Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Report from Chicago

On September 19, FMC's Jenny Toomey and Jean Cook headed to Chicago to host the Rock the Media party at Delilah’s in Chicago. The culmination of a week’s worth of trainings in advance of the final FCC Media Ownership hearing in Chicago, the party brought media activists and music lovers together to enjoy local hip hop from DJ Sean Doe, and a rousing performance by Jon Langford and Co. Sitting in with the band was FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein on harmonica, who played Johnny Cash covers late into the night.

The next day, over 800 people turned out at the hearing the next day at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition HQ on the south side of Chicago. From that evening, here's one of the most eloquent voices for hip hop, KRS-1, voicing his concerns about media ownership to the FCC.

Listen to his entire statement here.

For more amazing and inspirational testimony from some of the over 200 local community radio advocates visit Stop Big Media. For Chicagoans, you can view coverage of the entire hearing on CAN TV (Channel 21) on Sunday, October 14th from 9am-5pm.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

FMC receives grant to study payola

The Social Science Research Council gave FMC a grant to study the impact of former New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's payola investigation. Of course, Eliot Spitzer got more than $30 million in settlements from some of the nation's largest broadcasters and record labels a few years back to settle allegations that they had engaged in payola.

The New York Times described some of the shenanigans in an article from 2005 after the Sony BMG settlement:

To disguise a payoff to a radio programmer at KHTS in San Diego, Epic Records called a flat-screen television a "contest giveaway." Epic, part of Sony BMG Music Entertainment, used the same gambit in delivering a laptop computer to the program director of WRHT in Greenville, N.C. - who also received PlayStation 2 games and an out-of-town trip with his girlfriend.

In another example, a Sony BMG executive considered a plan to promote the song "A.D.I.D.A.S." by Killer Mike by sending radio disc jockeys one Adidas sneaker, with the promise of the second one when they had played the song 10 times.

The FCC also had its own settlement and independent artists reached agreement with some major broadcasters to root out payola, but a major question remains: How much have the big labels and record stations changed? That's what FMC wants to take a look at.

Germany bans copying of CDs

In a move aimed at cutting down on pirated content, it appears Germany is about to take a really hard line stance as Variety reports:

BERLIN — Germany's upper house of parliament on Friday approved a controversial copyright law, which makes it all but illegal for individuals to make copies of films and music, even for their own use.
The Bundesrat pushed aside criticism from consumer protection groups and passed the law, which makes it illegal for anyone to store DVDs and CDs without permission. The law also covers digital copies from IPTV and TV broadcasts.
Consumer groups and the Green Party had campaigned in vain to include a "bagatelle exemption," so that the measure would not "criminalize" youths and other private users. The law is set to take effect in 2008.
The law goes beyond previous legislation brought in by the German government to help the entertainment industry. Germany's federal justice minister Brigitte Zypris claimed that the legislative reform brought German law into line with European Union codes.

News from FMC's Policy Summit

Not to brag, but our annual Policy Summit went off very well this week with speakers such as Sen. Byron Dorgan, Copyright Office head Marybeth Peters, musician Bob Mould and a raft of really other great and insightful people. Here's some of the coverage, so if you missed it you can catch up on some of the proceedings. We will have podcasts, as well as some audio and perhaps video forthcoming of the summit.

Rob Pegoraro over at The Washington Post's Faster Forward blog has a good run down of Day 1 of the summit.

If you want to see what the summit looked like, Todd Beals has posted a number of pictures on his Flickr account. You can go here to find it.

Bonus coverage: It's not about the summit, but interesting nonetheless. The Freakonomics guys at the NY Times talk with music industry heavyweights about the future of the industry.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

FCC Hearing on Media Ownership today

Today's the day to begin making the nation's media more equitable. The FCC will host a hearing in Chicago to take public testimony as it reviews its media ownership rules. This is hugely important: removing the radio ownership caps lead to the rise of Clear Channel's radio empire and a lack of diverse media voices in many cities. If you want to testify at the hearing, you must sign up. Here's the e-mail: fcc504@fcc.gov. The hearing will be held at the PUSH Rainbow Coalition headquarters in on the South Side at 4 p.m.

Here's a great Pitchfork piece on the hearing.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Indigo Girls Bringing New Orleans Musicians Home!

