Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Local is the New Global

Today's blog post was co-authored by FMC intern
Daniel Eno, based on a bit of pondering by FMC Events Organizer Chhaya Kapadia.

Do you ever get nostalgic about cruising the racks at your local record store? Do you ever feel that, while it may be infinitely more convenient and even a couple dollars cheaper to buy an album off of iTunes, it’s nice to know your purchase helped keep your neighborhood shop up and running? What if you could combine the convenience of online purchasing with that warm feeling you get from supporting your local music-slingers?

One of our favorite broadcasters, Seattle’s KEXP, wants to help you do just that. The station has integrated a new feature into their online streaming radio that provides a means to buy local without having to leave the comfort of your computer keyboard.

Like other internet stations, KEXP's live stream features links to places to buy almost any tune that catches your ear. But in addition to the standard Amazon and iTunes links, KEXP also points to local record shops that will deliver the album right to your doorstep. Webcasters like KEXP have helped make broadcasting global, so it’s cool that they’re giving local listeners a way to buy music in their own backyard.

It's not clear how much new business this feature has generated for local shops, and maybe it amounts to nothing more than a kind gesture on the part of KEXP. Still, it's not hard to imagine that this sort of service might be implemented on the sites of other stations around the country. Stores like New York City's Other Music offer high-quality digitized versions of their awesome underground music collection, but as far as we know, there’s no online radio component — at least not yet. It would be interesting if the mass consumer movement toward online shopping turns out to be what saves local record shops. It’s a nice thought, anyway.

FMC believes that the future of music is inextricably tied to sustainable cultural communities. This is why we support localism on the public airwaves by fighting the forces of consolidation and encouraging community radio initiatives like Low Power FM. The internet has its part to play, too – better broadband penetration and open structures that let artists (and smaller retailers) compete on a level playing field with the big companies is essential to a legitimate digital music marketplace, local and otherwise. It’s like one hand washing the other, or whatever other metaphor you want to use.

KEXP’s local purchase feature also fits nicely with Seattle’s “City of Music Initiative,” a mayoral effort to promote the city as “home to musicians, live music and music business.” We hope more burgs follow Seattle’s lead in the name of regional diversity and sustainable cultural commerce.

Monday, November 24, 2008

LPFM Event at the Black Cat in D.C.

Attention D.C.-area community radio enthusiasts!

D.C.'s Community Powered Radio Project is hosting a Low Power FM (LPFM) event tonight (Nov 24) at the Black Cat Backstage at 8PM. The evening will feature a screening of the award-winning documentary Pirate Radio USA, followed by a panel discussion that will allow the audience to interact with some of Washington and the nation's leading LPFM advocates.

Come on by and learn about LPFM issues and how you can support the expansion and protection of community radio. Now is a great time to get involved, as the incoming administration and new Congress may hold the keys to take community radio to the next level.

Pirate Radio USA — "a post-objective documentary"
Monday Nov 24th @ 8:00pm
Black Cat Backstage (1811 14th St NW DC)
$5 Admission

Followed by a panel discussion with LPFM advocates:
* Andy Gunn, Technical and Training Organizer, Prometheus Radio Project
* Casey Rae-Hunter, Communications Director, Future of Music Coalition
* Jared Ball, Assistant Professor of Communications Studies at Morgan State University and Creator of "FreeMix Radio: The People's Mixtape"
* Ryme Katkhouda, Founder, People's MEDIA Café and Co-founder, DC Radio Coop

web.illish.us Pics and Video

Photo by Jessica Kourkounis; check out more at our Flickr page.

You know that series of events we keep telling you about, called web.illish.us? The ones that take place on the third Wednesday of every month through February 18 at Philadelphia's Silk City and educate on the issue of net neutrality while offering kick-ass live music and giveaways?

Yeah, those.

The first show in the series, "level up, ppl," took place on November 19, 2008, and was a smashing success. Off-the-hook sets from tU PHace, The New Age and Black Landlord drove the capacity crowd to spontaneous acts of breakdancing. An engaging discussion about net neutrality featuring FMC's Kristin Thomson, Wyclef Jean, Fugees and Boyz II Men producer Taj Walton, music biz lawyer and Mad Dragon Records CEO Marcy Rauer Wagman, Geoff Dimasi of P'unk Ave and Will Lewis of Big Bloc Booking highlighted the importance of open internet structures to musicians.

Then there was the live webcast and chat, which came off pretty much without a hitch. If you missed the show, don't worry — you can catch the entire thing (or check out segments) here. If you like what you see, be sure to catch the next web.illish.us epsiode, Digitalove, on Wednesday, December 17. More info here.

