Monday, April 28, 2008

This Week in News

Why Mainstream Can Kill

Last week Starbucks announced that it was leaving the music business. Sales have been shockingly low: one journalist calculated that they add up to about two CDs per store, per day. Why did this fail so spectacularly? Paul Resnikoff argues that the Paul McCartney-and-Alicia Keyes combination was too mainstream to be interesting to consumers. Starbucks was more effective when they highlighted talented but unknown artists. He compares that model to music in the video game industry, which prides itself on being cutting edge.
Digital Music News, April 24th

The iPod Plateau: Why Paid Downloads Could Soon Suffer
iPod sales have finally leveled off, rising just one percent during the last quarter. Apple has now sold 150 million iPods, and it’s possible that they’re reaching the saturation point. New iPod sales lead to a spike in iTunes downloads in late December and early January, but that effect could flatten as sales plateau. This is good news for rivals, but since iTunes holds an 80 percent market share it may be bad news for the paid download industry as a whole.
Digital Music News, April 23rd

RIAA Releases 2007 Year-End Shipment Statistics
The RIAA has released statistics for sales and dollar values for 2007. A PDF file of all of the numbers can be found here. Some of the highlights, via Coolfer:

• CD shipments dropped 17.5% while the dollar value of those shipments dropped 20.5%.
• The vinyl records saw shipments increase 36.6% with a 46.2% increase in dollar value.
• Cassette shipments (net) dropped 41.2% with, oddly, only an 18.4% drop in dollar value.
• Kiosk downloads increased 28.5% by units and 38.1% by dollar value.
• Subscriptions to music services (using a weighted annual average) increased a mere 0.7% while their dollar value dropped 2.6%.
• Mobile increased 14.6% by units and by 13.6% by dollar value. Mobile includes master ringtones, ringbacks, music videos, full track downloads and "other mobile."
SonyBMG Makes Back Catalogue Available For Free Online
SonyBMG agreed to partner with to offer free streaming music from its back catalogue, including big names like Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley. Users will have to listen to a short advertisement per album, and can also pay to download the songs.
Angry Ape. 4-28

Coldplay to give away next single for free
Coldplay will become the latest act to try giving away their music for free, according to Reuters. The first single from their upcoming album, “Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends,” due in June, will be made available for download from the band’s website.
Reuters, 4-28

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Podcast Interview Series: Peter Jenner

"We forget that copyright is a reflection of an underlying principle — that we the public enjoy and want to stimulate creativity. And we have to find a way of rewarding that creative work, or else [the artist] can't afford to be creative and develop in their skills and so on." — Peter Jenner

The latest installment of FMC's Podcast Interview Series features Peter Jenner, Secretary General of the International Music Managers Forum. In the course of a storied career, Jenner spearheaded London's legendary Hyde Park concerts and managed such acts as Pink Floyd, Marc Bolan of T. Rex and The Clash. He currently represents artist-activist Billy Bragg, whose recent Opinion piece in the New York Times inspired lively online debate.

Jenner is an impassioned advocate for artist rights and the importance of protecting musicians' revenue streams. He spoke to us about why artists need to be paid for recorded works in order to keep creating the music we love (and some take for granted).

Click here to listen to the entire conversation. (Warning: there are a couple of F-bombs, but they're delivered in an awesome British accent, if that helps.)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Attend National Performing Arts Convention for Free!

Attention Colorado readers (we know you're out there)!

As you may know, FMC makes all of its events free for musicians. We also do our best to offer free musician access to the events we participate in. It's all because we believe artist voices need to be heard in discussions about the future of music. Case in point: the upcoming National Performing Arts Convention, which takes place in Denver on June 10-14. If you're a musician and would like to attend, you could be in luck, as FMC snagged a handful of free registrations for artists.

NPAC is a major convening of people and organizations in the fields of music, dance, opera, theater and other disciplines. The event brings 5,000 members of the performing arts community to Denver to participate in a wide variety of panels, breakout discussions, workshops and art-making sessions. Two major themes of the convention are ArtsTown 2028, a vision for the future of arts in local communities presented by the city of Denver, and a three-day Town Hall Meeting overseen by AmericaSpeaks, during which every convention delegate will have an opportunity to have his or her voice heard in drafting the arts advocacy agenda for the next four years.

Some of the breakout sessions look pretty interesting, too. "The Art of Living or Living for Art: A Survival Guide for Artists" and "Fun With Critics" are but two that caught our eye. Check out the full list here.

