For the past twelve years, Future of Music Coalition has worked to inform and engage musicians and the music community on issues that impact artists and creative culture as a whole. Some of our work is very straightforward, such as reinforcing the notion that musicians have a range of views on a host of issues and must be included in discussions about their livelihoods. Some of it is nuanced, such as examining how artists are paid in the emerging digital economy and complex questions around copyright and technology.
We are highly optimistic about the opportunities for musicians to play an effective role in establishing and enacting a pro-artist policy agenda. The second Obama administration will likely see some leadership turnover, but we expect a continuation of their basic support for noncommercial radio, a more competitive broadband marketplace, a balanced approach to copyright enforcement and an open and accessible internet.
The administration should also be able to build off of the groundwork established in the previous term, with potentially transformational new partnerships between the National Endowment for the Arts, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Transportation, Department of Education, Small Business Administration and others. The goal is to better understand our interconnected creative economy; issues being considered include the arts and economic development, as well as education and other “livability” concerns on the road towards a more intentional cultural policy.
There will be other developments to watch: after a decade of work, the FCC will expand licenses to several thousand non-commercial Low Power FM radio stations around the country. Implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act will hopefully provide greater access to insurance for working musicians. The Administration and Congress may finally tackle comprehensive immigration reform. And, more broadly, leaders of both parties will consider data on the realities of the music community and experience the valuable perspectives that artists bring to policy conversations.
Throughout the year, FMC will continue to analyze policy debates, educate musicians, policymakers, journalists and the public, suggest solutions and describe opportunities, critique proposals that don’t serve musicians’ interests and serve as an ongoing resource in Washington and beyond. We will host our annual Summit in October 2013 and schedule more local and regional events. We continue to engage with our artist network in many new and exciting ways.
Below is more detail on some of the specific policy priorities we have identified for this year. If you have any questions, thoughts or recommendations, please get in touch.
2013 Music Policy Outlook
1. Infrastructure for Music and Arts Communities
FMC believes that now is the time to rethink how policy relates to the arts, moving beyond a politics driven by broadcast, telecommunications and entertainment conglomerates in favor of a more holistic approach that prioritizes the sustainability of local creative communities and artists of every genre. This approach recognizes the importance of:
- Ubiquitous access to communications and broadband technologies
- Artists’ ability to access the marketplace without unnecessary gatekeepers
- Robust support for arts and cultural institutions to bolster sustainable local cultural communities
- Accessible and affordable health care for artists
Our take on critical infrastructure for the arts also includes support for:
- Data-driven cultural policymaking
- Increased broadband deployment to connect more artists to audiences and expand the legitimate digital marketplace.
- Greater access to mobile spectrum for innovation and creative entrepreneurship
- Diversity in radio ownership and programming, and continued support for public media
2. Artist Compensation and Digital Music Services
Currently, there are impassioned calls for more equitable and transparent compensation for creators on digital music services, coupled with an equally strident push for sustainable royalties from those who operate these services. FMC supports a thoughtful balance between expanding the legitimate digital music marketplace and ensuring that artists are able to participate (or not participate) on these platforms in a way that makes the most economic sense for them. We are committed to considering all aspects of any new business model and advocating for structures that fairly compensate creators.
We have closely monitored ongoing debates around rate-setting for internet broadcasters like Pandora, and continue to make the case that policymakers must include a variety of musicians and songwriters in these ongoing conversations. We also suggest that “parity” in broadcasting not be limited to digital transmissions, and also include a means to close the loophole that exempts over-the-air (AM/FM) stations from compensating performing artists and sound copyright owners.
3. Copyright Enforcement
As longtime champions of a legitimate digital marketplace where artists are compensated and fans can easily find lawful content, FMC is constantly evaluating proposals aimed at protecting artists’ rights while promoting the legitimate digital music marketplace. Previous policy efforts to address piracy, such as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT-IP (PIPA) may have been well-intentioned, but were nevertheless troubling in scope. Since these bills were defeated, policymakers have taken a more market-focused approach. The Obama administration has already facilitated “best practices” agreements between rightsholders and payment processor companies such as Visa, MasterCard and PayPal, whose services may be inadvertently employed on sites that engage in commercial copyright infringement. FMC took steps to translate this voluntary agreement for the artist community to clarify how to engage if infringement is suspected.
We have also analyzed the so-called “six-strikes” graduated response program— also voluntary — in which Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have agreed to notify their customers about illegal downloading with some punitive responses including the temporary slowing of internet speeds. While we are encouraged that the Copyright Alert System does not include mandates for ISPs to boot users off of the internet, we are keeping a close eye on implementation to ensure that the program strikes the right balance between discouraging unlawful activity and protecting access to a crucial communications platform.
Another area of concern is so-called “brand supported piracy,” where major corporations have their products advertised — inadvertently or otherwise — on sites that offer music, movies and TV shows without permission. FMC shares artists’ frustration at third parties making money from unauthorized access to their works. We also think that it’s in the best interest of major brands and ad service networks to ensure that this ecosystem is not being utilized to build businesses on ill-gotten copyrights. There is the increasing likelihood that the problem will be addressed through voluntary best practices. At this point, FMC will help translate any potential agreement to ensure that artists can exercise their rights within whatever frameworks emerge.
4. Data and Artist Empowerment
FMC recognizes that data is a form of currency in today’s music economy. There are many questions about how artists can benefit from the use of data collected by digital music services, much of which is considered proprietary information by technology companies and their content industry partners. We think there are opportunities to bring musicians into this exchange while being mindful about user privacy.
We also support global rights databases to establish ownership and allow more money to flow back to creators. Such systems are important to creating an efficient and transparent worldwide music marketplace. However, proper governance is necessary to ensure that such databases aren’t exclusionary. We also recognize the complexities given the sheer number of rightsholders across territories. These concerns should not detract from the core concept, which is that tomorrow’s music ecosystem will greatly benefit from the clear designation of rights within accessible information databases.
If you’d like more information on any of our core issues, or want to join us in our fight for a brighter future for music, kevin [at] futureofmusic [dot] org (drop us a line).