Indie Music Memo To FCC: We Need A Level Playing Field Too

Just like the free exchange of ideas, freedom in the arts requires equal access for players of all sizes. When it's up to fans, demand for independent music increases dramatically.
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Those of us in the business of creating independent music are staunch
advocates of net neutrality, and we're encouraged by the recent appointment
of Julius Genachowski as FCC Chairman. Just like the free exchange of ideas,
freedom in the arts requires equal access for players of all sizes. On
behalf of the members of The American Association of Independent Music
(A2IM) we're hopeful that this represents a commitment by the new
administration to make sure there's a level playing field in the
technologies that independent artists and labels use to get their music heard.

As listeners continue to move away from the classic sales model to a "time
spent listening" performance model, we hope Chairman Genachowski will also
demonstrate a respect for Intellectual Property and by extension the need
for artists and labels to be fairly compensated for the works they create
when those works are used or recreated.

With the losses of manufacturing and service industries from the U.S.
economy, the importance of protecting and promoting music is ever more
important, and especially during these difficult economic times, we believe
protecting Intellectual Property, and the ability of artists, musicians,
songwriters, labels, and the entire community of independent music-makers
must be a top priority for the U.S. government.

Certainly, the music industry's economic difficulties pre-date our current
national economic crisis. But despite shifts in how fans find and consume
music it remains a fact that music resonates in people's lives -- and is
central to the culture -- as much as ever. As the central voice for
independent music labels, we at A2IM are encouraged that independent music
is a growing share of the music industry.

People want independent label music! We've seen this in many ways. For
example, according to the non-profit performance royalty collection society
SoundExchange -- who's mission is to track and collect royalties from
non-terrestrial broadcasts like webcasting, satellite radio, cable & Direct
TV -- almost 40% of audience impressions for non-terrestrial broadcasts are
from independent music, a telling statistic when you consider that these
sources are almost entirely programmed to the specific tastes of individual

In the old terrestrial and bricks and mortar marketplace, access to music
has long been -- and continues to be -- limited by the high costs of
promotion and the decisions of gatekeepers. The result is tightened
playlists skewed toward oldies, and a minimal number of overly repeated
megahits. It's no surprise that at AM/FM radio independent artist and label
music audience impressions consistently remain under 10%. But when you leave
the decision up to the fans, the demand for independent music increases
dramatically. Similarly, retail shelf space is controlled by those who can
afford expensive advertising programs with a few big box retailers, a far
cry from the new paradigm of wide open and inclusive digital retailing. Due
in large part to these digital sales, in just the last year independent
label market share grew from 29.49% overall (and 34.67% digital) in 2006 to
31.76% overall (and 37.16% digital) in 2007.

This growing independent label success story is rapidly becoming a leading
example of the vibrancy independent music brings to our culture and our
world, as independent labels produce music from a wider variety of music
genres and a more diverse collection of artists.

As Thomas Friedman of the New York Times famously wrote in his 2005 book of
the same name, the world is now flat! Everyone who embraces the digital
model now has access to a global market and can compete. Intellectual
Property in general, and music specifically, are big contributors to our
economy -- and to our culture. Making certain that open and fair access to
market is maintained while supporting fair compensation for the use of music
is the worthwhile and achievable goal. At A2IM we're proud to welcome our
new FCC chairman, and call on him and and the incoming White House
administration to support all of us striving for a more vibrant, more
diverse, and more fair atmosphere for independent music.

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