Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Girl Talk and the Sample License Clearance Process

Gregg Gillis, AKA Girl Talk

You’ve probably heard some of the buzz around Girl Talk — the biomedical engineer-turned DJ whose sample-based music is making waves among hipsters, tastemakers and even the New York Times.

Girl Talk released his most recent album, Feed the Animals, in June 2008. On it, Gregg Gillis blatantly samples over 300 artists, demonstrating his uncanny ability to overlay music from traditionally isolated genres: metal riffs run alongside ’70s love songs and West Coast rap; today’s pop gets down with ’60s R&B and classic rock. With its hundreds of easily recognizable samples, the album is part parlor game, part love letter to three decades of popular music.

With tons of great reviews and a world tour underway, it would all seem to be rolling in Girl Talk's favor. But there's a big problem: Girl Talk didn’t clear any of the samples on the record. Under the current sample license clearance process, this album might be illegal.

According to most press accounts, Girl Talk and his label, the aptly named Illegal Art, believe that his work is legal under the fair use principle — a term in copyright law that recognizes that a copyrighted work can be used for “purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research” without being considered infringing. “Because his samples are short, and his music sounds so little like the songs he takes from that it is unlikely to affect their sales,” it says in the New York Times article, “Gillis contends he should be covered under fair use.”

Whether Gillis’ and Illegal Art’s claim could withstand a court challenge of the fair use defense is a question, and one left for another day. Instead, let’s look at the sampling license clearance process itself. Most of the articles about Feed the Animals have glossed over exactly why clearing all the samples on this record would be so difficult. The current sample license clearance process is incredibly complex and contentious: artists who want to sample have concerns, while artists who are being sampled have other interests. Let’s dig in a bit and explain the complexity.

May I use it? The challenges of gaining permission

If Girl Talk had simply recorded an album of covers – faithful reproductions of complete songs – this blog post wouldn’t be necessary. As long as he paid royalties to the original composers, all would be swell. But under current copyright law, copyright owners maintain the right to say "yes" or "no" to derivative uses of their work. In other words, samples. So, to properly clear and license all the samples on Feed the Animals, Girl Talk would have had to first figure out who owns each copyright (which is a huge problem on its own), and then gained permission from both the sound recording copyright owner and the composer/publisher for each work he sampled. If you’re keeping track, that’s about 600 green lights and zero stop signs.

It’s also important to recognize who owns most music copyrights. One would assume it’s the original performer/creator – and in some cases it is – but when artists sign major label contracts, they almost always turn over their copyrights to the record label. Faith No More singer Mike Patton was seemingly okay with Girl Talk’s use of a sample from their hit “Epic” alongside a ’90s rap vocal. “It’s an honor to collaborate with Busta Rhymes,” he said in a recent interview, but Patton probably doesn’t own the copyright to the original major label recording, so his approval doesn’t have any bearing on the legality of the use.

So, in Girl Talk’s case, we’re talking about seeking permission from 600-plus copyright owners. But in the world of sampling and creativity, the moral and economic rights of the artists being sampled must also be considered. Say, for example, the original artist objects to the use of his/her creation in a manner to which s/he doesn’t agree – like in a song promoting racism. In most of the world, the artist maintains the “moral right” to say yes/no, even if s/he doesn’t own the copyrights. US copyright law doesn’t recognize moral rights, but an artists’ contract often includes a provision that allows her/him to maintain approval rights over types of uses.

While these contract provisions benefit artists by enabling them to retain some control over new uses of their work, for the artist that wants to clear a sample, this means that there’s potentially another structural barrier in the creative process: even if the copyright owner (record label) says yes, the artist may have a provision that allows her/him to veto the use.

And how much will it cost?

Assuming Girl Talk could a) figure out who owns the copyrights, and b) get all the permissions necessary, there’s another set of hurdles: the cost of licensing these samples. Each negotiation – and there would need to be at least 600 in his case – takes time, and prices can escalate very quickly, especially for samples of well-known artists or songs. (And these are exactly the types of tunes Girl Talk sampled on Feed the Animals.)

The sample license clearance process is primarily a set of private negotiations. Even though the process can be clumsy and inefficient, it ensures that the copyright owner and publisher can both set the price for the sample, and receive money for the license. It also means the original creator can share in the success of the new recordings that contains his/her original work. Indeed, in some cases, sample licenses have created an additional revenue stream for original recording artists, some of whose careers peaked decades ago.

