There’s been no shortage of talk lately about Net Neutrality, with everyone from Jon Stewart to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski discussing the future of the web as we know it. I wanted to take a minute to talk about why Net Neutrality is so important to the creative community, particularly musicians.
My name is Jean Cook. I’m a musician and the Interim Executive Director of the Future of Music Coalition, a national nonprofit education, research and advocacy organization for musicians. FMC works to ensure that artists are able to develop audiences through platforms like radio and the Internet. We also care deeply about developing appropriate compensation structures for artists as we continue this rocky transition to a largely digital environment for music.
Today’s artists are using the open Internet to connect with audiences and advance their careers on their own terms. Musicians are collaborating, selling merchandise, booking tours and building fan bases via the Web. OK Go’s homemade YouTube video became an international sensation and led to the band winning a Grammy for best short video. Erin McKeown holds “virtual concerts” around her house that her fans can watch live online from all over the world. And even though she lives on a remote island off the coast of Washington State, composer Alex Shapiro makes a living off commissions from her MySpace page.
Meanwhile, there are now countless legal services such as Rhapsody, Pandora, iTunes, eMusic, MOG and Lala that make it incredibly easy for listeners to seek out music. And niche music discovery sites such as Kalabash or Arkiv Music make it possible to delve deeply into catalogues of music from around the world, and classical music can finally compete right alongside pop fare.
These days, there are far fewer middlemen or gatekeepers that are holding artists back or imposing conditions on them in exchange for access to listeners. That said, we are keenly aware of the dangers facing the independent and niche music communities if new gatekeepers such as the telecommunications companies are given control over what you can experience on the Internet.
Musicians have thus far had the benefit of open Internet structures that give them access to the same essential technology as the best-funded companies. Yet there have been troubling instances where telecommunications companies have behaved in a manner that raises serious concerns for artists’ right to expression.
One example came in 2007, when the band Pearl Jam performed at Lollapalooza. AT&T had the exclusive right to the online broadcast of the concert, and during an improvised segment, singer Eddie Vedder made statements critical about then-President George W. Bush. AT&T censored this portion of the broadcast, leaving viewers at home wondering what he was saying. This illustrates what can happen when one ISP has sole control over the distribution of content and is allowed to make its own calls about what is or isn’t “acceptable” speech.
It’s important to remember that Net Neutrality applies only to lawful content, sites and services, which leaves room for discussion about ways to prevent the unlawful sharing of content. Ensuring compensation for creators is hardly incompatible with Net Neutrality. In fact, Net Neutrality is critical to the emergence of legal, licensed services as an alternative to piracy. In our quest to ensure proper compensation for creators, we must be careful not to compromise what makes the Internet such an incredible platform for innovation, expression and entrepreneurship.
The Internet is about ideas, creativity and commerce for all players. By supporting Net Neutrality, you ensure that tomorrow’s artists and fans can experience this inspiring and dynamic environment, free of unnecessary restrictions.
That’s why we started our Rock the Net campaign for Net Neutrality, which includes founding artists Pearl Jam, R.E.M., Death Cab for Cutie, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Kronos Quartet and many more.
What will you do to support Net Neutrality?
This post from Jean Cook was taken from original testimony at a New York City Council meeting regarding a net neutrality resolution.