Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Effects of Media Consolidation on Urban Radio — Part III

Here's the final installment of renowned hip-hop journalist Eric K. Arnold's story on urban radio ad media consolidation. You can read previous entries here and here. The full article is also available for viewing on our main site.

What Has Consolidation Done to My Community?

Studies have shown that to a large degree, localism has been one of the greatest casualties of the post-consolidation era. Not only have playlists become standardized, with the same, say, 100 songs by major-label artists in rotation in every major market, but access to stations by community groups has decreased, as has the number of community-affairs programs. In some cases, corporations have cut the number of public affairs department heads per market to just one for as many as eight stations.

With the decrease in community accessibility has come a lack of community accountability. Despite widespread discontent, commercial stations have only responded to the needs of local communities when significant pressure has been put on them to do so – and then only sometimes.

In 2002, a group of concerned community activists calling itself the Community Coalition for Media Accountability (CCMA) studied KMEL’s playlist and its relation to the social, economic, and political issues facing young people living in the urban areas the station reached. The report concluded that not only was KMEL not supporting local music, but that the music they were playing was detrimental to youth in the community. According to the CCMA, young people were “more likely to be depicted in the context of crime and violence than through issues such as health, education, family and community life, and KMEL is consistent with this trend.”

Yet KMEL isn’t the only urban station in a major market to come under fire by community groups. In 2005, New York’s Hot 97 aired the now-infamous “Tsunami” song, a “We Are the World” parody which was widely criticized as being racially insensitive. Despite firing a producer and donating $1 million to tsunami relief efforts, however, the station made few if any structural changes and soon returned to its old ways. According to a press release by Rosa Clemente of R.E.A.C. (Representing Education, Activism and Community) coalition, one year after the incident, Hot 97 continued to air “racially offensive remarks against Asians, African-Americans and Caribbean members of our community, which happen to make up the majority of their listenership.”

Joined by members of the New York City Council, R.E.A.C. demanded “corporate accountability and responsibility” from Hot 97 and its parent company, Emmis Communications. Yet no real commitment to community-responsible programming resulted. Instead, in recent years, a disturbing number of highly-publicized violent incidents have been linked directly to Hot 97, including several shootouts between rival rap crews.

Likewise, follow-up meetings with the CCMA and Clear Channel executives also resulted in no clear commitment by KMEL to address community concerns, although it did ultimately result in a smattering of more airplay for local artists — for a brief time. Playing more hometown acts was a way for KMEL to “legitimize themselves in a community that was restless over the lack of local music,” says hip-hop authority Davey-D.

What the “Radio Heads” Think About Localism

According to KMEL Program Director Stacy Cunningham, the station has again backed off of spinning local music, because “we were becoming a joke around the country” – despite the fact that the station had its highest Arbitron ratings ever in 2005, when it was playing a significantly higher amount of local records than it is today.

In order to be considered for rotation, Cunningham adds, local music must justify its inclusion alongside national, major-label artists. “I know Mary J. Blige is a winner,” says Cunningham. “What’s gonna make me give up that slot?” In order for local records to compete in the current radio climate, she says, “your stuff has to be hotter.” What qualifies as “hot,” however, is not explicitly clear.

There is, however, another motivator to stick to “safe” playlists. In a corporate radio environment, Cunningham explains, “everything’s run on fear. Fear of losing money and fear of losing (your) job.” As a result, there’s “no real impetus to be innovative.”

Her comments are echoed by Sterling James, a 20-year veteran of commercial radio who’s currently the afternoon DJ at SF Urban AC station KBLX. “With all of the consolidation, the [radio] industry has become monopolized,” James says. “Has it resulted in a lack of innovation? Absolutely.”

James notes that a mainstream crossover artist like Beyonce might be in rotation on several differently formatted stations simultaneously, adding, “most PDs in SF are listening to what NY and LA are playing.” With very few exceptions, she says, “an unsigned artist can’t get on the air.” One persistent indie R&B singer was able to get spins, but only after performing at a party for one of the station’s executives, she says. The reality is that PDs and MDs “have to play the hits and be competitive.” Which means DJs have little to no voice in what gets aired. “I can’t choose the hits, let alone what I play,” James adds.

Still, there are some PDs willing to break the mold, where the possibility exists. Mark Adams, PD for Jammin 95.5 in Portland, Oregon says, “I personally struggle with the desire to support/expose local music and artists with my need to run a successful, mass-appeal, commercial radio station. The two things are often at odds.”

What’s The Solution?

It’s probably unrealistic to think that, even with a change in leadership in Washington, consolidation could be reversed overnight. Commercial radio is unlikely to change unless major changes happen first at the policy level. And with major labels cutting their A&R departments and worrying about job security, it’s equally unlikely that every single deserving local artist in every region of the country will land a lucrative major-label deal anytime soon. This means they can expect a difficult time getting on commercial radio.

Yet some influential artists are advocating less reliance on commercial radio in the first place. Legendary rappers Chuck D and KRS-One have frequently criticized radio for exploiting hip-hop culture. Recently, an email from rap pioneer Too $hort was posted on Davey-D’s website, which read in part: “I just wanna inspire the local artists & fans to be realistic & keep hip-hop in our area alive without help from the radio stations . . . I believe in street-level movements creating the atmosphere for national movements & radio is only one outlet to create those movements. If U know that's not an option then U won't waste time, energy or money trying to please radio.”

Instead, many artists are turning to user-generated content and social networking sites like YouTube and MySpace to find their fans and post their music or videos, while listeners starved for content and substance can log on to Breakdown FM or stream Hard Knock Radio online. Another buzzworthy outlet is Current TV, which is making an increased commitment to covering urban music and trends in their mini-documentary “pods.”

Still another option is low-power FM radio, which doesn’t offer the cachet (or advertising dollars) of commercial radio, but is affordable, accessible, and locally available. Recently, there have been encouraging signs that the FCC and Congress will remove caps preventing LPFM stations in urban markets, a condition originally imposed by powerful commercial broadcasters.

Finally, for those completely fed up with the state of urban radio, here’s what you can do:

• Help remind Big Media that it broadcasts on public airwaves. Community members have the legal right to examine radio stations’ public files upon request. And commercial radio licenses must be renewed every eight years. The FCC does accept comments from the public during the renewal process; any station which is found to be operating outside the public interest can be fined or have its license revoked.

