Monday, June 30, 2008

Brief Rock the Net/Wrens item at Vulture blog.

The Wrens

New York Magazine
's Vulture blog (which is always entertaining) just made The Wrens its lead item in its "Right Click" column. They're talking about the "gorgeous new Wrens song" called "Sleep" that appears on our upcoming Rock the Net: Musicians for Net Neutrality CD.

The disc officially comes out on July 29, via Thirsty Ear Recordings. But you can preview it (and purchase a limited-time discounted digital copy) at

Ooh, it's so exciting!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Kristin Thomson at Ignite: Philly

On June 11, FMC Education Director Kristin Thomson took part in Ignite: Philly, which featured a series of speakers talking about inspiring projects or ideas for five minutes(!). Kristin used her own experience as a record collector who has moved on to streaming subscription services like Rhapsody to show that the future of music might be about access, not ownership.

We have no idea how Kristin managed to bust out all of this info in such a short amount of time, but she pulled it off without a hitch. Check out the video of her presentation below. . . you know you have time!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

This Week In News

Photo by flickr user Matt Callow

Coldplay Smashes Records on iTunes, In More Ways
Than One...
Apple declined to offer hard figures, though digital album totals of Viva La Vida across various retailers topped 288,000, according to figures supplied by major label executives. Of that, iTunes carries a commanding percentage, one that may have pushed past 275,000, according to a separate estimate.

Legal, British P2P 'by end of year'
Legal broadband subscription services that permit file sharing may appear on the market by the year's end, according to music industry sources - after government intervention brought both music suppliers and ISPs to the table. The UK would become the second country after South Korea where the music business has agreed to offer licenses to file sharing services in a bid to reverse declining revenues.
Andrew Orlowski, The Register

Warner Bros. LP+CD Bundle a Clever Twist

Here's an interesting article about a way to tackle the fatigue that comes with dynamic range compression: For the release of Mudcrutch, the new album by the reunited early '70s band that features Tom Petty, Warner Bros. has released two versions. The CD package will contain an album remastered for the "realities of the marketplace," which means it has the sort of loud, compressed sound that caters to iPod headphones. The vinyl LP will include a CD that was made from the vinyl master, which is quieter and more dynamic.
Glenn Peoples, Coofler

House Subcommittee Votes Yes On Royalty Bill
A U.S. House subcommittee passed a bill Thursday that would require radio stations to pay royalties to artists for playing their music. The Performance Rights Act passed on voice vote in the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property. The next step for the bill is a vote by the full Judiciary Committee. It is possible, but unlikely, that the bill will reach the House floor this year, according to a Dow Jones report. (Read more about the Performance Right here.)
Scott M. Fulton, III, BetaNews

Prince Sues Musicians For Making A Tribute Album For His Birthday
Fifty Norwegian musicians, who teamed up with a Norwegian record label to create what they thought was a nice 50th birthday present for Prince: a "tribute" album with 81 covers of Prince songs. They figured that it would be a nice gesture to send Prince a copy. What they didn't expect was for Prince to turn around and sue the label and all fifty musicians. He's also demanding that all copies of the album be destroyed. There is a question of compulsory licenses here -- as Norway requires about $0.10/song, and with 81 songs, that's about $8 per album. The label believed that since it wasn't making any money on the album, it didn't need to pay.
Mike Masnick, Techdirt

Starbucks Dumping CDs
Starbucks, which has been scaling back its once-grand ambitions to turn itself into an entertainment hub, is about to shrink its plans yet again. We hear that by September, the chain will have dumped almost all of its in-store music retail offerings.
Peter Kafka, Silicon Alley Insider

XM Satellite Radio and EMI Music Publishing Agreement on Pioneer Inno
XM Satellite Radio and EMI Music Publishing today announced that they have resolved the lawsuit brought by EMI Music Publishing against XM over its Pioneer Inno, a portable satellite radio with advanced recording features. The companies did not disclose terms of the agreement.
Trading Markets

