The Future of Music Coalition, the national music advocacy non-profit, kicked off its annual policy summit on Monday, in Washington, D.C. This year, the focus of the conference—an annual look at music shifts and trends in the areas of policy, technology, and law—is the ways in which artists can continue to make money in an industry where copyright workarounds and illegal downloads have become the norm. Or, as folk musician Erin McKeown said during a panel session, the overarching theme is, simply put, “How do people pay rent?”
FMC executive director Lissa Rosenthal said, during welcoming remarks, that the summit always aims to “make sure the focus is on the musicians,” but that, because of a rapidly evolving music landscape, it’s more important than ever to safeguard the health of the industry by ensuring that artists can make a “fair, equitable living.”
Key to advancing that goal is identifying exactly how artists make their money—the day began with a presentation on the FMC’s survey on artist revenue streams , a research project that will poll musicians and composers across all genres to find out the sources of their income, and how those sources have changed over the last decade. FMC expects to begin releasing reports and findings next year, the group said.
Throughout the day, various speakers addressed new ways in which artists can keep the lights on: Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen, for example spoke about writing the theme song for “The Colbert Report;” entertainment lawyer Heidy Vaquerano explained the lucrative world of selling VIP packages and “experiences;” and Mike Luba, president of global music for S2BN Entertainment, who is best known for managing the String Cheese Incident, talked about independent ticketing.
Two keynote speakers from the U.S. government addressed attendees: Maria Pallante, director of the U.S. Copyright Office, and Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia). Pallante discussed key issues her office is involved in or closely monitoring, including the shut-down of rogue websites responsible for large-scale copyright infringement, and the World International Property Organization’s movement toward an international treaty to protect the rights of audiovisual performers. Pallante called copyright the “single most valuable tool of creative people, other than the talent and drive that compels you to create in the first place.”
Goodlatte (R), who introduced the controversial NET Act in 1997, spoke about his work to introduce a house version of the Senate’s Protect IP Act, which attempts to crack down on rogue websites. Goldlatte, who has criticized the Senate bill, saying it could potentially have a negative impact on legitimate online businesses, said his goal with the House version is “to create new meaningful protections and bolster existing ones” and “make sure any legislation we introduce does not have unintended consequences” for Internet use.
For the second year in a row, the Policy Summit allowed representatives from emerging digital music services marketed to artists to pitch their products to a panel of musicians and music managers, and receive their honest opinions.
“No coaching or secret handshakes here,” said FMC consultant Kristin Thomson. “Just real feedback.” The music delivery service TrackTrack.it and Root Music, the San Francisco company behind the BandPage Facebook interfaces, which are used by more than 250,000 musicians, were among those companies who gave presentations.
While those representatives convinced artists to embrace technology to streamline marketing efforts and sell merchandise, Ryan and Hays Holladay, of D.C.-based experimental act Bluebrain, told their fellow musicians that new media can also be used to enhance artistry. In May, the Holladay brothers released the smartphone-dependent “location-aware” app/album “The National Mall,” which uses GPS technology to trigger the play of specific pieces of music at specific locations on Washington’s National Mall. The Holladays will release “Listen to the Light,” a similar project designed to be listened to while exploring Central Park, on October 4, as a free iTunes app.
The day ended with the panel “Getting Cozy with Blanket Licenses,” during which lawyer Gary Greenstein, Tunecore founder Jeff Price, and business professor David Touve discussed, among other things, public performance rights and the merits of organizations such as SoundExchange, which collects royalties on behalf of musicians and other copyright holders. SoundExchange senior counsel Colin Rushing explained to the crowd the lengths his organization goes through to track down and pay musicians it has collected money for, essentially telling the gathered artists that one of the best ways to earn money in the current environment is simply to step up and claim it.
The Future of Music Coaltion annual policy summit continues tomorrow, October 4. Check Billboard.biz for tomorrow’s recap as well as any breaking news.