Email to find out how to apply for a scholarship. [Caveat: FMC and NPAC cannot pay travel or lodging expenses. We may, however, be able to provide info about other organizations who could help in this regard.]

Monday, April 21, 2008

Attention Composers!

Here's an interesting item we got from our friends at Columbia University's Research Center for Arts and Culture. They've put together a survey aimed at composers of all styles and backgrounds, in order to get a sense of the needs of this particular musical community.

Here's the official spiel:

New Music Needs Your Voice

The American Music Center (AMC) and American Composers Forum (ACF) have teamed up with Columbia University's Research Center for Arts and Culture to conduct the first major study of living composers. The study aims to gather important data to guide our efforts in better serving and advocating for composers of all styles and backgrounds.

If you are a composer, you can be a part of this important research. We invite you to contribute to the study by filling out the online survey at the link below. The survey is estimated to take 20 minutes of your time. Your participation will broaden the study’s reach and give us a better understanding of current trends in the field. Thank you for helping us to help composers.

Click here to take the survey, which runs through May 15.

Friday, April 18, 2008

This Week In News

ASCAP Launches 'Bill of Rights for Songwriters and Composers

To remind the public, members of the music industry and U.S. legislators of the central role and rights of those who conceive and create music, ASCAP (the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) today officially launched a "Bill of Rights for Songwriters and Composers." The full text of the Bill of Rights can be found here. According to a press release from ASPAC, the initiative is aimed at building awareness of songwriters' role in the creation of music. The declaration includes 10 core principles, such as "We have the right to be compensated for the use of our creative works, and share in the revenues that they generate."

Record Store Day is this Saturday!
Record store day has received plenty of press, but we'll plug it here as well. This is the first such event, designed to generate awareness of the plight of independent record stores. Indie stores around the country will have in-house performances, special sales, and other promotions. You can see a full list of participating stores at the event's official website.

Amazon MP3 store's gains not coming at iTunes' expense
Amazon's MP3 store is growing rapidly, and it appears that it's actually increasing the market for paid music downloads rather than just taking customers from iTunes. A new study indicates that just 10% of Amazon MP3 customers had previously downloaded music from iTunes. Of course, at this point Amazon has 1/10th the downloads of iTunes, but it's still an encouraging sign in the face of flagging CD sales.
Ars Technica, 4-15

In the US, 58% of music isn't paid for

Back to bad news: a new study indicates that 58% of music was acquired without paying in 2007, up from 52% in 2006. While paid downloads increased from 7% to 10% of all music, that wasn't enough to make up for CDs dropping from 41% to 32%.
Guardian UK, 4-18-08

TuneBoom Pro Apparently Inflates Artists' MySpace Plays
A company called TuneBoom Pro claims to inflate artists' MySpace play counts, offering various packages on a sliding scale that ranges from $147 for 1,000 plays to $747 for 300,000 plays. Also, artists could spend $50 for PacSys Traffic Master software and boost their count manually. TuneBoom claims to have worked with major labels to boost play counts for its artists. This casts considerable doubt on MySpace play counts as a measure of an artist's popularity.
Wired, 4-14

TV shows bring in the money for the music industry
While album sales may be in decline, revenue from TV licensing deals is exploding: one publisher says it's tripled in the last six years. The increase is due in part to reality shows, particularly shows like American Idol and Dancing With the Stars, which pay large fees. Further, they can boost sales: downloads on John Lennon's "Imagine" increased by over 600% after it was performed by an American Idol contestant.
Hollywood Reporter, 4-10-08

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

SXSW Flashback!

A little while ago, we posted a recap of FMC's adventures at this year's South By Southwest. You may recall us mentioning a panel called “Mobility, Ubiquity and Monetizing Music,” which was moderated by FMC Board member Bryan Calhoun and featured advisory board members Jim Griffin, Peter Jenner and Sandy Pearlman, as well as entertainment attorney Dina LaPolt and Eric Garland, founder of BigChampagne.

Discussion centered on the much-talked about "music access charge," which would allow file-sharing through licensing agreements between content holders and Internet Service Providers. Digital music pioneer Griffin is currently working with Warner Music Group on this concept, and Jenner — who has managed such acts as Pink Floyd and Billy Bragg — seems friendly towards the idea. But noted rock producer and McGill University professor Pearlman suggested that any and all attempts to preserve intellectual property and copyright will be rendered moot by technology — probably within the next decade.

In other words, it was a fascinating conversation. Click here to watch a clip, courtesy SXSW's archives. You can also check out FMC's Michael Bracy moderating the panel "Selling Music as a Service," which featured experts like Matthew Adell of Napster, Vicki Nauman of Sonos, David Pakman of eMusic and Tim Quirk of Rhapsody. We hope the SXSW folks make the full videos available soon.