"I Don't Value Music Made From Sampling"
Mashup artist Gregg Gillis, aka Girl Talk, is another artist to try the 'pay whatever you want' Internet release model. However, his 55-minute album consists of over 300 samples from other artists, with many current and past hits. No stranger to current controversies in copyright, Gillis also appeared in the documentary Good Copy Bad Copy.
uaudio, MetaFilter

Net Neutrality Advocates Call For Fast, Universal Access To The Net
The United States' anemic broadband penetration rate has led to the formation of a new lobbying group whose goal is to build the political will to bring a more determined, coherent approach to the problem. Many members of the group, including its chief non-profit organizing entity Free Press, have been allies in the fight to shape public opinion and build wide-spread support for the concept of net neutrality.
Sarah Lai Stirland, Wired Threat Level

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Aimee Mann Rocks the Net!

Future of Music Coalition's Rock the Net: Musicians for Net Neutrality CD comes out via Thirsty Ear Recordings on July 29. If you can't wait that long, you can listen to previews and purchase a specially-priced MP3 version here. (Simply click on the album cover icon and hit “Add Album to Cart.” At checkout, use the Paypal/Credit Card option.)

The CD features rare or unreleased tracks from bands like Wilco, They Might Be Giants, Bright Eyes, DJ Spooky, The Wrens, Portastatic and more. Aimee Mann's contribution is the only cut that appears somewhere else, but that doesn't make it any less awesome. "31 Today" is another gorgeous downer from Aimee, taken from her latest critically-acclaimed disc, @#%&*! Smilers.

Check out the video for "31 Today."

Friday, June 20, 2008

Full Power Series Finale — Native Radio

This post brings to an end my series about the varied groups across the country hoping to start new noncommercial radio stations. As these profiles have shown, the FCC’s filing window last fall marked a rare and important opportunity for many different kinds of organizations – from Unitarians to Catholics, Hare Krishnas to reclusive fly-fishermen – to share their views and build bridges with their neighbors.

All of these organizations see their causes as significant, but this final post highlights a group of radio broadcasters for whom the medium could be a matter of cultural survival: Native Americans. Native nations and tribal organizations now operate 33 radio stations across the country that focus on subjects of special importance to their communities, such as health, education, the environment, Native cultures and Native languages heard on no other broadcast media. With such targeted programming, some of which comes from national producers, these stations give Natives a rare chance to define and amplify tribal identities that have been battered by centuries of aggression and discrimination.

“What I find really important about my work is that radio allows us to be who we want to be,” says Loris Ann Taylor, executive director of Native Public Media. “If you’re able to tell your own story, that’s one of the highest forms of freedom.” And Taylor knows firsthand what it’s like to have that freedom denied -- she remembers when her grade-school teacher would pinch her hand if she spoke her Hopi language in class.

Native Public Media, an outgrowth of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, visited Native conferences last year to promote the FCC filing window and recruit applicants. Its efforts resulted in 51 applications for new stations from 37 Native nations and tribal organizations. Taylor is particularly happy that tribes in the eastern U.S., including New York’s Seneca tribe, applied – at present most Native stations are in the West. Several groups in Hawaii also hope to start stations.

None of last fall’s applicants currently operates a station. One hopeful newcomer is the Coeur d’Alene tribe of northern Idaho. Valerie Fast Horse, director of information technology, learned of the opportunity through Taylor – they both sit on the telecommunications committee of the National Congress of American Indians. Fast Horse says her tribe – about 2,000 members on a reservation of 345,000 acres – now has no radio station to listen to that provides programming about their culture or local issues.

A station run by the Coeur d’Alene could give attention to local sports and government, as well as the tribe’s music, history and language. Fewer than 10 of the tribe’s population speak the native Coeur d’Alene tongue as a first language, Fast Horse says. The station could also serve as a showcase for local flutists, singers and comedians and alert listeners to hazards such as heavy snowstorms or forest fires.

