Wednesday, July 22, 2009

FMC Launches New Website; Incorporates This Blog!

You may have already noticed the lack of updates here. It's not because we're lazy (well, not really) — we've just launched the brand-new Future of Music Coalition website!

This means that all the blog content is now on the front page of the new site. Go ahead, have a look.

It also means we won't be updating this site any longer. We're not going to take it down, but if you're looking for breaking news about issues at the intersection of music, technology, policy and law, you should bookmark

And let us know what you think of the new site (preferably at the new site).

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

HINT at Pitchfork Festival

Attention musicians attending the Pitchfork Festival: Alex Maiolo, project coordinator for FMC's Health Insurance Navigation Tool (HINT), will be at Chicago's Union Park this weekend (July 17-19), to spread the word about FMC's free service for musicians.

HINT is an information resource that helps musicians learn about their health insurance options. After scheduling an appointment on the HINT website, artists get a call from health insurance experts (who are also musicians) who go over an individual's options on case-by-case, state-by-state basis.

In between catching some quality rock (it's a tough life), Alex will be talking to musicians and managers about HINT. He probably won't have time to do one-on-one sessions, but if you're a musician who's planning on being at Pitchfork Festival, you can shoot him an e-mail here to get set up for one of his informal group chats.

You can also check out an earlier podcast interview with Alex here, where he talks more in depth about the program and why health insurance is so important for musicians.

Monday, July 13, 2009

FMC's Kristin Thomson Talks Indie Access on Mediageek Radioshow

On Tuesday, July 9, FMC's Kristin Thomson — author of "Same Old Song," FMC's latest report(s) on indie music on the airwaves, gave an interview on the Mediageek Radioshow.

Mediageek is a weekly half-hour syndicated public affairs radio show covering grassroots and independent media, as well as the policy, laws and economics that affect our ability to communicate freely and accurately. The program is hosted and produced by Paul Riismandel at WNUR 89.3 FM on the campus of Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, and is heard throughout Chicago and the northern suburbs.

Kristin talked about "Same Old Song: An Analysis of Radio Playlists in a Post FCC-Consent Decree World" — a data-driven study that analyzes radio playlists from 2005-2008 to determine whether the policy interventions resulting from the recent payola investigations have had any effect on the amount of independent music played on terrestrial radio. FMC recently released the New York State-centric edition of the report, which can be seen here.

Listen to the Mediageek interview with Kristin here.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Should ASCAP Get Paid for Ringtones?

Hear that? Your cell phone is ringing – and under copyright law, that might just be a public performance.

Currently, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) is embroiled in a legal battle with AT&T over the nature of ringtone licensing. Last month (June 2009), ASCAP filed an opposition to AT&T’s motion for summary judgment on the question of whether ringtones can be considered public performances.

ASCAP claims that ringtones are public performances and that its songwriters and publisher members deserve a cut of the AT&T’s ringtone revenue. But does that snippet of your favorite song played for 30 seconds before you answer actually constitute a public performance? Many groups and individuals don’t think so.

ASCAP is a Performing Rights Organization that collects and distributes public performance royalties to their members, which include songwriters, composers and publishers. It offers blanket licenses to radio stations, venues, restaurants, and the revenue it collects is paid as a public performance royalty to its members when their songs are played on the radio, in a stadium, a restaurant, or other public places where lots of people can hear music. A mechanical royalty, on the other hand, is paid to the composition copyright owner when their work is reproduced or distributed — for example, when someone makes a copy onto a CD and sells it. (Performer compensation is a different story, which we won’t get into here.)

AT&T already pays mechanical royalties on ringtones, following the District Court for the Southern District of New York’s 2007 declaration that ringtones are downloads and must be mechanically licensed. However, ASCAP is now asserting that ringtones also constitute public performances because they are similar to “streaming activity” and that “AT&T markets ringtones as a way of [consumers] gaining recognition in the outside world.”