Don't you just love band's that walk the walk? We sure do. They make us jump on the bed with joy. Here is a great article in the Times-Picayune about their awesome show on Sunday night to benefit Sweet Home New Orleans in their work bringing many of the 2,500 displaced New Orleans musicians and Mardi Gras Indians back home.
If you want to know more about this spectacular organization you can listen to this feature from NPR's, "All Things Considered". PS. A little bird told us that the IG's raised over 10K with this one show!

Monday, September 17, 2007

FMC Policy Summit kicks off!

After many long months of work, the Future of Music Coalition Policy Summit kicked off this morning. FMC Executive Director Jenny Toomey and New Orleans crooner Al "Carnival Time" Johnson got things started. Jenny gave a short intro speech and Al, who lost his home to Katrina, played his powerful lament to the hurricane "Lower Ninth Ward Blues."

The first panel a "State of the Union" on the music industry, featured musician Bob Mould, entertainment attorney Rosemary Carroll, Nonesuch senior VP David Bither, Superchunk member and co-owner of Merge Records Mac McCaughan, and Chairman and Founder of the Mobile Entertainment Forum of the Americas Ralph Simon.

Jim Griffin, started the panel by asking David Bither of Nonesuch Records, about the zeitgeist of the record industry since many feel the bottom has dropped out with declining album sales, rampant filesharing, and other factors. What was most interesting is that while there is a lot of angst among the majors, some of the indie artists and labels are reporting things are quite good.

Mac McCaughan said his business has been better in the last couple years than at any other time.

"For us, we have bands in the Billboard top 200 than we ever did before. People maybe be buying less bad records, but probably buying more good records," he said to laughs from the audience.

David Bither, whose label is part of the Warner Group, said there have been blows to the industry like Tower Records going out of business, but from the perspective of his label things weren't that bad either.

"There's more vitality in the music community than there has been in a long, long time," Bither said.

Rosemary Carroll said the majors have become a less attractive place for many young artists.

"Five years ago -- even four years ago -- that band would have probably wanted to go to a major label. But that doesn't happen anymore," Carroll said. "The combination of the majors not doing a good job and being engaged in a contractual land grab for rights. It used to be that the artist gave up to rights to masters, which was unfortunate. But now artists are having to cut in labels on touring and other revenues. I don't think that's an attractive model to young artists."

Bob Mould struck a gloomier note on the state of the music industry:

"I worked so I could buy music, now people are downloading 100 songs a day that are an icon on their desktop. Where is the respect for the artist, where is the sacredness of the music?"

Ralph Simon said the major challenge these days is how an artist can "rises above the clutter." In other words, with so much music available these days digitally and so many different media outlets, how do you generate buzz?

"You may have a band that's great in Moose Droppings, Idaho, but how do you get them out to a wider audience?" Simon said. "In today's community when the audience is so mobile. You really have to find something that captures their interest."

Simon said one answer is plugging each of the media niches with artist content from videos to ringtones. He mentioned a British group called AWOL -- Artists Without Labels -- that helps generate buzz through these various media holes.

FMC Policy Summit begins today

Today is the beginning of FMC's 7th annual Policy Summit. Come join us at Betts Theatre at the George Washington University Marvin Center in Washington, DC for two days of exciting and engaging conversations about everything from network neutrality to the technologies that are bringing musicians and fans closer together.

On Monday, we welcome Senator Byron Dorgan for a keynote speech (2:00 PM), and then Marybeth Peters, Register, US Copyright Office, will participate in a special conversation with USPTO's Ann Chaitovitz about her 40 years at the Office, and the impact of new technologies on the copyright system. We're also doing panels about the state of the music industry, the public performance right, broadband policy, what the FCC payola settlement means for indie labels, EU licensing, the sample license clearance process, and what major label contracts look like in the digital age.

Check out the program details here
Directions to the venue

Limited walkup registration is available.

If you can't join us in person, there are a number of people live blogging the event. Here's one link.

We'll also have podcasts and webcasts of all the panels available 10-14 days after the conclusion of the Policy Summit. We hope to you can join us!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Hey Chicago!!!! Let's party like it's 1995!


Sure, you know back before the 1996 Telecommunications Act allowed extreme ownership consolidation to further ruin commercial radio and back before the Brand X case that put the future of the open internet at risk for indie musicians.

