Last month, we told you about FMC’s 2009 D.C. Policy Summit, which takes place at Georgetown University on October 4-6. That’s a ways off, but we’re already pretty excited. This time around, we’re inviting “visionary” speakers to wax philosophical about where this “music-in-the-digital-era” stuff is heading. We’ll also be zooming up on the specific issues that impact artists and fans in a changing policy environment. We’re also testing some new social media tools to increase interactivity, and have a full day of practical, “real-world” musician-oriented programming set aside just for you.
And speaking of you. . . we’d love it if you could spare about a minute of your time (literally, like 60 seconds) to take a five-question survey about our Policy Summit, and FMC events in general. It’s a great way for previous attendees to give feedback, and those who haven’t been to our conferences can plug in, too. Your survey answers are anonymous and confidential, but if you give us your e-mail address (don’t worry, we’re not spammers), we’ll automatically enter you into a raffle to win one complimentary registration to the event.
Remember, you can take this survey in about the amount of time it takes to figure out the next MP3 to play. (Or maybe flip the vinyl?) Head here to chime in (survey completed).
It’s been a big month for Low Power FM, with an important victory in the courts and an impressive hearing on the Hill. We’re delighted to be working alongside community radio advocates like Prometheus Radio Project and the United Church of Christ to make LPFM a reality in more American towns and cities.
LPFM stations are community-based, non-commercial radio broadcasters that operate at 100 watts or less and reach a radius of 3 to 7 miles. LPFM provides a platform for underserved musical genres, minority, religious and linguistic groups and offers a forum for debate about important local issues. We’ve even got a fact sheet all about it.
Sounds good, right? Not to the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) — a powerful lobbying force that represents commercial radio interests. Earlier in the decade, the NAB pushed back hard against the FCC, who aimed to broadly issue LPFM licenses to community groups across the country. The NAB claimed that LPFM stations posed an interference threat to their own megawatt stations, which is like saying a lit book of matches can steal brightness from a floodlight. Yet the NAB successfully pressured Congress to drastically limit the number of LPFM stations. The Radio Preservation Act of 2000 compelled the FCC to look into to look into these interference claims, so they commissioned the independent engineering research organization the MITRE Corp to do extensive fieldwork. Guess what? They concluded back in 2003 that interference is virtually non-existent. Think about how many local communities could’ve benefited from LPFM since then. We do. A lot.
But back to the good news. In December 2007, the FCC revised some of its rules and policies in order to protect LPFMs from full-power FM stations that encroach onto the space currently occupied by existing LPFMs. The NAB filed a petition for review of these modifications, claiming they reduce the protections afforded to full power stations and violate the Radio Broadcast Preservation Act. In a decisive June 5 victory for existing LPFM stations, the U.S. Court of Appeals, DC Circuit dismissed the NAB’s petition for review and upheld the FCC’s December 2007 decision to protect LPFM stations. You can read a more detailed report on our blog.
And there’s more: on June 11, the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet held a legislative hearing on H.R. 1147, aka the Local Community Radio Act of 2009. Members of the subcommittee heard testimony from three different witnesses. First, Peter Doyle of the FCC (not to be confused with Representative Mike Doyle) gave the lowdown on the supposed interference problems touted by the NAB. He said there weren’t any. Next up, NAB board member Caroline Beasley gave her testimony opposing the bill. Finally, Cheryl Leanza of United Church of Christ knocked it out of the park with her statement in support of Low Power Radio.
“As I have worked on this issue over the years,” said Leanza, “one of my favorite moments is after I ask someone the question, ‘what would a radio station sound like if you and your community ran it?’ All of a sudden a person’s eyes light up as they start to imagine what they could do. It is a wonderful experience to see the wheels start turning in people’s heads. “
We’ve got a blog recap of the hearing
And a full-length report that goes into greater detail
With all the action around LPFM, we figured it was a great time to ask our musician friends about what good local radio means to them. The result is our new “I Support Community Radio” campaign, which features video testimonials from the Indigo Girls, Saul Williams, David Harrington of Kronos Quartet, Jon Langford of The Mekons and Waco Brothers, Vijay Iyer, Franz Nicolay of The Hold Steady, His Name is Alive and more.
FMC believes that radio is still an incredibly important resource for artists, fans and communities. That’s why FMC is involved in the fight to expand non-commercial radio as alternatives to homogenized commercial broadcasting. We believe that radio has the power to inspire, inform and entertain while serving up distinct local and regional flavor. And we’re thrilled that so many musicians think so, too.
Check out the “I Support Community Radio” page to check out the videos.
Interested in being a part of this project? Send an email to casey [at] futureofmusic [dot] org for details on how to submit your own video testimonial.
FMC staff are basking in the warm memories of another successful Artist Activism Camp and “Musicians Bringing Musicians Home” concert. Bet you wish you had been there! Well, maybe you were. . . if so, cheers!
This year’s retreat took place from May 20-22, and included Wayne Kramer (MC5), Jolie Holland, Jon Langford (Waco Brothers, Mekons), Saul Williams, Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows, Minus 5, R.E.M.), Laura Veirs, Vijay Iyer, Erin McKeown, Bonerama, Al “Carnival Time” Johnson, Martín Perna (Antibalas, TV On the Radio, Ocote Soul Sounds), Mariam Adam (Imani Winds), Luke Reynolds (Pictures and Sounds) and Paul Sanchez.