In addition, if using a pre-recorded sample is cheaper than hiring flesh-and-bone musicians to play on the new recording, it could negatively impact the hiring and development of professional musicians.

But for the person who wants to clear a sample, the cost of licensing is extremely unpredictable and time consuming. The price can be based on such intangibles as an artist’s street credibility (on both sides of the transaction), existing negotiating history between publishers and managers and whether a sample will reinvigorate the back catalog of the sampled artist. In some cases the cost is simply untenable, with the copyright owner of the sample asking for hundreds of thousands of dollars per sample, or for percentages of sales royalties.

Given the cumulative effect of multiple expensive samples, one can see why the sample-laden albums like the Beastie Boys' Paul’s Boutique or Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions couldn’t be made today. It’s likely that even if Girl Talk had tried to clear the hundreds of samples he used, the time necessary and licensing fees would have sunk the project.

Creative Solutions

Copyright law attempts to strike a balance between the rights of creators and the rights of users. But in sampling, the users are also creators (whose interest is often at odds with the original creators), as well as the interests of the copyright owners (who are often not the creators). The sample license clearance process that has developed over the past 20 years has led to an ad hoc system that, while protecting the copyright owners, can be so complicated, inefficient and unpredictable that it inhibits the circulation and creation of these new works. When the system is too inefficient, or when the prices for samples are too high, nothing gets licensed, nothing new gets created, and both the sampler and the samplee lose.

Any successful balancing act—any determination of who gets what rights and receives compensation—must involve consultation with all the people with first-hand knowledge of the process and something at stake. Having already organized some panel discussions about sampling going back to 2003, FMC decided to interview people on every conceivable side of this issue.

Throughout 2006 and 2007, we talked to musicians who sample, musicians who have been sampled, and musicians who have been on both sides. We also spoke with music lawyers, industry executives, sample clearance professionals, public-interest group representatives, law professors, music historians, and journalists. The results of these interviews, and some possible remedies for the sampling license clearance process, will be released in a book – Creative License – co-authored by media professor Kembrew McLeod. Look for it via Duke University Press in fall 2009.

FMC is also curating a public conversation about sampling. In July 2008, FMC was at Pitchfork Festival with Public Enemy to talk about their landmark collage masterpiece, It Takes a Nation of Millions — which would certainly be impossible to re-create using today’s sample clearance process.

Next up is a panel discussion in New York City this fall. Date and venue are still being determined — keep your eyes on this space for details.

The sample clearance system is a microcosm of the music industry as a whole. During the past two decades, the disputes that have arisen over sampling implicate many issues of broad importance, such as creativity within economic and legal constraints, moral rights, artistic appropriation and sequential innovation, fair compensation for intellectual property, and even freedom of expression. It is tragic that some of the best-loved types of music will not or could not be made in the future. It would be equally tragic if the only solution to this problem were to further remove control from artists, who are often powerless to enforce or benefit from their rights without first—as a condition of getting into the major commercial pipeline—signing all their rights or percentages of them away in recording contracts.

By conducting these interviews and organizing these events, we hope to present the issues of sample clearance in a new and useful way. Ideally, a more informed, nuanced, and productive public discussion can result. Sampling, mash-ups, and collage are valuable musical practices, both financially and artistically, but the moral and financial rights of the original creators should also be considered. While there is no easy fix to the system’s deficiencies and challenges, understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the current sample license clearance process is the first step.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Joel Hamilton's Big Ride

Joel Hamilton

A handful of posts ago, we talked about NYC producer/musician Joel Hamilton's cross-country Vespa ride to raise money for his friend and fellow producer Scott Harding, who was critically injured in a hit-and-run accident while leaving a late night studio session. Joel's trek also benefits FMC's Health Insurance Navigation Tool (HINT) — a free service that provides information to musicians about their health insurance options.

We recently had the chance to catch up with Joel to talk about how the ride came together and why health insurance is such a crucial issue to the music community.

On the ride:
"Scotty and I had this big ride planned up the east coast. . . I was literally sending him Craigslist postings every day about these crazy Vespas, then suddenly the chance to do something fun like this as well as lots of other fun things were ripped out from underneath us. So I was still going to do some sort of ride in honor of my friend. Then someone brought to my attention the Scooter Cannonball Run, which is a ride across the entire country on highway 50. . . If I just sorta hopped in with the rest of these characters, I could do it for charity, for Scotty and for Future of Music Coalition — to bring awareness to people doing good things for musicians."