And stay tuned for our chat with Peter Jenner; part of our ongoing Podcast Interview Series.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

FCC Net Neutrality Hearing in California.

Our friends at Common Cause and Save the Internet wanted us to help spread the word about the upcoming FCC hearing on Net Neutrality at Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA. So this post is mostly for our West Coast readers, but if you feel like traveling, it's certainly a good cause:

The FCC is coming to Stanford Univeristy — make your voice heard!

Now is the time to show your support for an open Internet, free from discrimination by big telecom corporations.

The Federal Communications Commission will hold a public hearing on the management of the Internet at Stanford University on Thursday, April 17th. These hearings were triggered by an AP article about Comcast that verified active interference with legal peer-to-peer sharing uploads between individual users.

Full details on the hearing and how to participate can be found here.

This hearing is a do-over of the February hearing at Harvard, which was marred by an audience partially composed of seat warmers paid by Comcast to hold seats for employees who never arrived. Several of these individuals were photographed sleeping during the hearing.

Learn more about Net Neutrality here. And musicians and labels should sign up for FMC's Rock the Net campaign.

Attendees can prepare themselves for the public comment period by attending a pre-hearing workshop. Pick up talking points, ask questions about the hearing and practice your rap for public comment. It's fun, it's empowering and it'll make a difference:

Sunday, April 13th, 4:00-6:00 p.m.
The Media Center 900 San Antonio Road, Palo Alto, CA 94303

Monday, April 14th, 6:00-7:30 p.m. KPFA, 94.1 1929 Martin Luther King Way, Berkeley, CA (between University and Hearst)

Tuesday, April 15th, 4:30-6:30 p.m. Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC) 2727 Mariposa Street, 2nd Floor, San Francisco (between Bryant and Florida)

This is a rare opportunity to have your voice heard by the five decision-makers at the FCC. Please be sure to attend and spread the word to all your friends who care about net neutrality and preserving the open Internet.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Major Labels Face The Future?

As our name implies, Future of Music Coalition is interested in, well, the future of music — one in which artists are fairly compensated for their work.

The major labels haven't always had artist interests at heart. And they've certainly got a poor reputation among some music fans, due to the extreme legal measures taken against alleged file sharers.

But recent developments at the majors indicate a willingness to explore new avenues in music access and distribution. It remains to be seen which, if any, of these "experimental" models will gain traction, or if they will be fair to all artists.

You've probably read about music-tech pioneer (and FMC Advisory Board member) Jim Griffin's recent appointment at Warner Music, where he'll help them think through a possible "music access charge" (likely to take the form of a small surcharge on your internet bill) that would, through the magic of licensing, make file-sharing OK. The idea, which was put forth some years ago at an FMC Policy Summit, has its supporters and critics. The L.A. Times' BitPlayer blog provides a decent overview of the back-and-forth.

Even more recently, Google Chief Information Officer Douglas Merrill moved over to EMI, where he'll head the label's digital music division. According to this CNET article, Merrill is willing to "experiment" with several kinds of models, including but not limited to ad-supported music and even —gasp!— file-sharing:

"For example, there's a set of data that shows that file sharing is actually good for artists. Not bad for artists. So maybe we shouldn't be stopping it all the time. I don't know...I am generally speaking (against suing fans). Obviously, there is piracy that is quite destructive but again I think the data shows that in some cases file sharing might be okay. What we need to do is understand when is it good, when it is not good. . . suing fans doesn't feel like a winning strategy."

He's right that suing fans isn't a winning strategy, but neither is cutting artists out of potential revenue streams. Any new models to monetize music in the digital realm must provide compensation for not just major label acts, but also their indie counterparts.

For example, a recent deal between three of the major labels and MySpace doesn't include the indie artists that helped make the site so popular. Digital distributor The Orchard (which works mostly with indie bands and labels) was quick to criticize the deal. And there's another problem with this "equity" arrangement: the major labels have yet to explain if and how they'll apportion money to the artists themselves.

Maybe the whole idea of depending on a major label is outdated. Wired's Listening Post blog is reporting that slicethepie — which lets fans directly invest in their favorite acts — will fund 30 new bands this year. Apparently, that's more musicians than Sony/BMG, Warner Music Group or EMI signed in 2007.

What do you think?

Friday, April 11, 2008

This Week In News

Happy Friday, everyone. You know what that means: This Week In News. (And you thought it was gonna be another post about OK Go, didn't you?)