In response to ASCAP’s claim, various groups filed amicus curiae briefs (or “friend of the court” briefs) supporting and opposing ASCAP’s position. Electronic Frontier Foundation’s brief claims that playing a ringtone is a personal, everyday activity beyond the scope of the public performance right. A favorable ruling for ASCAP, says EFF’s brief, would “endorse the remarkable proposition that millions of American consumers break the law every time their mobile phones ring in public.” Other groups opposing ASCAP's position include the Consumer Electronics Association and Public Knowledge. Supporting ASCAP's position are Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) and the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN).

What do you think? Are ringtones public performances or are they plain ol’ personal uses?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Join FMC in July!

Hey there!

If you're reading this, there's a good chance you've checked out Future of Music Coalition's blog posts before. Well, we wanted to take a minute to pull back the curtain, Wizard of Oz-style, and talk to you on a more personal level.

Future of Music Coalition exists to ensure that musicians can earn a living making the music we all love.

We're inviting you to join us in July as a proud supporters of FMC — Can you contribute $20 to the Future of Music? Your gift of any amount is greatly appreciated, and we want you to know that we don't (and won't) ask often.

Our vision is that of a musician’s middle class, where musicians can pay a mortgage, are able to reach audiences through venues like the internet and the radio, and have access to health insurance. Working at the intersection of music, technology, policy and law, FMC conducts original research and organizes public events that give musicians a voice in important policy debates. FMC advocates for real changes that will benefit both artists and their fans — from access to media like radio and the internet, to helping musicians understand their health insurance options. For more info about our history and mission, visit

As a not for profit organization we can't do it alone. Help of all shapes and sizes is needed to keep our work moving forward.

  • *$10 helps us send copies of our most recent study documenting the failures of consolidated commercial radio to serve the public or the music community to the decision makers at the FCC
  • *$50 continues our HINT program for one week, giving free personalized health insurance advice to musicians via phone
  • *$100 ensures that musicians are not left out of the important conversations by allowing an artist to attend our 8th annual Future of Music Policy Summit in Washington, DC on scholarship
  • *$500 sends an artist to New Orleans for our Artist Activism Retreat, or brings an artist to testify in front of Congress about critical issues that impact their ability to make a living and reach audiences
Please consider donating to FMC today. You can visit our website to securely give your gift online, paypal via, mail a check to the address below, or call us to discuss in-kind donation.

Future of Music Coalition is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt charitable organization,
incorporated in the District of Columbia. Contributions are fully

FMC respects your privacy. We will not share, exchange or sell any
information about our donors.

Thank you for your support!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Agreement Reached on Webcasting Royalty Rates

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have an agreement.

News broke today that "pure play" webcasting services (i.e., the bigger online broadcasters who earn the bulk of their revenue through their services) have reached an agreement with SoundExchange — the nonprofit organization that collects and distributes the digital public performance royalty on behalf of performing artists and sound copyright owners (usually the labels).

Back in 2007, the Copyright Royalty Board — a smallish group of judges tasked with rate setting for online broadcasts — ruled that all webcasters were required to pay a single fee. This per-song royalty would increase to 0.19 cents per song in 2010. Webcasters responded vigorously, claiming that the fees would, in many cases, exceed their entire revenue. FMC also weighed in in the form of Congressional testimony, saying that a one-size-fits all approach to webcasting rates would have a negative impact on a crucial emerging marketplace for independent and niche music.

Since then, rate accommodations have been reached for noncommercial broadcasters' online streams — in January, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting paid $1.85 million for the right to digitally broadcast through 2010. Meanwhile, commercial terrestrial radio agreed to pay 0.15 cent per song for online "simulcasts" of their over-the-air programming, with rates set to increase each year up to 0.25 cent in 2015.

Yet, despite Congressional Acts meant to clear room for negotiation and the implementation of an agreement, there was no consensus between SoundExchange and the bigger webcasters. That is, until now.

This new agreement settles a long-held dispute between the bigger webcasters like Pandora and AOL Radio about how much they should pay. Today's agreement will see those webcasters paying the greater of 25 percent of revenue or a per-song fee which, starts at .08 cent (retroactive to 2006) and eventually scales up to to .14 cent in 2015.

Also of note: companies that offer services beyond streaming radio, such as on-demand subscription and download sites like Rhapsody (who also do streaming), will be eligible for the same rates accepted earlier this year by the National Association of Broadcasters for their simulcasts.