• Get Involved. Becoming a part of an organized effort seeking more community accountability in commercial radio is an effective way to put pressure on stations. At the very least, undertakings like the CCMA’s campaign or R.E.A.C.’s crusade have let urban radio’s corporate bosses know that somebody’s watching them, and at best, have hit these companies where it counts – in the pocketbook.

• Become an active listener. Without community feedback, MDs and PDs can only rely on research and consultants. If a station gets enough requests for a song by a local artist, it could result in increased mixshow spins or even being added to rotation.

• Use the Internet. Usually, Web addresses for key station personnel can be found on that station’s homepage. It only takes 5 minutes to send an email to every urban station in your region!

• Inform urban stations of events they should be covering. Most of the time, a commercial station’s idea of outreach is to send their promotional street teams to clubs and concerts. If you know of an event promoting positive community values, don’t hesitate to contact the station and let them know about it.

About the Author:
Eric K. Arnold has been writing about urban music culture since the mid-1990s, when he was the Managing Editor of now-defunct 4080 Magazine. Since then, he’s been a columnist for such publications as The Source, XXL, Murder Dog, Africana.com, and the East Bay Express; his work has also appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Vibe, Wax Poetics, SF Weekly, XLR8R, the Village Voice and Jamrock, as well as the academic anthologies Total Chaos and The Vinyl Ain’t Final. Eric began his journalistic career while DJing on college radio station KZSC, and remembers well the early days of hip-hop radio, before consolidation, and commercialization set in. Urban radio remains a subject near and dear to his heart; his recent SF Weekly cover story, “The Demise of Hyphy,” touched off an impassioned debate about the role of commercial stations in local communities which continued in the streets and online for months after the article’s publication. He currently lives in Oakland, California.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Effects of Media Consolidation on Urban Radio — Part II

Last week, we published first installment of an article by hip-hop writer Eric K. Arnold about the effects of media consolidation on the urban radio format. Click here for a refresher.

The piece gives a brief history of urban radio, and describes the loss of localism and diversity on the hip-hop dial due to radio ownership consolidation. Here's part two:

Back in the Day

Fifteen years ago, the emergence of the “Hot Urban” format revolutionized what had formerly been called black radio. Historically, black-owned stations (many of which had ties to the religious community, especially in the South and Midwest) tended to be very conservative with their programming. With very few exceptions (like the Sugarhill Gang’s 1979 hit “Rapper’s Delight”) black radio shied away from rap and hip-hop, which was edgier and skewed younger than their target audiences. As a result, when hip-hop became a national phenomenon in the 1980s, it was still largely considered “underground,” despite its obvious relevance and appeal to young people in urban communities. Early supporters of hip-hop radio tended to be devoted fans at college and community stations, who played records that commercial radio often wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot dookie stick. Though small in wattage, these stations’ dedicated hip-hop specialty shows developed loyal followings who would tune in to hear “their” music.

In the mid-’80s, as the hip-hop generation came into maturity, music trends began to shift. Hip-hop and electronic dance music became more popular among young urban listeners, and new sounds began to creep onto the playlists of urban stations via late night weekend mixshows, typically featuring DJs with club backgrounds. Yet hip-hop was rarely, if ever, heard during daytime hours. This lack of support didn’t escape the attention of outspoken rap artists like Public Enemy’s Chuck D, who famously declared “radio – suckers never play me” on 1987’s “Rebel Without a Pause.”

With the rise in hip-hop’s national popularity came a rise in the amount of local hip-hop which was being made in regional markets across the country. At the dawn of the 1990s, it became clear that the demand for fresh urban music was not being satisfied by commercial stations. Long before NYC’s Hot 97 adopted the phrase “Where Hip-Hop Lives,” the genre thrived on college radio, which had few restrictions on the type of music that could be played.

In New York, college mixshows became important outlets for unsigned artists hoping to land a record deal. [Noted DJ] Bobbito Garcia proudly notes that “The Stretch Armstrong Show” was the first to play artists like Nas, Notorious B.I.G., Big Pun, and the Wu-Tang Clan before they had record deals. Eventually, all of them became platinum-selling, major-label acts.

In Los Angeles, KDAY — the first commercial station to adopt a 24-hour hip-hop and R&B format — was instrumental in introducing locally-bred artists like Eazy-E, N.W.A., Dr. Dre, and Ice Cube to the world. Although influential, KDAY’s impact was somewhat limited by the fact it was an AM station.

Likewise, in the Bay Area, stations like KPOO, KALX, and KZSU were instrumental in breaking local artists like Too $hort, Timex Social Club, Hammer, Digital Underground and Paris, all of whom went on to national prominence and commercial success.

At first, FM stations played rap on mixshows, a type of specialty programming which features an on-air mixer. But “as the popularity increased, radio started programming past mixshows," says Garcia.

In 1991, “The Wake Up Show” made its debut on KMEL. The free-form show, which featured live on-air mixing, interviews, and freestyle battles, pushed the envelope of commercial radio by playing hip-hop music that was considered underground. “The Wake Up Show” quickly became a local institution and later became the first hip-hop program to be syndicated nationally.

Buoyed by the show’s success, in 1993 KMEL became the first commercial FM outlet to program what later became known as the “Hot Urban” format. During this golden age, KMEL earned a reputation for often being the first commercial station to break new rap records, including many by local artists. Its commitment to localism was certified by its inclusion of area talent in its annual “Summer Jam” and by its motto, “The People’s Station.” As Davey-D relates, “no other station in a major market had that kind of freedom.”

In 1994, the Hot Urban format was adopted by KMEL’s sister station, KKBT in Los Angeles. This template soon became a blueprint for other commercial stations, including LA’s Power 106 and New York’s Hot 97, whose formats were in turn copied by urban stations in every market in the country. With the advent of Hot Urban, for the first time, hip-hop was no longer limited to late-night and weekend programming, and could be heard during morning drive-time hours as well. But the adoption of a national, standardized format had another, perhaps unintentional, effect: to limit local access to the airwaves and to push urban culture in a commercialized, mainstream direction.

“It’s really disappointing,” says Garcia, who estimates that these days, there are maybe five good rap songs on the radio in any given year. “It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even listen to urban radio… it’s been softened and [is now] unsophisticated.”

It’s difficult for members of the community to demand accountability for what’s being aired in New York, he says, “if the decisions are being made in St. Louis.”