Battle Hymn
As music wars continue, ASCAP lays out a "bill of rights" for songwriters. ASCAP, the oldest organization representing songwriters and artists in the United States, is set unveil a "bill of rights" for songwriters and composers to ensure that musicians get paid for music distributed on the Web. The document, which ASCAP unveiled Thursday morning in Los Angeles at its annual conference, the ASCAP Expo, comes as the music industry is moving to dramatically reshape its future.
Sam Gustin, Conde Nast Portfolio

5 Things You Didn't Know: Copyright
Copyright constitutes only one aspect of intellectual property law, but since copyrights are far easier to obtain than patents or trademarks, for example, they tend to affect a significantly larger portion of the population. The arrival and evolution of both the internet and the web have altered the landscape of laws protecting intellectual property. Since they are repeatedly bringing these statutes into mainstream news, we felt it was an appropriate time to present five things you didn't know about copyright.
Ross Bonander,

1000 True Fans Is All You Need
The long tail is a decidedly mixed blessing for creators. Individual artists, producers, inventors and makers are overlooked in the equation. The long tail does not raise the sales of creators much, but it does add massive competition and endless downward pressure on prices. Unless artists become a large aggregator of other artist's works, the long tail offers no path out of the quiet doldrums of minuscule sales. Other than aim for a blockbuster hit, what can an artist do to escape the long tail? One solution is to find 1,000 True Fans.
Kevin Kelly, The Technium

What Can You Legally Take From The Web?
Web sites and bloggers beware: copyright law applies to you too.
Kirk Teska, ieeespectrum

Full Text Of Orchard's MySpace Letter To Labels
Digital distributor The Orchard sent an email expressing concern over how MySpace Music may be treating indie artists and labels. Here is the full text of the original email from Orchard CEO Creg Schol.

Guitarati Sees A Rainbow Where Others Se Music Genres
Guitarati unveiled its dramatically different method for organizing music Tuesday and it turns out to be ... color. We've had our eye on the music site since February, when its operators promised to "unfold a different way of music discovery that will blow the audience off their feet." Now that the first iteration of the concept is online, we're impressed by the freshness of the approach, but we're still on our feet, so to speak. [Sort of like a high-tech mood ring?]
Eliot Van Buskirk, Wired

And here's some oddball stuff:

Rocker Eyes "Holographic Touring" to Save Planet
Serj Tankian, the frontman for Los Angeles rock band System of a Down, is so dedicated to saving the planet that he wants to launch a virtual concert tour to reduce his carbon footprint. "I've had an idea for a long time, which might sound a little crazy, but I really want to look into holographic touring," Tankian told Billboard. "I think we could reduce our need to travel if we could project ourselves into meetings and concerts. We have the technology, and we're not using it right now.

Song Charts: Can You Decipher the Titles?
Music fans have developed an unlikely new internet craze — devising charts to illustrate song titles and lyrics. The meanings of popular hits are hidden within pie charts, bar charts, graphs and tables, which other pop anoraks have to decipher to reveal the name of the song. The craze began on the photo-sharing website Flickr but has now spread across the internet. More than 700 so-called "song charts" covering almost all styles of music have already been submitted to the original Flickr group.
The Telegraph UK

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Damian on the Dial

I know we've been posting about OK Go frontman Damian Kulash a lot lately, but we can't help it — he keeps doing cool stuff!

This week, Damian appeared on New York Public Radio's Soundcheck program, to talk about the importance of net neutrality to musicians. This is a super-important issue, particularly in election year. Sign up for for our Rock the Net campaign (if you haven't already), and show your support for the cause.

And stay tuned for FMC's Rock the Net compilation CD, which comes out in June. A bunch of awesome artists — including Wilco, Bright Eyes, Aimee Mann, They Might Be Giants, The Wrens, Vernon Reid, DJ Spooky and more — donated tunes. Here's a Pitchfork news item about the release.

See, it wasn't all about OK Go. Click here to listen to Damian's interview.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

FMC's Brian Zisk on DRM

Here's a video interview with FMC co-founder, serial entrepreneur and SanFran MusicTech mastermind Brian Zisk, courtesy VatorTV. You might have thought that DRM (or Digital Rights Management, which restricts the transfer of a digital file across multiple devices) was dead, but Zisk says the big labels haven't completely given up on the concept.