The reaction from all parties involved in negotiations has been generally enthusiastic. “This is definitely the agreement that we’ve been waiting for,” Pandora founder Tim Westergren told the New York Times.

In official statement, John Simson of SoundExchange said the agreement would give webcasters "the opportunity to flesh out various business models and the creators of music the opportunity to share in the success their recordings generate.”

Yet it remains to be seen whether the smaller webcasters will sign on. Billboard has more:

First there's the cap on songs streamed, which for 2009 is based on aggregate tuning hours of 8 million. That's up from the 5 million listed in an earlier offer that small webcasters largely rejected, and increases to 9 million in 2011, and to 10 million for the 2012-2014 timeframe. Retroactively, the cap is 7 million for the 2006 - 2008 timeframe.

Also scuttling the earlier small webcaster settlement offer was a provision for payments should a small webcaster be acquired by a larger company. In the current offer, the acquiring company would have to pay the difference in royalties for up to four years retroactively if after the acquisition the new company makes more than $1.25 million a year, or 30% of the transaction value.

We at FMC take it as a positive sign that the parties involved have an upbeat view of the settlement. Plus we're pretty psyched that we can still listen to Pandora at work and know that artists are being compensated!

Friday, July 3, 2009

“HealthCare Remix” Discussion on Reform

Next week (July 8th, 2009), FMC Communications Director Casey Rae-Hunter will participate in a “HealthCare Remix” Discussion on Reform at the Service Employees International Union in Washington DC.

For our part of the conversation, we'll be talking about the issue of health insurance and musicians. Specifically, we'll describe the Health Insurance Navigation Tool (HINT) — a free service that provides musicians with high-quality one-on-one info about their health insurance options, from a fellow musician/health insurance expert. (HINT doesn't sell insurance or even make recommendations — it's an information resource for musicians to get a handle on what their options are).

The official media advisory is below:

“HealthCare Remix” Discussion on Reform

SEIU, Lupus Foundation for America Greater Washington, & Future of Music Coalition to hold open discussion on how individuals in the arts & beyond can benefit from reform

[Washington, DC] – In 2005, J Dilla was an influential hip-hop producer and rising artist whose promising life was cut short by complications stemming from his battle with Lupus. Without health insurance, the costs associated with his care reached triple digits. In the United States, 60% of uninsured Americans are self-employed or employed by a small business that does not offer health benefits. Please join us for a discussion on how healthcare reform can prevent the kind of financial stress and hardship the Yancey family has endured due to the high cost of medical treatment.

WHO: Mr. Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor, member of A Tribe Called Quest & Diabetes patient; Ms. Maureen “Ma Dukes” Yancey, J Dilla’s mother; Dr. L Toni Lewis, President of Committee of Interns & Residents/SEIU; Reverend Lennox Yearwood, Hip Hop Caucus; Casey-Rae Hunter, Future of Music Coalition

WHAT: Roundtable discussion about healthcare reform and its implications for individuals in the arts and beyond.

Where: SEIU International Headquarters
1800 Massachusetts Ave, Washington, DC

When: Wednesday, July 8th 1 – 2 PM

To RSVP: Please RSVP to

The event is planned in conjunction with the 4th Annual J Dilla Tribute & Fundraiser presented by SEIU, LFAGW & Hedrush Entertainment, hosted by Phife (ATCQ) & Grap Luva @ Liv Nightclub on Wednesday at 9 PM. Special guests include: J Dilla's mom, Ma Dukes Yancey, and his younger brother, Illa Jay. For questions or more information about the Tribute Event please call Elizabeth Muniot at 202.212.6760.


With 2 million members in Canada, the United States and Puerto Rico, SEIU is the fastest-growing union in the Americas. Focused on uniting workers in healthcare, public services and property services, SEIU members are winning better wages, healthcare and more secure jobs for our communities, while uniting their strength with their counterparts around the world to help ensure that workers--not just corporations and CEOs--benefit from today's global economy.