What Has Consolidation Done to My Community?

Studies have shown that to a large degree, localism has been one of the greatest casualties of the post-consolidation era. Not only have playlists become standardized, with the same, say, 100 songs by major-label artists in rotation in every major market, but access to stations by community groups has decreased, as has the number of community-affairs programs. In some cases, corporations have cut the number of public affairs department heads per market to just one for as many as eight stations.

With the decrease in community accessibility has come a lack of community accountability. Despite widespread discontent, commercial stations have only responded to the needs of local communities when significant pressure has been put on them to do so – and then only sometimes.

In 2002, a group of concerned community activists calling itself the Community Coalition for Media Accountability (CCMA) studied KMEL’s playlist and its relation to the social, economic, and political issues facing young people living in the urban areas the station reached. The report concluded that not only was KMEL not supporting local music, but that the music they were playing was detrimental to youth in the community. According to the CCMA, young people were “more likely to be depicted in the context of crime and violence than through issues such as health, education, family and community life, and KMEL is consistent with this trend.”

Yet KMEL isn’t the only urban station in a major market to come under fire by community groups. In 2005, New York’s Hot 97 aired the now-infamous “Tsunami” song, a “We Are the World” parody which was widely criticized as being racially insensitive. Despite firing a producer and donating $1 million to tsunami relief efforts, however, the station made few if any structural changes and soon returned to its old ways. According to a press release by Rosa Clemente of R.E.A.C. (Representing Education, Activism and Community) coalition, one year after the incident, Hot 97 continued to air “racially offensive remarks against Asians, African-Americans and Caribbean members of our community, which happen to make up the majority of their listenership.”

Joined by members of the New York City Council, R.E.A.C. demanded “corporate accountability and responsibility” from Hot 97 and its parent company, Emmis Communications. Yet no real commitment to community-responsible programming resulted. Instead, in recent years, a disturbing number of highly-publicized violent incidents have been linked directly to Hot 97, including several shootouts between rival rap crews.

Likewise, follow-up meetings with the CCMA and Clear Channel executives also resulted in no clear commitment by KMEL to address community concerns, although it did ultimately result in a smattering of more airplay for local artists — for a brief time. Playing more hometown acts was a way for KMEL to “legitimize themselves in a community that was restless over the lack of local music,” says Davey-D.

Stay tuned for the final installment of this article.

About the Author:
Eric K. Arnold has been writing about urban music culture since the mid-1990s, when he was the Managing Editor of now-defunct 4080 Magazine. Since then, he’s been a columnist for such publications as The Source, XXL, Murder Dog, Africana.com, and the East Bay Express; his work has also appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Vibe, Wax Poetics, SF Weekly, XLR8R, the Village Voice and Jamrock, as well as the academic anthologies Total Chaos and The Vinyl Ain’t Final. Eric began his journalistic career while DJing on college radio station KZSC, and remembers well the early days of hip-hop radio, before consolidation, and commercialization set in. Urban radio remains a subject near and dear to his heart; his recent SF Weekly cover story, “The Demise of Hyphy,” touched off an impassioned debate about the role of commercial stations in local communities which continued in the streets and online for months after the article’s publication. He currently lives in Oakland, California.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Orphan Works and Creators — What's the Deal?



Let’s say you wanted to use an existing piece of music in a new creation. You managed to track down the creator, who gave you his or her blessing. You’re all set, right? Not so fast. Copyright owners, who are not necessarily the creators, have the right to license new uses of their works. If the copyright owner can’t be found, you have no legal rights to use the work, even if the creator is locatable. It’s an “orphan work”.

Let’s look at it from the flipside. Say you’re an artist who signed a record label deal at some point. As part of your contract negotiations, you made it clear to the label that you required approval of and payment for new uses of your recording. But when you signed on the dotted line, you also transferred your copyrights to the label. Then the record label was bought out by another label. And then another, and another. Now nobody — including yourself — knows who owns your recording. It has become an “orphan work.”

Orphan works are copyrighted works whose owners are difficult or impossible to locate. Meaning that, although they belong to someone, it's not clear who. This makes it difficult to use the work in a new creation and also complicates archiving efforts. (Check out our orphan works fact sheet for more info.)

There is currently a Congressional effort to modify the rules surrounding orphan works. In April 2008, Senators Hatch and Leahy and Congressman Berman introduced S. 2913/H.R. 5889. The proposed bill allows for use of works for which the copyright holder can’t be found and limits liability for those users who perform and document “a qualifying search, in good faith, for the owner of the infringed copyright.”

While the legislation provides some redress for users of orphan works by balancing the new user's rights with the copyright owner rights, it totally fails to consider the interests of the original creators. Remember, when musicians sign record contracts, they often transfer their copyrights to a publisher or label, usually with certain restrictions and payments for use. However, the “ownership” of copyrights is a moving target in a consolidating record industry. Copyrights are routinely bought and sold as labels merge, go out of business or are bought by other entities. It's not uncommon for a copyright to change hands several times in the course of it and its creator's lifetime. This means that creators and copyright owners can be two entirely different entities.

Unfortunately, the proposed bill fails to offer the original creators of a work any protections related to: 1) the right to make decisions about whether their work can be used; 2) payment; and 3) attribution. In fact, the legislation — which doesn’t even mention creators — could override contract terms that have been spelled out between a creator and a record label. Let’s look at these three problems from the musician/creator perspective:

1. Creators cannot make decisions about how their work is used

Under the proposed bill, copyright owners — usually the record label — have the right to approve or not approve of the use of a work, even if the original creator is locatable.

Suppose you work at an ad agency that wants to use a recording in a commercial. The copyright owner is not locatable, but the artist is. Under the pending bill, it’s not up to the creator to decide — it’s up to the copyright owner, and the copyright owner ONLY. Unlike other countries, in the US, the creator doesn’t have a “moral right” to object to how their work is used.

As drafted, the current legislation would not only give creators no decision-making power in the absence of a copyright owner, it would also override any original contract terms that state that the copyright owner needs to get the artist’s approval before permission to use the work is granted.

2. Creators might not receive compensation

Moreover, despite payment obligations set forth in the contract that the creator made with the copyright holder, the new user might not have to pay the songwriter/performer until and unless the copyright owner brings an action or licenses the work. In addition, even in circumstances where the creator could collect damages, the proposed bill limits those damages, even in the case where the creator objected to the infringing use in advance.