Perhaps most importantly, a radio station would help the Coeur d’Alene tribe to tell its own story. The reservation’s Native population has faced friction from the North Idaho Citizens Alliance, a local group of non-Natives that opposes the tribe’s control of resources. Fast Horse emphasizes that most of the Coeur d’Alene’s neighbors are more tolerant but believes a radio station would help to educate non-Native listeners and resolve conflicts. “Communication is everything,” she says.

The Coeur d'Alene application, like many, is on hold as the FCC sorts through the hundreds of competing requests it received for new stations. But the tribe has already amended its application to resolve conflicts with several competitors, and Fast Horse is confident that it will have the upper hand in the remaining disputes. This week, the FCC released a list (PDF) of the so-called mutually exclusive applications now pending, and within a month it will begin applying its point system to resolve the logjams. This will ultimately decide the fortunes of the Coeur d'Alene and other applicants I've profiled. (My first post in this series offers a primer on this process.)

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about the diverse groups I’ve profiled in this series and that, like me, you’re looking forward to hearing some new noncommercial stations sign on in coming years. Catch up on any posts you’ve missed -- and thanks for reading!

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

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Rolling Stone Calls Rock the Net CD "Sexy!"

Rolling Stone just posted an item about FMC's upcoming CD, Rock the Net: Musicians for Net Neutrality, in which they call it "one of the sexiest compilation albums in some time." With artists like Wilco, Aimee Mann, They Might Be Giants, Bright Eyes, The Wrens, Portastatic, Palomar, BC Camplight, David Miller, DJ Spooky, Guster, Matthew Shipp, The Classic Brown, David Bazan and Vernon Reid's Free Form Funk Freqs, you can see why.

(And, in case you missed them, here are articles in Pitchfork and CMJ).

The album hits stores (old-school and online) on July 29, and benefits FMC's Rock the Net campaign, which raises awareness about the importance of net neutrality to the music community. Released by our friends at Thirsty Ear Recordings, the disc proves that musicians are a big part of the push to preserve the open internet.

Net neutrality is essential to a legitimate digital music marketplace. The current structure of the web lets the biggest companies and the smallest bedroom recording artist exist on an equal technological playing field. But companies like Comcast and AT&T want to charge content providers a fee for the faster delivery of their sites, which could make it difficult for many artists to reach their fans.

The Internet works because it belongs to everyone. All artists — big or small — have been able to use the web as a powerful tool to engage audiences. This all takes place without interference from gatekeepers and middlemen. But if net neutrality goes away, musicians could lose an important connection, and fans could lose the freedom of choice. For more information, check out our net neutrality fact sheet. And if you haven't signed up with Rock the Net, what are you waiting for?

Monday, June 16, 2008

FMC on Payola and Localism

There's been some buzz around FCC Chairman Kevin Martin's public backing of the XM-Sirius satellite radio merger, but we at FMC think that terrestrial radio is still worth making noise about.

FMC has long been involved in the push for better radio. We've conducted studies that show that commercial radio routinely excludes local and independent artists, largely due to the excessive station ownership consolidation that occurred in the wake of the 1996 Telecommunications Act. (See our 2002 and 2006 Radio Studies for more info).

We recently filed reply comments in the FCC's localism proceedings, in which we made the case for greater diversity on the public airwaves. But we're not just complaining about the crappy state of things — we're offering possible solutions. In our reply comments, we describe concrete ways for stations to make localism a priority, and urge the FCC to collect playlist data so it can track and analyze playlists in order to ensure that stations fulfill their public interest obligations.

Another reason that local and independent artists have difficulty getting radio play is payola. Under this system, labels pay independent promoters to promote certain records to radio stations. The promoters in turn pay radio stations annual fees and give them perks if they add the songs to their playlists.