That's right... in honor of the September 20th FCC Media Ownership Hearing in Chicago, FMC is hosting a "ROCK THE MEDIA PARTY" at Delilah's (2771 North Lincoln Ave).

The Party begins on Wednesday September 19th, 8-11 p.m. With music legend Jon Langford and DJ Sean Doe spinning local hip hop.

Here's a delicious taste of the future media once we take it back from the corporate ogre.

Delilah's - Phone: (773) 472-2771 http://www.delilahschicago.com

*A five dollar donation at the door gets you a free drink. All money raised will go to support volunteer efforts at the FCC Hearing on September 20th.

Photo courtesy or Clearly Ambiguous.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Gonzalez at it again -- this time on net neutrality

It appeared Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez had done all the damage he could do: authorizing illegal wiretaps, coming up with dubious legal rational for torture and lying before Congress. But Gonzalez couldn't resist lobbing one more bomb before riding into the Texas sunset.

Surprisingly enough, this one has to do with net neutrality. Gonzalez filed papers with the FCC opposing net neutrality late last week claiming falsely that such regulations could hamper innovation on the Internet.

Like with a lot of things (say the definition of torture), Gonzalez is way off the mark. Net neutrality actually fosters innovation on the Internet. If telecoms are free to charge companies for prioritizing their web traffic, those that can afford the fees will have a huge advantage over those that can not. This favors established businesses. Google, eBay, and other start ups were able to thrive because they competed on the same level playing field as everyone else. Imagine what might happen to the next generation of innovation if only the biggest and the richest are able to get the best service?

Of course, this also follows the Justice Department signing off on the ATT/BellSouth merger without seeking any consumer protections in 2006. Here's some additional commentary from our friends over at Free Press and Public Knowledge.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Speak up for media diversity in Chicago!

On Sept. 20 in Chicago, the FCC will be holding a crucial public hearing on media ownership. If you care about getting more indie music on the air, the diversity of voices on the airwaves, localism, and breaking the grip of big media conglomerates, it's important that you attend.

The public hearing is the fifth of six the FCC is holding around the country as it prepares to revise rules on broadcast ownership. Public hearings can be sleep inducing, but as they go this one couldn't be more important. The FCC is reviewing limits on local television and radio ownership, limits on the cross-ownership of TV or radio stations and a newspaper in a particular market, and limits on television/radio cross radio ownership among other rules.

Anyone that's watched the homogenizing effect of Clear Channel on the nation's radio landscape knows how relaxing ownership limits can have a negative impact on the media. Clear Channel became a behemoth following deregulation of the radio industry in the mid-1990s. It's not just radio we need to worry about either. Many major cities are seeing an unprecedented waive of media consolidation. For instance, nearly every daily newspaper in the Bay Area is now owned by a single media company.

Chicago is no exception as our friends over at Free Press have observed in a recent study of media diversity:

Chicago has one of the lowest levels of minority ownership among markets of its size and diversity. Research conducted by Free Press, the national media reform group, found that racial and ethnic minorities make up nearly two-thirds of Chicago’s population but own only 5 percent of the city’s full-power commercial radio and TV stations. Despite comprising half of the population, women own just 6 percent of the city’s radio and TV stations.

The hearing will be held at the Operation PUSH headquarters on the south side of Chicago. It will run from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. and those interested in commenting during the public comment section of the hearing need to sign up before hand by e-mailing fcc504@fcc.gov or
by calling 202-418-0530. For the address of the hearing and further details, see the FCC press release.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

FMC Policy Summit: Only 5 days until registration closes

It's T-minus seven to this year's FMC Policy Summit, and it's shaping up to be one of the best yet. Register today to guarantee your seat, because we're very close to capacity in the theatre, and online registration will close at midnight, Friday, Sept 14.

Click here to register

FMC welcomes Senator Bryon Dorgan and Senator Ron Wyden as keynote speakers

On Monday, FMC's Jenny Toomey will welcome attendees to the Policy Summit, backed by New Orleans musician Al "Carnival Time" Johnson.

Marybeth Peters, Register, US Copyright Office, will participate in a special conversation with USPTO's Ann Chaitovitz about her 40 years at the Office, and the impact of new technologies on the copyright system.

Attorney Rosemary Carroll, Nonesuch's David Bither, musician Bob Mould and Mac McCaughan, musician and co-owner of the independent label Merge Records – home of Arcade Fire, Spoon, M. Ward and others – will be joined by top names from law and technology to debate the state of the music industry.