On health insurance and musicians:
"It's not about how healthy you are. I have people tell me all the time, 'Dude, I don't even really get sick because I eat right.' Health insurance isn't about whether you're prone to getting colds. It's about the fact that you might end up signing your life away when someone else takes your health away from you because of some ridiculous thing like drunk driving. . . it's insurance against someone taking your future away from you — financially and otherwise."

Click here to listen to the podcast (right click or Option click to download). For more info on Joel's ride, visit

Friday, August 22, 2008

This Week In News

Judge Clarifies 'Fair Use' in Suit

U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel refused to dismiss the lawsuit Wednesday, saying Universal needed to first consider whether the clip was "fair use" before demanding its removal. It's the first such legal ruling requiring copyright owners to consider fair use of their material before demanding that Internet sites such as YouTube take it down. The ruling came in the case of a Pennsylvania woman who sued Universal Music Corp. because it forced YouTube to take down a video clip she posted of her toddler dancing to Prince's "Let's Go Crazy." Fair use provisions of the U.S. copyright act allow segments of copyrighted works to be used for purposes of parody or satire or in reviews and other limited circumstances. The judge said he would determine later whether the clip constituted fair use, but he knocked down Universal's contention that the company was within its rights to demand the takedown regardless.
Monterey County Herald

Sampling a Song Can Be Fair Use, Rules US Court
The producers of a film defending the anti-evolutionary theories of Intelligent Design probably did not infringe copyright when they used a sample of John Lennon's song Imagine in the film, a New York court has ruled. Judge Richard B. Lowe III ruled in the Supreme Court of the State of New York that "fair use is available as a defence in the context of sound recordings." Past rulings outlawed the use of even very short music clips without copyright holders' permission.

Copyright Law and the Web, Part 1: A Hazy Intersection
Technology often evolves more rapidly than the laws needed to regulate it, especially in the realm of copyright law. Guidelines are in place concerning the ‘fair use' of copyrighted materials, but their interpretations have often left lawyers, judges, corporations and everyday consumers Paul Korzeniowski, e-CommerceTimes

Buyer's Remorse Kicks In; Apple Faces iPhone Class Action
Apple is now facing a consumer class action lawsuit tied to its iPhone 3G, according to filings surfacing Thursday. The lawsuit, entered by Jessica Alena Smith or Birmingham, Alabama, alleges that Apple misrepresented 3G-specific connectivity speeds and capabilities tied to the device. The case, which seeks class action status, closely follows an admission by Apple that the iPhone was experiencing 3G-related connectivity issues.
Alexandra Osorio, Digital Music News

8tracks: Muxtape, Without the Legal Muckiness
Missing Muxtape? A small service called 8tracks is trying to fill the void while avoiding the pitfalls. Playing off the same concept, 8tracks lets you upload up to 30 minutes of music into a custom playlist, which can then be publicly shared with other users. You can search for music using artists, genres, or usernames. So how is this legal while Muxtape ran into trouble?
JR Raphael, The Inquisitr

Shareholders to Napster: Try Harder to Sell Yourself
Three investors are launching a fight to get elected to the board of Napster Inc. so they can push for a sale of the West Hollywood-based digital music company. Their campaign platform: Napster's current management is incompetent and busy enriching itself. The company, which has been on the block before, should try harder to find a buyer. "Napster should be exploring all possible avenues of maximizing stockholder value," including a sale, the investors said Thursday in a letter filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. "The actions taken by the current board have made that option extremely difficult for potential acquirers."
Michelle Quinn, L.A. Times Blog

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Rocking the Net With Kronos Quartet and More

Kronos Quartet

Not long ago we told you about a podcast featuring Sidney Chen, artistic administrator for boundary-breaking ensemble Kronos Quartet, in which he talks about the importance of the open internet to Kronos, the classical community and pretty much anyone who loves music.

The podcast is now making it's way across the web; click here to listen.

For fun (and because the podcast is just that cool), FMC Communications Director Casey Rae-Hunter and Deputy Director Jean Cook whipped up an article using the conversation with Sidney as a springboard. Get your read on here.