3. Creators are not given attribution

Furthermore the proposed bill, unlike previous versions, only requires attribution of the copyright owner and not the author. The author created the work and deserves attribution.

Let’s be clear: orphan works is a problem that should have a legislative solution. FMC supports orphan works legislation that would make more older works available and supports changes to the copyright law that would limit liability for those who undertake and document “a qualifying search, in good faith” to find the copyright owner (under the proposed legislation, the Copyright Office will determine what a qualifying search is. Musicians should help the Copyright Office craft best practices to ensure that such qualifying search is as thorough as possible).

However, FMC firmly believes that any legislation to address the orphan works problem give the creator the same rights as the copyright owner of the orphaned work would have to license or refuse to license the use of the work, and to be paid for the use. Only then will we have a fair way to deal with an important part of our collective culture.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Full Power Series #4: Progressive Perogatives

Mary Francis of the Norman Unitarian Universalist Fellowship

This post by FMC contributor Mike Janssen is the latest in a series profiling groups that applied for noncommercial FM radio licenses last fall. Thousands of nonprofit organizations around the country are waiting for the Federal Communications Commission to determine whether it will grant their applications. The FCC will award licenses over the next few years, potentially bringing fresh and unheard voices to the airwaves.


The next radio station to sign on in Norman, Oklahoma, might be operated by a religious group, much like the majority of the stations already serving the market. But this one would sound like few other religious stations. In fact, it would be devotedly secular—which is exactly the point.

“We’re getting pretty darn tired of listening to all the religious programming here in Oklahoma,” says Mary Francis, a retired teacher of reading and former public radio commentator. Seeking to counter central Oklahoma’s conservative culture and right-wing Christian broadcasters, the passionate activist recently took up a new cause. She’s now leading the charge to start a progressive FM radio station under the auspices of the Norman Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (NUUF).

Unitarians call their faith a religion, but their congregations often welcome atheists, agnostics and pagans as readily as Christians and Jews. Likewise, the NUUF’s radio station would set up a big tent, airing diverse musical genres, connecting Norman’s social service organizations, and covering local issues that would otherwise get little coverage. For example, Francis says, the station could promote groups that address the needs of children, homeless people and African American men returning to free life after serving prison sentences. And it could focus on topics such as Norman’s storm-water problems and rural farmers upset about federal livestock standards.

The station would also air Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! and other left-leaning fare. City residents can listen to a local NPR affiliate, but the station does not air progressive programming such as Goodman’s show.

Francis, a feisty 65-year-old, talks and writes with enthusiasm about her drive to spice up the airwaves. She learned about the opportunity to apply for a station from a fellow Unitarian who serves on the board of the Pacifica Foundation, a progressive radio network that produces programming and operates five FM stations around the country. With help from Pacifica and its partners in the Radio For People coalition (which included FMC) Francis raised funds, found legal and technical aid and prepared the NUUF’s application.

“When I started this, I knew absolutely nothing about radio or applying for an FCC license,” she says, laughing. “This has been the steepest learning curve of my life, I guarantee you.”

Francis and her fellow would-be broadcasters have been cheered to find enthusiastic support from their Norman neighbors. The NUUF has raised more than $5,000 from 275 contributors, many of whom are not Unitarians, Francis says. The group has also applied to the national Unitarian organizing body for an additional $5,000. Meanwhile, other supporters have promised loans to cover $100,000 in station construction costs.

If the station’s application for an FCC permit is granted, the NUUF would ask for additional funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and from the Public Telecommunications Facilities Program, which assists public broadcasters with technical costs. And Pacifica has offered Francis’s group a year of free programming, “so we are darn well going to take advantage of that,” she says.

Like many other applicants, Francis must wait to learn whether her application will prevail because of potential conflicts with the signals of other would-be broadcasters. She is confident, however, that the FCC will decide on her request within a year—the NUUF’s application conflicts with only two other broadcasters, and Francis believes their status as a local nonprofit will give them an edge. Until then, the group will begin to publicize its efforts via podcasts and Web streams.

These may be the NUUF’s first steps toward spawning what Francis envisions as a growing national chorus of progressive voices. The movement could start by uniting Unitarian congregations, but grow to encompass other progressives as well, Francis says. A city in the Bible Belt’s buckle might seem like an odd place for such a movement to find a foothold, but that seems to make the matter all the more urgent to Francis.

“I think that the whole nation will go through a major change come November,” she says. “And I think Oklahoma will see a major change as well.”

Mike Janssen served as Project Manager on FMC's Full Power Initiative, recruiting arts and cultural groups to apply for noncommercial stations and assisting applicants throughout the process. He is a freelance writer, editor and leader of media workshops in the Washington, D.C., area. Visit his website at mikejanssen.net.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

FMC Executive Director Ann Chaitovitz in Billboard

This week, Billboard Magazine ran a Commentary by FMC Executive Director Ann Chaitovitz on the importance of Net Neutrality to the music community. We're pleased to have the opportunity to talk about the issue in such a well-read publication.


A Wide Net
By Ann Chaitovitz

In a concert last summer that was netcast by AT&T, Pearl Jam performed a section of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” during an extended jam on their own song, “Daughter.” When singer Eddie Vedder gave the lyrics a political twist and sang, “George Bush leave this world alone / George Bush find yourself another home,” AT&T cut the sound, unbeknownst to the band and attendees. This was not just censorship but a warning beacon of what will happen in a world without net neutrality. If network operators control all the content that passes through their pipes, any of us could be silenced on the whims of a few powerful corporations.

Net Neutrality first became an issue in 2005, stemming from the Supreme Court’s Brand X decision, which ruled that the FCC was allowed to reclassify the internet as an information service, as opposed to a telecommunications service. That left open just what type of oversight the FCC would apply. Cable companies and network operators saw this as an opportunity to earn new revenue and to keep competing services from using their infrastructure.

Net neutrality is the principle that protects the open Internet. It means that everyone can access the lawful content of their choice. It also gives musicians the chance to reach their fans directly, without interference from gatekeepers and middlemen. This could change if companies like AT&T and Verizon have their way and decide who and what we listen to. Many artists could lose an important connection to their fans, while listeners might find their access to their favorite acts severely compromised.

