A few days ago, the FCC voted against net neutrality. We know this will affect internet users and big companies, but what does this mean for the music industry and independent artists? Net neutrality is the concept that Internet service providers must treat all data on the Internet the same, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application etc. The decision could deeply effect the way the internet is managed by eliminating restrictions that keep broadband providers across the country from blocking websites or demanding fees for faster access.
“Net neutrality is crucial to keeping the web a vibrant and powerful place that fosters innovation,” said SoundCloud CEO Kerry Trainor. “Eliminating these protections not only reduces consumer choice and accessibility of services, but inhibits the open, creative expression that has flourished on countless internet communities, including SoundCloud.”
With the new order, internet service providers will be able to freely discriminate against websites and apps, while favoring others of their choice, as long as they announce their policies to the FCC or online. According to American Association of Independent Music CEO Richard James Burgess, this will only reward the bigger corporations who can afford to buy into the new network and negatively effect the smaller ones who cannot. “This decision will disadvantage all the small and medium-sized enterprises, including the ones that make up our membership, and will negatively affect innovation,” said Burgess in a statement. “This is a fundamentally anti-democratic action that will have unintended consequences for the American economy for decades to come.”
Kevin Erickson, national organizing director for Future of Music Coalition will fight to reverse the FCC’s decision. “The FCC has ignored the voices of countless musicians — from arena rockers to classical concert hall stars, hip-hop trailblazers to DIY singer-songwriters — and dozens of independent record labels large and small, all united in opposition to this move,” he said. “This move will hurt musicians’ ability to reach their audiences on their own terms, express themselves and their communities’ concerns freely, and build sustainable careers—while enriching huge ISPs, allowing them to get in between artists and their fans.”
Net neutrality will have negative effects on the music industry, especially on smaller organizations and independent artists who can’t bear the expense of this new network. As an independent artist, it is difficult to get noticed on the internet. In order to make a living artists must sell, distribute and promote their music. Streaming apps/websites like Spotify and Apple Music may give some partial support, but direct online sales of merchandise and tours (concert tickets) offer a much larger income. When the FCC voted against net neutrality, bigger companies can campaign for ‘premium prioritization.’ This means that buyers and consumers would have to pay more to access their favorite websites like SoundCloud, Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, Pandora, etc… and your favorite site might not make that cut. Indie artists were able to release their music directly to fans, get discovered by labels and use both of these processes to make an income. Now, thanks to the new FCC vote, that will all change, unfortunately for the worst.