Spotlight Site

The Future of Music: Tomorrow Never Knows

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.

When it comes to the interests of the artists, the future of music may or may not prove different than its blighted past. But one organization striving to make sure the days to come will be sunnier is the Future of Music Coalition.

According to its mission, the Future of Music Coalition (FMC) is a not-for-profit collaboration between members of the music, technology, public policy, and intellectual property law communities. The FMC seeks to educate the media, policymakers, and the public about music/technology issues, while also bringing together diverse voices in an effort to come up with creative solutions to some of the challenges in this space. The FMC also aims to identify and promote innovative business models that will help musicians and citizens benefit from new technologies:

We build this organization as an attempt both to address pressing music/technology issues, and to serve as a voice for musicians and citizens in Washington, DC, where critical decisions are being made regarding intellectual property rights without a word from either citizens or creators – the only two groups mentioned in the copyright code.

By drawing together advocates for musicians’ rights and innovators in Internet technology, the FMC is attempting 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 artists.” The FMC states, “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.”

The FMC envisions a future in which there will be a musicians’ middle class, rather than the disparity that currently exists between major-label stars and indie musicians:

One of the principle mechanisms in the creation of a musicians’ middle class is CITIZEN EDUCATION. Because of this, we are striving to build… areas of the website that offer practical and detailed information about the critical issues that are shaping the music/technology space. It is our goal to distill complicated issues so that citizens can understand and participate in the policy decisions that are being made on their behalf.

The coalition’s website offers a variety of resources for those interested in learning more about the future of music and joining the debate. There is an Articles section, including interviews, research reports, and policy reviews, mostly written by FMC board members; a News Stream, with a list of recent articles and reports by journalists who have clarified the issues and contributed to the ongoing debate; and a Library, which is a list of “important books and authors that have written about the larger issues of technology, the music industry, copyright, capitalism and society.” There is also a Research section detailing “information about the ongoing original research projects that the FMC is currently working on”; a Vocabulary section that includes “some of the most common, but often misunderstood, catchphrases that the industry and tech players toss around”; a Citizens Initiatives section with “some ideas about how you can participate in the debate, either as an activist or as an FMC volunteer”; and a News section with the group’s newsletter, a compilation of FMC-related press clips and article links, and events planned and participated in.

The FMC isn’t trying to scam people for membership fees, but is merely “working on issues that affect a great many different groups – from musicians to librarians to small record labels, to webcasters, to the public at large. We invite everyone to read about our issues, join us at public events, and participate in the debate.” According to the website, the best way to become a “member” of the community is to sign the FMC’s manifesto or sign up to receive their newsletters so they can make you aware of their activities and events.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.