FMC is taking our Rock the Net campaign to Chicago in September, as part of One Web Day — a global celebration of the open internet. Look for us at the Hideout Block Party on Sept. 20-21, where we'll get down to sets by Neko Case, Ratatat, Giant Sand, Robbie Fulks, New Pornographers and more, as we spread the word about net neutrality.

On Sept. 22 (the actual One Web Day), we'll examine this issue in more depth at our "What's the Future for Musicians?" seminar at Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music from noon-7PM. The event will give musicians and indie label owners of all genres and backgrounds an opportunity to learn about a range of a range of internet-based promotion and distribution options, how to navigate the health insurance landscape, the importance of open internet structures, local funding opportunities for artists and how copyright law and business models affect musician compensation. There will also be special conversations with prominent music minds and breakout sessions where you can interact with the experts. Learning! Networking! Fun!

We'll be hosting a similar event at the Public Theater in New York City on October 6. Admission for both seminars is $25; limited musician scholarships are available. Stay tuned for presenter bios and other programming news.

What’s the Future for Musicians: Chicago Monday, September 22, 2008 12:00 PM – 7:00 PM Old Town School of Folk Music, Chicago, IL

Event site
Apply for a scholarship
Help us spread the word

What’s the Future for Musicians: New York: Monday October 6, 2008, 1:00 PM – 7:00 PM Anspacher Theater at the Public Theater, New York, NY

Event site
Apply for a scholarship
Help us spread the word

This post is probably approaching information overload, but we also wanted to remind you that our Rock the Net CD — which features Wilco, They Might Be Giants, Aimee Mann, Bright Eyes, DJ Spooky, The Wrens and more — is still very much available and very much awesome. Pick it up at your favorite local shop or digital retailers like iTunes, Amazon, eMusic and Rhapsody.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Public Enemy Video From Pitchfork

On July 17, 2008, Pitchfork and Future of Music Coalition co-presented a panel discussion about Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, as part of Chicago's Pitchfork Music Festival. As expected when you put front man Chuck D, PE Media Assassin Harry Allen and original Bomb Squad members Hank and Keith Shocklee around a table, the back-and-forth was incredibly entertaining and informative. In our blog wrap-up, we mentioned there would be video on its way for those who missed out.

Well, Pitchfork has edited together footage from the talk along with clips from media professor and panel moderator Kembrew McLeod's documentary on sampling. You can also see from PE's festival performance, where they played It Takes a Nation in its entirety. Stay tuned for full video of the panel discussion.

Head over to PitchforkTV to watch, or click on the embedded clips below:

Monday, August 18, 2008

FMC Jobs!

FMC is looking to fill a couple of positions in the near future. One is an International Project Fellow, who would work in five month terms to help research and interview musicians and music business people from around the world. We're also looking for a fall 2008/spring 2009 intern.

If you're interested in either of these positions and are in the Washington, D.C. area, head to our Jobs page to apply.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Cool HINT Article

There's an article about musicians and health insurance in Seven Days, Burlington, Vermont's alternative newsweekly. Artists who lack coverage is a concern even in that sleepy little college town (which actually has a pretty big music scene). And sadly, the story is the same in both small and big burgs across the country.

The piece talks about folks in the Burlington music community who have suffered severe injuries and didn't have health insurance. It also features some choice quotes from Alex Maiolo — the musician/health insurance expert who manages FMC's Health Insurance Navigation Tool (HINT):

“I think we all agree that the current system is not a good system,” says Maiolo. “But it’s what we’ve got. And while we can talk about what might be a better way, in the interim the short-term solution is to demystify how it works.”

That's exactly why HINT was created: to help musicians understand the tricky jargon associated with health insurance, and provide a way to examine their options — for free. Here's how it works: after scheduling a phone appointment on the HINT website, you'll receive a call from Alex or Chris Stephenson to go over your situation. Remember, HINT doesn't sell insurance. What it does do is provide free, quality information about a really important subject.

If you're a Chicago or New York-based musician, you can meet Alex in-person at our "What's the Future for Musicians?" workshops this fall. In addition to getting information about health insurance, attendees will learn about a range of internet-based promotion and distribution options, the importance of open internet structures, local funding opportunities for artists and how copyright law and business models affect musician compensation. Breakout sessions will provide an opportunity to interact with the experts and network with other musicians, labels and fans.