Top representatives from some of today's most innovative music services – Pandora, Rumblefish, Eventful, and Echomusic – will discuss the technologies that are empowering musicians and bringing artists and fans closer together.

International experts, including CISAC's Director Eric Baptiste, Sarah Faulder from MCPS-PRS, RealNetwork’s Tim Quirk, DiMA's Jon Potter and CMRRA's David Basskin will tackle global licensing issues.

A star-studded list of panelists will debate about how broadband policy impacts musicians: Ben Scott from Free Press, Peter Gordon from Thirsty Ear Records, Jason Oxman from CEA, Scott Cleland from netcompetition.org and Tim Wu from Columbia Law School.

Pho founder Jim Griffin will moderate a panel about how ubiquitous wireless access may impact the music and broadcast industries. The panel includes Ralph Simon from the Mobile Entertainment Forum, attorney Whitney Broussard, Microsoft's Skip Pizzi, and others.

FMC is also exited to present a three-part track on how musicians can better use technologies, with special sessions on social networking and blogging, podcasting, and DIY licensing.

We're also thrilled to be working with Smithsonian Global Sound on an 4-part track on access to culture on Tuesday afternoon, jam-packed with some of the most interesting names in the field including Smithsonian Global Sound, American Folklife Center, Metabrainz, IODA and National Geographic. The session will start with a presentation by Dan Sheehy, director of Smithsonian Global Sound, followed by a talk by Peter Alyea from the Library of Congress' music preservation division, a panel on orphan works, and a panel on how technology is improving access to culture.

And that's not all. The Summit also includes panels about performance royalties, the state of retail, the new viability of niche musical genres, the sample license clearance process, major label contracts in the digital age, and a policymakers' roundtable that includes some of Capitol Hill's top media/copyright policy staffers.

Check out the program details here

Registration is only open until Friday, unless we sell out before that.: $199 or $139 for students

We hope to see you there!

Friday, September 7, 2007

This Week In News: Friday, September 7, 2007

Music Industry

The Music Man
An interview with Rick Rubin, co-head of Columbia Records, sheds light on the music industry and how it can be saved amidst the impacts of file-sharing.
by Lynn Hirschberg, The New York Times, September 2, 2007

Apple Supersizes iPod Capacities, Labels Unenthusiastic
Apple now offers its popular iPod with 80GB and 160GB capacities. However, labels worry that those who do fill their 160GB devices to capacity will be filling it with pirated video and audio rather than purchased content.
by Paul Reskinoff, DigitalMusicNews, September 5, 2007

An Update On EMI's Digital Album Share
EMI's increased digital album market sales are believed to credited to their movement away from DRM-protected tracks.
Coolfer, September 5, 2007

BMI Posts Record Revenue Totals, Artist Payouts
Although the CD sales are slumping, BMI recorded an 8% increase in revenue totals from last year. The increase is credited to revenue from cable and satellite radio, as well as other new media outlets.
by Paul Reskinoff, DigitalMusicNews, September 4, 2007

RIP for the CD?
Fong offers another interesting look at the demise of the CD while examining areas where it still succeeds.
by Jennifer Fong, The Edmonton Journal, September 3, 2007

Indie Labels Venture Into Venue Business
In an effort to expand business, indie labels such as Omaha's famous Saddle Creek have begun to open venues. Their access to artists and their opinions has so far lent to the venue's success.
by Mitchell Peters, Billboard.biz, September 4, 2007


Thousands Support Local Radio
Over 10,000 responded in favor of the FCC's proposal to limit the amount of licenses one group can obtain in the upcoming FCC opportunity for non-profits to build full-power FM radio stations.
Prometheus Radio Project, September 5, 2007

Airing Their Differences About Pay for Play
With Internet and satellite radio stations paying artist royalties, musicians are starting to wonder why terrestrial radio stations aren't asked to the same. Broadcasters argue that artists benefit from the publicity of terrestrial radio but in the face of lagging CD sales, the music industry is pushing for royalties.
by Marc Fisher, Washington Post, September 2, 2007

Momentum Builds for Low Power FM Radio
Support is growing for the bipartisan Local Community Radio Act, which would create thousands more LPFM stations to offer local news and programming.
Free Press, August 24, 2007

New Devices Bring HD Radio to Itunes
Two new devices which combine HD radio and Itunes "tagging" are helping to promote HD radio as a whole. "Tagging" allows HD radio listeners to tag songs they like and then purchase them later from the Itunes store.
by Susan Visakowitz, Billboard.biz, September 6, 2007

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Musicians face shorter life spans than general population

It's a bad rock n' roll cliche that many artists die before they're old, but surprisingly two new bits of information give credence to the notion that artists face more significant health problems than other people. Researchers at the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University have found that rock stars are 2 to 3 times as likely to suffer premature death as the general population.