Recently, people have confused net neutrality with the separate and distinct issue of copyright enforcement. Net neutrality does not prevent network operators from using tools to prevent piracy. Nothing prevents network operators from blocking access to infringing content. Net neutrality only preserves the public’s access to lawful content, applications and online services, which gives network operators latitude to combat illegal filesharing.

Net neutrality also permits reasonable network management. For example, network operators could prioritize voice services over streaming services over downloading services in order to ensure the proper functioning of the network. What they would not be permitted to do, however, is to prioritize their own voice service over that of their competitors.

The current structure of the web lets the biggest companies and the smallest bedroom recording artist exist on an equal technological playing field. But the big telecom and cable companies want to charge content providers a fee for the faster delivery of their sites.

Imagine logging on to your favorite band’s website, only to have it take forever to load on your computer because they couldn’t to afford (or didn’t want) to pay a toll. Or maybe you’re simply redirected to that network operator’s own music store, or to iTunes or Amazon — companies that can afford to cut deals with the network operators – where the artist has to share the revenue and takes home less. Services that pay the network operators would likely subtract their increased costs from the content provider’s share of the revenue or pass the cost on to the consumer, which would present a new hurdle on the road to a legitimate digital music economy. Today’s bands, big or small, deserve the right to do business on their terms, and fans deserve to make their own choices of where and how to access legitimate content. That’s why net neutrality is so important.

We can’t just hand the Internet over to a few big corporations, because they often only have their own interests at heart. Recently, Comcast blocked access to the legal, licensed audiovisual delivery service called Vuze — which competes with the company’s own AV offerings — simply because Vuze utilizes peer-to-peer technology to distribute its licensed content. Net neutrality would prohibit network operators from interfering with the transmission of lawful content and permit the growth of new business models.

Content creators, producers and advocates who are concerned about piracy but also understand the consequences of letting a few corporations control distribution — Future of Music Coalition, the Center for Creative Voices in Media, the Independent Film and Television Alliance and the American Association of Independent Music — support net neutrality because they know what’s at stake. You can’t safeguard artists by blocking or limiting their ability to participate in an open marketplace.

Musicians and labels are making their voices heard through Future of Music Coalition’s Rock the Net campaign, which now boasts more than 800 members, including Pearl Jam, R.E.M. and Kronos Quartet. A compilation CD, featuring Aimee Mann, Wilco, They Might Be Giants, Bright Eyes, the Wrens, Portistatic and more, will be released in July. We applaud the commitment of these talented artists to such an important cause.

We can’t allow bottlenecks to determine the flow of creativity. Participating in a legitimate digital marketplace is the right of all citizens, including musicians. It’s a right that needs to be preserved.

The Effects of Media Consolidation on Urban Radio — Part I

Here's the first installment of an excellent article by hip-hop writer Eric K. Arnold that examines the effects of media consolidation on the urban radio format.

Arnold is an authority on this subject; his recent cover story for SF Weekly, “The Demise of Hyphy,” looked at the role of commercial stations in local communities and the impact they have on music and culture. The article has sparked a great deal of conversation in the Bay Area and beyond. (A full author bio can be found at the end of the post).

This piece gives an overview of how urban radio came to be, and shows that the hip-hop community has not been spared the negative effects of media consolidation — including a loss of localism and diversity on the dial. We're really excited to be able to publish it here in a handful of installments. So, without further ado:

The Effects of Media Consolidation on Urban Radio — Part I
By Eric K. Arnold

Urban Radio: What It Is and Who’s Down
Let’s cut to the chase: urban radio sucks. You know it, artists know it, and programmers know it too. It offers little room for creative programming, tends to favor established artists at the expense of new voices, and kills any halfway-decent song that does manage to land in rotation by playing it as much as three times an hour. Most of all, urban radio sucks because it rarely meets the needs of the local community from which its listeners are drawn. Commercial stations and their advertisers are more than happy to have passive listeners who don’t complain about programming decisions. But the truth of the matter is that people have a right to demand greater accountability from their neighborhood stations. Since all broadcasters use the public airwaves, they need to honor their responsibility to serve the public interest. Urban radio is no different, yet its lack of localism is even more appalling since stations often market themselves as being informed by street-derived culture.

Generally speaking, urban radio is defined as programming whose primary demographic targets people of color living in urban areas. This listenership is often broken down into three somewhat overlapping market segments based on age: Hot Urban” (12-24); “Rhythmic AC” (18-34); and “Urban AC” (25-49). Hot Urban stations tend to spin current rap and contemporary R&B, while Urban AC stations rarely play much rap, preferring a mix of vintage soul and R&B with more recent neo-soul and R&B. Rhythmic AC stations fall somewhere in the middle: typical stations in this category program for both younger and older listeners, so playlists include contemporary artists as well as older, “heritage” acts.

Urban Radio is a multibillion-dollar industry controlled by a handful of large media conglomerates which program the majority of the genre’s stations across the country. To a large extent, the industry’s current state is the result of media consolidation. Over the last twelve years, independently-owned commercial stations have become a rarity, while corporate radio has become the norm.

Where once innovative program directors broke new music by emerging artists and DJs sought out hot local talent, today’s urban radio has become standardized and formulaic. National playlists and a reliance on market research have made DJs little more than button-pushers with limited say in what records get aired. Pressure to attract and maintain the widest possible market share has resulted in Music and Program Directors choosing commercially-established, major label artists over idiosyncratic or developing acts. In this ratings-driven climate, radio that actively meets the needs of the community — whether it be public-affairs shows or programming featuring local artists — has fallen by the wayside. The net result is that the average listener has fewer choices, especially when it comes to hearing local music.

“There is a need and a desire on behalf of listeners for local music on local radio stations,” says Davey-D, an air personality on community station KPFA and Internet station Breakdown FM. Davey spent a decade at San Francisco Bay Area commercial radio at KMEL — the #1 urban station in the nation’s #4 market. Despite demand for diverse and local content, “radio stations around the country have no desire to play local artists unless local artists are connected to major labels or major independents,” Davey says.


Who Jacked the Playlist?
The passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 irrevocably altered the landscape of commercial radio. Supporters of this legislation claimed it would invigorate radio, but it actually had the opposite effect. The bill eased FCC-mandated restrictions on ownership, meaning that several stations in the same market could now be owned and operated by the same company. It also continued a trend away from community-oriented broadcasting, which began during Reagan administration. (In 1981, officials did away with the “ascertainment” process, jettisoning requirements that required commercial stations to determine and meet the needs of local communities.)