The Chicago event takes place on Monday, September 22 at the Old Town School of Folk Music. The NYC forum will be held at the Public Theater on Monday, October 6. Admission for each event is $25, though a limited number of musician scholarships are also available for both events. Register early; space is limited!

What’s the Future for Musicians: Chicago Monday, September 22, 2008 12:00 PM – 7:00 PM Old Town School of Folk Music, Chicago, IL

Event site
Apply for a scholarship
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What’s the Future for Musicians: New York: Monday October 6, 2008, 1:00 PM – 7:00 PM Anspacher Theater at the Public Theater, New York, NY

Event site
Apply for a scholarship
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Help us spread the word

Monday, August 11, 2008

Last Week In News?

We just realized that we didn't give you our customary news roundup last week. So we're making up for it with a Monday post of all the happenings in the music-tech-policy universe.

Music Is Here To Stay, But Change Is Needed, Insiders Say
Presenters at a ABA Section of Science & Technology Law session digitally recorded, remixed, replayed and then uploaded their version of the Rolling Stones' "Last Time" before a rapt audience of music aficionados, recording industry executives and lawyers. But the impromptu recording session was more then just a stunt. It showcased many of the pressing legal and business issues that the music industry is facing today as technology and copyright law intersect.
Jill Schachner Chanen, ABA Journal

Online Music Sales Muddle Royalties
The current system for getting royalty payments to musicians in the United States is seriously hampering the introduction of new, innovative music distribution models, and that problem is not going to get any better in the era of the digital download, leading music experts say.
Chloe Albanesius, PCmag

Warner Threatens To Pull Music from Guitar Hero, Rock Band
To hear Warner Music Group tell it, the creation of new markets for music tends to involve the major labels getting ripped off by outsiders. The latest example of this, according to WMG's CEO Edgar Bronfman, Jr., is the videogame industry, which he says is unfairly building a business on top of the recorded music industy.
Eliot Van Buskirk, Wired Listening Post

RIAA Damages Too High in Innocent Infringement Case
A judge has ruled that a teenage girl who admitted to downloading music over Kazaa will only have to pay damages of $200 per song, instead of the $750-30,000 normally allowed under the Copyright Act (and the $750 per song sought by the RIAA). The reason for the cap comes from Whitney Harper's "innocent infringement" defense, in which she argues that she did not knowingly infringe the record labels' copyright.
Eric Bangeman, ArsTechnica

ArtistData Eases Social Net Overload
Today there are more networking sites available than anyone cares to count which makes keeping them up to date tedious. Virb, Indie 911,, and countless others are cropping up faster than lines at the Apple Store. This is where ArtistData claims its niche. Essentially, ArtistData is a one-stop means of updating all of an artist's pages by inputting tour dates to their AD account which automatically updates Myspace, and any other site that AD can sync with. ArtistData is increasing this list of companies will sync tour dates with Buzznet, Amie St., Beta Records, and others in the near future.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Ride On!

We were gonna wait to tell you about New York City musician/producer Joel Hamilton's cross-country Vespa ride to benefit his producer friend Scott Harding and FMC's Health Insurance Navigation Tool (HINT). You see, we did a podcast interview with Joel this week, but haven't gotten around to editing it yet. But the awesome Ann Powers of the L.A. Times broke the story on the paper's music blog yesterday, so we figured we might as well fill you in.

Joel, who has worked the faders for acts like Elvis Costello, Marc Ribot, Jolie Holland and more, is riding his Vespa coast-to-coast this September to raise money for Scott Harding, a fellow NYC producer who was paralyzed in a hit-and-run accident while leaving a late-night studio session. Like so many musicians and engineers, Scott didn't have health insurance, and his medical bills are astronomical.

Not to give too much away from our podcast, but Joel also wanted to find a way to raise awareness about the importance of health insurance to the creative community. Often, artists think they don't have time to learn about their health insurance options, or feel they can't afford it. Well, coverage is definitely cheaper than having your wages garnished for the rest of your life to pay off massive medical bills resulting from a catastrophic accident or unforeseen illness.

When Joel came across HINT — a free hotline that offers information to musicians about their health insurance options — he immediately recognized its value, and decided to make it part of his ride. We're psyched that Joel is not only helping his friend, but also contributing to this worthwhile service for musicians.