The study looked at more than 1,000 artists from England and North America spanning nearly the entire rock era of 1956 to 2005. Sadly, more than a quarter of the deaths were related to alcohol or drugs.

"In the music industry, factors such as stress, changes from popularity to obscurity, and exposure to environments where alcohol and drugs are easily available, can all contribute to substance use as well as other self-destructive behaviors," the report said.

The study found musicians were most likely to die in the first five years after achieving fame. Death rates were three times higher than normal during this period. The study also found British artists risk of death remained high until 25 years after they became famous, but, interestingly, American artists chance of death continues to remain high throughout their lives. The lead author of the study said Americans stars continued high rate of death could be because of our country's penchant for reunion tours (seems dubious) or the fact that many older artists, who are no longer in the spotlight, don't have health insurance (seems more likely).

The second bit of information comes from New Orleans, where its musicians -- like much of the city -- still have not recovered from the tragedy of Katrina. They staged a march on Aug. 26. The musicians carried their instruments, but did not play a note. The protest was aimed at showing the city what it would be like without its musicians. Many players feel they will be forced to move elsewhere unless New Orleans does more to help them make a living.

The New Orleans Musicians Clinic reports more than 90 percent of the city's musicians live at or below the poverty level and most don't have health insurance.

Both the study of musicians' death rates and the New Orleans protest make clear that there is a health care crisis among musicians. An FMC survey from 2001 found nearly half of musicians interviewed reported they don't have health insurance. FMC has tried to address the crisis by offering musicians free health insurance advice via the HINT program. Musicians can call up and get health insurance advice from fellow musicians, who happen to be health insurance experts. Best of all it's totally free.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Jenny's Well Rounded Radio interview

Jenny discusses copyright, future technologies, webcasting and the importance of the gray areas.

"When we started, the real question was how do you use the Internet not to just build the new music digital services, but also to inform artists and to connect them so they can be a force to demand better structures for themselves." -- Jenny Toomey of The Future of Music Coalition, The Well-Rounded Radio Interview.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Clear Channel asking artists to waive royalties again?

The newish blog TalentFilter is reporting that Clear Channel is once again after artists' royalties. This time it's in connection with a contest that L.A. station KYSR (Star 98.7) is sponsoring for bands. The contest promises the winner a spot on the station's Star Lounge CD, a Star Lounge Concert at the Guitar Center Studio, and $10,000.

It's only in the legalese of the contest rules that the real "prize" is revealed -- it appears artists must waive their royalties to participate and allow Clear Channel to use their music in nearly any form. Here's an excerpt of the language:


This might seem like a blip on the radar, but it's not the first time Clear Channel has made a play for artists' royalties. Back in July, FMC and A2IM challenged Clear Channel for forcing artists to waive their performance royalties as a condition of consideration for airplay.

Incredibly enough, the play came as a part of a settlement over a payola investigation. If you remember, Clear Channel and other major broadcasters agreed to pay a $12.5 million fine to end an FCC investigation into allegations of payola at the broadcasters' stations. Indie artists inked a side agreement with the broadcasters to play 4,200 hours of independent music and abide by "Rules of Engagement," basically rules that would make it more difficult for payola to flourish at stations.

To collect indie music for the 4,200 hours of airtime, Clear Channel set up web pages attached to each of its stations' web sites that allowed artists to submit their music for airplay. Just like with the fine print of the KYSR contest, Clear Channel asked artists to waive performance royalties in a licensing agreement that artists were forced to check before they could submit their music.

Clear Channel responded to a payola investigation with a scheme that asked artists to give up something of value to get airplay on their radio stations, which violated the letter and spirit of the "Rules of Engagement." It's hard to imagine a more insincere act of contrition and it appears Clear Channel still hasn't learned its lesson, if the KYSR contest is any indicator.