In the five years following the 1996 Telecom Act, a frenzy of consolidation essentially eliminated independent black radio. Locally-owned and African-American-operated stations were bought out by the dozens and reprogrammed as “urban” stations by national conglomerates. Previously, DJs, Program Directors and Music Directors were able to play music of their own choosing. Since ’96, market researchers and consultants have determined playlists, eradicating a once-proud tradition of supporting neighborhood talent. As Davey-D notes, “This was a rude awakening with respect to local music.”

In 1997, following KMEL’s purchase by Chancellor Media, Program Director Michelle Santosuosso wrote an open letter to PDs in other markets detailing how the station went from a “mom and pop” operation to being owned by a “massive media company” which also owned 100 other stations, including KMEL’s main competitor. In this industry climate, she noted, “balancing the commitment to musical integrity with the pressures of big business ratings demands is increasingly difficult.”

A decade later, her statement seems truer than ever. KMEL’s current parent company, Clear Channel Communications, owns not 100 stations, but well over 1,000. Yet Clear Channel is only one of a handful of companies which own the majority of radio stations in America and are thus in a position to dictate or restrict content as they see fit.

Urban radio programming has become stagnant, alienating many hip-hop heads who once listened religiously to mix shows. According to Bobbito Garcia — former co-host of “The Stretch Armstrong Show,” a New York college radio program known for featuring unsigned hip-hop artists — “It’s become national radio, not urban radio.” The effect of consolidation, he says, is that “artists started making music not for the audience, but for the radio.”

In today’s urban radio market, the sound has become increasingly formulaic. “Real hip-hop sounds weird,” says Julio G., who pioneered West Coast hip-hop radio at KDAY 20 years ago. Julio, who’s credited with breaking Eazy E., says that disc jockeys themselves no longer have the opportunity to champion new music. “I started with a passion to find the best record,” he says. “Why do I gotta be just another guy playing [chart-topping MC] Plies?”

Matt Sonzala, the author of the Houston So Real blog and the hip-hop booker for Austin’s annual SXSW conference, remembers the early days of Texas hip-hop radio well. He recalls hearing local artists like the Geto Boys and UGK on The Box 97.9, who “blew up because they had support in their own city.” Sonzala claims that, despite Houston’s storied history as a breeding ground for rap music, the only local artists getting any sort of commercial radio action these days are those already signed to major labels.

Like Houston, Atlanta’s urban radio stations were also once known for supporting homegrown artists, whether unsigned, indie or major. Recently, however, a PD who had heavily supported local rappers was let go, and “the scene changed,” says Wendy Day, the founder of artist advocacy group Rap Coalition. Day has firsthand experience building acts through neighborhood word-of-mouth. Before moving to the ATL, she lived in Chicago and New York, where, a decade ago, she worked records for Twista and Do or Die out of Chi-town. Back then, she says, radio was loathe to take on “hard” rap: “we could not get our records played on radio.” Instead, she notes, “we blew it up on the street.”

Street culture is by definition different than corporate culture. Radio, she points out, “is definitely a business. It doesn’t play music to reach people or move a culture. . . its job is to sell ads.”

From a corporate perspective, it’s easier to streamline playlists from media market to media market than to develop entirely separate charts for each station playing a particular format. Yet a playlist for a commercial urban station can contain as few as 300 songs – a tenth of what the average listener has on his or her iPod. This approach often leaves listeners and artists alike grumbling about the exclusion of local or independent talent.

The lack of concern for the needs of the community has not gone completely unnoticed, however. In March 2008, Kansas City alt-weekly newspaper The Pitch reported that despite a wealth of local talent, the region has yet to produce a nationally recognized hip-hop act. According to reporter Nadia Plaum, “Many local artists blame KC radio, complaining that the city doesn't have a station committed to pushing hometown music on regular rotation.”

Some in Government have commented on the negative impact of media consolidation on the public airwaves. In November 2007, during the sixth and final hearing on media ownership, FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps reportedly said, “Did you even notice the FCC is always ready to run the fast break for Big Media, but it’s the four-corner stall when it comes to serving the public interest?”

The Commissioner was specifically referring to the likely granting of expanded cross-ownership agreements for TV stations and newspapers, but media is an extremely trend-focused industry, so further consolidation in any sector of mass media would likely affect all segments of the industry.

Stay tuned for the next installment of this article.

About the Author:

Eric K. Arnold has been writing about urban music culture since the mid-1990s, when he was the Managing Editor of now-defunct 4080 Magazine. Since then, he’s been a columnist for such publications as The Source, XXL, Murder Dog, Africana.com, and the East Bay Express; his work has also appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Vibe, Wax Poetics, SF Weekly, XLR8R, the Village Voice and Jamrock, as well as the academic anthologies Total Chaos and The Vinyl Ain’t Final. Eric began his journalistic career while DJing on college radio station KZSC, and remembers well the early days of hip-hop radio, before consolidation, and commercialization set in. He currently lives in Oakland, California.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Who's Wrong on the Performance Right



FMC has spent a goodly amount of time supporting the creation of a public performance right for sound recordings, which would require terrestrial radio broadcasters to pay performers and labels for the recordings they play. It's been a while since we addressed the issue, so allow us to recap.

Currently, when you hear a song on over-the-air broadcast radio in the US, the composer/songwriter/publisher are compensated for that "public performance" via ASCAP/BMI/SESAC, but the performer and record label are not. Meaning, if you hear SinĂ©ad O’Connor’s version of "Nothing Compares 2 U" on the radio, only the songwriter (Prince) and the publisher receive payment; Sinead (and her label) are left out.

However, if you hear the same song played on satellite radio, a webcast, or on a cable music station, the songwriter and publisher get their royalties from ASCAP/BMI/SESAC, and the performer and record label are compensated via SoundExchange. (This is also true for a terrestrial broadcaster's internet stream.) Read our public performance right fact sheet for more info.

In December 2007, the Performance Rights Act of 2007 was introduced in the House and Senate, which would remove the performance right exemption for over-the-air broadcasters. Click here to read Senator Patrick Leahy's (D-VT) statement on the Performance Rights Act.

The National Association of Broadcasters strongly opposes the bill, as they have all attempts to get performance rights legislation passed by Congress. They pushed hard for opposing legislation, which took the form of the Local Radio Freedom Act that was introduced in the House of Representatives at the end of 2007.

