Why Independent Music Needs Net Neutrality

Net neutrality is the way to keep independent artists on a level playing field with corporate music.

The most remarkable thing about music in 2014 is its diversity. To follow the Top 40 is to just barely scratch the surface of what it means to listen. As Steve Albini noted in his keynote speech at Face The Music, the web has “given bands default control over their exposure.” And because listeners no longer have to make do with what’s on the radio, they’re free to explore and indulge their tastes. Every independent voice can find a community of fans. Music’s underground has become its mainstream.

In a recent Pitchfork op-ed, Kevin Erickson of The Future of Music Coalition argues that this is made possible by Net Neutrality:

“The principle that all traffic should be treated equally, regardless of who made it; meaning your favorite cassette label’s website, music videos, or other data can flow just as effectively as OneRepublic’s.”

We’ve said before that Net Neutrality is key to upholding a sustainable, diverse creative ecosystem. But it’s under attack:

“A new class of potential gatekeepers has emerged in the form of Internet Service Providers, the companies we pay for online access, and what’s being hoarded is attention and access. Big ISPs like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T would like to be able to charge big content companies extra for faster speeds and preferential treatment, while those who can’t pay-to-play get left behind.”

An Internet that works better for those with deeper pockets is bad news for artists. It’s also, as Erickson notes, bad news for fans:

“The absence of strong net neutrality rules could also mean fewer choices for how you listen. Rather than competing to better serve artists and fans, digital music services could be forced to compete over who can make the best deals with ISPs and wireless providers, resulting in data cap exemptions and other deals that manipulate the market to favor big corporate players. And independent-focused options, from Bandcamp’s interactive streaming app to non-commercial online radio services like Hollow Earth Radio, aren’t going to be able to compete against deep-pocketed companies like Spotify or I Heart Radio.”

If you care about independent music, it’s time to listen closely. Here’s how you can get involved. Read Erickson’s full op-ed here.

Photo: Flickr/Todd

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