Founded in 1974, the Lupus Foundation of America Greater Washington (LFAGW) Chapter, Inc. provides free, current information, education programs and outreach services to improve the quality of lives for people with lupus while also supporting research. Toll-free number in D.C., Md., Va. and W.Va.: 1-888-349-1167 or 202-349-1167. Web site:

The Hip Hop Caucus, founded on September 11, 2004, has developed a 700,000 member national database, and created field teams in 48 cities across 30 states. The mission of the Hip Hop Caucus is to work towards ending urban poverty for the next generation. We organize young people in urban communities to be active in elections, policymaking, and service projects. Through Hip Hop culture, celebrities, cultural media, technology, and grassroots organizing, we reach young people of color from low-income communities, who are traditionally unengaged in the political process.

About Future of Music Coalition
Future of Music Coalition is a national non-profit education, research and advocacy organization that seeks a bright future for creators and listeners. FMC works towards this goal through continuous interaction with its primary constituency — musicians — and in collaboration with other creator/public interest groups.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

FMC Releases New York State-Specific Playlist Study

Back in May, we told you about "Same Old Song: An Analysis of Radio Playlists in a Post FCC-Consent Decree World" — a data-driven study that analyzes radio playlists from 2005-2008 to determine whether the policy interventions resulting from the recent payola investigations have had any effect on the amount of independent music played on terrestrial radio.

You see, we wanted more than anecdotal evidence that commercial radio doesn't play much independent or local music (despite "voluntary agreements" between four major broadcasters implicated in the payola investigations and the American Association of Independent Music). "Same Old Song" examines four years of airplay – 2005-2008 – from national playlists and from seven specific music formats: AC, Urban AC, Active Rock, Country, CHR Pop, Triple A Commercial and Triple A Noncommercial. FMC calculated the “airplay share” for five different categories of record labels to determine whether the ratio of major label to non-major label airplay has changed over the past four years.

As it turns out, there hasn't really been any change in the amount of indie music on commercial radio, which seems kind of weird when you see bands like Grizzly Bear taking up the eighth slot on the Billboard Top 200. But you don't often hear even the bigger indie acts like Spoon or Arcade Fire on commercial radio, even though they're on TV and movie soundtracks and the covers of magazines (yes, those still exist), etc. Clearly there's demand for this music, so why is there so little of it on the commercial dial?

Our radio playlist studies aim to provide some insight.

Yesterday, we released a New York State-centric version of "Same Old Song," which comes to a nearly identical set of conclusions as the original report. Why did we crunch the data for NYS stations? Because that's where the whole payola investigations of the early aughts began.

In July 2005, then-New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer announced the results of the Office’s examination of the relationship between major labels and commercial broadcasters. “Our investigation shows that, contrary to listener expectations that songs are selected for airplay based on artistic merit and popularity, airtime is often determined by undisclosed payoffs to radio stations and their employees,” Spitzer said as he announced the findings and settlement with the record label Sony BMG. “This agreement is a model for breaking the pervasive influence of bribes in the industry,” he continued, referring to Sony BMG’s agreement to stop making payments and providing expensive gifts to radio stations and their employees in return for airplay for the company's songs. In the following months, Spitzer announced additional settlements, eventually collecting more than $35 million in fines from the four major record labels and two radio station groups.

After completing its investigations, the Attorney General’s office sent its evidence to the Federal Communications Commission. Two years later, in April 2007, the FCC issued consent decrees against the nation’s four largest radio station group owners – Clear Channel, CBS Radio, Citadel and Entercom. In addition to paying fines totaling $12.5 million, the station group owners also worked with the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM) to draft eight “Rules of Engagement” and an “indie set-aside” in which these four group owners voluntarily agreed to collectively air 4,200 hours of local, regional and unsigned artists, and artists affiliated with independent labels.

The New York State edition of "Same Old Song" focuses on playlist data from 52 music stations licensed in New York State, broadcasting in a variety of formats, from 2005-2008. Like the earlier, national study, the new report shows that independent labels — which comprise some 30 percent of the domestic music market — are left to vie for mere slivers of airtime, despite negotiated attempts to address this programming imbalance.

You can check out "Same Old Song: NYS Edition" here, in both full report and Executive Summary form.

And the original "Same Old Song" report can be viewed here.

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