In April 2007, the FCC brokered voluntary agreements between radio groups and major labels, which were supposed to open the door for a wider range of music to be heard on the airwaves. From what we can tell, it hasn't exactly worked.
Today, we released Change that Tune: A Payola Education Guide for Musicians and Citizens, which outlines the history of payola, the development of the “indie promoter” system and the investigations by the New York State Attorney General’s office and the FCC. Also included are the contents of the “Rules of Engagement” and the indie-set-aside, which were signed by the four largest radio station group owners in April 2007. Finally, the guide offers practical tips about how artists can interact with radio in the 21st century.

We believe that if terrestrial radio were to open itself to more diverse and local content, they might just re-attract those listeners who have given up on the medium in favor of other entertainment. Given the precipitous decline in listeners, it's definitely worth a try.

Click here for a PDF of our reply comments; click here to read or download the Payola Education Guide.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

FMC, Pitchfork and Public Enemy!

Get ready — here comes hip-hop history. FMC and Pitchfork Music Festival Present: It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back is the ONLY panel discussion at 2008's Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, and it's gonna be an exciting one. The event takes place in the Claudia Cassidy Theatre at the Chicago Cultural Center on Thursday, July 17.

When Public Enemy released It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back in 1988, it sounded like nothing else at the time. It Takes a Nation came frontloaded with sirens, squeals, and squawks that augmented the chaotic, collaged backing tracks over which frontman Chuck D laid his politically and poetically radical rhymes. Twenty years later, the album is still considered one of hip hop's finest achievements. It Takes a Nation fused politics and music in unprecedented ways, creating a dense sound collage of rhythm, noise and the voices of 20th century black leaders.

On Thursday July 17 – one day before Public Enemy reunites to play It Takes A Nation in its entirety at the Pitchfork Festival – join us for a discussion that will explore the making of that album, as well as the cultural events that helped shape its message.

Hank Shocklee and Keith Shocklee — one half of Public Enemy’s production unit, the Bomb Squad — will discuss how they fashioned their powerful world of sound. Harry Allen, journalist, activist and PE Media Assassin, will join the members of the Bomb Squad in a lively discussion led by documentary filmmaker Kembrew McLeod (Copyright Criminals).

To RSVP, e-mail

It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
Chicago Cultural Center, Claudia Cassidy Theatre
Thursday, July 17, 2008, 3 pm

Monday, June 9, 2008


Future of Music Coalition's Michael Bracy and Ann Chaitovitz just got back from Minneapolis, Minnesota, where they took part in the National Conference on Media Reform — a two-day extravaganza hosted by our friends at Free Press.

NCMR is the convergence point for the grassroots and the high-tech in the world of media. Music, which has become a huge part of our digital lives, is a definitely part of that picture. FMC Executive Director Ann Chaitovitz joined Board Secretary Bryan Calhoun for a panel called "In the Mix: Understanding New Music Services & the Bottom Line." The discussion took a look at new models in music distribution, explaining how they work and how artists get paid. The presentation was very well received, with extra praise given for its real-world usefulness.

FMC also co-hosted a party with Media and Democracy Coalition and The Media Consortium to preview our upcoming benefit CD, Rock the Net: Musicians for Net Neutrality. Cocktails were served, and the album was played from start to finish for the first time in public. But you didn't have to be at the party to hear the tunes — all NCMR attendees received a digital download card that let them purchase the album online for a special price for a limited time. The rest of you will have to wait until it appears in stores (online and old-school) on July 29.

Head to the official NCMR website for archived video from the conference.

Friday, June 6, 2008

FMC's Kristin Thomson on the mic

This coming week, FMC's Education Director Kristin Thomson is participating in a number of very cool events.  If you're in DC or Philadelphia, or somewhere in between, consider checking these out:

Monday, June 9
Copyright for the Working Musician in a Digital Age
6:00 - 9:00 PM
Coral Street Arts House, 2446 Coral Street, Philadelphia, PA

Join us for an informal discussion about copyright and musicians with two Philly-based musicians. Future of Music Coalition's Kristin Thomson (Tsunami/Simple Machines Records) and Marcy Rauer Wagman, entertainment attorney, CEO of MAD Dragon Records and Director of the Music Industry Program at Drexel University will help musicians better understand some of the mundane (as well as arcane) aspects of copyright law, and how they can impact today's musicians on a practical, daily level. This is a really exciting opportunity to hear two experts in the field speak on copyright, technology and music...for FREE. Bring your questions!