Zisk believes that music should not be bound to proprietary technologies and says that the market, and not the industry, will ultimately decide the fate of DRM. So far, it seems like consumers want DRM-free music. Some artists, on the other hand, have concerns about a lack of copy protection. No matter what side you fall on, this is an interesting interview:

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Back From Buffalo

A full house at FMC's most recent event.

FMC staff recently returned from Buffalo, NY, where we hosted a free forum called "What's the Future for Musicians?" Aimed at local artists and labels, the all-day seminar featured panel presentations and discussions on a range of subjects, including online promotion and distribution, access to media outlets such as radio, compensation in a digital age and protecting net neutrality. Health Insurance Navigation Tool (HINT) guru Alex Maiolo was also on hand to talk about the importance of health insurance to musicians.

The seminar is part of a four-city series designed to educate New York State musicians on these crucial and timely issues. Other stops include Rochester, Syracuse and Albany. We'll be appearing in those burgs on April 28, 29 and 30, respectively.

Click here for more info on each event.

Prior to the Buffalo forum, FMC Education Director Kristin Thomson gave a great interview on local NPR affiliate WBFO. Click here to stream or download the session.

Check out the Buffalo page for a full list of presentations and a photo slide show.

If you're an NYS musician, be sure to sign up for the next forum in or around your city. Remember, it's free!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Ok Go's Damian Kulash Scribes for the Times

We love it when rockers transcend the stereotype of self-absorbed slackers. And there's really no better example of a socially engaged, civic-minded musician than Damian Kulash of OK Go.

As you may recall, Damian recently testified before the House Judiciary Committee on the importance of net neutrality to the music community. And just this week, the New York Times published his opinion piece on the same subject. (Extra props for mentioning FMC in the first paragraph!)

Damian makes a strong case for net neutrality, saying that "the internet shouldn’t be harnessed for the profit of a few, rather than the good of the many." He also provides some background info on how the internet grew up under the same "common carriage" laws that allowed people to use their phones without interference from the phone companies. That system is now threatened by ISPs who want to charge content providers for the faster loading of their sites. Those who couldn't afford to (or didn't want to) pay this toll could get stuck in the slow lane.

Damian makes some apt comparisons:

. . .there are only two guitar companies who make most of the guitars sold in America, but they don’t control what we play on those guitars. Whether we use a Mac or a PC doesn’t govern what we can make with our computers. The telephone company doesn’t get to decide what we discuss over our phone lines. It would be absurd to let the handful of companies who connect us to the Internet determine what we can do online. Congress needs to establish basic ground rules for an open Internet, just as common carriage laws did for the phone system.

Right on. Click here to read the whole article, and don't forget to sign on to FMC's Rock the Net campaign.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Benefit for the Family of Drew Glackin and HINT

In January 2008, Drew Glackin, an incredibly talented multi-instrumentalist and bassist for The Silos, died at 44 of an extremely treatable disease because, like so many working musicians, he couldn't afford (or thought he couldn't afford) health insurance.

Drew's friends want to do something in his honor, but for them, the never-ending story of musicians organizing benefit concerts to help ailing peers has gotten pretty tired. Everyone pitches in and works really hard; bands play for free. But the next morning, after the money has been counted and handed off, people are left to ponder the marginal dent they've made in the enormous debt that accumulates so quickly when the uninsured get really sick.

So Drew's friends and associates have decided to hold a benefit that does a little more. Fifty percent of the proceeds will go directly to Drew's family to help cover funeral costs and medical bills, and other half will benefit FMC's HINT (Health Insurance Navigation Tool) program — an initiative that provides free, professional guidance to musicians seeking advice about health insurance plans.

The two-day event, entitled Get the HINT: a Future of Music Coalition Benefit Concert in Memory of Drew Glackin will serve as a tribute to a great musician and friend. The event will also raise awareness about FMC's HINT program, which helps musicians navigate the health insurance landscape and find workable health insurance solutions.

If you're in the Raleigh, NC area, we encourage you to attend this weekend of events and show your support.

Saturday, May 3, 2008: The Pour House, Raleigh, NC
Tres Chicas
(feat. mini Hazeldine reunion w/Shawn Barton)
The Silos
Chip Robinson w/Heavy Beat Outlet
Patty Hurst Shifter BJ Barham
Quarry Hill

Chris Mills


Glory Fountain

Port Huron Statement

Sunday, May 4, 2008: Sadlacks, Raleigh, NC
Chip Robinson w/Heavy Beat Outlet

Kenny Roby

Lou Ford

Joe Swank & the Zen Pirates

The Cartridge Family

Proceeds will benefit the family of Drew Glackin and the Future of Music's HINT program.