Conventions & Awards

Why Federal Policy Matters to Musicians – Now More Than Ever

fistMusicians of any age, working in any genre,
need to be aware of how federal policy impacts how they are making money now.

By Casey Rae
, Interim Executive Director, Future of Music Coalition

Back when the Internet first became "a thing," a lot of musicians instinctively understood that the music business — with its good aspects, its bad aspects and its absolutely awful aspects — was going to change forever. What a lot of us didn't anticipate was that these changes would still be playing out almost two decades later. Another thing that may have been overlooked is the impact of policy the entire music ecosystem, from musician to fan. Now more than ever, this connection needs to be made. 

For thirteen years, the Future of Music Coalition has engaged artists in the debates that affect their livelihood. One of the main things we do this is to take the wonky aspects of policy and make them comprehensible to those who are impacted but too often ignored. You can see this happen up-close at the Future of Music Summit, which brings together musicians, composers, policymakers, industry leaders, technologists, legal professionals, academics and more. This year's Summit takes place Oct. 28-29 at Georgetown University in Washington DC.

Internet issues get debated a lot, but it's not the only area where policy and creative culture intersect. From the federal agencies to Congress to the White House, the decisions made in Washington, DC have an outsized impact on the music world. Take radio for example: the 1996 Telecommunications Act completely reshaped the broadcast marketplace, making it next to impossible for the majority of artists–no matter how popular or talented– from having a shot at the airwaves due to massive consolidation in radio station ownership unleashed by this one piece of legislation.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, it the Internet–whose potential was only beginning to be realized due to the new possibilities of broadband–was in danger of suffering a similar fate. Musicians and independent labels realized that in order to prevent the Internet from becoming like consolidated radio–where just a handful of companies can control what you hear and when–there needed to be some basic rules of the road so that independent musicians or labels can compete alongside the biggest companies. In part due to musicians getting involved, policymakers have become more invested in ensuring that the Internet remains open and accessible to everyone, including creators. But the fight isn't over yet–now's the perfect time to learn what's at stake and what you can do about it.

Then there are the ongoing debates about copyright, new business models and what is and isn't working for artists in the digital age. We're talking about everything to protecting artist rights to payouts on services like Pandora and Spotify. This stuff can get very complicated (and often pretty heated). But we think that the only way to address the many challenges facing musicians is get those with a stake in making it work to come together to discuss today's realities with an eye towards a sustainable future.

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The Future of Music Summit is the only place where you'll hear policymakers like Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), and Jacqueline Charlesworth (General Counsel and Associate Register, U.S. Copyright Office) offering their sense of how this stuff fits together, with artists as part of the conversation. (Check out the schedule onlinemore amazing names are being added every day.)

Whether it's issues around improving corporate radio (and expanding noncommercial opportunities), copyright, the Internet or even access to affordable health insurance, Future of Music Coalition is moving the debate forward. Join us in the nation's capital and take part in the issues are shaping music, technology and creative culture at the 2013 Future of Music Summit. Where else can you meet incredible people and wonk out until your head explodes? (OK, the last part has never actually happened, but there's always this year!)

Musician scholarships and student rates are available starting at $25.

And while we'd rather we heard your perspective in-person, we will also be streaming the Summit live online–and giving everyone a chance to weigh in from wherever you are. 

Remember, the future of music needs you to be everything we know it can be.

Casey Rae, 
Interim Executive Director, Future of Music Coalition is a musician, recording engineer, educator, journalist and media pundit. Casey regularly speaks on issues such as new business models for artists, telecommunications policy and intellectual property at conferences, universities and in the media, including NPR, Billboard, and The Los Angeles Times. He routinely works alongside leaders in the music, arts and performance sectors to bolster understanding of and engagement in key policy and technology issues, and has written dozens of articles on the impact of technology on the creative community. Casey is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, and also serves on the Board of Directors of the Media & Democracy Coalition and the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture. He currently records and publishes under the moniker The Contrarian and is the Grand Poobah of Lux Eterna Records. 
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