Organized by Jim Ayre of OASTEM! and Fern Knight.

RSVP or more info at this Facebook page, if you do that sort of thing:


Wednesday, June 11
Ignite: Philly
6:00 PM - 11:00 PM
Johnny Brenda's, 1201 North Frankford Ave, Philadelphia, PA 

If you had five minutes on stage what would you say? What if you only got 20 slides and they rotated automatically after 15 seconds?

Ignite is a series of speakers talking about inspiring projects for five minutes. The presentations can be serious, funny, or somewhere in between.

Speakers include: The iSepta guys, Kristin Thomson of the Future of Music Coalition, NO CARRIER, 100K house, Pete Tridish of the Prometheus Radio Project, Alex Hillman of Indy Hall, Sara Selepouchin of Etsy, Brian Lang from The Food Trust, and several more. The speakers are all doing exciting and inspiring things in Philadelphia.

The coordinators of Ignite Philly are Geoff DiMasi & Alex Gilbert of P'unk Avenue, the Junto, Vanja Buvac & Far McKon of The Hacktory, and Make:Philly.

See the whole list here:

RSVP and more info at: 


Thursday, June 12
6:30 - 9:00 PM
Distributing and Promoting Your Music on the Internet
Artomatic, 1200 First Street NE, Washington, DC

On June 12, Education Director Kristin Thomson will join Erik Gilbert (Vice President Content, IODA), Amy Schriefer (Product Manager, NPR Music), Chris MacDonald ( and Rebecca Gordon for "Distributing and Promoting Your Music on the Internet", an informative discussion that will highlight ways to do just that.

Coordinated by entertainment attorney Nancy Prager.

Rock the Net: Musicians for Net Neutrality CD!

Rock the Net

We just sent a quick w-mail update to members of our Rock the Net campaign, letting them know about the upcoming RTN benefit CD that comes out on Thirsty Ear Recordings on July 29. We figured we should share the news with you blog readers, too. (And if you haven't already, you should visit the Rock the Net site and sign yourself up!)

Rock the Net: Musicians for Net Neutrality features Wilco, Aimee Mann, Bright Eyes, Palomar, They Might Be Giants, Portastatic, Vernon Reid’s Free Form Funky Freqs DJ Spooky, Guster, BC Camplight, The Classic Brown, David Bazan (aka Pedro the Lion), Matthew Shipp and David Miller. We finally got to hear the album in sequence and can tell you that it’s awesome! (Not that we’re biased, or anything).

Here's a Pitchfork news item about the release. And a CMJ article.

Now it's your turn to make your voice heard. If you're a musician or part of an independent label, send a short blurb to FMC Communications Director Casey-Rae Hunter ( describing what the open internet means to you. We'll be collecting your testimonials and will post them on the Rock the Net site.

And stay tuned for more info about this exciting release!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Another Drew Glackin Tribute/HINT Benefit

A few weeks ago, we told you about a pair of Raleigh, North Carolina memorial concerts for Drew Glackin, the multi-instrumentalist and bassist for Americana heroes The Silos. Drew passed away last January from a treatable illness that didn't get diagnosed because he lacked health insurance. Organized by Drew's friends, the shows raised more than $3000 for Drew's family and FMC's Health Insurance Navigation Tool (HINT).

Another tribute to this much-missed musician takes place on June 5 — this time at True Endeavors, a socially-engaged Madison, Wisconsin music venue. The concert — which features The Silos and Portland, Oregon's Weinland — will also raise money for HINT. Click here for venue and show info; here for the club's blog post about the event.