If you're a musician who wants to know about your health insurance options, check out the HINT website. It's loaded with information on the subject, written in plain language. While there, you can schedule a free phone consultation with our health insurance expert, who is also a musician.

Stay tuned for the podcast interview with Joel, which should be up soon.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Artists Appeal to Candidates About New Orleans

You may have seen the news item over at Pitchfork about concerned musicians who want to make sure that the next President — whether it's John McCain or Barack Obama — doesn't forget about those still suffering in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

The artists — including several veterans of FMC's Artist Activism Camps in New Orleans — signed a letter (PDF) calling upon Obama and McCain to attend a September 18 presidential forum in the Big Easy and talk about their vision for the city's recovery.

R.E.M., Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor, My Morning Jacket, Pearl Jam, Galactic, the Coup's Boots Riley, Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, Buckwheat Zydeco, Jackson Browne, the Neville Brothers, Indigo Girls, OK Go, 311, and Howlin' Wolf associate Hubert Sumlin are among the musician and industry peeps who lent their name to the cause.

Ever since the disaster (and the woeful Federal response that followed), FMC has encouraged prominent artists to lend their time and energy to assisting displaced New Orleans musicians. To this end, we've organized benefit shows, house parties and more. Why? Because we want to make sure that New Orleans — with its unique musical character and amazing history — continues to be a cultural beacon to America and beyond.

Our annual Artist Activism Camp brings together musicians from a range of genres to discuss how to engage in positive social change. While in New Orleans, attendees visit affected communities to learn about revitalization efforts, and what they can do to help. This is incredibly important to the city's musicians, many of whom are still scattered across the country. By working closely with groups like Air Traffic Control and Sweet Home New Orleans, FMC and our artist pals help New Orleans' cultural ambassadors return to their homes and neighborhoods.

The next Artist Activism Camp takes place in December 2008; more details as they emerge!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

FMC Events: 2008 and Beyond!

It's usually around now that we begin talking about our annual Future of Music Policy Summit, but this time, we're changing things up a bit. Since there’s a Federal election set to take place in November, we decided to organize a few smaller, more focused events in the fall, while gearing up for more policy-related programming early in 2009.

Because last April’s “What’s the Future for Musicians?” seminars in upstate New York went so awesomely, we thought it would be a good time for another road trip. FMC and our whip-smart associates will be in Chicago and New York City this fall for two more information-packed forums for musicians, indie labels and fans.

Attendees will learn about a range of internet-based promotion and distribution options, how to navigate the health insurance landscape, the importance of open internet structures, local arts funding opportunities and how copyright law and business models affect musician compensation.

Not good enough? There will also be special conversations featuring prominent music minds, breakout sessions, and everybody’s favorite — cocktail parties! It’s a great chance to get the latest music-tech-policy scoop, interact with the experts, and exchange ideas and perspectives with other musicians, labels and fans. You could call it networking; we call it good times!

The Chicago seminar will take place on Monday September 22 at the Old Town School of Folk Music. The NYC forum will be held at the Public Theater on Monday, October 6. Admission for each event is $25, though a limited number of musician scholarships are also available for both events. We recommend registering early since space is limited.

What’s the Future for Musicians: Chicago
Monday, September 22, 2008 12:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Old Town School of Folk Music, Chicago, IL

Event site
Apply for a scholarship

Press credentialing
Help us spread the word

What’s the Future for Musicians: New York: Monday
October 6, 2008
, 1:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Anspacher Theater at the Public Theater, New York, NY

Event site

Apply for a scholarship

Press credentialing
Help us spread the word

FMC will also be organizing another event in NYC in October or November, date and venue to be determined. “Creative License: A Conversation about Music, Sampling and the Law” will present a robust but balanced conversation about the legal and social challenges posed by music sampling, and the sample license clearance process — hot topics in this Girl Talk era.

FMC goes back to the future with our Washington, D.C. Policy events slated for 2009. Hot on the heels of the national election, we’ll be holding a Policy Day at the National Geographic Society on February 11. The one-day forum will look at how changes in the policy landscape might impact the music community. Later in ’09, we’ll host our multi-day Policy Summit, which will shed even more light on the issues that are emerging as music promotion and distribution moves to a global, digital platform. Stay tuned for more info on all of our upcoming events.