On Monday, May 12, Senators Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) introduced Senate Concurrent Resolution 82, a companion piece to the Local Radio Freedom Act. It's filled with much of the same misleading language as its predecessor.

The NAB-supported resolution states that "many thousands of local radio stations will suffer severe economic hardship if any new performance fee is imposed, as will many other small businesses that play music including bars, restaurants, retail establishments, sports and other entertainment venues, shopping centers, and transportation facilities."

Actually, the Performance Rights Act doesn't apply to retail establishments, bars or otherwise. The bill is specifically written to only address the exemption that over-the-air broadcasters currently enjoy. It also recognizes that not all radio stations have the same ability to pay. If a station makes less than $1.25 million in revenues in a year, it will pay a maximum fee of $ 5,000. And any public broadcasting entity, religious broadcaster or noncom educational station would pay a maximum of $1,000 per year.

FMC champions compensation for songwriters and performers, which is why we think that the public performance right is a good idea. We also think license parity is essential. If webcasters — many of whom have far less funding than their terrestrial counterparts — pay a performance royalty to both songwriters and performers, why shouldn't regular radio? Why should performers who are heavily associated with certain songs be left out of the compensation loop? These questions deserve to be answered in the fairest way possible.

Word on K Street is that there may be one more hearing about this issue before Congress goes out for summer recess (then gets swept up by election fever). We’ll keep you posted.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Congress Introduces Dual Net Neutrality Bills



Net neutrality is getting a serious look-over on Capitol Hill, with two bills currently in the House of Representatives. The first is called the “Internet Freedom Preservation Act,” and was introduced in February 2008 by Representatives Ed Markey (D-MA) and Chip Pickering (R-MS). The bill sets broad guidelines for protecting the open internet, and compels the FCC to hold hearings, gather public opinion and report its findings back to Congress. Currently in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the legislation was referenced several times in a May 6 hearing on net neutrality.

Another bill was recently introduced in the House Judiciary Committee, which deals with antitrust and free speech issues. In April 2008, OK Go’s Damian Kulash testified before this very committee on the importance of net neutrality to the creative community.

You may recall in August 2007, when AT&T censored a live Pearl Jam webcast, illustrating the free speech implications of a world without net neutrality. The antitrust side of things is a bit more complicated, but basically has to do with stopping network operators from discriminating against applications or content that competes with their own services. The idea is to keep the internet working like our phone system, where all companies, services and users have equal access to the same infrastructure.

The "Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act of 2008" was introduced by Representatives John Conyers (D-WI) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) on May 8. It differs from the Markey-Pickering bill in that includes antitrust language and doesn’t rely on the FCC for reporting and enforcement.

"The Internet was designed without centralized control, without gatekeepers for content, relevant products and services," Conyers said in a statement. "If we allow companies with monopoly or duopoly power to control how the Internet operates, network providers could have the power to choose what content is available."

It remains to be seen what becomes of these bills, but we’re glad that Congress recognizes the importance of this issue. Musicians should too. That's why you should sign up for FMC's Rock the Net Campaign and show your support for the open internet.

Monday, May 12, 2008

This Week In News

Berman, Leahy Introduce Radio Royalties Bills
U.S. Rep. Howard Berman and Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced legislation today that would require radio stations to pay performance royalties to recording artists and record companies. Backers include both Republicans and Democrats, the RIAA and a host of recording artists. Opposing the bill is the National Association of Broadcasters, who have considerable clout when it comes to influencing policy. And the NAB vigorously opposes the performance royalty. FMC supports royalty parity, so we think that performers should get paid for terrestrial spins. For more info, check out our factsheet on the Public Performance Royalty.
L.A. Times BitPlayer Blog

State of the Music Industry
Last week's NARM conference (National Association of Recording Merchandisers) featured a compelling presentation from Nielsen SoundScan called the "State of the Industry" (PDF). Some highlights: in 2007, 450,344 of the 570,000 albums sold were purchased less than 100 times. 1,000 albums accounted for 50% of all album sales. Interestingly, the music industry had its biggest sales week since they started keeping records, with 58 million units sold in the last week of 2007. Also of note: 13% of all album sales come from American Idol and the Disney franchises. Telling stuff.
Duke Listens Blog

Project Playlist: Another Lopsided Settlement Ahead?
Web-based music app Project Playlist is being sued by the major labels, a common scenario for music startups. The lawsuit is backed by all four majors and accuses Project Playlist of massive copyright infringement. The focus of the suit is concerns whether Project Playlist is actually liable for infringement. PP's architecture allows users to create playlists by linking to content hosted across the internet, a solution that taps into the massive — but highly decentralized and chaotic — library of media assets online. But the filing may be part of a familiar negotiation dance, one that frequently features a dropped lawsuit in exchange for serious licensing overhead and equity stakes for the majors.
Paul Resnikof, Digital Music News

When DRM Detonates Your Music Collection
Imagine if you had a bedroom full of CDs and decided to buy a new player one day, only to discover that none of your albums would play on the new system. That is more or less what has happened to people in America who bought music downloads from Microsoft. Last month the company announced that from August 31 this year songs bought from MSN Music, its online music shop, would no longer be transferable to machines other than the ones the files were registered to. This means that, come September, if you want to transfer songs from your main PC to a laptop or a new computer you haven't registered, you won't be able to. If your computer dies, your painstakingly assembled music collection dies with it.
Alex Pell, Times UK

Colleges Fret as RIAA Pushes for State Anti-P2P Laws
The entertainment industry's efforts to get universities to be more proactive about policing peer-to-peer piracy are spreading from Capitol Hill to the individual states. Earlier this year, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a Hollywood-backed proposal buried in a higher education reauthorization bill that would require universities receiving federal financial aid funding to devise plans for "alternative" offerings to unlawful downloading. That otherwise wide-ranging bill won't become law until House and Senate politicians agree upon a compromise version. Meanwhile, the debate over the proper role of higher education institutions in fighting piracy has shifted to some state legislatures.
Anne Broache, CNET

House Passes Copyright Enforcement Bill
By a vote of 410 to 10, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation that would allow law enforcement authorities to seek the forfeiture of property used in copyright infringement. The Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act, or PRO-IP Act, would also create a new Office of Intellectual Property Enforcement representative, often called a copyright czar, in the White House. The bill would also expand a U.S. Department of Justice program that gives local law enforcement agencies grants to fight computer crimes, including grants for copyright infringement enforcement.
Grant Gross, IDG News