For more info on net neutrality and musicians, check out our Rock the Net site.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

(Low) Powering Up!

If you're a regular reader of this here blog, you'll know FMC are huge supporters of Low-Power FM. But maybe you just tuned in, as they say in radioland. If so, here's a quick overview.

LPFM stations are community-based, non-commercial radio stations that operate at 100 watts or less and reach a radius of 3 to 7 miles. So they're not designed to pump out the latest hit to the masses. What they are perfect for, however, is giving people in local communities access to the airwaves. LPFM can benefit typically underserved minorities, church groups, niche and local music enthusiasts and more. As commercial radio becomes increasingly homogenized, these smaller stations (which peacefully coexist on unused portions of the radio spectrum) can provide a haven for specialized, community-oriented programming. The FCC thinks so too, which is why they voted in 2000 to issue Low-Power FM radio licenses. Today, there are more than 800 such stations on the air.

So we're cool — all the communities that want LPFM can have it, right? Not exactly.

The FCC was prepared to grant licenses to stations in more urban areas, but there was pushback from the commercial stations (largely represented by the National Association of Broadcasters). This well-connected crew told Congress that those wee-signal LPFMs would cause "oceans of interference" with their own megawatt stations. This made some on the Hill nervous, and so LPFM was barred from larger towns and cities.

Having eliminated (at least temporarily) some 75 percent of possible LPFM licensees, Congress told the FCC to conduct a study to determine if there was any truth to the NAB's claim of potential interference. The Commission "commissioned" the MITRE Corporation (the non-profit org responsible for automated air traffic control and the internet) to conduct a study, which was completed in 2003.

Guess what? The MITRE Corp. found that LPFM stations caused no significant interference problems and recommended lifting the caps imposed by Congress. Since then, a bevy of radio enthusiasts, community groups, artists and musicians have worked together to push for LPFM in more U.S. towns and cities. This broad-based movement has been effective in getting the FCC to revisit its rules regarding LPFM, and, in 2007, two pieces of legislation were introduced in Congress. (The Senate has passed its bill in committee.)

With bi-partisan support and clear public enthusiasm, we think that allowing more LPFM stations is a no-brainer. Of course, the when's and how's aren't quite as clear. We'll keep talking up LPFM because we think it's good for radio, local communities and musicians. You should talk it up, too. Check out our LPFM fact sheet to find out how.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Google Policy Fellowships!

Calling all undergraduate, graduate or law students with an interest in music-tech policy!

Google has announced its 2009 Policy Fellowship Program, in which selected fellows for summer 2009 will receive a stipend to spend ten weeks contributing to the public debate on technology/policy issues. One lucky individual will get to work with FMC at our Washington, D.C. headquarters, where we wrangle with issues at the intersection of music, technology, policy and law. (Yes, it's as much fun as it sounds.)

The deadline for application is 5PM Pacific time, December 12, 2008. Click here for more details, and apply for the fellowship here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Reminder: web.illish.us Event on Nov. 19!

Calling all defenders of the open internet!

This Wednesday (that's November 19), Future of Music Coalition and realizePhiladelphia — an advocacy group that promotes social causes through musical and educational events — will host web.illish.us, a multi-faceted event that raises awareness about net neutrality.

Silk City in Philly is the venue, but you don't have to be a local to "attend" — web.illish.us will also be webcast live at the event website.

The Nov. 19 show is the first in a series that take place at Silk City on the third Wednesday of the month, through February 18, 2009.

The debut installment is called "level, up, ppl," and features music from Black Landlord, Tuphace and DJ C Sharp. Speakers include FMC’s Education Director Kristin Thomson, entertainment attorney and Drexel Music Industry Program Director Marcy Rauer Wagman, studio producer/engineer Robert “Taj” Walton (Fugees, Boyz 2 Men, Wyclef Jean), William Lewis of Big Bloc Entertainment and Geoff DiMasi of P'unk Avenue.

We hope to see you there, virtually or in person!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Burning Questions

Hey, musicians!

Got a burning question about how changes at the intersection of law, technology and policy will affect musicians and songwriters in the future? Well, we might just be able to get you an answer.

All you gotta do is send us a video of you asking your question — remember, it should be about how technology, policy or law relates to music — and we’ll try to incorporate it into the programming for our upcoming Policy Day, which takes place in Washington, DC on February 11, 2009.

We’ll also post some of your queries on FMC's blog, and we’ll even do our best to give you something approaching an answer. At the very least, you’ll be that much closer to achieving music-wonk-viral video stardom.