Monday, August 4, 2008

FMC on FCC's Comcast Decision

As you probably heard, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 last Friday that, according to the official FCC statement (PDF), "Comcast’s network management practices discriminate among applications rather than treating all equally and are inconsistent with the concept of an open and accessible Internet." The Commission's decision ordered Comcast to stop interfering with legal internet traffic, disclose to the FCC its network management practices and to alert consumers to any future changes.

The decision followed FCC investigations into allegations that Comcast blocked access to legal peer-to-peer content by interrupting connections between users’ computers. The story first broke when the Associated Press tested Comcast's national networks, confirming the interruption of legal content sent using BitTorrent. This immediately raised questions about whether Comcast had violated the FCC's stated net neutrality principles that "consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their choice; that they are entitled to run applications and use services of their choice; that they are entitled to connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network."

The FCC's also says that the above is "subject to reasonable network management," which they haven’t explicitly defined. Still, Comcast’s behavior — which invited ire from many a public interest group — was found by the Commission to be unreasonable.

You can read our press release about the FCC decision here.

FMC has long advocated for responsible government policy that protects open internet structures where musicians can compete on a level playing field and distribute their work any way they choose. Our Rock the Net campaign, which kicked off in March, 2007, now has close to 1,000 musician and indie label supporters, including founding artists Pearl Jam, R.E.M., Calexico, Kronos Quartet and Ted Leo. But we've been paying attention to “the tubes” way longer than that.

Our push to keep the internet open and accessible to artists comes from our deeply held belief that we can't replicate the failures of previous music structures — with their system of gatekeepers, bottlenecks and limited access for all but a select few — when making decisions about how to deal with the internet. We're also of the mind that the solutions to problems on the internet are likely to come from innovators — those brainiacs in the garage coding the future — rather than big corporations whose interests are based more on squeezing dollars from existing structures than coming up with competitive marketplace solutions.

We've been saying this stuff for a long time: in our 2006 Op-Ed on net neutrality for The Hill; our 2005 statement on the Supreme Court's Brand X decision; our 2002 comments with the Black Congressional Caucus Forum on Piracy; and our 2002 letter to the House Judiciary Committee on music/technology issues. All along, we've recognized the need to encourage the emergence of a legitimate digital music marketplace through innovation, creativity and, where appropriate, legislation.

At this rather interesting moment in time (we swear we didn't time the release of our Rock the Net CD with the Comcast decision), we acknowledge the FCC's recognition of the value of the open internet, while reiterating that the fight for net neutrality is far from over. You can help us in the effort by joining our Rock the Net campaign and demonstrating to policymakers and the public that the internet is for everyone, and not just the big cable and telecommunications companies.

If you haven't yet picked up a copy of the CD — which features Wilco, Bright Eyes, Aimee Mann, They Might Be Giants, Portastatic, DJ Spooky and more — you can do so at your favorite local record shop, or online at Amazon (MP3 store), iTunes, eMusic and Rhapsody.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Radar Love

The latest issue of Under the Radar has two different covers with a handful of socially-engaged musicians posing in support of political protest.

Chris Walla of Death Cab for Cutie, Britt Daniel of Spoon and Colin Meloy of the Decemberists grace Cover 1, while R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe and Modest Mouse's Issac Brock rock Cover 2.

Inside, there are photo spreads and interviews with a range artists who understand the importance of staying informed and politically engaged. The list reads like a who's-who of FMC musician associates, with OK Go, Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and The Nightwatchman, Chuck D., My Morning Jacket, Bright Eyes and Mac McCaughn of Superchunk, Portastatic and Merge Records all chiming in through words and pictures.

Some of these musicians have attended our Policy Summits, others are veterans of our New Orleans Artist Activism Camps, and most of them are members of our Rock the Net campaign in suport of net neutrality. (Actually, Bright Eyes occupies the first track on our brand-new Rock the Net CD; you can pick up your copy now!)

It's great that Under the Radar recognizes the value of artists staying socially engaged, and even cooler to see so many friendly faces poking out from its pages. If you're a musician, you can get involved, too. Head to our main website,, to sign up for our newsletter and learn about ways you can make a difference. And if you haven't already signed up for our Rock the Net campaign, you can do so here and join acts like Death Cab For Cutie, Pearl Jam, Calexico, Boots Riley of The Coup, and Ted Leo & the Pharmacists in showing your support for net neutrality.

And stay tuned for some big announcements about our upcoming events for 2008 and 2009!