I’ve talked a lot about Taylor Swift these past couple of weeks. She’s a bona fide superstar, and people wanna know what’s up with her decision to pull catalog from Spotify. But all the hullaboo has also created opportunities to discuss how the current marketplace works for artists who aren’t among music’s one percent. The musicians and songwriters I know are hardly lazy or entitled; they want to pursue artistic excellence and have that excellence rewarded. Everyone at FMC is delighted that artists are speaking up and helping to refocus the debate from the tired “content versus tech” binary. Because that leaves an awful lot of important stuff out.
Streaming music is getting a lot of attention lately. Some of this is because country/pop superstar Taylor Swift removed her catalog from Spotify, and majormediaoutlets like to ask folks like us what it means. But Spotify isn’t the only streaming game in town: there’s also Internet radio, which is an entirely different animal when it comes to how royalty rates are calculated and how musicians are paid.
By Kevin Erickson, Communications Associate, and Maria-Teresa Roca de Togores, Policy Intern
This week’s midterm elections have come and gone, and while turnout was low (as is often the case in midterms), the resulting shift in the balance of power may impact what music-related issues are on the congressional agenda for the next two years. read more
Who gets paid, how much and under what terms when music is played on digital and AM/FM radio? Answering those questions isn’t easy, even for experts. But one thing is clear: 2014 has been a big year for the laws and policies that determine royalty rates for all forms of radio, and the intrigue will likely continue into 2015. read more
The court fights involving the use of recordings made before February 15, 1972 continue to rage on. Earlier, we told you about a ruling from a California court in a case brought by Flo & Eddie (formerly of the Turtles) against satellite broadcaster SiriusXM. Now the duo has filed another suit, this time against Pandora. (There is also separate litigation from the major labels against Pandora and SiriusXM in other courts). read more
If you follow this blog, you know that FMC spends a lot of time thinking about metadata, a shorthand term that can mean a lot of things including the information about who wrote a song, or who played on a recording. We’ve looked at the problems from different angles, examined the wide range of possible solutions, and attended metadata conferences. This month’s Future of Music Policy Summit will have some special sessions that tackle metadata, so we asked FMC’s director of programs Jean Cook six questions about the topic.
Yesterday, a California federal court ruled against Sirius XM in a lawsuit brought by Flo & Eddie of 60’s hitmakers The Turtles regarding the satellite radio company’s failure to pay royalties for the use of recordings made before February 15, 1972.read more
In some ways, I’m the perfect target for U2’s big new release partnership with Apple. U2 was my favorite band all through junior high and high school. I dutifully collected all their singles, and I still have my ticket stub and sweatshirt from the 1998 Popmart tour. Yet my interests drifted elsewhere as I got older; I’m part of the reason their last record sold relatively poorly, as I still haven’t heard it. Theoretically, a free copy of Songs of Innocence might rekindle my fandom.
But: it’s complicated. U2’s avowed commitments to social justice were a big part of what got me interested in activism and policy at a young age. It feels a bit jarring now to see the band whose liner notes got thirteen-year old me to join Amnesty International so closely associated with a company that’s facing protests both for inhumane factory conditions abroad and low contractor wages domestically.
The ambivalence doesn’t stop there. The Apple/U2/Universal Music Group partnership has also prompted some unexpected backlash. Still, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been successful on the most basic levels; the band was reportedly well paid (over $100 million in marketing, plus a flat royalty fee), at least 36 million people have accessed the music, the new iPhone has set new sales records and everyone’s still talking about U2 and Apple two weeks later. Including our own Casey Rae, who joined Chris Richards of the Washington Post and Catherine Mayer of TIME Magazine—both of whom have recently written about U2—on the Kojo Nnamdi Show on Sept. 23. (Listen to the archived broadcast).
You may be feeling some U2 fatigue, but we think there’s still a need to ask deeper questions about what this deal means, and what it doesn’t.