Just follow these simple rules:

* the clip should be no longer than 20 seconds
* it can be submitted as a Quicktime (.mov) or MP4 (.m4v) video file.
* NTSC format is preferred, but we will accept PAL
* please don't use any music in the clip

Here’s the intro script you should use:

"Hi, I'm [your name] from [band or affiliation of some sort] and what I want to know is..."

Send your video question to: video@futureofmusic.org. Please put "FMC video" in the subject line. We’ll be in touch if we decide to use it!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

More Talk About Girl Talk.

The discussion about Girl Talk — the one-man mashup act who uses more than 300 unlicensed samples on his latest release, Feed the Animals — continues unabated.

Over at Idolator, they've taken a look at whether Girl Talk's sampling would constitute "fair use" under current copyright law (they think it wouldn't). While it shouldn't be consulted for legal advice, the post does highlight the four factors the courts use in determining what constitutes "fair use" — the purpose and character of the use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount and substantially of the use and the effect on the original work's value. A follow-up post by a lawyer friend of Idolator's goes into more detail on so-called "transformative uses."

Not long ago, FMC published our own post about GT (aka Greg Gillis) that examined the hurdles he'd have to go to license all of the uses, and also described how current copyright law protects artists who don't want their music used. (Idolator actually referenced our analysis in a couple of recent posts.) It's an extraordinarily complex issue, for which there's no easy fix. That's why we say that ongoing dialogue between all parties is probably the best way forward.

To this end, FMC facilitated a panel discussion called “Creative License: A Conversation About Music, Sampling and Fair Use.” The event took place at The Public Theater in New York City on Oct. 6, 2008, and began with a conversation between moderator/media professor Kembrew McLeod and Steve Stein (aka Steinski of Sonic Boom), then moved into a discussion moderated by Kembrew with panelists musician/composer/educator T.S. Monk, producer/label chief El-P, Executive Director of the Kernochan Center for Law, Media and the Arts and Columbia Law School Professor June M. Besek, and American University Professor Peter Jaszi.

The back-and forth was pretty feisty, and featured a range of opinions from all sides of the debate. We’ll let you know when the audio and video archives make it to the website. And stay tuned for Creative License — our book about sampling co-authored by Kembrew McLeod that comes out on Duke University Press in fall 2009.

You might also get a kick out of Wired's "beat-by-beat" breakdown of Gillis' sample uses. Could it be time for a flowchart?

Monday, November 10, 2008

FMC is Hiring!

Achtung, readers! We thought you might like to know about a couple of openings here at FMC Headquarters in the Dupont Circle area of Washington, DC.

Position: Sponsorship Coordinator
Length of Position: November 15, 2008 – February 15, 2009

Future of Music Coalition seeks a freelance event sponsorship coordinator for a music/law/technology/policy event in 2009. Click here for the full list of qualifications and responsibilities.

We're also seeking a Spring 2009 Intern. click here for details.

To Apply
Please send cover letter & resume to jobs@futureofmusic.org. In your cover letter, please outline any similar fundraising experience you have and the fundraising goals you achieved. Position is open until filled.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Free Tutorial: Copyright Law for Musicians in Rochester, NY

Calling all upstate New Yorkers:

Our friends at Public Knowledge — a Washington, D.C.-based that focuses on the intersections between copyright law and the Internet — is sponsoring a free tutorial for musicians on copyright law. Read on for the details:

Free Tutorial: Copyright Law for Musicians & Open Mic Jam Session

Sponsored by Public Knowledge in conjunction with The Rochester Music Coalition & Boulder Coffee Company

Tutorial Topics Include:
• Are mashups legal?
• How do file sharing, digital downloads, and the Internet affect musicians' rights?
• What is fair use, and what does it let you (and others) do?
• What say do telephone and cable companies have in your music distribution?

Copyright law is changing rapidly in the face of new technologies. Increasingly, laws and policies written in a pre-VCR world are being applied to a post-YouTube society. This one-hour tutorial, followed by Q and A will be presented by Public Knowledge, a Washington -D.C.- based public interest group that focuses on the intersections between copyright law and the Internet.

When: November 10, 2008
Seminar Time: 6:00 – 8:00 PM
Open Mic Jam Session Time: 8:00 – 11:00 PM

Where: Boulder Coffee Company
100 Alexander Street
Rochester NY 14620
Phone: 585-454-7140

NOTE: RSVP registration is required. Light refreshments will be provided during seminar. You must be registered and attend the seminar in order to perform at the open mic jam session. Sound system will be provided but you must bring your own instruments. For RSVP registration please email Rashmi Rangnath or call 202-518-0020.

