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<nettime> The Future of Music Manifesto

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The Future of Music Manifesto

The History of the Music Industry vs The Future of Music

The history of the American Music Industry is a disheartening one, which
largely details the exploitation of artists and musicians by opportunists
and those without the musicians' best interests at heart.

For too long musicians have had too little voice in the manufacture,
distribution and promotion of their music on a national and international
level and too little means to extract fair support and compensation for
their work.

Manufacturing and distribution monopolies concentrate the power of over 90%
of music sold into the hands of 4 labels With huge media mergers continuing
to consolidate the decisions of what to play and promote, it becomes more
and more difficult for artists to gain exposure through the few remaining
coveted radio spots.

Historically, musicians have had one of two unattractive choices:

1. Align themselves with major label exploiters and agree to unfair
compensation in the hopes of one day reaching a national audience; or

2. Resign themselves to working with indies and a life in the shadows.

The Good News

Recent advances in digital music technology are loosening the stranglehold
of major label, major media, and chain-store monopolies. Digital download
and online streaming technology offers musicians a chance to distribute
their music with minimal manufacturing and distribution costs, with
immediate access to an international audience. Songs that would never be
programmed through currently-existing narrow commercial channels are
slipping through the radio industry programming stranglehold and gaining
exposure, thanks to the new breed of file-sharing programs.

The Bad News

As these technologies advance, their very accessibility threatens many of
the traditional revenue streams (like mechanical royalties) which
compensate musicians, often without substituting new payment structures.

The Media and Policymakers

Most media attention to this issue polarizes discussion, focusing either on
the exploitation of artists by the major labels or on the exploitation of
the artists by Internet applications that encourage unauthorized copying.
Artists are presented with a false and unnecessary choice, support
traditional notions of artists' rights and be called a money-grubbing
luddite; or support new technology solutions and be accused of ignoring the
plight of those artists left behind. This rhetoric pretends to speak for
the artists, but in effect just continues to promote the viewpoints of
moneyed interests like The Record Labels or The Technology Companies while
it obscures some of the more promising new possibilities.

The Future of Music

We build this organization as an attempt both to address pressing
music-technology issues and to serve as a voice for musicians in
Washington, DC, where critical decisions are being made regarding
musicians' intellectual property rights without a word from the artists

* No longer will corporate media and big money be able to frame the
discussion of music solely in terms of their industries, as we draw
together the strongest voices in the technology and independent music
communities to address questions of music in the marketplace with a
clear-eyed focus on the interests of the artists.

* No longer will business interests or lobby groups for business interests
drown out the voices of the musicians on whose art they have built an

* No longer will idealistic techies and idealistic musicians find
themselves locked into opposing sides of an issue that profoundly affects
both of our communities.

We begin this organization with the intention of addressing three pressing
areas of concern.

1. Piracy / Technological Innovation

The Future of Music Organization is founded on the belief that creation is
valuable and should be compensated. Here we are speaking of both musical
creation and technological creation. By drawing together advocates for
musicians' rights and innovators in Internet technology, we will work to
move the discussion away from the narrow privacy vs. piracy discussions
that dominate the general media, toward practical solutions leveraging the
strengths of digital download technology on behalf of the artists. Our work
will encourage the development of innovative Internet music business models
to guard the value of musicians' labor and ensure that artists will
continue to be paid for their compositions and performances despite drastic
changes in methods of distribution.

2. The RIAA's Conflict of Interest

The Recording Industry Association of America is a special interest group
that claims from time to time to lobby on behalf of musicians, but it is
funded by, and represents the interests of, the major record companies -
the same corporations traditionally known to be the primary exploiters of
the musicians that the RIAA claims to represent. The RIAA simply cannot be
trusted to serve two distinct masters - the record companies and the
artists. An important example is the "work for hire" issue: the RIAA pushed
legislation that gives major labels the right to own musicians' master
tapes in perpetuity, changing an existing law that allowed some artists to
regain the rights to their masters after 35 years. By advocating for this
language, even while claiming to have the artists' interests at heart, the
RIAA made it clear that it is compromised, and cannot be left to its own
devices in the policy-making arena.

In a more frightening development, the RIAA is attempting to step beyond
its traditional lobbying role in order to enter the music-licensing
business by collecting and distributing royalties from webcasts. While
there is clearly a need for an organization to manage these royalties
(webcasting royalties could result in more money than currently collected
by BMI and ASCAP combined), the Future of Music has no confidence in the
RIAA's ability to represent the voice of musicians or to collect and
distribute artists' royalties from the major labels who fund the RIAA.

The Future of Music therefore advocates for an impartial and accountable
organization to guard the value of artists' webcasting royalties. By
standing in opposition to the RIAA we hope to give voice to the concerns of
musicians who are simply not represented by an organization whose core
mission is promotion and protection of the record industry agenda.


The Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI), spearheaded by the RIAA, was an
attempt to pull together a limited group of powerful consumer electronics
manufacturers; PC manufacturers, and record labels to develop a
copyright-enabled alternative to the MP3 format. It is viewed by many as a
misguided and desperate scramble by those in the existing music business
monopoly to maintain their stranglehold on the channels of distribution
through the application of a standardized encryption or watermarking

As with most technologies that are conceived and developed in a no-feedback
vacuum, without the desires of potential consumers in mind (not to mention
an understanding of the limits of encryption technology), it was destined
to fail. As much has been said by Executive Director Leonard Chiariglione,
whose comments at the May 2000 SDMI meetings revealed a combination of
infighting between competing business interests and fatal flaws in the
group's structure, which requires all decisions to be made by consensus.
While SDMI members bicker and veto proposals based on the personal
financial interests of their multi-national corporations, consumers are
presented with narrow, confusing options that alienate them and thus do
more to promote piracy, which becomes the only viable mode of digital
transfer for the great majority of the world's existing music.

The Future of Music believes SDMI is a perfect example of what happens when
industry attempts to legislate technological advances without the crucial
input of musicians and programmers.

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