These musicians joined organizers FMC and Air Traffic Control in New Orleans to participate in strategy sessions about how to integrate activism and philanthropy into their musical lives and careers. They also took the time to tour local neighborhoods and visit with the city’s notable musicians and community leaders.
Then there was the concert, which was a doozy. The all-star show took place on May 22 at Tipitina’s Uptown and benefited Sweet Home New Orleans — a non-profit organization that provides social services and economic development programs to musicians, Mardi Gras Indians, and other traditional New Orleans artists affected by Katrina.
Check out our Events Coordinator Chhaya Kapadia’s Flickr stream for a birdseye view of the action.
Sweet Home New Orleans
Air Traffic Control
Back in April, FMC released the “Principles for Musician Compensation in New Business Models” (or “Artist Principles”) — a set of guidelines for ensuring creator compensation in an evolving music landscape. Crafted by artist advocate Ann Chaitovitz with input from over a dozen industry experts, the principles represent a first step in ongoing discussions about musicians’ revenue streams. You can read the document (and a handy point-by-point translation) here.
One of the main reasons for drafting the Artist Principles was to get a conversation going with some of the smart people in the music world about what they think are the most important issues facing artists in the digital age. While we don’t expect these principles to be embraced by everyone, we do want to makes sure those with something to add to the discussion had a forum in which to do so.
So far, we’ve spoken with Los Angeles-based entertainment attorney (and FMC advisory board member) Josh Wattles and Billboard’s Glenn Peoples, with more interviews to come. You can listen to these now:
Earlier this month, Digital Music News ran an article called “The Gray Art of Counting Indie Sales,” which underscored the confusion of tallying purchases of downloads or CDs based on the music’s “independent” classification. According to the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), 32 percent of album sales in 2008 came from independent artists, but Nielsen Soundscan puts that number at 12.8 percent. Part of the difficulty in differentiating between an indie and a major the fact that many indie labels enter deals with distribution companies owned by the majors, such as ADA (95% owned by Warner) or Fontana (owned by Universal). As a result, major labels have a tendency “count the sales of their distributed partners, while indies like to downplay those partnerships,” according to DMN publisher Paul Resnikoff.
FMC has had its own experience with trying to figure out what constitutes an indie or a major label. We spent the last year conducting research on radio playlists, released in April in the report “Same Old Song.” Since the research was designed to measure the difference in “airplay share” for songs released by major labels versus non-major labels, the backbone of the work was coding all of the labels that received any airplay between 2005 and 2008.
We figured it would be a good thought exercise to examine these distinctions a bit more closely, especially considering all the unaffiliated artists out there who are using many of the same sites and services as signed artists to get their music to fans. You can read our ruminations on the subject in this blog post.
And here’s our radio playlist study, Same Old Song.
Recently, Billboard reported that MusicFIRST — a coalition of music industry and musician union groups pushing for a public performance right for terrestrial radio — has “asked the FCC to investigate whether radio stations have violated their public interest obligation by allegedly boycotting artists who support a performance royalty for terrestrial radio.”
The Public Performance Right would compensate performing artists and sound copyright holders (usually the label) when their music gets played via over-the-air broadcasts. Webcasters and satellite radio currently pay a performance royalty, as do terrestrial broadcasters in nearly every other industrialized nation on the planet — the US, however, does not. For more info on the Performance Right, check out our fact sheet.
We thought these boycott allegations were interesting to say the least, and it wouldn’t be the first time broadcasters have made national-level decisions about programming with potentially huge marketplace — or political — repercussions. The Dixie Chicks incident back in 2003 comes immediately to mind.
Anyway, we wrote more about this on our blog, which we encourage you to check out
We thought you might like to know that we’ve created a special playlist of choice clips from our DC Policy Day, which took place on February 10, 2009 at National Geographic. If you were there, you can relive the experience; if not, you can get a taste of what you missed. Watch the clips here.
On May 18th, a handful of folks from the Future of Music Coalition orbit contributed to making the SanFran MusicTech Summit a phenomenal success. In addition to FMC co-founding Board member Brian Zisk — who put on the Summit — Jean Cook, Kristin Thomson, and Chhaya Kapadia were all fabulous on panels, as were FMC advisory board members Terry McBride, Josh Wattles, Fred Von Lohmann, Jim Griffin, and Ian and Leron Rogers. More than 650 people participated, and the event was a smash in person, in the press and across social media.
Brian wants to personally thank each and every one of you who were in any way involved for helping to make this Summit successful well beyond expectations.
Audio of the panels can be found at: http://www.sanfranmusictech.com/listen.html
Also of note is Brian’s latest project: the Collecta real-time search engine, which just went live at http://www.collecta.com. Brian is co-founder of this revolutionary new way of searching for what’s being talked about on any given topic across a whole range of platforms.
Collecta pulls together information and content from across the Web — including messages sent on microblogging platforms such as Twitter, posts to blogs like those on Wordpress.com, images posted on photos sites like Flickr, as well as updates and conversations on social messaging and news sites — and centralizes them in easy to read, continually updating streams. The upshot is that you can now gather up-to-the-second content on any topic of interest. Give it a spin at www.collecta.com.
In addition to the previously mentioned staff, Board and advisory board appearances at SanFran MusicTech, FMC General Counsel and co-founder Walter McDonough also spoke at the Canadian Music Publishers Association in Toronto on May 21 and at the Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education Inc.’s annual Intellectual Property Law Conference in Boston on June 10.