And check out this article that just ran in Madison newspaper The Isthmus.

Musicians are smart about a lot of stuff — equipment, booking, making new fans — but many overlook the importance of health insurance. If you're a musician who wants to know your options, visit the HINT website to schedule a one-on-one phone appointment with another musician (who happens to be a health insurance expert).

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

This Week In News

Radiohead to Prince: Unblock 'Creep' Cover Videos

After word spread that Prince covered Radiohead's "Creep" at Coachella, the tens of thousands who couldn't be there ran to YouTube for a peek. Everyone was quickly denied _ even Radiohead. All videos of Prince's unique rendition of Radiohead's early hit were quickly taken down, leaving only a message that his label, NPG Records, had removed the clips, claiming a copyright violation. But the posted videos were shot by fans and, obviously, the song isn't Prince's.

A Year After iTunes Plus, Apple Faces Stepped-Up Competition
DRM-free music is more prevalent than ever, but does it matter? For all that they appear to have embraced DRM-free music, Sony, Universal, and Warner continue to withhold the unencumbered tracks from Apple, choosing instead to back iTunes's rivals. It would seem that Steve Jobs' proposed future of DRM-free music (Apple would adopt an entirely DRM-free catalog "in a heartbeat," presuming the four major record labels would let Apple do so) has quickly become a reality — if not in quite the way he envisioned.
Dan Moren,

Musicians Push for Better Sound Online and on Disc
As more listeners turn to music downloads and the compact disc seems headed for history's scrap heap, a growing number of artists are making a renewed effort for better-sounding tracks, online and on disc. It's generally accepted that regular MP3 music files compromise CD sound quality for convenience and portability. (Some listeners argue that even CDs are less than optimal.) Last year, Amazon and iTunes made concessions to upgrade the quality of their download tracks.
Mike Snider, USA Today

The Filter Has Launched
The Filter, a personalized content filtering system, has finally opened its doors to everyone and officially launched. The service was pioneered by musician Peter Gabriel and, at its beginning, was not much more than a playlist creation tool for iTunes. Today, The Filter has morphed into a larger recommendation system that finds not just music, but also movies, TV, and internet videos, customized to your personal tastes.
Sarah Perez, ReadWriteWeb

Dead Men Do Sell Nikes
They may lack arch support, but Converse shoes have never wanted for tour support, given their traditional popularity among rock musicians. Nike, which owns Converse, plans to strengthen the branding connection between music and the Converse shoe line in the mind of the shoe-buying public by releasing footwear branded with insignia for The Grateful Dead, Kurt Cobain, The Doors and The Beatles.
Eliot Van Buskirk, Wired Listening Post

Monday, June 2, 2008

DJ Spooky at NYC Loving Day Celebration — Now With Net Neutrality!

You might have seen the various press announcements about our upcoming Rock the Net CD, which features Wilco, Aimee Mann, Bright Eyes, Portastatic, They Might Be Giants, DJ Spooky and more. The disc comes out on July 29 on Thirsty Ear Records.

DJ Spooky, who donated the track "Uganda" to the compilation, is playing a show on June 8 in New York City as part of the nationwide Loving Day events. The free, all-ages concert celebrates the 41st anniversary of Loving v. Virginia — the landmark Supreme Court case that legalized interracial relationships in the United States. To RSVP, send an email to

Spooky also wanted to use the occasion to raise awareness about net neutrality, so he's offered to make available Rock the Net materials to concertgoers. We thought it was a fine idea.

Here are the details, which you can also find at the Loving Day website:

Loving Day NYC — Sunday, June 8th from 3-7pm at Solar 1: East River Waterfront at East 23rd St. in Manhattan. FREE BBQ Grilling for you all day long! Free Asahi beer the first hour! Free Ben & Jerry's for the 1st hour! Raffle all day: Puma and Zipcar!