RIAA Representative Forecasts a Comeback for DRM
[Psst — don't tell the market!] RIAA representative forecasts a comeback for DRM At the Digital Hollywood conference, where entertainment industry representatives are meeting to discuss technology and trends in digital content delivery, David Hughes of the RIAA made bold statements about the future of DRM. Despite a clear move toward selling DRM-free music by every major label Hughes, the RIAA's Senior Vice President of Technology, says DRM is far from dead, and even intimated that it's nearly impossible to make money on digital music without it.
Rich "Vurbal" Fiscus, AfterDawn.com

Friday, May 9, 2008

FMC Wraps up New York State Events



A few weeks ago we blogged about FMC's trip to Buffalo, New York, where we debuted our "What's the Future for Musicians?" forum. That highly successful event was the first in a handful of presentations throughout New York State rounding out the month of April.

The final forum took place on April 30 in Albany, which followed events in Rochester and Syracuse a couple of days before. Hundreds of local musicians turned up for the forums, which included presentations on online promotion and distribution, access to media, compensation in a digital age, and the importance of open internet structures.

The breakout sessions proved especially instructive. Local musicians had the chance to interact with our crew of experts, including FMC's Michael Bracy and Jean Cook as well as Tim Quirk of Rhapsody, Charlie McEnerney of Well Rounded Radio and Jim Mahoney of A2IM

We also got to to pose in front of a giant Mastodon, as illustrated by the photo above. Click here to see a slideshow of the events.

Thanks to the American Federation of Musicians locals and area arts groups for their support in putting on these forums. And extra thanks to all of those who attended — you made it interesting and fun.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The RIAA and Net Neutrality



Today, Recording Industry Association of America CEO Mitch Bainwol testified at a House Commerce and Energy Committee hearing on the subject of net neutrality. That he didn't outright dismiss measures meant to protect the open internet shows just how much this debate has evolved.

The RIAA still says combating piracy remains a top priority , as do other content creators and producers who support net neutrality. Bainwol's testimony also included language praising aspects of the pro-net neutrality bill introduced by Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) last February.

"Chairman Markey and Congressman Pickering have properly recognized the important distinction between lawful and unlawful content, and we applaud them for making this distinction," Bainwol said.

That might not seem like much, but it does show some forward thinking. The major labels need new business models and services to help them sell more digital music. Net neutrality ensures that innovation of this kind can continue to flower on the web.

It's important to note that net neutrality and protecting copyright are not at odds, as Rep. Markey explained. "This whole idea that this legislation helps piracy is 100 percent wrong," he said. "It's a red herring. We should put an aquarium out here because there are so many red herrings floating around to mislead about what the intent of net neutrality is."

Net neutrality preserves the public’s access to lawful content, applications and online services, which gives network operators latitude to combat illegal filesharing. It also ensures access to the digital marketplace for everyone, and not just big companies that can afford to pay a toll to the network operators.

Bainwol says he'd like the "marketplace to decide" the best methods for fighting illegal filesharing. Without legislation establishing clear guidelines for what's appropriate network management activity, the telecom and cable companies could start discriminating against content they didn't like or authorized content that competes against their own offerings. If this happened, even the major labels could be affected.

Musicians should make their voices heard on this important issue. If you haven't already, sign up for FMC's Rock the Net campaign and join bands like Pearl Jam, R.E.M., Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, Bright Eyes and Kronos Quartet in supporting net neutrality.

Monday, May 5, 2008

SanFran MusicTech Summit 2!

Attention, West Coasters (or those of you with lots of frequent flyer miles):

FMC co-founder, serial entrepreneur and music/technology expert Brian Zisk is about to pull back the curtain on the second SanFran MusicTech Summit, which takes place on May 8 at the Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco.

The first event took place last February, and brought together the sharpest minds in the music and technology world(s) to discuss where all this stuff might be heading. The May 8 Summit promises further opportunities for musicians, entrepreneurs and technologists to interact and explore new possibilities and solutions. Click here for the full list of speakers, which includes representatives from SeeqPod, SomaFM, RockYou! CDBaby, Songza, Project Opus, Geek Entertainment TV, the Consumer Electronics Association, Rhapsody and more. But as Brian says, the guests are almost as impressive as the panelists.

For more information (and to purchase tickets), visit SanFranMusicTech.com. Check out video from the previous SFMT here.

And be sure to check out our chat with Brian Zisk — part of FMC's ongoing Podcast Interview Series.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Getting the HINT About Health Insurance

As we've mentioned before, musicians are among the most under-insured segments of the American public. Many artists simply assume they can't afford health insurance; others think it takes too much time to figure out. Especially when most of their focus is on making music and making a living.

Unfortunately it only takes one major health crisis to prove that going without insurance is a risky proposition. We've all heard about the benefit concerts to help artists who have taken ill, but they often come too late.

Future of Music Coalition created the Health Insurance Navigation Tool (HINT) to help musicians examine their health insurance options and hopefully make informed choices about coverage. The free program has been a success so far, but the work is far from over.

Case in point: Drew Glackin, a talented multi-instrumentalist who died of a preventable condition last January, because he lacked health insurance. Drew was the bassist alt-country heroes The Silos, and was a beloved member of the North Carolina music community. Now, that community is honoring his memory with a pair of shows in Raleigh, NC, featuring a slew of local acts, including Tres Chicas, Patty Hurst Shifter, Kenny Roby, Chip Robinson & Heavy Beat Outfit. Part of the proceeds will go to the HINT program. The shows take place this Saturday and Sunday (May 3 & 4). Click here for more info.

If you can't make it (or don't live in the area), please consider donating to HINT. It's volunteer run, and provides an important service to musicians. Plus it's free!

FMC is pleased that Drew Glackin benefits are getting coverage in Raleigh-area press — these shows deserve to sell out! Here are a couple of articles about Drew, the concerts and HINT:

The Struggle For Musicians' Health Insurance, Independent Weekly

Local Musicians Pay Tribute to Drew Glackin, WRAL.com

HINT also received prominent mention in an article published closer to (our) home:

Art Burn, Washington City Paper

Thanks to everyone who has helped spread the word about the benefit shows and HINT.