independent record company. Your label sends you quarterly royalty checks, but how do you know if the amount is correct?
Or imagine you’re the composer & lyricist of a popular country song that gets played on an on-demand streaming service. You get regular checks from your performing rights organization (PRO) for this use, but how do you know if the rate you’re getting is fair compared to what other songwriters get for plays of their songs?
On Wednesday, January 7, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler made news by hinting that upcoming net neutrality rules would be stronger (and more legally grounded) than previous proposals.
On Friday, January 2, news broke that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will be voting on its long awaited Net Neutrality rules in February. The regular FCC meeting in February is scheduled for February 26. As Brian Fung of the Washington Post writes: read more
How is it possible that a single company can be America’s biggest cable television provider, its largest Internet Service Provider (ISP) and also own a major motion picture and television studio (NBC-Universal)? What happens when that company is allowed to get even bigger by gobbling up another huge ISP and cable provider?
Whether you’re looking for some holiday gift ideas or planning to spend some downtime by the fire this winter, here’s a selection of music books we especially enjoyed this year. We suggest picking them up at your local independent bookseller. Have we missed one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments!
I’ll Take You There: Mavis Staples, the Staple Singers, and the March Up Freedom’s Highway
by Greg Kot (Scribner)read more
When music is played on a non-interactive digital service like Pandora, Sirius XM, or cable radio, payment for the sound recording copyright is collected and distributed by SoundExchange, a non-profit performance rights organization. As we detail in our handy “Music and How the Money Flows” chart, this revenue is divided up in a standard formula: 45% goes to the featured artist, 50% goes to the sound recording copyright owner (usually a label), and 5% goes into a union-administered fund to compensate backing musicians and session players. We’re fond of this system because it treats all artists equally, ensuring direct payment that can’t be held against recoupable debt to a label, with equitable splits.
But what happens if you’re a self-released artist who doesn’t work with a label, but owns the copyrights to your sound recordings? You are entitled to collect both the artist share and the label share yourself. Unfortunately, many artists don’t know this, and end up missing out on money they ought to be collecting, because they’ve only registered for the artist share. Other artists haven’t registered with SoundExchange at all.
CD Baby, a popular distribution service with a large userbase of mostly self-released artists, recently announced a change to their terms of service that allows them to collect the label share from SoundExchange for their roster of distributed artists. This move was met with some minor controversy, as indeed, artists are entitled to collect that money themselves directly from SoundExchange, without the administrative cut that CD Baby charges. We decided to go directly to the source: CD Baby CEOTracy Maddux answered our questions this week via email.