Public Knowledge

Rochester Music Coalition

Boulder Coffee Company

Thursday, November 6, 2008


In case you hadn't noticed, there was a big ol' election last Tuesday, the results of which have Washington, D.C. (and the rest of the country, not to mention the world) buzzing. But what will a Barack Obama Administration and a new Democratic Congress mean for the music community?

We at FMC are expecting a positive impact on the music world in general. Keep in mind that we're equal opportunity wonks — our assessment is not partisan. But it is informed by the policy decisions of the last eight years, which created or maintained significant barriers to sustainable cultural communities.

There will now be opportunities to craft policies that encourage the flourishing of music across media platforms. From expanded community radio to more robust commercial broadcasting and broadband, musicians will likely benefit from more attention paid to the ways in which they reach potential audiences, and ultimately earn a living.

Check out FMC Analysis: Election Impact on Artists and the Music Community for a point-by-point look at what we think are the key areas for improvement. Then let us know what issues are most important to you in the comments field of this post.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

White Spaces: Smart Tech or Static Transmission?

Since our inception, Future of Music Coalition has worked to ensure that artists and fans can use emerging technologies to create, distribute and discover new music.

We also believe in creating opportunities for musicians to reach potential audiences, regardless of their geographic locale. Expanded broadband service is critical to artists and fans alike, and that’s why we support new technologies that will help get more mileage out of the existing spectrum.

FMC endorses policies that allow for the smart use of spectrum, including the creation of more non-commercial Low-Power FM radio stations in between existing full power commercial stations.

But efficient spectrum usage doesn’t stop there. There’s been a lot of talk lately about “white spaces” — unoccupied TV frequencies that can be used by new, “smart” technologies for a slew of purposes, including getting broadband to hard-to-service areas. The way we see it, this would ultimately help artists connect with more people, and build digital bridges to more communities.

As with any new technology, however, there are concerns about implementation. Some performing arts groups are worried that unlicensed white space devices (WSDs) would cause interference with their own wireless microphones. We believe that these concerns can be resolved, provided there’s constructive dialog between the white space advocates and the performing arts community. Over the last year, FMC has been working hard to foster such discussions.

Today, the FCC voted to approve rules authorizing the use of white spaces for new devices, which will set the stage for further testing. This is a very significant vote (even in the midst of a major election), so we put together a statement that articulates our position on white spaces. You can read it here.

For more information about white spaces, check out these links:

"FCC report: White space devices work as 'proof of concept'"
— Ars Technica

"FCC looks to back White Spaces" — Ars Technica

"Airwaves Battle Pits Dolly Parton Against Google"
— New York Times


Monday, November 3, 2008

Podcast Interview Series: web.illish.us

Not too long ago, we told you about web.illish.us — a series of multi-faceted music and entertainment events that take place at Silk City in Philadelphia on the third Wednesday of the month from November 19, 2008 until February 18, 2009.

The brainchild of Future of Music Coalition and realizePhiladelphia — a group that promotes social causes through musical and educational events — web.illish.us will help raise awareness about the importance of net neutrality.

Each event highlights a different aspect of the open internet. The first installment, “Level up, ppl,” is an introduction to net neutrality and will focus on the level playing field it provides to creators and musicians.

Musical acts at the November 19 show will include Black Landlord, Tuphace and DJ C Sharp. Speakers will include FMC’s Education Director Kristin Thomson, entertainment attorney and Drexel Music Industry Program Director Marcy Rauer Wagman, studio producer/engineer Robert “Taj” Walton (Fugees, Boyz 2 Men, Wyclef Jean), William Lewis of Big Bloc Entertainment and Geoff DiMasi of P'unk Avenue.

Future shows will focus on “Digital Love” (digital inclusion), “Kiss My RSS” (Participatory Democracy) and “Threads and Cred” (Creative Culture).

If you can't make the shows, don't worry — they'll all be webcast live at the web.illish.us site.

FMC recently had the opportunity to speak with realizePhiladelphia's Dejha Mascellino and Drew Kramer about how they came up with the web.illish.us concept, what people can expect from the events, and why the open internet is important to them. You can listen to it here (right click or option click to download; single click to stream).

We also contributed a post to the web.illish.us blog that explains the connection between net neutrality and musicians. For more information on this issue, visit Rock the Net.

So mark your calendars and bookmark web.illish.us, because these events are gonna be awesome!